The Great Code

With thanks to a friend, I’ve turned to Northrop Frye’s theory concerning the historical phases of language. Like Jakobson and Lacan, he seems to believe that metaphor and metonymy are at the centre of meaning generation. However, to this he has added a third function: similic. The phases move from metaphor through to similic, as if passing through developments. He went on to describe the type of belief that dominates through these linguistic codes: for the metaphoric phase there is a pluralism of Gods within the real (remember that Lacan also claims that the Gods are in the Real); for the metonymy phase there is a single transcendental God (remember that for many people they desire a God which is a symbolic God, a nom-du-pere); in the third similic phase the transcendental God becomes questioned by a secular will.

I can not follow everything Frye has written because I have not read it. I will be borrowing the book soon from my friend. However, what I see here is a line of thought that is not at all that divorced from Lacan’s thinking. The problem is that for me the historical moment is more of a logical movement, which means that these same phases might be passed through developmentally. Moreover, the metaphoric moment can only be revealed for what it is within the metonymy moment – it is because of the metonymy belief in the symbolic God that one can fear the retreat into paganistic multiplicity. Finally, the third moment, the moment of so-called similic secularism is the anticipation of the metonymic moment, it is the security of the progression of metonymic displacement.

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