Michael A. Hollister
Novelist & Critic
MODEL OF METAPHORS
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MODEL OF METAPHORS
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MODEL OF METAPHORS
This essay defines a fundamental approach to literary analysis that is objective, holistic and egalitarian. The model of metaphors applies in dreams, myths and films as well as in literature.
An earlier version of this article was published with the title "Spatial Cognition in Literature: Text-Centered Contextualization," Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 28.2 (June 1995): 1-21. This revision was prompted by the politically correct priorities that have to a large extent replaced traditional methods of teaching literature. Since the 1960s, usurpation of literary study by politics has contributed to declining enrollments in the humanities, reduced legislative funding of higher education, fewer jobs for people with literary inclinations and a precipitous drop in the percentage of the general population who read literature, as reported by the National Endowment for the Arts in Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America (2004).
"Contextualism" is the approach to literary study that became orthodoxy during the last thirty years of the twentieth century, as postmodernists replaced the objective analysis of literature with political advocacy. Today, overall, most literature teachers practice some form of partisan social studies, what Betty Jean Craige terms a "contextual holism," which involves "a shift in focus from canonized texts to methods of contextual interpretation" (1). By "holistic" she means a sociological rather than a literary orientation--"toward the whole of society" (115). Such methods are predisposed to superficial analysis because they are literalminded. They disregard the metaphoric language of literature. Arguing that "meaning is contextual," Craige reduces literature to "documents of social history" and scholarship to "a means of political activism" (122,76,86).
What the contextual approach overlooks is that a literary text is in itself a site of contextualization by reason of the way figurative language operates. Cognitive linguists have demonstrated that we think in terms of metaphor, and metaphoric thinking is always contextual. Through metaphor, a work of literature organizes and unifies concepts and experience into a synergistic gestalt. As philosopher Max Black has observed, "A memorable metaphor has the power to bring two separate domains into cognitive and emotional relation by using language directly appropriate to the one as a lens for seeing the other...in a new way" (236).
My purpose in this essay is to reveal the contexts that are embedded in literary texts, to identify the spatial metaphors that often make literature a site of holistic consciousness, and to demonstrate that many literary works are models of holistic thinking. Specifically, I wish to argue that the very concept of holism is rooted in a spatial metaphor and that it is via metaphor that literature moves out of itself and into our daily lives. My procedure will involve a correlation of neurophysiological research, Northrop Frye's "anatomy" of literary structures, psychological theories about the nature of the unconscious, and recent philosophical investigations of the orientational dynamics of figurative language and its basis in the physical experience of our environment.
As explained by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, "the structure of our spatial concepts emerges from our constant spatial experience, that is, our interaction with the physical environment" (56-57). Fundamental spatial images are "root metaphors" in the manner described by Stephen C. Pepper: they organize metaphors into networks (91-92). Such networks orient consciousness and structure it by analogy to the physical environment. The psychologist Julian Jaynes has described consciousness as "narratization," a movement of "I" through time and inner space (63-64). That inner space is a metaphor of the outer world. As Herman Melville expressed the idea in Moby-Dick, "O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind" (310).
Spatial metaphors are also evident in scientific descriptions of brain structure. Neurophysiologists such as S.J. Dimond and J.G. Beaumont, for example, see the human cerebral cortex as composed of two hemispheres, a dualism expressed in the ancient Eastern concept of the Yin and the Yang, and in the traditional Western polarity of the head and the heart. Head and heart became identified with different spheres of activity, providing a spatial basis for specialization of the sexes in Anglo-American social mythology: man became associated with mastery in the external and public domain; woman became associated with the inner realm of the heart, which in turn was identified with the hearth or home. This spatial way of thinking may be found in Anne Bradstreet's "A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment," where husband and wife personify complementary psychological components of a spiritual unity separated in physical space: "So many steps, head from the heart to sever...I here, thou there, yet both but one."
In the 20th century, the metaphors of left brain and right brain to a large extent replaced head and heart in popularity, in part because they do not define gender in relation to social place and in part because they carry the implication of egalitarian balance as an ideal in society and in individuals of both genders. As Scott Sanders observes, right-brain ways of knowing and acting are seen as a "feminine" counterbalance to left-brain "masculine" ways (434). In this new configuration, the left brain tends to be associated with artificial space and with puritan values because the left brain operates most efficiently by "purifying" its own structures and functions of interference by other parts of the brain. The right-brain complex tends to be associated with natural space and pastoral values, because the right brain specializes in felt connection, both natural and social.
The values of left brain and right brain, the masculine and the feminine sides of every person, are linked to each other in a complementary relationship expressed by primary or "root metaphors" of space, the City and the Garden. Dualisms that define bicameral brain functions have been listed variously by different researchers, and several such lists have been discussed by Anthony Wilden in an analysis of hemispheric specialization as it pertains to communication in general (235-40). The following version of bicameral values is devised to specify features currently associated with the two brain spaces and to suggest their evocation of traditional alignments:
Geographically, however, there are four directions, just as psychologically there are four primary modes of consciousness. Reflecting the need for a more expansive and less binary model, literature configures itself in terms of four primary metaphorical spaces, each of which is the site of a particular kind of consciousness. The first space is the City, associated with a vertical mode of consciousness. The second is the Garden, associated with a horizontal mode of consciousness. The third is the Wilderness, associated with primal consciousness, in neurophysiology the "mammalian brain," which contains the "reptilian brain." Metaphorically, then, City/Garden/Wilderness correspond respectively to the left brain, the right brain, and the primitive brain. The fourth primary space, Sky, is associated with higher consciousness, or transcendence, and does not correspond to any part of the physical brain.
These four primary spaces and modes of consciousness are in turn related to four basic value systems: primitivisms, puritanisms, pastoralisms, and transcendentalisms. A primitivism is an expression of instinctive or animalistic values that is virtually unconscious and in the vertical mode of consciousness is identified with Wilderness. A puritanism is a focused, definite, structured belief system, ideology, or mental set in the vertical mode, and is identified with the City; it is defined by its source of authority, which may be sited in any of the four primary spaces, but usually City or Sky. A pastoralism is a diffused, indefinite complex of feelings and values in the horizontal mode of consciousness, and is defined by the location of a "good place" in the Garden. A transcendentalism is the synergy of a puritanism and a pastoralism attained through transformation in the Wilderness, and is defined by a unique individual expression of holistic consciousness identified with Sky.
Of the four modes of consciousness, the vertical mode of the City is the most familiar. Indeed, verticality is evident in the charting of brain-wave activity through electro-encephalograms. Psychologists such as Joseph Pearce refer to the "uppermost" brain waves, busy Beta waves characteristic of ordinary consciousness, as "roof-brain chatter" (121-28). Lakoff and Johnson have demonstrated the ways in which orientational metaphors such as "up" and "down" reflect our experience as vertical creatures (14-21). That ordinary consciousness is vertical and disposed to hierarchy is expressed in figures of speech such as "fall asleep" and "wake up." The myth of conquering the beast celebrates verticality, the triumph of the conscious over the unconscious, the supremacy of civilization, or the City, over Wilderness. Sigmund Freud's psychology affirms the priorities of verticality with its emphasis upon subordinating the Id, or Wilderness, to the Superego. Verticality is the evolutionary distinction of homo erectus, the achievement that contributed to making us human in the first place.
The growth of human consciousness from child to adult may be envisioned as a movement upward through three spaces, Wilderness to Garden to City. Psychologically, in Western civilization growing up is growing vertical. By age two, unconsciousness, the undifferentiated participation in Wilderness, is lost. Consciousness begins to develop vertically as the narrative "I"-- or the ego--emerges. Metaphorically speaking, child development involves taming the Wilderness and creating the Garden, synthesizing nature with civilization, as infantile primitivism is disciplined by the puritanism of adults. During the acculturation process, the mythical exile from the Garden, the head acquires top priority in accord with the vertical conception of progress: the evolutionary rise of the race from origins in Wilderness to getting ahead in complex artificial environments epitomized by the vertical City. Vertical consciousness is basic to human survival, as was an erect posture to human evolution. Today more than ever, what must be developed for success in competitive technological societies is a vertical consciousness dominated by the head, the efficient left hemisphere, in which ordinary thinking is binary. Efficient left-cerebral functioning requires turning off the rest of the psyche, splitting off from it with such consistency that ordinary consciousness tends toward a fixed dissociation (Ornstein 87-92). Adaptation in Western culture induces a condition represented in extreme by epileptics whose brains have been literally split in two by therapeutic surgery. As Pearce says, "Acculturation is a splitting of the corpus callosum" (169).
The dis-integration of the psyche as a result of verticality has been one of the major themes of modern literature since Nathaniel Hawthorne, in "Ethan Brand," defined the Unpardonable Sin as a separation and tyranny of the head over the heart. Carl Jung diagnosed it as the general condition of the modern mind, and T.S. Eliot observed it as a characteristic of poetry in English since the 17th century, calling it "dissociation of sensibility" (247). More recently, in Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, dissociation is the predicament of a woman so shut into her head that she is "detached, terminal. I was nothing but a head..." (129). Holocaust narratives, in which the ideal of the City has been degraded to a concentration camp, are testimony to the horrors that have resulted from extreme dissociation of the head from the heart. In general, dissociation is suggested by confinement in City-like space, by the absence or scarcity of Garden space, and by aridity or devastation caused by humans in the Wilderness.
The horizontal mode of consciousness escapes the dominance of verticality. It overthrows hierarchy and gives centrality to the heart, returning to the Garden. This mode is pastoral in spirit and often picaresque or episodic in form, as expressed by the poet reclining on the grass in Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," and by Jack Kerouac's beatnik style of being "on the road." Pastoral values such as peace and freedom are conveyed by relaxing and by horizontal movement through space in a fusion with nature. The pastoral can take two general forms. As explained by Leo Marx, "sentimental pastoralism" is simplistic, whereas "complex pastoralism" takes into account the complexities of life.
The most popular genres primarily in the horizontal mode exemplify sentimental pastoralism, such as the western and the formulaic romance, or horse opera and soap opera--expressing predominantly masculine and predominantly feminine values, respectively. With panoramic horizontal imagery, horse operas are set in the mythical Garden of the West. The independent western hero, of either gender, is free of the constraints, pressures and values of vertical consciousness, except in matters of survival. From his or her perspective, marriage is a vertical institution associated with the church in the frontier town. In contrast, the saloon is a wild space. The feminine side of the hero is expressed through a few limited relationships, especially with a horse. Verticality is also represented by the sheriff in town, and usually by the dominant capitalist there, who is associated with the City-like space of his office, often including a locked safe, and sometimes with the railroad, the iconic machine in the Garden. Similarly, with their enclosed spaces and emotional closeups, soap operas express the feminine sides of both genders and concern matters of the heart, but also status, money and power--combining the horizontal values of the bourgeois Garden with the vertical values of the City.
Complex pastoralism is informed by a puritanism from the vertical mode, often expressed in irony and satire that subverts the sentimental. For example, in Hemingway's "Indian Camp," where the horizontal is imaged by a pastoral lake, sentimental pastoralism is embodied in a boy named Adams, who has not yet fallen into knowledge of the Wilderness, nor risen into an understanding of dissociation as epitomized by his father. At the opposite extreme, complex pastoralism is illustrated in "Big Two-Hearted River" by a traumatized veteran who retreats from the shock of knowledge, epitomized by war, into a pastoral "good place" where the fishing is easy, a sanctuary in which to regain self-control and strength before facing challenges in the Wilderness again by attempting to fish in a swamp.
Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn dramatizes pastoral psychodynamics with a plot that roughly follows the paradigmatic order of City/Garden/Wilderness. The egocentric Tom Sawyer has a lot of money in his town/City, wants to be the head of everything, represents immature conventional society--its racism and romantic foolishness--and is dissociated from the humanity of Jim, the enslaved soul. Vertically, Huck is in the middle, representing the heart. As a southern white boy, however, he is conditioned to subordinate Jim and to look up to Tom. He runs away from the puritanism of the upright Miss Watson and the widow Douglas, and from the primitivism of his Pap in the Wilderness, but his alienation leaves him unable to attain the self-knowledge he needs for self-esteem. By helping Jim to escape, he saves his own soul. Yet he thinks, ironically, that he is going to hell as a result. His conditioned thinking is vertical, while his heart rebels and prevails by bonding with Jim on the raft, his "good place."
From the moral perspective that is traditional in American literature since the 18th century, the pastoral horizontal mode of consciousness "elevates" people to equality. Twain's personal morality, his independent vertical thinking, goes farther than that. He turns the racist moral hierarchy of his culture upsidedown, putting Jim on top. Yet his style is pastoral. He deploys Huck in a horizontal mode and affirms the triumph of a good heart over social conditioning. In such ways the vertical and the horizontal modes may be simultaneous. Much of the drama in literature is generated by the dialectical tension between and within the different modes of the spatial paradigm.
Huckleberry Finn illustrates all of the four main types of movement in the horizontal mode, the first two sentimental and the second two complex:
(1) vertical encroachment into the Garden, often represented by a machine such as the steamboat that overturns the raft, and personified in Tom Sawyer;Narratives with unreliable narrators such as Huck Finn illustrate how the limited "I" may be transcended by a more comprehensive vision through subtexts and implications beyond the consciousness of the unreliable narrator.
The horizontal mode of consciousness is sustained in some popular genres, but psychologically it tends to be transitory. As Huck demonstrates, vertical thinking is supplemented by lateral or right-brained thinking, according to which all modes are subject to change. Accordingly, beyond the horizontal mode and often evolving from it, as happens immediately in Whitman's "Song of Myself," is the holistic mode of consciousness. This mode expresses a comprehensive integrity that reconciles opposites in aesthetic unities, transcending verticality, horizontality, ideology, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Its dynamics are general and accommodate diversity. In this mode, the narrative "I"--always implicit regardless of the formal narrative point of view--expands beyond "I" to an implied consciousness of the whole, as in poems by Emily Dickinson.
As T.S. Eliot avers in "The Waste Land," the spiritual paralysis induced by the "Unreal City" of dissociated vertical consciousness may be overcome, the wasteland of the soul restored to life and holistic consciousness attained through a quest in the Wilderness. Such inner revolution is exemplified in a simplistic manner in the movement from Garden to City to Wilderness in The Wizard of Oz. The heart and the head are personified as the scarecrow and the tin man, one a pastoral fellow of the heartland/Garden who wants a brain or head, the other a mechanical man of the City who cuts down trees and needs to have a heart. The taming of the Wilderness is represented by a cowardly lion. Accompanied by these three personifications of her psyche, Dorothy skips along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.
In Oz the images of Garden/City/Wilderness reflect the cultural mythology of Western tradition: the yellow brick road of progress and success leads to the City, idealized as a secular equivalent of Christianity's Celestial City, with its towers echoing cathedrals and castles of the Middle Ages. Wilderness is perceived from the traditional perspective of Puritans and pioneers, as the dark and dangerous abode of evil to be overcome. Yet Dorothy's dream vision is also revolutionary in exposing the limited authority of the head, the fraudulent wizard whose big head is inflated out of all proportion, and in depicting her City as green, suggesting a synthesis of civilization with nature, centered in a pastoral meadow in the Wilderness of the world. She learns to rely on herself more completely and moves beyond the vertical City. To get where she wants to go, she must become whole, as must the scarecrow after he is fragmented and scattered all around by the forces of the evil witch. As it turns out, Dorothy has all the head, the heart and the animal courage she needs to overcome evil in the dark depths of the Wilderness, liberating the forces there and turning them to good.
Thus the holistic mode transcends binary polarization. It redefines the network of concepts represented by the popular metaphors of left brain and right brain and reattaches them to space in an egalitarian manner that is not prescriptive. The holistic mode of consciousness may be envisioned as a mandala composed of the primary spatial metaphors: City/Garden/Wilderness/Sky. The head and the heart, or left brain and right brain, are imaged as City and Garden, side-by-side and overlapping. Often in conflict in the vertical mode, in the holistic mode they are equal, balanced, harmonious and synergistic. They derive from and are based upon the space of the deeper self, corresponding to the structures referred to in neurophysiology as the primitive brain, imaged as Wilderness, usually in the form of forest, sea or other depths. Above the three overlapping spaces, completing the mandala is Sky, which expresses a mental experience generated by the functioning of the physical brain, but which cannot be located in nor identified with a part of the brain. Hence, it is transcendent by nature--boundless and paradoxical, like sky and space.
Consciousness is present throughout the holistic mode of the paradigm, including the Wilderness locus, which in the vertical mode is often identified with the unconscious. Sky images appear in the vertical and horizontal modes, sometimes evoking transcendent implications and feelings, but in the holistic mode Sky connotes a "higher" consciousness than is associated with the other three primary spaces. Thus a degree of verticality is preserved in the holistic mode, based upon ordinary human perception, but metaphors of mystical experience temporarily void this verticality in the paradox of unifying opposites, transcending physical space and time, as when Henry David Thoreau says in Walden, "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads" (187). In the holistic mode, the horizontal axis is unstable in that left and right are preserved but relative to position; the vertical axis is stable but allows for inversion, rotation and synthesis.
The major figures in Greek mythology may be identified with the components of the spatial model, in the same way that literary characters often personify them, making their stories psychological allegories. In the plots of literary works, movements expressing the holistic mode may be set in any of the four primary spaces:
(1) The movement upward from Wilderness to City is the plot line of education and getting ahead into the vertical mode--often into conflict, polarization and alienation.In the holistic mode, the individuating protagonist often moves through the spaces of the model, or mandala, in a circular or a spiraling pattern, in either direction. The complexities and variations in this process are reduced by Joseph Campbell to a monomyth in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The quest or spiritual journey into the Wilderness is a chief characteristic of literature in the holistic mode, usually leading to the attainment of transcendental values. In the vertical mode Wilderness is darkness, whereas in the holistic mode it may yield the most significant illumination. For in this mode, Nature is numinous; it is experienced as one with the Self, the outer unified with the inner. The result is an atonement and healing of puritan dissociation, often marked, at a climax, by the metaphorical union of Wilderness and Sky--then all spaces are one.
In American literature, the quest and other characteristics of the holistic mode of consciousness are most fully evident in such diverse works as the "Personal Narrative" of the 18th-century Calvinist theologian Jonathan Edwards, Melville's Moby-Dick, the poems of Emily Dickinson, John Neihardt's edition of Black Elk Speaks, Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. The typical characteristics of such works may be summarized as follows: the quest into the Wilderness; a sense of responsibility to save one's own soul or Self; a Christ-evoking figure as exemplar; an Indian, Black, wise old man or woman as spiritual guide; a confrontation with ultimate Truth, often in the form of a wild animal; spiritual death and rebirth; atonement with Nature; a synthesis of puritan and pastoral values; holistic consciousness; an harmonious vision of life, unique in its totality, universal in its archetypal components; circular, cyclical and spiral imagery; ultimate solitude and self-reliance; transcendence of time and space; mystery, intensity, ecstasy; a sense of paradox; ineffability; numinous evocation; and inner light.
The quest and the spatial model are represented variously, however, by different writers. For example, Hawthorne expresses the holistic mode in "The Artist of the Beautiful" when the artist says of the butterfly he has created, referring to faculties that may be identified with the spatial metaphors: "It may well be said to possess life, for it has absorbed my own being into itself; and in the secret of that butterfly...is represented the intellect [City], the imagination [Wilderness], the sensibility [Garden], the soul of an Artist of the Beautiful" (324). His creation, his art as an image of his soul, is a synthesis of the natural and the artificial and it flies in the Sky with a four-part wing structure.
Hawthorne is intricately allegorical with head/heart figures in City/Garden/Wilderness settings. He counters the dominant mode of the head by elevating the heart, the woman and the home/Garden, affirming the pastoral values of a Victorian domestic feminist. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester and Dimmesdale are opposites in Victorian terms--she is dominated by her heart, he by his head--but Hawthorne also reverses gender stereotyping: she seduces him and is much stronger than him. Both succumb to illicit passion in the Wilderness, both suffer from lack of a Garden space where they can be together legitimately, both seek salvation in the Sky, but he dies of guilt and weakness while she lives on to do good works. Hawthorne's characterization of wild little Pearl as in need of taming and his iconic representation of Wilderness as a condition to be transcended are clearly in the Christian tradition.
In contrast, Melville is a pantheist who affirms Wilderness as divine. Moby-Dick, or, The Whale indicts the vertical consciousness of Captain Ahab, who would impose his selfish will on everything and kill the whale, while exalting holistic consciousness in Ishmael, who unites in spirit with the whale as divine, becoming a "whaleman." In Pierre, or, The Ambiguities, a Christ-evoking allegory of the artist's fate, Melville defines the countryside/Garden/heart as dominated by a matriarchal culture, and the City as dominated by patriarchal commerce. He expresses his tragic vision by conflating the modern City with Wilderness--a kind of hell. In the psychological allegory Billy Budd, an "inside narrative" as Melville calls it, young Billy is the naive heart. When he gets drafted onto a warship in the Wilderness, he is exiled from the Garden like Adam. After killing Claggart, his opposite, Billy sacrifices himself for his shipmates like Christ, is hung from the cross of a mast and ascends into the Sky. Captain "Starry" Vere is a wise old man identified with the Sky, a synthesis of head and heart, holistic consciousness with a tragic vision.
Such works as Moby-Dick and The Old Man and the Sea express holistic consciousness in movement around a thematic center. A narrative is linear in time like ordinary consciousness, but in structure, plot or vision it may also be circular, such as Dante's Divine Comedy or James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, whose end is its beginning through a sentence that runs on like its river, Anna Livia. Similarly, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises ends with a taxi cab scene "down" in Madrid that recalls, or circles back to, a taxi cab scene at the beginning "up" in Paris. The movement south is a descent into the soul by a Jacob whose biblical name suggests a paradoxical ascent, transcending his impotence in the vertical mode.
The major symbol in such a narrative--the crucifixion, a white whale, a bullfight, the Emerald City--is the center of a thematic mandala that configures all four primary spaces in unified relation to each other. In some cases the central symbol is at the literal center of the work, such as the blue mesa containing an idealized Native American city in Willa Cather's The Professor's House. The mesa is analogous both to the turquoise set in the center of the bracelet that is a gift from Tom Outland and to his story, at the structural center of the novel, about discovering the mesa.
Another example of a mandala novel is William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, a journey from the backwoods Garden, through the Wilderness of this world, to the decadent City and the grave, with vultures spiraling in the Sky. It is an allegory of the human race moving through space and time, with the dying mother Addie Bundren at the center, uniting a linear journey to Jefferson to bury her with the circularity of her holistic vision in a wheelshaped book of spokes-persons radiating out around her as the hub and rim of the human family. Faulkner and Cather both use mandala structures that synthesize linear Western with cyclical Eastern visions of history.
The unique vision in such a work is manifest in the symbol that is given centrality, by its particular character in relation to the primary spaces, and sometimes by circular or spiraling movement. The spiraling may simply take the form of recurrent reference, or it may be explicit movement outward from the center as in Oliver Wendell Holmes's "The Chambered Nautilus," inward to the center as in Dickinson's "Each Life Converges to some Centre," or both ways at once as in Whitman's "Song of Myself." Through such figurative language, literature mediates between holistic and ordinary vertical consciousness, revealing the whole of the psyche.
Figuratively in literature, thinking is usually identified with head/City, feeling with heart/Garden, sensation with body/Wilderness, and intuition with the whole psyche or soul/Sky. Thus the mandala of space correlates with Carl Jung's description of the Self as the center of a circle with four cardinal points that represent the four basic functions of consciousness--thinking opposite feeling, sensation opposite intuition. In granting a special place to intuition, such a schema represents a larger whole than that afforded by neurophysiology, which locates attributes of intuition in the right brain and accordingly limits consciousness to the physical. The spatial model accounts for the synergy of the whole psyche. It is also better equipped to deal with the experience of polarization and with conflict between the head and the heart, since, except in unusual circumstances, the hemispheres of the brain do not conflict. The literary configuration of space therefore suggests that human psychology is not synonymous with brain functioning, but involves creative imagination interacting with the environment.
The model of metaphors also coordinates with and extends the image scheme of Northrup Frye, answering to his speculation about whether literature could not be seen as "spread out in conceptual space from some kind of center" (Anatomy 17). Frye acknowledged that he does not offer a complete image scheme, "symmetrical diagram" or "mandala vision" ("Expanding Eyes" 33). Although he discusses "the archetypal universal symbols" of the City and the Garden, he does not configure them in relation to Wilderness and Sky (Anatomy 119). His scheme describes only "two fundamental movements of narrative: a cyclical movement within the order of nature, and a dialectical movement from that order into the apocalyptic world above." As he sees it, "The movement to the demonic world below is very rare..." (Anatomy 161-62). His scheme does not include horizontal movement, for example, nor varieties of rotary movement, nor mixed genres, nor complexities of form produced by individual artists.
The spatial model I am proposing reveals "mythic movements" different from those defined by Frye because his focus is on generic typography, whereas I am primarily concerned with metaphorical space in the consciousness of the artist. Frye's generalization that downward movement is "very rare" does not adequately describe a large quantity of literature since the 18th century in which movement downward is very common. In post-Enlightenment literature by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Thomas Pynchon, for example, the apocalyptic and the demonic are subsumed into the order of nature, often inverting the Christian order by locating enlightenment downward, even underground. Furthermore, in pantheistic literature, divinity is manifest in the natural order, rather than in supernatural worlds outside it, above and below.
The mandala of metaphors appears to be an archetype, or complex of archetypes, that operates in the culture-specific sense described by Evelyn J. Hinz and John J. Teunissen: "The archetype is an irruption of energy from below which manifests itself above in complexes of symbols...in art and society" (193). The components of the spatial model coordinate aspects of the collective unconscious with the artist's concrete experience. In the creative process, imagination liberates spatial archetypes from their preconscious origins, turning them into metaphors that are particularized, uniquely configured, and aesthetically specific to an individual work of literature. In The Rule of Metaphor, Paul Ricoeur makes a helpful distinction between these key terms: "the archetype has a less local, less pin-point existence than does metaphor; it covers an 'area' of experience or of facts" (244).
The more pure the spatial archetypes in a work of art, the more clearly the model is expressed. The more systematically they are deployed, the more the work becomes a psychological allegory, the most holistic form of narrative. The spatial archetypes are constant--City/Garden/Wilderness/Sky--whereas particular spatial metaphors vary in connotations from one mode of the model to another. In the vertical mode the concept of Wilderness may be represented by any place dark, frightening or violent, such as a jungle, swamp, bullring, battlefield or basement; whereas in the holistic mode Wilderness is nearly anything natural and deep--forest, sea, cave, underground, labyrinth or even a shadow. The Garden in all modes is countryside, farm, park, playground, natural sanctuary, bed, or potted house plant; and the City in all modes is town, village, camp, laboratory, tent or any artificial structure. There are also marginal spatial metaphors such as woods, between Wilderness and Garden, and mountains and birds, uniting Wilderness and Sky. In the best science fiction, outer space, as a metaphor of inner space, unites Wilderness and Sky. Parts of the model may be personified in characters or evoked by objects, through metonymy, such as tool for City, flower for Garden, or fang for Wilderness.
Spatial configurations in literature are implicit theoretical representations of consciousness. Analyzing the explanatory function of metaphor, the philosopher Mary B. Hesse argues that "the deductive model of scientific explanation should be modified and supplemented by a view of theoretical explanation as metaphoric redescription" of phenomena (157). The model that I am proposing depicts metaphoric spatial relationships in literature that grow from archetypes, "redescribes" phenomena described in psychology and history, and reveals contextualization in the text. ontextualization in literary texts is evident on a large scale in their evocation of cultural myths that exhibit the spatial model with particular clarity. In Euro-American literature, there are three dominant myths, each focused on a different metaphorical space:
(1)The myth of the City, exemplified by Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography, is the puritan myth of the self-made person, in the vertical mode, affirming the City as the place to get "ahead" within the socio-economic system via dominance by the head.The holistic mode has often been expressed in global metaphors. In the narratives of Black Elk, the Sioux Indian holy man, and Carlos Casteneda, the Peruvian anthropologist from Los Angeles, the whole earth is a metaphor of the soul. Other writers have elaborated this concept in detail. In The Names, by the New York novelist Don DeLillo, a wise man says, "India is the right brain of the world" (295). In this novel, the American protagonist leaves Greece, the left brain of the world that originated rationalistic Western civilization, and journeys into Wilderness in deepest India. The persistence of a spatial archetype is also evident in the way that--from the Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oë to Isak Dinesen, from Saul Bellow to Toni Morrison--the primary continent representing Wilderness is Africa. Like the individual psyche, the human race is seen by such writers as having differentiated upward to the left and to the right, out of Africa into Europe and into Asia.
The holistic mode of the model thus expresses the whole earth and all its peoples. It is liberatory and inclusive. Everyone has a head and a heart, a masculine and a feminine side. Virginia Woolf defines the creative process as intercourse between the masculine and the feminine: "If one is a man, still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her" (102). Ordinarily, vertical consciousness dominates in both genders, sustaining a patriarchal social order. Greater development of one side of the brain or the other may be hormonal, conditioned, or both. In any case, for both genders psychological growth--inner revolution and individuation--requires development of the whole psyche, figuratively expressed as a movement into the least developed side, the space least realized.
The spatial dynamics of psychic growth are systematically expressed by recent writers such as Alice Walker, Zdena Tomin, and Margaret Atwood. In Surfacing, for example, Atwood dramatizes the psychological difficulties of an urbane professional woman who was conditioned by a traditional upbringing. She was born into the Wilderness, was raised in a way that idealized her stereotyped place in the world as a Garden, and then was disillusioned by a love affair in the City. Her resulting dissociation is metaphorically dramatized as an abortion in a dehumanizing urban hospital. She returns to the Wilderness with three friends who personify aspects of her own psychological development in relation to place: the passive doll Anna is herself at sixteen trapped in the Garden; the heartless David is a male counterpart of herself in the City; and her fiancé Joe is the Wilderness. Her psychological salvation requires diving into a lake to redeem her aborted child within and a reconciliation with Joe.
Very often women protagonists individuate out of a dissatisfied heart, but some fail to develop the head, like Kate Chopin's Edna in The Awakening. After refusing to limit her emotional inclinations in many Garden settings, she retreats from the City and drowns herself in the Wilderness of the sea. Young males usually individuate from Wilderness to City, or from the City into the Wilderness, as typified by the boy Ike in Faulkner's The Bear. Frequently, the arrested development of the male is dramatized through his failure with a woman in the space associated with the heart, often represented by green spaces in the midst of the City, such as parks and drawing rooms with plants, as in the case of Winterbourne in Henry James's Daisy Miller and John Marcher in "The Beast in the Jungle." Less often, as in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, the male individuates from a well-developed heart into the head, represented by the protagonist's movement from rural Winesburg to the big City.
The model of metaphors is pertinent not only to settings, to characters in stages of psychological development, and to myths, plots and narrative structures, but also to language, style, and differences between genres and literary traditions. For example, in the vertical mode of consciousness the language of Wilderness is coarse; while the language of the Garden is conventionally sentimental, as in a formulaic romance novel; and the language of the City is formal, standard, literal and inclined to abstraction. In the horizontal mode the language of the Garden is often contrary to formal standards, as in dialect, whereas in the holistic mode the language of the Garden is usually poetic. Language appropriate to one mode or space can become dramatic, often comic, when it is used in a different mode or space, as when a dude from the City enters the landscape of the western and sounds pompous.
Figurative language expresses to varying degrees aspects of or movement toward the holistic mode of consciousness. Using words (an abstract language of the left hemisphere), and imagery (the concrete language of the right hemisphere), literature fuses the two different languages of the bicameral brain. By transcending the literalness characteristic of the vertical mode, a simile is a little step toward holism. It represents a horizontal movement in that it gives two things equal status. Metaphor goes farther by uniting two things that would be considered disparate in the vertical mode, transcending the limits of rationality. A symbol, an image with multiple implications, is holistic because its meanings are interactive with the whole rhetorical gestalt, as distinct from a sign, which has a simple one-to-one correspondence with an idea that may be understood out of context. This distinction is dramatized in The Scarlet Letter, where Hawthorne contrasts the Puritan conception of the letter in the vertical mode of City space, as a reductive sign of her sin in the Wilderness, to his own holistic allegory of its complex meanings. His symbols form a network that becomes increasingly holistic in the mind of the reader as their implications are perceived and connected.
In Western history, awareness of the spatial model manifests itself first in the work of Medieval and Renaissance artists such as Dante and Milton. The iconic spatial metaphors of Christian tradition are arranged in a linear plot sequence that expresses a vertical aspiration: the fall from the Garden of Eden into the Wilderness of this world, followed by the struggle to attain the Celestial City. In Christian literature, unlike pantheistic literature, Wilderness is subordinated negatively and transcended, as in The Scarlet Letter and in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. The contrast between Christian and pagan deployments of the model is a theme of Pär Lagerqvist's The Sibyl, about a prophetess at the temple of Apollo just outside ancient Delphi, which was believed to be the center of the world. The temple represents the center of the spatial mandala, expressing a transcendent mode of consciousness. The sibyl in the temple mediates between humanity and the oracle of divine truth. The citizens of Delphi display both primitivism and a dissociated vertical consciousness when they attack the temple and drive out the sibyl.
Scientific tradition and the Enlightenment affirmed the vertical mode and gave supremacy to reason, placing the secular City at the top. Literature of the 19th century countered this verticality, as when Jane Austen balances left brain with right brain, or Sense and Sensibility. The Romantic revolution overturned Rationalist verticality, subordinating the City to Nature: Garden, Wilderness and Sky in many diverse expressions of the holistic mode.
In American literature, a metaphysical tradition growing out of Romanticism represented by writers such as Melville and Dickinson, the pastoral tradition represented by writers such as Twain and Cather, and the Modernist tradition represented by writers such as Eliot and Faulkner, sustained the holistic mode into the 20th century. Internationally, Modernist writers sought a psycho-spiritual center in the individual while lamenting the loss of coherence in the social world, as W.B. Yeats does in "The Second Coming": "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
Most academic Postmodernists and "contextualists" of the late 20th century reduced art to politics, which are binary. To them, the "center" refers to what they consider an invalid concentration of power that should be deconstructed in order to shift power to the margins. They overturn the rational and deconstruct hierarchical concepts, yet they remain primarily in a vertical mode, due to their political posture and their opposition to the concept of a unified self. Postmodernist narratives are set in the Unreal City, the potentially redemptive Wilderness of the soul is inaccessible, and the Garden of the heart is virtually dead. As Barry Rutland says, Postmodernism rejects transcendence (125,129,131).
At the same time, according to Rutland, a positive Postmodernist myth is emerging, "of environmental conservation, sustainable growth, and equitable sharing" (133). In this vein, a distinction has been made between deconstructive Postmodernism and a "constructive" Postmodernism that returns to organicism and affirms "a creative synthesis of modern and premodern truths and values" (Griffin, Intro.). It appears that, in accord with the cyclic nature of literary history, the holistic mode is rising again. Expressing the dynamics of the spatial model, literary history may be seen as an oscillation between left- and right-brained priorities of value: from Neo-Classicism to Romanticism, from Romanticism to Realism, from Realism to Modernism, from Modernism to Postmodernism, and so on.
Contextual critics insist on exclusively literal interpretation. To Betty Jean Craige, for example, Wilderness is merely something "confronted" in the 19th century by white male writers "to the neglect of women novelists concerned with home and children" (80). This failure to include attention to the metaphoric language that is objectively present in literature makes contextual criticism a merely rational discourse, a reductive rhetoric of the left brain. The left-brain approach reduces the study of literature to a vertical mode of consciousness dissociated from the right-brain capacity for appreciating the holistic relationships manifest in the figurative language of literature. The contextual critic is partial, art is whole. Dissociated from the whole, the vertical mode is the source of alienation and conflict for individuals, cultures and nations.
By contrast, holistic analysis responds to the rhetorical gestalt of a literary text as an essentially aesthetic phenomenon, in empathy with its metaphoric language, and is disciplined by the ideal of objectivity, scrupulous to disclose as much as possible without imposing. To explain manifestations of the spatial model in a given work of art, as with circles on a blackboard, is inevitably "vertical" in reducing a dynamic and uncircumscribed pattern of imagery to a systematic abstract description. At the same time, however, this procedure synthesizes the metaphoric language of literature with rational discourse, mediating like the corpus callosum between right brain and left brain. The holistic mode, in literature and in criticism, includes vertical functions such as objective analysis integrated with the rest of the psyche in a creative process that is synergistic.
From the perspectives of psychology and pedagogy, studying the metaphoric language of a literary text is more effective in teaching an appreciation of contexts than contextual criticism, because art educates through imagination and vicarious holistic experience that generates empathy with others by involving the right brain. As explained by Wilden, the right brain specializes in perception of and relation to contexts, "including the natural and social environments" (232).