Mapping the texture of the Berlin Wall: Metonymy, layered worlds, and critical implicatures in Sarah Kirsch's poem "Naturschutzgebiet/nature reserve"

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In this analysis of Sarah Kirsch's poem, I have built upon cognitive-pragmatic approaches and their insistence that conceptual thinking and pragmatic inference are interconnected. In our reading of a poem like this, for example, metonymic reason, i.e. relations of contiguity, are tied to communicative purpose and contextual effect. While the poem maps out the space next to the Berlin Wall through the building of text worlds past and present, these layers and the relationship between them only make sense to the reader who can already access both mental representations of this space. The metonymic relationship between the past and present is echoic (Papafragou, 1996), in that it plays off readers' potential ability to draw connections between elements as they move through the layered historical text worlds and to surmise relationships of contiguity across history. I have also shown how metonymic and metaphoric processes are closely related and at times interrelated across the text. The world building elements of past and present correspond to the domains city and nature, which sets up the extended metaphor of the Berlin Wall as a nature reserve facilitated by a few key moments in the text including the title. I have argued that this megametaphor integrates with a discourse level metonym of effect for cause, in a metonymic expansion of metaphoric target. Whereas text world theory has made extended metaphor an established analytical concept in stylistics and literary linguistics, relatively little has been written to date about extended metonymy. A notable exception is Dancygier and Sweetser's Figurative Language (2014), which devotes a section on extended metonymy, which they connect immediately to point of view. My reading of Sarah Kirsch's "Naturschutzgebiet" (Nature Reserve) provides a case study of other potential ways in which extended metonymy can contribute to important poetic effects, such as implicatures of social critique. Further work in stylistics, including reader response studies, will help us to understand the range of pragmatic and conceptual effects extended metonymy might have in poems and other texts. Speaking of readers' different degrees of receptivity to metaphor, Wayne Booth (1978: p. 65) states that "To understand a metaphor is by its very nature to decide whether to join the metaphorist or reject [him or her], and that is simultaneously to decide either to be shaped in the shape [his or her] metaphor requires or to resist". Following this same sentiment, we also need to consider different degrees of receptivity to metynomy, what textual and contextual elements contribute to affective mutuality, and what the possible implications of this for different uses of poetic texts are, including in the teaching of history and culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPragmatics and Literature
EditorsSiobhan Chapman, Billy Clark
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9789027261922
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameLinguistic Approaches to Literature
ISSN (Print)1569-3112

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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