Booz endormi

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Paternity and Metaphor

When, in 1956, Lacan first begins to discuss the tropes of metaphor and metonymy in detail, the example he takes to illustrate the structure of metaphor is a line from Victor Hugo's poem, Booz endormi.[1]

This poem retells the biblical story of Ruth and Boaz; while Ruth sleeps at his feet, Boaz dreams that a tree grows out of his stomach, a revelation that he is to be the founder of a race.

In the line which Lacan quotes - "His sheaf was neither miserly nor spiteful" - the metaphoric substitution of "sheaf" for "Boaz" produces a poetic effect of signification.[2]

Paternity is thus both the theme of the poem (its content) and also inherent in the structure of metaphor itself.

All paternity involves metaphoric substitution, and vice versa.

See Also

  • Hugo, 1859-83: 97-9
  • Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.218-25; Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.377-8; Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.156-8; Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.158-9