nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,
nancylebov
nancylebov

Shakespeare and neurology

http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/davis_07_08.html
I told my brain scientists that one small but powerful example of this quick Elizabethan shorthand is what is now called functional shift or word-class conversion - which George Puttenham, writing in 1589, named 'enallage or the figure of exchange'. It happens when one part of speech is suddenly transformed into another with a different function but hardly any change of form. It sounds dull but in performance is almost electrically exciting in its sudden simple reach for a word. For example: an adjective is made a verb when in The Winter's Tale heavy thoughts are said to 'thick my blood'. A pronoun is made into a noun when Olivia in Twelfth Night is called 'the cruellest she alive'. Prospero turns adverb to noun when he speaks so wonderfully of 'the dark backward' of past time; Edgar turns noun to verb when he makes the link with Lear: 'He childed as I fathered.' As Abbott says, in Elizabethan English 'You can "happy" your friend, "malice" or "foot" your enemy, or "fall" axe on his head.' Richard II is not merely deposed (that's Latinate paraphrase): he is unkinged.

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Secondly, the P600 surge means that the brain was thereby primed to look out for more difficulty, to work at a higher level, whilst still accepting that, fundamentally, sense was being made. In other words, while the Shakespearian functional shift was semantically integrated with ease, it triggered a syntactic re-evaluation process likely to raise attention and extra emergent consciousness, and giving more power and sheer life to the sentence as a whole.


Link thanks to andrewducker.
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