Tag Archives: symbolism

John Bulwer’s alphabetic ‘chirogram’

John Bulwer‘s alphabetic chirogram from Chirologia found via Victor Stoichita.

I’m fascinated by sign languages. I guess that’s because it’s one of those border states, a grey area of something neither fish nor fowl, something unclassifiable.

Sign languages are languages that do not make sound, they can be read but also felt. They involve lots of symbolism.

Oliver Sacks in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985) mentions fascinating cases of deafblindness where tactile sign language is used.

This particular ‘chirogram’ was designed as a rhetorical aid.

Birds, bees and psychoanalysis

The Shell (1912) by Odilon Redon

The Shell by Odilon Redon represents yonic symbolism.

Already in 1916 the  Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi in Sex in Psychoanalysis[1] wrote:

“The derisive remark was once made against psychoanalysis that the unconscious sees a penis in every convex object and a vagina or anus in every concave one. I find that this sentence well characterizes the facts.”  (tr. Ernest Jones)

I found the above dictum while researching sexual symbolism. Ferenczi’s dictum was most famously referenced in Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History by Norman O. Brown.

When a nose is not a nose

Caricature of human nose Illustration: Napoleon III nose caricatures from Schneegans's History of Grotesque Satire

Napoleon III nose caricatures from Schneegans’s History of Grotesque Satire

Following my previous post on [1] the concept of the grotesque body in Bakhtin’s book Rabelais and His World (which mentions the term grotesque 91 times), I did some research on previous books Bakhtin mentions in Rabelais and His World with reference to the grotesque.

One of the authors whose name pops up most (13 times) is that of Heinrich Schneegans, author of Geschichte der grotesken Satire (1894).

Bakhtin criticizes Schneegans for failing to notice the connection between caricatures of the human nose (above) and the phallic symbolism of the human nose. Sometimes a nose it not a nose.