ABSTRACT

Metaphorical expressions, according to Benjamin Hrushovski, belong simultaneously to two frames of reference. Within one of these frames, the expression has its literal meaning; within the other it functions figuratively. Only the second of these frames of reference actually exists in the fictional world of the text (what Hrushovski calls its field of reference). The frame within which the expression functions literally is nonexistent from the point of view of the text’s world, absent where the other frame is present. Hrushovski takes as an example the notorious “patient etherised upon a table” with which Eliot’s “J.Alfred Prufrock” opens. The expression “patient etherised upon a table” refers literally within the frame of reference of a hospital operating-room; but of course the frame “hospital” does not exist within the world of this poem—indeed, it has been “denied existence” at this point, says Hrushovski. What does exist is the frame of reference “evening,” and within this frame the expression can only refer metaphorically. The interaction between the two frames permits the transfer of semantic materials from one to the other, specifically the attribute of being “spread out” which is explicitly transferred from the patient to the evening by the actual wording, but also such implicit, connotative attributes as “passivity,” “illness,” and so on.1