Textual Metaphors of Space

Karin Wenz, Assistant Professor of English, University of Kassel

Spatial metaphors used in referring to the written text or to passages within the text create a textual space with places such as above, and below, center, and margin. These concepts refer to the physical and logical form of the written text: the shape as it appears on the page and the textual structure itself. On the one hand we have the two-dimensionality of the page or of the screen with its (visual) borders, on the other hand there is the one-dimensional linearity of speech and writing, as far as the result of the linearization process is concerned, and the one-dimensionality of reading in the sequence of time. Here we are at the intersection between space and time, when we are confronted with "the semiotic paradox of the spatial nature of the text" (cf. Nöth 1995) which contrasts with the linearity of speech in its temporality.

The metaphors of the written text with loci to which we can refer illustrate that the text is perceived as a static space. It has parts, sections, headings,and is bounded by margins, a top, and a bottom to which the text makes reference. Such references construct connections between different passages in the text which are semantically connected but separated in the surface structure in the linearizing of complex ideas. The reading process follows the linear ordering from the beginning to the end and can be compared to a way from a starting point to a goal.

contents reference