Alexander Zholkovsky


An Essay in Theme  <—> Text Poetics

Ju. K. Shcheglov & A.K. Zholkovskij


(0)  Pourquoi faut-il que nous ayons assez de mémoire pour retenir jusqu’aux moindres particularités de ce  qui nous est arrivé, et que nous n’en ayons pas assez pour nous souvenir combien de fois nous les avons contées à une même personne? 

    [Why must it be that our memory is capable of retaining even the minutest details of what has happened to us, but is not capable of remembering how many times we  have retold them to one and the same person?]

La Rochefoucauld, Maximes, N. 313


The following essay is an attempt to describe the structure of this maxim -— seen not as an ethical or philosophical proposition but as a miniature work of art, a literary text (T).[*]

[*]               The following abbreviations are used in this paper:

AUGM                    - AUGMENTATION
AUGMhyperb - hyperbolization
c/r - contrast relation
CONCRpart,contr - CONCRETIZATION into contrasting parts
DD - deep design
ED(s) - expressiveness device(s)
T - (literary) text
Θ, Θe.  - theme, thematic element
VARcontr - VARIATION through contrasting objects
VARpart,contr - VARIATION through contrasting parts

The full names of expressiveness devices and their combinations (including figures) are written in capital letters. Figures are discussed in Appendix A; for the full list of EDs with definitions and examples see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, (1976: 225-227).

Throughout the text of the paper all thematic units and, in general, components of the content plane of the analyzed texts (as well as the translations of the texts) are given in single quotes. The authors wish to express their thanks to Robert Allen and Victor Ripp who kindly corrected their English.

What is this text about? At first it seems that La Rochefoucauld is speaking of the odd lapses memory is subject to.[1] But at the same time the reader is made to understand that more serious things than just memory are involved, which is no surprise considering the general moralizing spirit of La Rochefoucauld's writings. A convincing psychological portrait emerges before the reader's eyes of an egocentric, filled with thinly-veiled self-admiration.[2] The portrait is drawn quite unobtrusively; it seems to peep out from behind the observations made about memory as if the author were trying not so much to unmask the character, as to treat him with ironic indulgence; still, when all is said, the moralist's negative attitude towards the character is clear.

The above is a brief résumé of the "reader's impressions" of the maxim. The aim of this paper is to explicate — in terms of the ‘Theme <--> Text' model of literary competence (see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, 1972-1974, 1975a, b, 1976; Shcheglov, 1975, 1976) — both these impressions and the techniques whereby they are suggested to the reader.

In the ‘Theme <--> Text' model

— the description of the structure of a T is conceived as a derivation of the T from its theme (Θ), i.e., a deep, "artistically unexpressive" content value;

— the derivation is conducted on the basis of expressiveness devices (EDs), i.e., thematically equivalent transformation (or correspondence) types (while enhancing expressiveness they do not change Θ).[3]

We will assume that the theme  Θ of text T(0) is

(1) (a) egocentrism, (b) looking for self-justification, (c) portrayed in the spirit of psychological verisimilitude, (d) censured in a comic key.

All the rest that is found in T(0) and that imbues it with artistic brilliance, wit and profundity (i.e., the quidproquos of good and bad memory, the repeated recounting of details about oneself, the author's tone of feigned surprise and regret, etc.), — all this can be accounted for by EDs, whose gradual application to Θ(1) will form the derivation of these effects and components. It is this Θ —ED—> T derivation that will serve as a formal description of the correspondence between Θ(1) and T(0), i.e., of the T’s expressive structure.

It is worth noting, that the notion of derivation does not presuppose the existence of rigid one-to-one correspondences between a Θ and the T derived from it. Thus, other Ts, besides (0), might correspond to Θ(1); as a matter of fact, alternative variants are possible at every step of a derivation. However, as this paper is concerned with the description of just the given T, only those transformations are pursued which yield the actual text of Maxim 313. As for alternative variants, they are, as a rule, tacitly omitted, except in certain cases when they are cited for a  contrastive elucidation of the advantages (or, simply, peculiarities) of the actual solution (cf. Notes 18, 19, 25, 32, 36, 37, 43).

In principle, the main idea of describing a T through derivation is to show how the T could be deduced from its Θ in terms of the given set of EDs; the derivation is, so to speak, "fitted" to the T. But for several reasons (including rhetorical persuasiveness) the exposition which follows is organized to simulate the "composition" of a previously unknown text. This, however, is no more than a façon de parler, and, therefore, of no conceptual significance.

1. Perfecting the Formulation of the Theme
(Primary CONCRETIZATION of its Components)

Primary CONCR of the components of Θ(l) consists mostly in the explicit formulation of their inherent properties.[4] This can most easily be illustrated in diagram form (see Diagram 1). The diagram requires the following commentary:

a. CONCRpart,contr is the abbreviation for that type of CONCRETIZATION whereby X transforms into the set of its parts, such that a contrastive relation (c/r) obtains between them; in this case it is the opposition ‘oneself/others.’[5]

b. We CONCRETIZE (ld) as (6a,b) in accordance with Koestler (1964), an astute description of the comic, tragic and scientific ways of thinking. In Koestler's terms (6a) is an indispensable component of laughter. A 'detached attitude' toward the ridiculed object is opposed to the 'participation' underlying the tragic or dramatic effect.[6] We are also indebted to Koestler for the concept of bisociation; in terms of EDs bisociation may be classed as a variety of COMB. That COMBINATION is an integral part of comic art has been pointed out by various authors, among them by Eizenshtejn in his lectures on comism (1966).

To simplify further operations we will now COMBINE Θe (2c) and (6a), both of which concern the author's emotional attitude towards the object he depicts. The result is

(7) an aggressive-defensive, censuring, distancing attitude.

Another important step in the primary CONCR of Θ(l) will be the introduction of a (as yet fairly indefinite) character N, the subject of the negative properties in (2), (3) and the object of the author's attitude in (4)-(7). This operation will help to transform the material represented in (1)-(7) in abstract and "nominative" form into a communication about a particular case, a concrete event. Further references to formulae (2)-(7) will, therefore, involve the person N.

2. Determining the Deep Design (DD)

2.0. The primary CONCR of theme (1) has made explicit its various components but it did not organize them into an artistic construction. The first step in this direction involves the determination of the "deep design" (DD) for the realization of Θ, one that will direct all the stages and aspects of the derivation.

(8) DD = a moderately comic censuring of egocentrism and of its camouflage, involving:

(a) a detailed comic portrayal and unmasking of egocentrism, showing through (b)

(b) comic blurring of egocentrism.[7]

2.1. In what sense may DD(8) be said to be a "good" rendering of Θ(1) and its explicit formulation (2)-(7)?

On the plane of expressiveness this design is characterized, first, by structural clarity (it comprises a pair of contrasting elements (8a)/(8b)) and coherence (since (8a) becomes visible through (8b)); second, by the fact that it corresponds to and, accordingly, can be rendered by, a ready-made artistic construction (namely, the "moderate" variant of the so-called Figure I, see Appendix A, 1, pp. 583ff).

On the plane of content DD (8) seems to be a fairly adequate reflection of Θe (2)-(7). Let us comment on some of the correspondences (the rest being more or less self-evident).

The 'blurring' in (8) is not only a comic device but, at the same time, a CONCR of Θ(3) 'camouflage.' When ED(s) or a stable combination of EDs (= a figure, in this case Figure 1) is thus used as a means of CONCR of Θe (in this case, Θ(3)[8])the resulting effect is that of a heightened motivatedness (= naturalization, overdetermination) of the artistic texture, which becomes, as it were, permeated by the expressed theme. In addition, in the present case, where the chosen comic device is motivated by a character's trait included in Θ (viz., 'camouflage'), another desirable aim is achieved at the same time: Θe 'psychological verisimulitude' also finds its CONCR.

The 'moderate comism' in (8) (that will further lead to the choice of such variants of Figures I-IV as will convey precisely the idea of 'blurring and partial showing through,' — but not, say, 'farcical glorification and debunking'[9]) goes back to Θe(ld) 'psychological verisimulitude' (and to its more explicit formulations (4) 'realistic portrayal' and (5) 'unobtrusiveness... objectivity, readiness to listen to both sides and to let facts speak for themselves').

2.2. Implementation of DD(8) is taken care of by large "prefabricated" blocks, i.e., by complex clusters of EDs belonging to the arsenal of ready­made artistic means. We are speaking of figures and their combinations (see Appendix A). DD as a whole relies for its realization on Figure I EMBELLISHMENT which fulfills both the task of (8a) 'comic unmasking' and that of (8b) 'comic blurring.'

This Figure is the main tool of the derivation and is applied several times, on various levels and scales. At certain stages of the derivation Figure I is supplemented with other figures and individual EDs. E.g. Θe(8a) 'comic unmasking' is CONCRETIZED through Figures III FAILURE (of pretensions) and II CARICATURE.

Figures, in their turn, join to form still bigger constructions based on the principle of CONTRAST, or RECOIL. Thus, 'egocentrism' is ridiculed by means of

(A) stable combination of Figures I and II: failure befalls an object that has been first caricatured through hyperbolization.

As for 'attempts at self-justification,' they are realized through

(B) a triad construction "Figure I — Figure IV — Figure I": embellishment of  egocentrism ends in a failure, which, in its turn, undergoes embellishment (see Appendix A,5).

In our derivation, operations that fulfill the task of 'unmasking' will precede the more numerous and intensive 'blurring' operations that are supposed to "cover up" the results of the former; this order will correspond to the principle of 'moderate comism' and the intended effect of 'showing through' (and not of 'denunciation').

An important feature of the overall expressive structure of T(0) is the density of internal links. Although fairly autonomous blocks within the structure can be isolated (see above), these blocks are always in various ways in intimate mutual interaction with each other; every one of their components fulfills — in addition to its main function determined by the block it belongs to — certain secondary functions fulfilling the tasks set by other blocks (i. e. is overdetermined). As a result, the main functions are rendered less conspicuous, they are, as it were, "covered" by the secondary ones, while the text as a whole acquires greater sense of totality, "coherence" — which, by the way, makes more difficult the task of the scholar who is trying to disentangle the blocks so as to describe them one by one. La Rochefoucauld's maxim seems to exceed certain "normal" limits of "organic totality and coherence," characteristic of any literary text (an aspect of artistic structure which is accounted for by the EDs COMB and CONCR). Therefore, it makes sense to look for the raison d'être of this extreme effect in the characteristics of the present T, in particular its Θ and DD. In our opinion, the camouflaging of main functions by secondary ones can be seen as yet another implementation of the principle of 'blurring, camouflaging' that dominates the derivation.

3. Caricaturing (= Caricature Hyperbolization of 'Egocentrism')

The 'egocentrism' treated in (1), (2) is, so to speak, a 'normal egocen­trism,' characteristic of human nature. The first step towards a 'comically-censuring portrayal of egocentrism' (see (8a)) consists in applying to this average, common phenomenon Figure II CARICATURE (see Appendix A, 2). In essence, this figure depicts an object of normal dimensions as incredibly AUGMENTED, i. e. HYPERBOLIZED.

To make the meaning of this hyperbolization clear let us explicitly CON­CRETIZE Θe 'normal egocentrism of N’ (implicit in (1)-(8)):

9) N is an average normal character, an "everyman," displaying a certain degree of egocentrism (see (2)).

For most of our derivation the character will keep this abstract anonymi­ty; final CONCR of his "averageness" will not take place until S. 5.1.But a certain CONCRETI­ZATION of his properties, particularly (2a) ‘much attention to oneself,' may be undertaken right now; this will take into consideration (ED CON­CORD) the eventual application of Figure III (FAILURE, see derivation of (19)-(21)). The CONCD requires that CONCR of (2a) use as accretions (indispensable for CONCR) such Θe as:

(10) (a) N's pretensions;

        (b) N's intensive activity aimed at fulfillment of these pretensions;

        (c) the involvement of N's inner self in these activities;

        (d) the public quality of these activities, the fact that they are conducted in public (abbr. "publicness").

It is also desirable to foresee some ways of CONCR for Θe(2b) ‘little atten­tion to others'; as a matter of fact, it is easy to CONCORD with (10d). As a result Θe ‘much attention to oneself CONCRETIZES as

(11) N likes to talk to others about himself.

Indeed, ‘talking to others about oneself’ contains in itself all of the Θe outlined above: ‘pretensions' (to be interesting), ‘intense activity,' ‘internal involvedness' (namely, ‘baring of one's inner self’) and 'public­ness' (audience); the latter provides also a convenient opportunity for later CONCR of Θe ‘little attention to others.[10]

Now, as a CONTRAST to N's ’normality' his 'hyperbolized egocentrism' is introduced (according to Figure II). The HYPERBOLIZATION will finally result in formula (16), which is arrived at by the following intermediate steps.

First, a rather abstract formulation (12) is obtained:

(12) N talks to others about himself in disproportionate measure.

Application of VAR turns (12) into (13), (14):

(13) N constantly talks to others about himself;[11]

(14) N tells others even minor details about himself.

The VARIATION that transformed (12) into (13) and (14) dealt with Θe 'disproportion': in (13) it CONCRETIZED by means of AUGMENTATION of the ‘quantity of talking,' in (14) — by means of the undercutting" of the ‘grounds for telling.[12] Since the two operations are clearly opposed to each other ('augmentation/undercutting'), we have to do here with contrastive VARIATION (VARcontr). Further HYPERB is achieved through the addition of these two mutually opposed deviations from a ‘normal inclination to talk to others about oneself:

(15) N constantly tells others even minor details about himself.

The ‘disproportion' will be still more flagrant if we sharpen (ED AUGM) the contrast between the poles of formula (15) by excluding from it those intermediate cases where N relates 'non-details' as well:

(16) N constantly tells others only minor details about himself.

Up to now we have been dealing with only one part of (2a), viz., ‘much attention to oneself.' Let us, therefore, turn to the other part — ‘little attention to others.' At this stage of the derivation it is AUGMENTED and then COMBINED with (16); COMB consists in identifying the ‘others' in (2a) with the ‘others (i.e., N's audience)' in (16):

(17) N constantly tells others minor details about himself, while paying no atten­tion to his interlocutors.

Further CONCR and HYPERB of (17), mostly through a grotesque COMB of its HYPERBOLIZED components, are postponed until FAILURE of 'preten­sions' is realized (see derivation of formula (21) in S.4); additional CONCR of 'egocentrism' (in the psychic sphere, namely that of memory) is to take place in the course of EMBELLISHMENT (see S.5.2).

Before we proceed to the application of Figure II FAILURE let us con­clude CARICATURING operations by COMBINING the ‘hyperbolized egocentric character' in (17) and the real ‘average egocentric N’ in (9), which is being ridiculed by means of Figure II. This COMB (of the ‘mental identification' type, see Appendix A, 2) will result in:

(18a) character N from (9) depicted as character N in (17).

Now, the real person from (9) need not be present in the final text, for the reader has no difficulty envisaging the "normal" human qualities rep­resented in (17) in hyperbolic form. Therefore, the easily reconstructible character of (9) can be subjected to REDUCTION (in the resulting formula (18b) the components omitted from the text are in brackets):

(18b) N [a common average character with a certain degree of egocentrism] con­stantly tells others minor details about himself while paying no attention to his interlocutors.

4. Bringing About FAILURE of ‘Pretensions'

Until now ridiculing of N's egocentrism has been of a purely rhetorical, or verbal, nature. Figure III FAILURE of ‘pretensions' (that appears in this maxim in tandem with Figure II CARICATURE) belongs to another kind of humor, one that makes use of physical acts, events: a plot is built that leaves N "flat on his face" (see Appendix A, 3).

Which actions, of those in (18b), are capable of forming the first stage of FAILURE (i.e., the ‘pretensions')? Clearly, one such action is his ‘telling others about himself — a component that resulted from CONCORD with a future FAILURE (see derivation of (11)). Further HYPERB of this Θe led to an effect desirable for Figure II purposes: depicting (in (18b)) ‘egocentrism' as an extremely intense and absorbing activity, one that involves, so to speak, the baring of one's inner self and aims at public success (see Appendix A, 3.2).

Now, since ‘pretensions' manifest themselves as ‘telling everything about oneself, baring one's inner self,' the necessary contrast that will embody their ‘failure' can be provided by

(19a) an absence of interest in N's stories and personality in his interlocutors.

AUGMENTATION of the contrast will result in

(19b) N's interlocutors are bored by his stories about himself.

Further elaboration of FAILURE will consist in a vivid COMB of (18b) with (19b), or more precisely, in developing them into a SUDDEN TURN construction (on its correlation with Figure III see Appendix A, 3.1, [3]).

In fact, (18b) and (19b) can serve as the two opposing poles of S-TURN. They are to be COMBINED into a causal pair characterized by the following properties (see Appendix A, 3.2): it must involve ‘N's inability to realize what is happening to him'[13]; the COMB must be "edifying," i.e., the causal links connecting ‘pretensions' and their ‘failure' must be provided not by some chance circumstances but by the very characteristics of the ‘pretensions' themselves (in this case, of the 'egocen­tric behavior'). Let us see how this task is fulfilled.

As is usual in plots with S-TURN and FAILURE, the COMB involves factors of two kinds:

(i) a "real" causal chain that leads from ‘pretensions' to ‘failure';

(ii) a mechanism that ensures the ‘blindness' of the interested person, thus permitting the chain to function successfully, while at the same time demonstrating the person's ‘failure to comprehend' the meaning of the events.

As for (i), at this stage of derivation only an abstract formulation of a "real" situation COMBINING ‘enthusiastic telling of stories about oneself’ with ‘boredom of interlocutors' is undertaken (for its final CONCR see (21) ff). As for (ii), it is possible at least to sketch out the ‘mechanism of blindness' even at this abstract stage of derivation; it is ‘N's inattention to his interlocutors' that will account for his inability to foresee and realize his ‘failure.' In this way the 'instructiveness' requirement is also met, for 'inattention' is a CONCR of ‘hyperbolized egocentrism.' As a result, the following abstract formulation of the needed COMB is obtained:

(20) character N [average, common etc.] constantly tells others minor details about himself, while paying no attention to his interlocutors, which results in a situation where the stories evoke boredom.

Formula (20) is a problem in COMBINATION. Its solution require also CONCR and HYPERB of several components of (20) and introduction of some additional comic effects. We will first write out the final result (21) of all these operations and then proceed to demonstrate individual correspondences ((i)-(iii) below) between (21) and components of (20).

(21) character N [average, common etc.] keeps telling others insignificant details about himself; this, in combination with an inattention to his inter­ locutors so complete that he can not even tell them apart, results in his telling these details to the same people many times over; as a result the listeners are bored by his stories.

(i) Θe ‘ keeps telling others ' from (20) is represented in (21) by Θe ‘keeps telling the same things to same people.' It has thus been HYPERBOLIZED in a twofold way: both the per capita and the per item ratio has been raised; every fact and every listener are now used more than once. The two HYPERBOLIZATIONS are COMBINED and the result CON­CORDED with a manifestation (ED CONCR) of ‘boredom' (see (iii) below).

(ii) Θe ‘paying no attention to his interlocutors' from (20) is reflected in (21) in the form of an 'inattention to his interlocutors so complete that he cannot even tell them apart.' This is a result of HYPERB of Θe ‘inattention to interlocutors' that sharpens the contrast introduced long previously -- that is, between the attitudes to oneself and to others (see (2)): ‘while being attentive to oneself even about details, he is inattentive to others even in what is most fundamental — the identity of those he is communicating with.' At the same time the ‘inability to distinguish the identities' is in CONCORD with the way Θe ‘letting the stories bore...’is CONCRETIZED (see (iii)).

(iii) Oe ' the stories bore the interlocutors' is CONCRETIZED in (21) as ' tells these insignificant details about himself to the same people many times.' Clearly, Θe ‘insignificant details' CONCRETIZES ‘boredom' with respect to the ‘content of the stories' and in CONCORD with Θe ‘minor details' present already in (20); while Θe ‘tells same things to same people many times' CONCRETIZES ‘boredom' with respect to the 'novelty of the stories' and in CONCORD with the step discussed in (i).[14]

It follows from (i)-(iii) that the situation of ‘multiple telling of the same details to the same people,' which establishes a causal relation between 'pretensions' and their ‘failure,' is to be found at the intersection of a number of mutually CONCORDED HYPERBOLIZATIONS and CONCRETIZATIONS of components of (20).

It is worth noting that situation (21) is at the same time a manifestation of a well-known comic design: the ridiculed person continually and unchangingly reproduces one and the same stereotyped form of behaviour, as if he had no rational self-control and had to act like an automaton or some primitive creature (cf. Note 46 in Appendix A, 2). The fact that N, like a parrot, continually tells the same things to the same people adds — by standardizing his behavior — a new comic tinge to his ‘failure.'

As we have seen, the problem in COMB of two poles (as posed on p. 559 above) is solved in (21): a credible situation is found that COMBINES ‘the teller's pretensions to get the listeners interested,' ‘the listeners' boredom' and ‘the teller's failure to realize the fact.' It is time now to solve the second problem involved in building the S-TURN construction, namely, to elaborate that initial segment of the plot within the limits of which the 'attempts at getting the listeners interested' would appear as more or less successful or at least not as a 'failure' (ED RECOIL). At this stage two rather abstract decisions are made:

(i) To arrange the flow of information about situation (21) in such a way that all allusions to the 'listener's boredom' are removed from the "smooth" initial segment of the text and concentrated somewhere in the end. In particular, this concerns Θe ‘insignificant,' which is omitted.[15] (A more detailed elaboration of the linear sequence of the plot is taken up in 5.6.)

(ii) To COMBINE ‘telling of details' with a certain 'achievement of N's,’ thus endowing the initial segment not only with "smoothness" but even with an ‘appearance of some uplift and success.’ (This COMB will be made concrete later, in the course of EMBELLISHMENT: the ‘achievement' will consist in displaying ‘good memory'; this will be a secondary function of good memory,' whose main function is EMBELLISHING 'egocentrism.’)

Let us note the new approximation of the real T(0) — formula (22), the result of (a) the decisions discussed above, of (b) certain REDUCTIONS[16] that do not require special explanation, and of (c) the replacement of Θe ‘one and the same people' in (21) by Θe ‘one and the same person' (on this latter transformation we will comment below).

(22) character N [average, common etc.] keeps telling others the same details about himself, which displays a certain achievement of his; but this results in his telling insignificant trifles about himself many times to one and the same person.

With the replacement of ‘people' by ‘person,' the plot acquires what might be called ‘symbolic character.' We will not attempt here an exhaustive description of this concept (for more details see Shcheglov 1976), confining ourselves to several brief remarks. The ‘symbolism' we have in mind involves (i) maximum economy of surface elements of T; (ii) maximum transparence of T, i.e., a tendency toward a-one-to one correspondence between elements of T and elements of Θ.

This is characteristic of those texts that aim at a generalized portrayal of widely differing situations to which they are supposed to offer a key, e.g., of parables, fables, proverbs, aphorisms, etc. Thus, in fables, any social relation (e.g., ‘flattery,' ‘despotism,' etc.) tends to CONCRETIZE as a binary relation (cf. La Fontaine's "Le Corbeau et le Renard," "Le Loup et L'Agneau," etc.). Application of this principle is only natural in the present case,  which deals with 'egocentrism in general' and with an ‘average character N.'

Transition from (21) to (22) reduces the number of participants to two: 'the egocentric N' and his ‘listener,' which corresponds to the requirements of ‘economy' and 'transparence.’[17] In addition, the reduction of the group of listeners simultaneously listening to N to one person AUGMENTS the stereotypic character of the situation. As a matter of fact, (21) can be understood in the sense that N addresses the same people each time though they are each time arranged in different groups; this variability, which obviously runs counter to the principle of standardization, is eliminated in (22) where only one listener remains.

Another fringe benefit of reducing listeners from many to one concerns the narrative aspects of the evolving structure. Situations (21)-(22) form a plot that has to be told in some way or other. This plot is, therefore, concerned with such narrative categories as narratio and descriptio. In particular, the narratio stage of a story usually has to do with the elaboration of a concrete episode, which presupposes individual characters. For our short maxim this is practically equivalent to saying that (independent of the ‘symbolic' principle) only one listener can be involved. The exact place that the narratio together with the single listener will occupy in the linear exposition of the plot is something that will be discussed later (see S. 6 on the concentration of the effects of ‘concreteness' and ‘unmasking' in the final pointe).

It should be pointed out that this single listener is not some definite person (although he does symbolize ‘other people addressed by N' in general).[18] This kind of ‘singleness,' while on the whole conveying the stereotypical behavior of the egocentric, would, however, also blur those important Θe  arrived at at the previous stages of derivation, such as 'mul­tiplicity' of telling and its ‘stereotypic' character. The immediate task is to COMBINE two contrary requirements, namely, ‘singleness' and ‘stereotypic multiplicity.' The generalized indefinite singular une même personne pre­sents a solution to this problem. Indeed, thanks to the indefinite article, this phrase represents a singleness which at the same time refers to a potential set of people who could fit the described situation. The result is that N many times tells one and the same thing to one and the same person and that such persons — and, therefore, such multiple tellings — are numerous. A sort of multiplicity "squared" obtains.

To conclude this section, dealing with Figure III FAILURE (of 'preten­sions'), we will point out (developing what has been said in S. 2.2) the close ties this figure has with Figure III CARICATURE.

(i) The COMB brought about by Figure III (see comments on (21)) serves at the same time as that COMB of various manifestations of HYPER­BOLIZED 'egocentrism' which is required by Figure II but was postponed (when (17) had been obtained). These HYPERBOLIZATIONS, namely Θe ‘constantly tells others details about himself’ and ‘pays no attention to his interlocutors' in (17), were to be COMBINED in order to further intensify the degree of HYPERBOLIZATION (see the description of Figure II in Appendix A, 2). This task was fulfilled when — in the course of implementing Figure III — these components were made part of the causal construction which ensured a SUDDEN TURN from the hypertrophy of ‘egocentrism' to the fiasco of 'egocentrism.'

(ii) In addition to this COMBINATION of the COMBINATIONS required by Figures II and III respectively, these two are concatenated into a coherent and stable construction (see formula [A] in S. 2.2). Within this construction, Figures II and III reinforce each other in the following way. On the one hand, CARICATURE serves as an intensive RECOIL part of the FAILURE of  ‘pretensions': the more hyperbolized the egocentric's pretensions, the more sensational the subsequent catastrophe. On the other hand, the CARICATURE gains in expressiveness on entering Figure III.

That figure is based in our text on an S-TURN which usually intensifies all the elements within its field of operation. E.g., Θe ‘inattention' and 'constant telling' on becoming links in a dramatic plot receive additional significance.

5. EMBELLISHING 'Egocentrism'

5.0. Up to now we have been discussing the implementation of the 'unmasking' aspect of the DD (see (8a)). Let us now proceed to the other aspect of DD — that of 'blurring' (8b). As has been pointed out, this 'blurring' is the dominant principle of the whole structure of T(0) and it is Figure I which carries out this task, responsible as it is for the overall structure of the maxim; thus, the HYPERBOLIZATIONand the FAILURE (which were discussed above) play — within the framework of this Figure — the role of raw material for EMBELLISHMENT. It should be also borne in mind that Θe(8b) (and consequently Figure I itself) has been "psychologically motivated" by Θe (3) 'attempts at passing for something better.' Therefore, Figure I CONCRETIZES not only one of the aspects of DD, but also a quite definite component of the theme, namely Θe(3).

Figure I (see Appendix A, 1.1) boils down to the ridiculing of a "bad" object X1 by means of depicting it as a "good" object X2. The range of comic effects that can be covered by EMBELLISHMENT is rather wide and includes even the most unlikely and paradoxical situations. In the present case a moderate variant of this figure is chosen, one that corresponds to such components of the theme as Θe(4) 'realism, psychological accuracy' and Θe(8b) ' blurring, moderated tone.'

In particular, Θe(4) requires that XI be equated with X2 with respect to the constitutive and basic properties of the ridiculed object XI (rather than only occasional and peripheral ones); specifically, the EMBELLISH­MENT of 'egocentrism' proceeds in such a way that the required COMBINA­TION makes use of a manifestation of 'inattention to others,' i.e., of one of the two constitutive properties of 'egocentrism' (see (2a)).[19]

The principle of ‘moderation, blurring' in its turn, provides grounds for choosing a variation of Figure I (see Appendix A, 1.2 and Table 1) that involves a minimum difference between XI and X2: namely, the "weakest," fourt degree of deformation of X1:

(i) X2 coincides with XI as to X1's constitutive property (indeed, ‘inattention to others' remains unchanged: it is in no way camouflaged as 'attention to others').

(ii) X2 exhibits only a weak, neutral degree of "goodness" (in fact, a 'vice' is made to pass not so much for 'virtue' as only for a property belonging to a non-ethical, or "technical," sphere, for an 'excusable foible,' viz., a 'defect of memory').

Since Θe 'egocentrism' has by now assumed the form of situation (22), it is this latter that will have to be the object of EMBELLISHMENT. In the course of this process Figure I is in its turn subjected to ED VAR; namely, Figure I is applied to various parts, or aspects, of situation (22).[20]The latter, as is often the case with literary situations, involves, on the one hand, the facts as such and, on the other, the author's attitude towards the facts. The facts are formulated in (22) quite explicitly. As concerns the author's attitude towards them, which is, so to speak, "dissolved" in (22), it has been explicitly stated in (7):

(7) the author's aggressive-defensive attitude towards N.[21]

Thus, Figure I will involve EMBELLISHING, on the one hand, of the factual aspect of (22), and on the other, of attitude (7); this means that Figure I will be both applied to 'egocentrism' and VARIED.

5.1. EMBELLISHING the author's attitude

Application of Figure I to (7) results in (23)

 (23) author's aggressive-defensive attitude towards N is depicted as participa­tion.[22]

(On the opposition 'aggressive-defensive attitude vs. participation' see S. 1, comment 2.)

Formula (23) is in its turn subjected to VARIATION: it VARIES according to the values of two domains wherein ‘author's attitude' usually manifests itself: that of the author's tone[23] and that of point-of-view. In the domain of tone this results in:

(24) the censuring-unmasking tone is replaced by that of participation.

(The substitution is made possible by the trait the two elements have in common, viz., the negativeness ["badness"] of the facts.)

The eventual CONCORD of (24) with Θe ‘excusable foible' (see comments on formula (29) below) will permit further CON­CRETIZATION of the author's tone, as in (25):

(25) the censuring-unmasking tone is replaced by that of regret for N's foible.

(That is to say, instead of intonation of the type "What an outrage...!", quite natural as regards (22), an intonation of the type "What a pity!" will have to be chosen.)

In the second of the two domains — that of 'view-point' — formula (23) becomes

(26) two separate persons [the "average, etc. N, characterized by a vice" vs. "author-reader"] are represented as one collective person ["average person, characterized by a vice, the author-reader, probably, not excluded"].

What is the logic underlying the transition from (23) to (26)?

In the initial situation (22) character N is, clearly, viewed from the outside: the evaluated character [N] and the evaluating author (with whom the reader is invited to identify himself) are quite distinct. Seen in the light of the opposition 'aggressive-defensive distancing vs. participa­tion,' this, of course, is ‘distancing.' It is this 'distancing' that — according to (23) — must be made to pass for ‘participation'; and this — in the spirit of moderate EMBELLISHMENT — should be of a medium, rather than extreme, intensity. Now, these requirements are exactly what is formu­lated in (26): ‘participation' has assumed the form of 'undifferentiated collectiveness' of the new character, while the ‘moderateness' of the 'par­ticipation' is expressed in (26) by the less than categorical manner with which the author is implicated in the ridiculed vices ('  probably '). The requirements stated in (26) are fulfilled by

(27) situation (22) with nous 'we' (and not N) as its main character.

In what way does nous differ from other collective persons that satisfy the conditions formulated in (26) (e.g., on, les gens, la plupart des hommes, ceux qui ...)?

On the one hand, nous undoubtedly has properties that promote the ‘participation' effect: functionally it is an indefinite personal pronoun, but formally it is 1st person plural, and therefore, at least in the literal sense, it includes ‘I.' This impression is strengthened by the formal and etymological identity with the personal pronoun nous (of the paradigm nous, vous, ils etc.) that quite unambiguously includes 'I.'

At the same time nous also meets the ‘moderateness' condition, i.e., that of a 'non-categorical inclusion of I.' Indeed, this is what characterizes the ‘indefinite collectiveness' of nous, which includes 'I' only in a formal way and may very well not involve it.[24] In this respect nous is like other collectives (e.g., les hommes, the French, the rich, etc.) in that they refer to many but not necessarily all representatives of a particular class.

Thus, thanks to nous the division of mankind into ‘I' and 'he, they' is replaced not by the diametrically opposite case — togetherness ('I and they'), but by a kind of intermediate collectiveness ('many, and among them, probably, I too').[25]

Let us point out one fringe benefit brought about by the choice of nous. Since common sense will have it that 'I' is the incarnation of everything normal, the 1st person pronoun may serve as an additional CONCRETIZATION of the hero's ‘normality.' Now, this is desirable with respect to Figure II, which has HYPERBOLIZED the 'egocentrism' out of normal proportions. An additional indication of the actual ‘normalness' of the ridiculed character will help to maintain and sharpen the contrast on which the CARICATURE is based.

So far we have concentrated our efforts on showing the desirability of the nous view-point. Let us now try to demonstrate what makes such a vision possible. In other words, let us pinpoint those properties that permit the COMBINATION of the real outside view-point with the pretended inside one, which represents ‘participation.' The two have the following in common. Both refer to practically the same set of people. In one case it is an undifferentiated mass of people (nous), in the other — the same mass represented as the sum of ‘they' plus ‘I.' To have the latter pass for the former we have only to ignore that distinction which concerns ‘differentiation' and to stress the equivalence of the sum; this is all the easier since the above distinction is not a clear-cut one. As a matter of fact, on the one hand, in the pair ‘they + I'  the first item, in its aspect as an ‘average, mass phenomenon,' tends to subsume the second one; on the other hand, the collective nous need not include 'I.' Thus, the two objects to be COMBINED (according to Figure I) meet each other halfway; as a result the substitution of one character for two is accepted by the reader without objection, almost imperceptibly.

It is worth noting that in this case (as well as in the case of tone, see (25)) we are dealing with a complete replacement of a real object ('aggressiveness, distancing') by an imaginary one ('participation'). Neither the 'censuring-unmasking tone,' nor the ‘outside viewpoint' are present in the real text. That is to say that Figure I is applied in full, including its last non-obligatory step — REDUCTION that deletes the initial object X1. This step is in general recommended for such texts as ours, since their Θ and DD include Θe 'blurring'; and all the more so at the stage of derivation dealing with the ‘author's attitude.' It is desirable here because of Θe(5) 'unobtrusiveness of the author's position,  letting facts speak for themselves,' and it is possible owing to the fact that ‘attitudes' are by their nature secondary: that is, they presuppose ‘facts' which can themselves contain enough information from which to reconstruct the ‘attitude' even after it has been deleted.[26]

Another fringe benefit gained by the fusion of the two view-points is the AUGMENTATION of the transparence of the T as a whole, i.e., of its ‘symbolic character' (cf. above S. 4and Note 17). From now on only two characters face the reader: ‘we' and the ‘one and the same per­son.'

We have followed the EMBELLISHMENT of the 'author's attitude towards N.' The figure has been VARIED according to the values of two spheres — that of tone (the result was stated in (25)) and that of vision (the result was stated in (27)). By COMBINING (25) and (27) we will obtain (28): (28) situation (22)[27] with nous as the main character, described in the tone of regret as to the shortcomings of nous.

5.2 EMBELLISHMENT of the facts and its failure

The EMBELLISHMENT of the factual aspect of (22)is accomplished according to the "triad" scheme: "lie — its exposure — new lie" (see Appendix A, 5).Its application reflects the principle of prevalence of 'blurring' over ‘unmasking,' foreseen in the DD, for it is a scheme where ‘blurring' (as ‘lying') occurs twice and occupies the decisive concluding position in the construction.[28] It should also be pointed out that such a sequence of figures (Figure I, blurring the vice — Figure II, unmasking the act of blurring — Figure I, veiling the fact of the blurring being unmasked) appears to conform with the tactics typical of a liar who is being unmasked (he lies — is caught at contradictions — explains them away by means of a new respectable-looking reason). A psychological congruence of this kind is desirable because it realizes Θe(4) ‘accuracy of psychological observations, realistic portrayal of the soul.'

Especially prone to combine are the first two members of the triad (EMBELLISHMENT and FAILURE of a ‘lie,' see above, 2.2. and Appendix A, 5).[29] In the present case (in the EMBELLISHMENT of the facts described in (22)) Figures I and IV embodying the ‘lie' and its ‘failure' respectively, are not only combined but closely interwoven because of the orientation towards the particular "organic" quality of the COMBINATION of different segments of the structure of the T (see 2.2.). That is the reason why it is convenient to examine both figures within a single framework. They are discussed in 5.2.; the third member of the triad –  the new EMBELLISHMENT — will be considered in 5.3.

As in the two previous cases (application of Figure I to the whole of (22) and to (22) in the aspect of the author's attitude), the EMBELLISH­MENT of the factual aspect of (22) is subjected to VAR.[30] EMBELLISHMENT is applied to both of the constitutive properties of 'egocentrism': ‘attention to oneself' and ‘inattention to others' (see (2a)), presented in (22) by their more concrete manifestations. In other words, we are dealing here, as in 5.0. and 5.1., with a case of VAR of Figure I through the set of the parts of the embellished object; and, since these parts are mutually contrastive, it is a case of  VARpart,contr.[31]

According to the orientation towards ‘moderation' of EMBELLISHMENT, the manifestations of 'egocentrism' are not disguised as moral virtues, but rather as properties lying beyond the sphere of ethics:

(29) the manifestations of N's attention to himself in (22) are depicted as manifestations of some "technical" property of N, lying beyond the ethical sphere; the manifestations of N's inattention to others are also depicted, as manifestations of some "technical" property of N.

EMBELLISHMENT of moral vices depicting them as harmless, purely "technical" phenomena is a fairly common type of irony based on Figure I. The most frequent case is that of a vice presented as a "technical defect": the person behaves badly not because of ill-will but due to some deficiencies in his/her physical constitution, psyche, state of health, etc. (Again it is the most moderate, fourth, degree of deformation of a vice — cf. its use in 5.0.).[32]As will be shown below, in our case the vice is being disguised not only as a technical defect (‘failing memory'), but also as a technical asset ('good memory'), though its EMBELLISHMENT as a defect involves the more important part of the egocentric behavior — its "failure."

CONCRETIZATION of situation (29) takes into account the demands of Figure IV — FAILURE (of ‘lying'), concatenated, as has already been said, with Figure I — EMBELLISHMENT. The close interrelation of these two figures manifests itself, in particular, in the fact that the process of their COMBINATION begins at a sufficiently early stage of the derivation. Let us consider in more detail the technique of this COMBINATION.

Figure IV can be CONCRETIZED through a number of various constructions; of these our maxim makes use of what may be called  EXPOSING CONTRADICTORINESS (see Appendix A, 4.2). The essence of this construction is the way in which the COMBINATIONof a statement and its refutation, required by Figure IV, takes place:

(30) someone makes a statement implying that two mutually exclusive states of affairs, A and B, obtain simultaneously.

The COMBINATION of Figures I and IV in question will materialize in a COMBINATION of formulae (29) and (30). As in a number of previous cases, we shall first write out the result of this COMBINATION, and then comment on the logic by which this result is produced.

(31) N explains the manifestations of his attention to himself in (22) as those of his pretended "technical" property A, and the manifestations of his inattention to others in (22) as those of his "technical" property B, incompatible with A.

Taken by itself, this COMB does not seem to require any particular comment, being a simple case of superimposing of the similar members of formulae (29) and (30). But this similarity stems from a rather elaborate mutual adaptation of both formulae, or, more strictly speaking, mutual CONCORD of the operations leading to (29) and (30), aimed at their COMBINATION at a later stage. We have in mind, firstly, the choice of VAR (and, in particular, VARcontr) in the derivation of (29), and secondly, the choice of the construction EXPOSING CONTRADICTORINESS as a mode of realization of Figure IV. In both cases there is a pair of assertions by the same person and a greater or lesser degree of contrast between them. (See, on the contrary, a single-member lie, less suitable for COMBINATION with (29), in other constructions involving FAILURE of lying, e.g., in the "Je" anecdote, see Appendix B, 33a.) It should be pointed out that EXPOSING CONTRADICTORINESS is in general rather convenient from the point of view of the tasks being solved in the derivation of our maxim. Its important peculiarity is its being a kind of algebraic formula of lying per se, irrespective of the content of the statement: neither part A, nor part B (see (30) ), prove to be true; nor do we become aware of any "third" true state of affairs (say, C). This quality of the construction is used at least twice. In the first place, it conforms with the general orientation towards moderate and less than categoric exposure prevailing in our T: though in (31) EMBELLISHMENT Oo ‘egocentrism' turns out to be a lie, nevertheless the truth (‘egocentrism' as the explanation of situation (22)) remains unrevealed and the exposure of the lie does not rest on it in any way. Secondly, this "indifference to the truth" conforms with the character of the situation (29), where both statements are EMBELLISHMENTS and therefore neither of them must necessarily turn out to be true; so the refutation cannot be based on the demonstration of the truthfulness of either of them.[33]

Having made these comments concerning the derivation of formula (31), let us proceed to its further CONCRETIZATION. Let us first try to perfect its structure to some extent, and then look for concrete objects as substitutes for the more abstract parts of this formula.

In (31) there are the mutually exclusive properties A and B. A common case of incompatibility is that of the two opposite values of a distinctive feature. Making use of this way of CONCRETIZATION of the properties A and B we arrive at (32):

(32) N disguises the manifestations of his attention to himself and inattention to others in (22) as manifestations of the two mutually exclusive values A and Anti-A of the same "technical" parameter, both of which he pretends to possess.

Thanks to the reduction of the properties A and B to a single new distinctive feature (ED CONCORD), formula (32) gains in simplicity and transparency compared with (31); the CONTRAST between the two EMBEL­LISHMENTS ("A" and "B") is also made more pronounced.[34]

It is worth noting that this sharpening of the contrast makes more vivid not only the VAR of the EMBELLISHMENTS themselves but also the VAR of the embellished objects, i.e., the two contrastive aspects of egocentrism ('attention ,' ‘inattention ,' see (2a)). To put it the other way round, the transformations leading from (29) to (32) lay an additional stress and shed a new light on the theme of 'egocentrism.' (When the "technical" parameter is eventually realized as 'good/bad memory,' ‘egocentrism' will be presented as a vice manifesting itself both in good and bad memory — an effect similar to VARcontr of the type 'N behaves egocentrically at home and outdoors [domi et foris]' or ‘ with older and with younger people,' ' in letters and in conversation,' etc.).[35]

Let us proceed to the CONCRETIZATION of the abstract elements in (32): ‘disguises  as manifestations  of mutually exclusive values A and Anti-A of the same "technical" parameter.'

What kind of a "technical" (non-ethical) parameter of human personality could be selected to EMBELLISH the manifestations of ‘attention ' and ‘inattention ,' represented in the situation (22)? In texts based on EMBELLISHMENT, manifestations of moral vices are often disguised as consequences of some peculiarities of the person's physical constitution. One example has already been cited: Talleyrand's remark on Châteaubriand (cf. Notes 25 and 32), where vanity is camouflaged as deficient hearing; it is equally easy to imagine vices being disguised as defects of eyesight, feeling ill,[36] etc. However, the choice of the physical sphere as the source of camouflage for 'egocentrism' (owing to its openly mocking as well as non-psychological character) would hardly meet either the requirement (4), ‘accuracy of psychological observations, realistic portrayal of the soul' or the demand for moderateness of EMBEL­LISHMENT. It seems highly desirable to pick out a "non-ethical parameter" of such a kind that its correlation with the manifestations of egocentrism might reflect some psychological reality. For example, it might be possible to discover a causal link between egocentrism and this parameter and, in general, to contribute in some way or other to the ‘portrayal of the soul.' In other words, it is desirable to look for the parameter in question in the sphere of the psyche, which, on the one hand, meets the requirement for ‘non-ethicalness' and, on the other hand, is open to all sorts of influences of passions which are naturally evaluated from the ethical point of view. In particular, as it is well-known from psychoanalysis, a number of peculiarities in the functioning of imagination, attention, speech and other psychological mechanisms are conditioned by subconscious desires suppressed by the "ethical censorship." So, the required parameter will belong to the sphere of the psyche. It means that the behaviour of N in (22) will be presented as the consequence of such characteristics as ‘garrulousness' or ‘excessive sociability' or ‘lack of intelligence and imagination' (e.g., ‘talks of nothing except what has happened to himself = is unable to rise above the immediately observable everyday data') or something of the kind.

What, then, could play the role of the "technical parameter" such that some of its manifestations would naturally COMBINE with those of ‘attention to oneself,' and some with those of ‘inattention to others' within (22)? A possible answer is the parameter ‘memory' with two values : 'good/bad memory.’[37] Inserting those in the positions of A and Anti-A in (32) we arrive at:

(33) The fact that N [average, common etc.] keeps telling other people the same minor details about himself is represented by him as a proof of good memory (telling means remembering); on the other hand, N's recounting every one of these insignificant details over and over again to one and the same person, is represented by him as a manifestation of poor memory (he forgets who has already heard these stories and who hasn't).

Let us make some additional comments concerning the derivation of formula (33).

In the first place, this formula is remarkable for the absence of any direct mention of 'egocentrism' and, in particular, of ‘attention to oneself and ‘inattention to others,' present in (21). By the application of ED REDUCTION (see the description of Figure I EMBELLISHMENT) these elements were left out on the way to (33); only the concrete manifestations of these qualities of N have been retaintd.

In the second place, it should be pointed out that the EMBELLISHMENT of ‘egocentrism' (‘attention ,' ‘inattention '), making it pass for ‘memory,' as accomplished in (33), is, in fact, not only EMBELLISHMENT but also a new CONCRETIZATION of 'egocentrism' (additional to those of its CONCRs and AUGMs which were carried out on the way to (22)). It is true that insofar as the situation (22) is disguised as spontaneous play of memory independent of N's moral qualities we are dealing with a typical case of EMBELLISHMENT, i.e., a ‘lie.' However, this play of memory can be seen as a new "metastasis" of 'egocentrism' and therefore as yet another of its CONCRETIZATIONS in reality. In other words, the choice of ‘memory' for (33), as a number of other steps in our derivation, "works" simultaneously (COMB) for both aspects of the DD – ‘veiling’ and ‘unmasking.' To put it the other way round, the organization of EMBELLISHMENT in (33) may be summarized as follows:

(33a) egocentrism that affects various aspects of N's personality including, perhaps, his memory, is disguised as pure and non-ethical "play" of mem­ory.

In the third place, the fact that among the "memory phenomena" there are indications of good as well as bad functioning makes it possible to CONCRETIZEthe "uplift" preceding the fiasco of the egocentric N: ‘good memory' will heighten the impression of success created by the initial segment of the maxim (for the further elaboration of this effect see S. 6).

In the fourth place, a few words ought to be said about the character of EXPOSING CONTRADICTORINESS in (33). ‘Bad' and ‘good memory,' chosen in (33) as CONCRETIZATIONS of the mutually exclusive values of the same parameter, are, strictly speaking, not wholly incompatible. In particular, both these states of memory can, as has been indicated above, be produced by the same cause (‘egocentrism'). Nevertheless, the contradiction fulfils its exposing role. This effect is promoted by several factors: (a) the overall context from which it becomes evident that ‘egocentrism' is what the author is really concerned with; thanks to this context, the contradiction is inevitably understood as a symptom of ‘lying'; (b) ‘good' and ‘bad' memory are manifested not at different times and in different situations but in the same situation (ED CONTRAST with identity) which makes the contradiction all the more suspicious; (c) from the point of view of the "naive" conception of memory in the spirit of which N explains his behavior, good and bad memory are most probably incompatible; (d) that this contradiction is "unacceptable" in Ns eyes is confirmed by his efforts to conceal it which will be more carefully examined in the following section.[38]

5.3. The second EMBELLISHMENT (undertaken as a result of the FAILURE of the first)

As was mentioned above, the EMBELLISHMENT is organized according to the "triad scheme": EMBELLISHMENT (Figure I) — FAILURE (of ‘lying,' Fig­ure IV) — EMBELLISHMENT (Figure I) (see Appendix A, 5). The realization of the first two components of this scheme has been discussed in the pre­vious sections. Let us now examine the technique of the second and last EMBELLISHMENT, intended to veil — this time not 'egocentrism' but the fiasco of N's efforts to embellish it. As we recall, this fiasco took the form of EXPOSING CONTRADICTORINESS. This appears in its turn to require EMBEL­LISHMENT: the "suspicious" contradiction (indicative of a lie) is given the appearance of an innocuous one. One of the common ways of EMBEL­LISHMENT of base instincts, emotions or conflicts of various kinds is to represent them as phenomena that deserve objective, "scientific" exami­nation:[39] In our case the choice of this mode of EMBELLISHMENT seems to be favored by several circumstances:

a) Contradictions found in natural phenomena normally give rise to scientific hypotheses aimed at their explanation.

b) Since N is a common, average personality (see (9)), his behaviour is a natural object for scientific reflections.

c) Disguising ugly or sordid things as "scientific" objects conforms with the orientation towards moderation of comic effects, determining the usual choice of medium (neutral, "not-bad") Anti-X-es to cover up the negative, "bad" X, instead of extreme (positive, "good") ones. Now, impartial scientific interest lies just half-way between the distanced, aggressive-defensive attitude, typical of satire, and the sympathetic participation, embodied in such forms as tragedy.[40] The use of the motif of "science" can be viewed as the result of CONCORD with the element of ‘non-ethicalness,' elaborated earlier — science being free not only from emotions but from moral evaluations as well.

d) On the other hand, ‘scientific approach' can be regarded as the simultaneous realization (COMB) of the two important oc (4) ‘realistic portrayal of the soul' and (5) ‘objectivity, readiness to listen to both sides.'

e) A benefit of the "scientific" EMBELLISHMENT seems to lie in the possibility to maintain (without RED), and even stress, all the properties of the initial object (see examples in Note 39); in other words, it is a mode of COMBINING ‘blurring' with ‘exposure.'

The result is (34)

(34) N displays a "scientific" interest in the problem: how to explain the contradiction between good and bad memory, observed in (33)?

We should note that, compared with the more vivid cases of "scientific" EMBELLISHMENT (see Note 39), in our T the element ‘scientific problem' is represented in a somewhat reduced form. Apart from the everyday-speech word pourquoi, it is manifested not in special words or objects (like third stage, split-hoof mammal, etc., see Appendix B, 31-32), but only in the tone of honest wonder and intellectual curiosity. In other words, this EMBELLISHMENT involves more the attitude to the facts than the facts themselves, and is therefore akin to the EMBELLISHMENTS described in 5.1. ‘The tone of regret' developed there and ‘the scientific tone' developed here (so far in an abstract form) will later be COMBINED in a unified tone pattern (see (35)).

It should be pointed out that in the transition from (33) to (34) we have made one more important step towards a further ‘blurring of egocentrism' concealing anything that might serve as a more or less direct indication of it (the last step in that direction was RED mentioned above). Camouflaging 'egocentrism' as ‘memory' was given in (33) in the form of the main predication of the statement ('represents [...] as [...]'); in (34) that predication was changed into an attribu­tive construction joining the manifestations of 'egocentrism' and their explanation via 'memory'; this connection is therefore taken for granted, represented as something self-evident (the focus of the utterance is thus,as it were, left behind, turned into its topic).[41] The realization of this effect by linguistic means is made easier thanks to the new EMBELLISHMENT of (33), which takes up the r6le of the new predication, relegating the previous one to the back­ground.

This means, among other things, that the new tone assigned to the statement should not merely consist in introducing some adverbs, interjections or a new intonation in a purely phonetic sense, but in a considerable reorganization of the predicative structure: the new tone must be assigned the r6le of the principal statement, accorded the status of the main clause.

5.4. COMBINATION of the embellished facts with the author's embellished attitude to them

This COMB, quite natural and necessary — for the attitude to the facts is inseparable from relating them — means bringing together formulae (28) and (34), resulting in:

(35) Why is it that we are so unluckily designed by Nature? We have such a poor memory as to recount the same story to the same person over and over again, while at the same time our memory is good enough to enable us to tell the most minor details about ourselves.

It is easy to see that the COMBINATION consisted in the fusion of N in (34) with nous in (28) and of the ‘tone of sympathetic human regret' in (28) with that of ‘intellectual curiosity' in (34) into a single tone of ‘regret and wonder at the disturbing peculiarities of human nature.' The latter tone is conveyed in French by a ready made lexico-syntactic construction: the question of the type pourquoi faut-il? (Why should it be so that ...?). Russian and English seem to lack a ready-made formula for this cluster of meanings.

6. The Compositional Organization of the Text

Formula (35) is a reasonably close approximation to the final text of the maxim — (0). But still it does not attain the formal perfection of the real text at least in two respects: firstly, the purely verbal (it is easy to see that as regards the choice of words, style, etc., (35) is nothing more than an unfinished product), and secondly, the compositional. It is the latter that we will be concerned with in the following pages.

In the situation (35) we quite naturally single out two main components:

(35a) bad memory = recount over and over again  to the same person;

(35b) good memory = recount  the most minor details.

By the compositional organization of the T is meant first of all the mutual linear ordering of these components. One of the two possible orders is represented in (35); the other — in the final text: in (35) it’s [a + b], in (0), it’s [b + a].[42]It is intuitively clear that the actual order observed in (0) plays some part in the specific impression produced by the maxim as it was outlined in the beginning of the paper. Let us, then, consider the effects achieved by the changing of the order [a + b] into [b + a]. These will be examined in each of the two main aspects of the situation (35): on the one hand, ‘the egocentric's hyperbolized pretensions and their fiasco' (see (22)), and, on the other, the EMBELLISHMENT of this behavior.

We will start with the former, i.e., with the little scene depicted in situa­tion (22). From the point of view of this scene, based on the construction SUDDEN TURN (see above, S. 4), the optimal order of the com­ponents is that in which the fiasco is concentrated in the end, whereas at the beginning it is desirable to have a smooth and satisfactory flow of events. In other words, the preferable order of components is [b + a].

As for the other aspect of the situation (35), ‘camouflaging ego­centrism as effects of memory' — because of the chosen strategy of its un­masking through Figure IV (the construction EXPOSING CONTRADICTORI­NESS) — it is, generally speaking, indifferent to the order of the compo­nents (35b) ‘good memory' and (35a) ‘bad memory.' The reader should bear in mind that since the factor serving to expose the EMBELLISHMENT is not one or the other of the components (the "true" one) but their interre­lation, either of the two possible orders of their appearance will result in the unmasking as its final point. However, as was already indicated (see S. 5.3, Note 38) there is no complete equality of status between the two components: the ‘bad memory,' disguising the maximum possible mani­festation and the main failure of 'egocentrism,' is regarded as the princi­pal, "kernel" EMBELLISHMENT. It is, therefore, in the interests of the EMBELLISHMENT to put this component in the final — the stronger — posi­tion. The order [b + a] again turns out to be the more suitable one.

Another consideration related to the second aspect, i.e., the EMBEL­LISHMENT, involves the tone of regret which it has been decided to assign to the statement as a whole. This tone is only justified if something "bad," "negative" stands in the final, resultative position, i.e., at the end of the statement. In other words, CONCORD of the order of components with the element ‘tone of regret' also suggests the sequence [b + a], where "a" is both ‘bad memory' and ‘failure of pretensions,' being therefore overwhelmingly "negative."

We have seen that the order of components chosen by La Rochefoucauld has the effect of putting maximum possible final stress on both poles of the deep design — the orientation towards ‘exposure' and the orientation towards 'blurring.’[43]

The order of the principal members — [b + a] — having been determined, they can be additionally elaborated in order to heighten the achieved effects.

Firstly, the ‘manifestations of egocentrism' are organized in a string based on the principle of INCREASE: the weaker and vaguer indications are put at the beginning, the stronger and less ambiguous at the end ('remembers and tells the smallest details' — ‘details about himself' — 'recounts over and over again' — 'to the same person'). Moreover, the RECOIL quality of the first member of the string in relation to the final member, COMBINING the climax of the egocentrism pretensions with their fiasco, is sharpened: of the two elements 'remember and tell' only the first — 'remember' — is retained in the actual text (assez de mémoire pour retenir). As a result of this REDUCTION:

1) the contrast between the final link (fiasco) and the initial one ("achievement": 'N can boast of good memory'), developed at an earlier stage of the derivation (see the "smooth initial segment," foreseen in S.4, and its realization in S.5.2. in the process of the "mem­ory" EMBELLISHMENT) has become more explicit;

2) the initial position is filled with the weakest and least obvious of the possible 'manifestations of egocentrism': to remember (silently) something about oneself can hardly be seen as a serious offense.

The elimination of the 'telling' at the beginning of the maxim sets off another RECOIL relation between the initial and final parts of the text. 'Remember' differs from 'remember and tell' not only as "implicit" from "explicit" 'egocentrism' but also as a general state, not focused in time and space, from a concrete action or event. It is this opposition that is used to create the transition from descriptio to narratio characteristic of the narrative genres. This transition is also emphasized by the contradistinction between the initial indefinite-pluralistic nous and the final one-point une.

The wide range of compositional effects simultaneously obtaining in our maxim — a plot with a FAILURE, built on the principle of SUDDEN TURN; an EMBELLISHMENT with a built-in RECOIL; a RECOIL construction in which narratio isaccentuated through descriptio; an INCREASE culminating in the final pointe within the framework of narratio — all these enable us to see in this maxim of La Rochefoucauld a well-plotted story about egocentrism and efforts to veil and ennoble it, one whose place is somewhere half-way "from the proverb to the folktale" (see Permjakov, 1970).

Appendix A


Figures are recurrent combinations of EDs CONCRETIZING certain rather abstract themes (such as 'mockery,' 'making strange,' 'pathos,' 'tragic effect,' etc.). It is 'this orientation towards themes that distinguishes figures from other combinations of EDs, which, though recurrent, fulfil purely expressive functions, and brings them close to individual EDs serving as CONCRETIZATIONS of certain themes (see Shcheg­lov & Zholkovskij, 1976: 228). This is reflected in the fact that the definitions of the figures include, along with the enumeration of the EDs involved, indications of certain properties of the elements to which these EDs are to be applied (cf. such attributes as 'bad,' 'low,' or such elements as 'pretensions to intellectuality,' 'lying,' etc. in the descriptions of figures given below). (On figures see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, 1976: 230-232.)


1.1. The function of this figure, or, to put it the other way round, the theme suggesting its application, is 'ridiculing a certain "bad" (low, ugly, harmful, etc.) object X.' The gist of Figure I consists in the following: the object X1 is depicted as, or identified with, a certain "good" (high, beautiful, useful, etc.) object X2. Traditional poetics describes this phenomenon in such terms as metaphor and irony (see Kratkaja literaturnaja enciklopedija 1966, Literaturnaja enciklopedija 1925, 1930). Figure I, as well as Figure II (see below), is of a verbal, or mental, nature: the bringing together of the two contrasting objects is purely imaginary and does not take place in the real events of the plot.

In terms of EDs Figure I involves the following sequence of operations: CONTRAST,  ONCORD, COMBINATION, REDUCTION.

1) Firstly, the juxtaposition with the initial object X1, of an abstract object Anti-X, contrasting with X, by some feature of the 'badness/goodness' group (ED CONTR);

2) Secondly, the choice from the range of the possible CONCRETIZATIONS of Anti-X, of an object X2 sharing with X, a common trait (or several common traits) Q lying beyond the sphere of the "evaluative" properties of the 'badness/ goodness' group (ED CONCORD);

3) Thirdly, X1 is "renamed" into X2 in a COMB of a special kind, consisting in mental identification (mutual superimposition) of the two contrasting objects based on their similarity, sometimes considerable, with respect to the property Q.

4) Finally, expicit traits of the object X1 can be left out (RED). This step is optional: generally speaking, explicit indications of X1 and even its direct name may be present in the text. For example, in Ostap Bender's words "I see you love money unselfishly ," X1 (the 'desire to have money') is represented as X2 ('unself­ish love'). An example of RED of obvious features of X1 is Bender's statement "They will come for you in a beautiful carriage equipped with iron bars": it takes the reader a certain amount of logical effort to arrive at the meaning of this metaphor (= Black Maria).

1.2. Variations of Figure I with regard to the degree of deformation of the initial object are rather numerous. We will select two features impor­tant for the nature of the comic effect created by the figure.

(1) Similarity of the object X2 with the embellished object X1 with respect to a constitutive property of the object X1; this feature assumes two values : + (plus, i. e. X2 coincides with X1 with respect to this property); and -- (minus, i. e. X2 is opposed to XI with respect to this property).

(2) Similarity of X2 to X1 with respect to the property of the 'badness' group belonging to XI; this feature can also assume two values: minus (X2 is opposed to X1 with respect to this feature, that is, X2 is 'good'); and zero (X2 is neither similar nor opposed to X with respect to this property, that is, X2 is 'neutral' as to 'badness/ goodness').[44]

Assuming the initial object X1 to have "+" with respect to both these fea­tures, we can summarize the possible types of the object X2 in the following table:






(1) Similarity with X1 in a constitutive property



(2) Similarity with X1 in  the 'badness' feature



We will now proceed to illustrate these four types 0f EMBELLISHMENT Of X1= 'avarice' (the constitutive trait: 'holding on to one's property').

Type I is X2 opposed to X1 with respect to both  features, i.e., 'virtue ex­pressed in giving up property' (e.g., 'generosity' or 'rejection of property as a religious deed').

Type II is X2 being a virtue expressed in 'holding on to one's property' (e.g., 'parsimoniousness' or, let's say, 'unselfish attachment to the possessed object').

Type III is X2 expressed in 'giving up property' which is neither vice nor virtue (e.g., 'parting with things as a result of absent-mindedness, forgetfulness, capri­ciousness, hobby or some other quality lying beyond the sphere of ethics').

Type IV is X2 expressed in 'holding on to one's property'  which is neither vice nor virtue (e.g., 'doing so due to the same non-ethical qualities as in Type III').

It is easy to see that the types of X2 are ordered according to the decreasing degree of difference between X2 and X1. Indeed, X2 of  the type I differs from X1 with respect to both features; X2 of the type II, with respect to the one more important feature ('badness'); X2 of the type III, with respect to both features, but in such a way that the main difference (in 'badness') is not the maximum possible;[45] X2 of the type IV — with respect to only one (the main) feature and not to the maximum degree.

It is natural that the greater the difference between X1 and X2, the more grotesque, mocking and incredible will seem their identification through Figure I. The choice of a more or less grotesque degree of deformation of the object of EMBELLISHMENT will evidently depend on the theme. Thus, the rather strong second degree of deformation (i.e., the identification of X1 with X2 of Type II) is often used in Molière's comedies; e.g., Harpagon disguises his unwillingness to be a proper host to his guests as virtues like 'concern for his friends' health,' 'moderation,' 'philosophical wisdom,' etc. (see Appendix B, 27). On the other hand, La Rochefoucauld maxim 313,analyzed here, involves the most moderate, fourth degree of deformation, which is due to the peculiarities of its theme ('life­likeness,' 'realistic portrayal of the soul'). Yet, some of the more grotesque modes of EMBELLISHMENT in the spirit of Molière are not excluded in La Rochefoucauld's poetic world (see Appendix B, 23, 19, 12).


The function of this figure (or the theme CONCRETIZED by it) is 'ridiculing man by demonstrating his predominantly material and non-spiritual nature.' Like Figure I, CARICATURE is an "identification figure" of a verbal or imaginary nature, based on the mental identification of one object with another, opposed to it. The feature with respect to which the contrastive relation obtains between the objects XI and X2 can be formulated as 'normal/abnormally hyperbolized degree of a certain feauture E'. HYPERBOLIZATION is, however, only one of the means of realization of certain more general comic laws; that is why it does not automatically create comic effects whenever it is used. As is shown in the classic work of Henri Bergson (1900), one of the most universal sources of humor is portraying the "living" (supple, endowed with individuality, spiritual, nimbly reacting to changes in the environment ) as the "mechanic" (inert, stereotyped, material, reacting with delay).[46]Hyperbolized caricature is just one of the possible modes of equat­ing "the living" and "the mechanical." It seems obvious, however, that the relation between the hypertrophy of a certain property E and the resulting "mechanic" effect can take different forms.

The most typical case, described by H. Bergson, boils down to the following: the cartoonist perceives in his originals some concealed traits of "ossification," or stereotyped behavior ("the grimaces"), and makes them apparent to all by con­siderable intensification. In other cases, the HYPERBOLIZATION not only reveals "the grimaces" inherent in the original but creates new ones — mainly by exaggerating out of normal proportions those traits that are more closely related to the "mater­ial and mechanic" than to the "spiritual and organic" side of human personality. In particular, a comic effect can be produced by any hyperbolization of individual parts of the body insofar as it can be seen as an obstacle to the normal functioning of consciousness and spirit, agility, swiftness of reaction to the environment, etc. One can also envisage cases of CARICATURE creating the "mechanic" effect quite independently of "grimaces" or the "low" material element. Thus, certain types of exaggeration can be technically carried out through repetition or mutliplication of certain details of the original. Repetition of any part or trait of a living being is, as Bergson convincingly argued, a potential source of its comic identifica­tion with an automaton, resulting in comism.

In terms of EDs, the choicer of object X2 can be regarded as a simultane­ous application of CONTR and CONCD: an object is found that is opposed to X1 with respect to the "normality/abnormality" feature,[47] being at the same time identical to X1 as regards the property (or item) E and possibly a few other properties as well. The mental identification of X1 with X2, like that in Figure 1, is a special type of COMB. The, optional last step — REDUCTION of explicit indications at X1 — is used here more frequently than in Figure I: more often than not only the exag­gerated object X2 is visible to the reader, while the initial object X1 is assumed to be known to him.

In some cases, the HYPERBOLIZATION effect is heightened through the use of VAR of the object X2 with further COMBINATION of the results of this VAR into a new object X'2.

Examples of HYPERBOLIZATION through Figure II can be found in cartoons where certain traits of characters known to the readers ('obesity,' 'big nose,' 'stooped posture,' etc.) are exaggerated out of their normal proportions.

An example of VAR + COMB intensifying CARICATURE is a cartoon in the spirit of "black humor," where the executioner is carrying to the guillotine an invalid who has neither hands nor legs. The element E ('misfortune in the bodily-material aspect') is AUGMENTED to the extreme degree and then elaborated through two different manifestations (VAR): 'loss of all the extremities' and 'capital punishment' which are then COMBINED into a single situation. A similar example is the last act of Moliere's comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac,where the calamity befalling the main character is elaborated through at least three extreme manifestations: 'he is forced to put on a woman's gown'; 'he is harrassed and threatened with the gallows'; 'he is subjected to impertinent erotic pursuit.' All these are COMBINED in one scene ('the guards looking for Pourceaugnac pursue him as a woman').

3. Figure II: FAILURE (of 'Pretensions')

3.1. The function, or theme, of this figure is 'ridiculing man's efforts to seem significant, important, refined, spiritual, intellectual, etc. — in general, to accentuate in some way or other his "high" human nature in comparison with other living beings and inanimate objects.' The essence of the figure is that these 'high pretensions' end up in a failure, deflation and a demonstration of the "low," predominantly material and physical nature of man (the 'fiasco'). It is essential that the mechanism bringing about the 'fiasco' should in some form or other be inherent in the 'pretensions' themselves or connected with them.

As distinct from the purely verbal and mental figures I and II, Figure III is based not on an imaginary but on a real concatenation of the two objects par­ticipating in it; it is therefore a plot figure.

In terms of EDs, Figure III can be described as a combination of CONTRAST, CONCORD and COMBINATION:

1) CONTR is applied to the situation X1 ('high pretensions'), resulting in an abs­tract situation Anti-X1 with the opposite meaning (properties of the 'low' group).

2) From the range of the possible CONCRETIZATIONS of Anti-X1 a situation X2 such as might be easily seen as a consequence of the situation X1 is selected by the use of CONCORD;

3) X1and X2 are COMBINED into a causal pair in the framework of which they can figure in the text simultaneously (as two aspects of one situation) or sepa­rately (first X1, then X2). In the latter case, X1plays the role of RECOIL to X2, while the construction as a whole is to be considered a SUDDEN TURN (for details on S-TURN see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij 1974: 49 ff.).

3.2. Apart from these obligatory properties, Figure III tends to include some additional points that accentuate the theme CONCRETIZED by it. The effect of the 'deflation of intellectual and spiritual pretensions of man' can be heightened by introducing such moments as:

(a) unawareness of the person in question of the causal connection between his pretensions and the fiasco, or even of the fiasco itself;

(b) the person's enthusiasm about his/her activity aimed at the fulfilment of the pretensions (the character "invests his whole soul" into their realization, spends a lot of energy and emotions, cf., for example, Jourdain's folly).

'Unawareness' is useful because it deals a blow to the person's intellectual pre­tensions, showing him to be an unconscious puppet in the hands of other people, events, passions, etc. (cf. Bergson's remark that we are made ridiculous mostly through that side of our personality which escapes our consciousness). 'Enthusiasm' carries a double function: in the first place, it can, if need be, pro­vide a natural explanation for the 'unawareness,' since an excess of emotion weakens the control of reason; in the second place, if 'enthusiasm' is there, the fiasco tends to look like the trampling down of the "best feelings" or, what amounts to the same thing, of the spiritual pretensions of man. Both 'unaware­ness' and 'enthusiasm,' apart from these thematic functions, also play a purely expressive role of sharpening the contrast between X1 and X2 (the man's emotional involvement in the situation X1 [= 'enthusiasm'] and his failure to take notice of X2 [= 'unawareness'] increase the "moral distance" bet­ween him and the situation X2, making the transition to it the  more striking).

To the features of Figure III "working for" the theme we should add 

(c) instructiveness of the fiasco. It is essential that the fiasco stem exactly from those elelments of the situation X1 that are being made fun of and not from any other of its components.

Some examples of  FAILURE (of 'pretensions') can be found in car­toons. 'A man who is walking with his nose in the air, puffed up with his own importance, fails to notice a banana skin, slips and falls' (variant : 'a Mexican with a broad sombrero covering his eyes falls into a sewer'; another variant : 'the wife henpecking her husband does not let him say a word and thereby prevents him from warning her of an open drain in front of her; the result — the wife falls in').

4. Figure IV: FAILURE (of 'Lying')

4.1. The function of Figure IV is 'ridiculing of lies, i.e., of any false state­ments, feigning, dressing-up, attempts at embellishing oneself, etc.' Technically, that is, with respect to the set of EDs used, Figure IV is similar to Figure III except in one point: it displays 'lying' where Figure III has 'pretensions.' Like Figure III, this is a plot construction. All that has been said about the additional properties of Figure III ('unconsciousness,' 'enthusiasm,' 'instructiveness') holds true for Figure IV.

For an example of COMB of a 'lie' and its 'fiasco' (= 'exposure') in a situation unified in time and space see the "Je" anecdote (Appendix B, 33a), where the 'lie' ('the speaker says he knows French') and its unmasking ('demonstration of his ignorance of French') are COMBINED not merely in a single situation but in a monosyllable.[48]

4.2. The unmasking of the 'lie' can be realized (a) as a demonstration of the true state of affairs; (b) as a demonstration of the falseness of the statement without finding out the truth. In both cases different degrees of force and categor­icalness of the unmasking can be envisaged — from complete obviousness to "casting a shadow of doubt" — depending on the theme, context and, possibly, other factors.

A variety of the case (b), where only the fact of lying becomes obvious, is the case of unmasking based on contradictions discovered in the character's state­ments. Such is the formula about the broken pot (see Appendix B, 34). This variety of Figure IV (occurring in La Rochefoucauld’s No. 313) can be labelled EXPOSING CONTRADICTORINESS.

5. Combinations of Figures I and III-IV

Figure I (EMBELLISHMENT) is often found concatenated with Figure III (FAILURE of 'pretensions') or Figure IV (FAILURE of ‘lying') in a single construction. This is rather natural, since

(a) ascribing 'high' qualities to a character in accordance with Figure I creates conditions favorable to the use of Figure III (in the 'high/low' line) and Figure IV (in the 'lying/unmasking' line);

(b) in a more general sense all the three figures perform the same function of ridiculing.

An example of the Figure I - Figure IV combination is found in Denis Davydov's "Contemporary Song":  "But lo! our Mirabeau furiously beats the old [servant] Gavrilo in his face and moustache for a crumpled jabot." Unmasking of liberals as liars is preceded here by their EMBELLISHMENT (the renaming of the liberal nobleman into a Mirabeau).

It seems reasonable to single out as typical yet another combination of figures: the "triad" construction Figure I - Figure IV - Figure I, where first the false EMBELLISHMENT of an object is unmasked and then the unmasking undergoes a new EMBELLISHMENT. Thus, in the torgsin [foreign currency shop] episode from M. Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, a Russian customer tries to pass for a for­eigner (Figure I), then exposes himself, crying out Karaul! [Police!] in Russian (Figure IV); this behavior is, in its turn, EMBELLISHED by the narrator, who ironi­cally represents it as an interesting scientific phenomenon (see Appendix B, 35).

Appendix B

Proverbs and Aphorisms Referred to in the Text of the Paper


I. Self-love as such

l. The varieties of self-love are so numerous it is useless to count them (506). 2. Human passions are nothing but varieties of human self-love (531).

3. Even the most violent of passions sometimes give us respite, but self-love torments us constantly (443).

4. There are people so absorbed in themselves that, falling in love, they manage to think not of the person they love, but of their own passion (500).

5. What makes the vanity of others so hard to bear is that it wounds our own (389).

II. Manifestations of self-love: talking about oneself

6. People prefer talking badly about themselves to not talking about themselves at all (138).

7. Lovers are never bored with each other's company because they always talk about themselves (312).

8. It is well-known that one should not talk about one's wife, but it is not well enough known that one should talk still less about oneself (364).

9. Our sincerity is due to a great extent to our desire to talk about ourselves and to exhibit our defects in the light we want to cast upon them (383).

10. The extreme pleasure with which we talk about ourselves ought to prompt us that we are hardly giving the same pleasure to our listeners (314).

III. Feigning as such

11. Sometimes a lie imitates the truth so skilfully that it seems to run counter to common sense not to succumb to the deception (282).

12. Hypocrisy is the tribute of respect which vice pays to virtue (218).

13. Pseudo-honest people are those who conceal their defects from others as well as from themselves; truly honest people are those who are perfectly aware of their defects and admit them (202).

14. Any defect is more excusable than the means whereby it is concealed (411).

IV. Methods of feigning. Its results (self-deceit, failure of feigning.)

15. We are prone to ascribe to ourselves defects opposite to those we actually have; thus, if we are weak in character, we boastfully declare ourselves obsti­nate (424).

16. We confess to small defects only to show we have no great ones (327).

17. All complain of their memory, nobody complains of his judgement (89).

18. The qualities people actually possess are less ridiculous than those they pre­tend to have (134).

19. However hard people tried to cover their passions with the appearance of piety and dignity, they will always be visible througn these veils (12).

20. The habit of feigning before others makes us feign even before ourselves (119).

21. To deceive oneself without noticing it is as easy as it is difficult to deceive others without their noticing it (115).

V. Feigning to conceal self-love

22. Self-love is more cunning than the most cunning man in the world (4).

23. Self-interest speaks in all languages and plays all r6les, even that of disin­terestedness (39).

24. That people are more conscious of their shortcomings than one could imagine can be seen from their skilfulness in talking about their conduct: the very self-love that usually blinds them enlightens them and gives them clarity of vision sufficient to conceal or camouflage the least thing which is likely to be condemned (494).


25. One cannot see a camel on his own head, but manages to notice a straw on another's. If our son throws a stone at yours, it's because he is still a child; if yours throws a stone at ours, it's a criminal offense. In another's eye even a little straw seems like a camel; in one's own even a leaf is hard to notice (Permjakov 1968: 301). You see a straw in another's [cunt], but are unable to notice a log in your own (Pushkin, Complete Works, I, 283).

26. Another great blind man has been discovered — Panikovsky! Homer, Milton and Panikovsky! The three blind men! (I. Ilf & E. Petrov, The Little Golden Calf, ch. 12).

27. Valère: Think you that master has invited people with the intention of kil­ling them with food?  Ask the doctors whether there is aught more pre­judicial to man than eating to excess  A table overloaded with viands is a cut-throat business; to show one's self the friend of those whom one invites, frugality should reign in the meals which one offers; according to the saying of an ancient, we must eat to live, and not live to eat. Herpagon: Eh! how well that is said! (Molière, L'Avare, III,1).

28. The reporter: Today in Germany we have fascism. A voice from the audi­ence: It is they who have fascism today. We have the Soviets. (I. Ilf, Notebooks).

29. He believes he has become deaf since he hears no more talking about himself (Talleyrand on Chateaubriand's deafness).

30. At memoria minuitur  Nec veto quemquam senum audivi oblitum, que loco thesaurum obruisset. Omnia, quae curant, meminerunt: vadimonia con­stituta, quae sibi, quibus ipsi debeant. (But, it is said, memory dwindles  Nor, in point of fact, have I everheard of any old man forgetting where he had hidden his money. They remember everything that interests them: when to answer their mail, business appointments, who owes them money, and to whom they owe it). (Cicero, De senectute, ch. VII).

31. From the square toward the highway, bending over, ran a man with a white goose under his arm  "The second stage of the theft of a goose," Ostap remarked coldly. "The third stage will begin after the culprit is caught. It is accompanied by sound thrashings." Panikovsky had evidently surmised the approach of the third stage, because he ran with all his might. (Ilf & Petrov, The Little Golden Calf, ch. 3).

32. No, you are not descended from a monkey like other people, but from a cow. You grasp things with great difficulty like a split-hoof mammal. (Ilf & Petrov, The Little Golden Calf, ch. 22).

33a.Question: Which of you speaks French to perfection? Answer: Je. (Anecdote).

33b.Everybody knows about his (F.P. Uparov's) answer to Napoleon, when the Emperor asked him who was in command of the Russian cavalry at the time of the brilliant attack in one of the battles: — Je, Sire (P. Vjazemsky, From the Old Notebooks, Leningrad, 1929, 117).

34. Question: Why did you break the pot you took from me? Answer: First of all, I didn't take it; secondly, I returned it long ago; and thirdly, it was broken before I took it. (Anecdote).

35. Korovjev and Begemot in the torgsin [foreign currency store] notice a fat, elegantly dressed man speaking broken Russian, and take him for a fore­igner. Later, they provoke a scandal in the store which culminates in one of the customers hitting the fat foreigner on the head with a tray. The man falls into a barrel of herring, crying out in pure Russian without a trace of an accent: "Help! Police! I am being killed by gangsters!" The author com­ments: "His instant mastering of an unknown language must have been due to the shock he had received." (M. Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, ch. 28).


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LITERATURNAJA ENCIKLOPEDIJA, 1930. IV, 571-580 (Irony); VII, 233-234 (Metaphor) (Moscow: Komakademija).

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PGEPL 1972-1974. Predvaritel'nyje publikacii problemnoj gruppy po eksperimental'noj i prikladnoj lingvistike (abbr. PGEPL), Fasc. 33, 39, 49. (Moscow: Russian Lan­guage Institute of the Academy of Sciences of USSR).

SHCHEGLOV Ju. K., 1976. Semioticheskij analiz odnogo tipa jumora, in: Semiotika i informatika 6 (Moscow: VINITI AN SSSR).

1976. K opisaniju smysla svjaznogo teksta (Manuscript).

SHCHEGLOV Ju.K. & A.K. ZHOLKOVSKIJ, 1972. K opisaniju smysla svjaznogo teksta II(=PGEPL 33).

1973. K opisaniju smysla svjaznogo teksta III (= PGEPL 39).

1974 K opisaniju smysla svjaznogo teksta IV (= PGEPL 49).

1975a "K ponjatijam ‘tema' i ‘poeticheskij mir,"' Trudy po znakovym sistemam, VII, 143-­169.

1975b Generating the Literary Text (Russian Poetics in Translation, 1: University of Essex).

1976 "Poetics as a Theory of Expressiveness," Poetics 5, 3(19): 207-246.

WIERZBICKA A., 1968. "Miejsce problematyki ekspresji w teorii semantycznej," Pamiętnik literacki, LIX, 4, 97-119.

ZHOLKOVSKIJ A.K., 1977. "K opisaniju vyrazitel'noj struktury paremij," in: G.L. Perm­jakov, ed., Paremiologicheskij sbornik (Moscow: Nauka), 136-162.


[1] As a matter of fact, this maxim is entered in dictionaries of aphorisms under the heading of "Memory," cf. Dictionnaire des pensées et maximes (1963: 64).

[2] Indeed, it is the theme of 'self-love, egocentrism' (and not that of 'memory') that is central to La Rochefoucauld's "Maximes" (see Appendix B, 1-10, 22-24, especially 1-5). Another constant theme is that of  'feigning, pretense' (ibid, 11-21). Often the two themes COMBINE (ibid, 22-24). Therefore, the maxim under consideration (No. 313) seems to be fairly rep­resentative of La Rochefoucauld's pΘetic world (on the concept of pΘetic world see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, 1975: 160).

[3] For further information on the "non-expressiveness" of  Θs and "contentlessness" of EDs, as well as on complications of this ideal correlation and on other aspects of the 'Theme <--> Text' model of literary competence see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij (1976: 228 ff.).

[4] We will term such properties constitutive; consequently, CONCRETIZATION of the (la) -->(2) type will be called constitutive CONCR (see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, 1973: 13). The
concept of constitutive property is used below in S. 5.0., Note 19 and in Appendix A, 1.2.

[5] That CONCR of Θs including Θe 'egocentrism' quite naturally involves a contrast be­tween 'attitude towards oneself' (attentive, indulging, etc.) and 'attitude towards others' (inattentive, demanding, etc.) can be seen from the fact that a great number of proverbs dealing with the theme are based on the opposition 'one's own vs. others' (see Permjakov, 1968: 298-302 and Appendix B, 25).

[6] On the play on 'participation' see below, S. 5.1., formulae (23) ff.

[7] 'Some of the essential points of the Θ and DD of our maxim can be found in other of La Rochefoucauld's sayings; e.g., 'censure' not only of 'self-love' but of 'feigning, pretense' as well (see Appendix B, 13, 14); 'comic treatment of pretense' (ibid, 18); .'egocentrism showing through attempts at camouflage' (ibid, 19, 21).

[8] On EDs used to CONCRETIZE thematic elements see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij (1972: 15 ff.; 1976: 228 ff.).

[9] This means that grotesque and farcical humour is admissible only in limited quantities, and is solely for developing Θe (8a), not (8b).

[10]  That 'telling about oneself is a manifestation of 'self-love' widespread in La Rochefoucauld's pΘetic world is seen in a number of his other maxims, see, e.g., Appendix B, 6-10. In general, 'telling and hearing about oneself' is probably a classical CONCR of Θe 'self-love, vanity'; for instance, it, underlies also Talleyrand's witticism about Châteaubriand (see Appendix B, 29).

[11] The selection of  Θe 'constantly, repeatedly' is also called for by the tendency to depict N's behavior as 'stereotyped,' which corresponds to one of the conditions of humor (see Appen­dix A, 2, Note 46).

[12] This 'undercutting' amounts to HYPERBOLIZATION of 'insignificance.'

[13] N's ‘inability to realize' failures that befall him, his ‘blindness' to them not only help build an expressive and comic situation but also correspond to the spirit of those psychological laws which La Rochefoucauld reveals in his maxims (cf. Appendix B, 20, 21, 24).

[14] That such an accumulation of factors making Ns stories boring and unbearable for the listeners will ensure the necessary HYPERBOLIZATION of 'boredom' follows from the fact that in La Rochefoucauld's world even simple 'telling about oneself’ is regarded as boring and undesirable (see Appendix B, 8, 10 and also 7, where 'not being boring' presupposes telling the listener about himself, not about others). In example 10 the character who is fond of speaking about himself is, however, "blind" to this universal law.

[15] As a result of the REDUCTION, the remaining Θe ‘details' becomes a typical regressively perceived PRESAGE (see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, 1974: 15 ff.): that the ‘details' had been a manifestation of 'boredom' becomes clear only after the whole maxim has been read; it is only then that the reader mentally reconstructs Θe 'insignificant' omitted from the text (cf. regressive interpretation of clues in detective stories which are also based on S-TURN).

[16] REDUCTION will delete such abstract Θe as 'inattention,' ‘failure to identify listeners,' and 'boredom' that are "dissolved" (= CONCRETIZED) in other components of the situation and are thus easily perceived in it. These REDUCTIONS are motivated, first, by general considera­tions of artistic economy; second, by the tasks discussed in Note 15; third, by the desirability of blurring the true causes of N’s behavior (on the latter function of the REDS see S. 5.2).

[17] The effect will be further enhanced owing to a fusion of the author and the character N in the course of operations dealing with view-point (see S. 5.1).

[18] Such a generalized individual might appear in the final text as a character with a proper name or as a nameless ‘neighbour,' ‘friend,' etc.

[19] If, on the contrary, a non-constitutive property is chosen, the resulting effect is usually that of verbal juggling, purely rhetorical clowning; of this latter kind is, for instance, Bender's witticism 'Homer, Milton and Panikovsky' ('blindness' is an occasional, not constitutive, property of Panikovsky; see Appendix B, 26).

[20] It is the VARpart variety of ED VARIATION — different CONCRETIZATIONS of a VARIED object X use as their respective accretions parts of some other object (see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, 1973: 36). In case a figure is subjected to VARpart, it is the object to which the figure is applied (in our case, situation (22)) that provides the parts necessary for VARpart.

It is worth noting that the selection of this variety of VAR predetermines a later COMBINATION of the results of VAR, since the parts remain connected within their whole.

[21]  Of course, we are aware that subtraction of  Θe(7) from (22) would result in a formulation of facts slightly different from (22) (it would become more objective, less mocking, etc.); however, we will not undertake the laborious task of subtraction and will merely ignore the difference.

[22] It should be noted that EMBELLISHMENT of 'author's attitude' (unlike EMBELLISHMENT of 'facts' proper) deals with only one feature, namely that on which the comparison of X1 and X2 is based (in this case, 'aggressiveness/participation'). As for the opposition 'badness vs. goodness,' its treatment isrelegated completely to the stage of EMBELLISHING 'facts' themselves, which — irrespective of the operation under discussion — will have to be evaluated as 'bad; 'non-ethical; 'excusable' or 'good.'

[23] Here and below the term tone isused not in its phonetic sense, but in a broader stylistic sense applicable to written speech as well.

[24] The indefiniteness of the collective 'we' concerning its inclusion of real 1st person is the basis of the word play in the example cited in Appendix B, 28.

[25] The peculiar effect brought about by the nous view-point willcome out quite clearly if we contrast our T(0) with other possible solutions. An example of the complete absence of 'pretended participation' (in a structure that involves EMBELLISHMENT and implements it in much the same way as T(0)) isfurnished by Talleyrand's witticism about Chaleaubriand (see below Note 32). There the ridiculed object isa 'he' clearly distinct from the author's 'I’. As for an alternative solution that would involve 'camouflage by means of pretended full participation,' it might have the form of, say, "What a strange device our memory is! I remember most clearly the minutest details ...".

[26] The absence in the final text (0) of any manifestations of the 'outside vision' raises the following legitimate question: is there really any 'detachment' of the author from the character, or does the author quite seriously consider himself a party to the vices of his character? This is to be expected from such a skeptical philosopher as the author of Maximes. Therefore, it should be stressed that 'detachment' is present in the text if only as a result of the fact that it is implied by the author's 'comic attitude' which presupposes aggressive-defensiveness towards the object of ridicule: the laughing self of the author detaches himself from ridiculed mankind which may include the author's human everyday self.

It is not wholly impossible that the fusion of the 'outside and inside view-points' in this maxim produces one additional effect, namely, the impression of  'author-character's honest mistake as to his real qualities.' Such a 'mistake' would relate in the following way to Θe 'egocentrism' and 'pretense': it is at once a form of 'egocentrism' and a form of FAILURE (of lying), viz. the fiasco that befalls the liar (cf. Appendix B, 20, 21, 24, especially 21, where both types of fiasco are represented — 'self-deception' and 'failure of lying': 'a person, on the one hand, becomes confused himself and, on the other hand, fails to deceive the others'). In addition, 'self-deception' is a typical manifestation of Θe 'inability to realize, unawareness,’ which is one of the main conditions of the 'comic effect' (see Appendix A, 3.2.). In this case, the impression of 'self-deception' is the more easily produced since even the most stylized speech of the author (not his character) is taken more or less seriously by the reader; that is whythe maxim sounds like the remark of an egocentric who has completely fallen victim to his own self-deception, whereas the task of discovering the truth is entrusted to the reader alone.

[27] Or a later formula derived from (22), that describes the egocentric's behavior, namely, formula (35) resulting from COMBINATION of (28) with (34), see below.

[28] A similar prevalence is characteristic of EMBELLISHMENT in the sphere of the author's attitude (see 5.1.), where Figure I is applied only once, since EMBELLISHMENT suffers no FAILURE.

[29]Failure of the EMBELLISHMENT of vices (the reason for which our maxim makes use of the figure FAILURE of 'lying') is one of the situations characteristic of La Rochefoucauld's poetic world (see Appendix B, 18, 19, 21).

[30] Multiple VAR of Figure I, pervading the whole construction, is one of the realizations of the dominating role assigned to the 'blurring' motif in the DD.

[31] See S. 1, introducing the notion of CONCRpart,contr, i.e., CONCRETIZATION through contrastive parts. The VARpart,contr in question may be viewed as the result of COMB of that CONCRpart,contr with the VAR discussed in the present section.

[32] On the whole, there are different strategies of EMBELLISHMENT in La Rochefoucauld's poetic world. Sometimes the vice is concealed (see Appendix B, 24) or presented as a virtue (see ibid, 19 and 23). No less frequent, however, is the case of a defect disguised as another, more harmless defect: e.g., in example 15 weakness of character is made to look like obstinacy. There is also a case quite closely related to ours: in example 16 there is a direct formulation of the principle of substituting small defects for serious vices. In another maxim (example 17), La Rochefoucauld outlines what appears to be one of the most typical CON­CRETIZATIONS of such a small defect ('failing memory').

In principle, the small defect can lie within the psychical ('memory') or physical sphere; an example of the latter is Talleyrand's joke about Chateaubriand (see Appendix B, 29). It might be interesting to point out that the similarity between this mot and our maxim is not confined to the fact of 'vice being disguised as defect' (vanity as deafness), and involves some common details: a) vanity as the ridiculed object; b) fiasco of this vanity (lack of desired fame). There is, however, one important difference (the organization of points of view , see above, Note 25).

[33] Cf., on the contrary, constructions of the "Je" type (Appendix B, 33a) where FAILURE of 'lying' is brought about through the. elucidation of the truth.

[34] It ought to be said that the first step towards sharpening the contrast between the two EMBELLISHMENTS had been made at an earlier stage, viz., on the way from (29) to (31): when through COMBINATION of (29) with (30) two entitities that had been just different (two "technical" properties) were superimposed on mutually exclusive ones ("A" and "B") and, as a result, became mutually exclusive themselves.

[35]  A similar case of VAR of 'egocentrism' through contrastive manifestations can be observed in yet another maxim of La Rochefoucauld, where this vice, on the one hand, blinds man, and, on the other, increases his perspicacity and clarity of vision (see Appendix B, 24).

[36] Thus, 'recounting the same story to the same person' in (22) could be said to result from near-sightedness: 'N behaves in that manner for he is incapable of visually distinguish­ing his interlocutors from one another.'

[37] 'Memory' appears to be a classic example of a psychical parameter the values of which are more often than not determined by passions; cf. Cicero's observations on the memory of old men (Appendix B, 30). At the same time, 'poor memory' is a typical "excusable foible," and our maxim is not the only one where it is used to camouflage vices (cf. another aphorism of La Rochefoucauld , Appendix B, 17).

                The choice of 'memory' as the required parameter at this point of the derivation seems, in fact, predetermined. The other parameters mentioned above would not do because only one of the two contrastive meanings of each of them could be convincingly superimposed on the situation (22). Thus, 'garrulousness' accounts for the behavior of N fairly well, but its opposite  — 'taciturnity'  — hardly takes us anywhere. It is the same with 'imagination': its absence explains 'talking about oneself,' whereas its excess does not in any way help to camouflage the situation of  'recounting to one and the same person .' If some other ways of elaborating the initial theme had been adopted at an earlier stage of the derivation, the choice of the psychical parameter could have been different. If, for example, the "two-member" variant of the EMBELLISHMENT and its exposure (see (29), (30)) had not been used, the above arguments against 'garrulousness' and 'lack of imagination' would evidently lose their force. If, on the other hand, the "two-member" structure were retained, but some other manifestations of 'egocentrism' had been developed instead of situation (22), it might have been possible to use not only 'garrulousness' but 'taciturnity' as well; for example, 'garrulous while talking about himself, otherwise taciturn,' or 'preaches taciturnity when others talk about themselves, but is garrulous while talking about himself,' etc..

[38] It should be mentioned, too, that, though in principle the two members of the construction EXPOSING CONTRADICTORINESS (in our case, the statements about good and bad memory) have equal status (neither of them is bound to be true), their roles within situation (33) are not identical. The element 'bad memory,' which disguises the most outrageous manifestation of egocentrism and its fiasco and is in itself a significant deviation from the norm ("marked" in comparison with the other member — 'good memory', covering up the less flagrant manifestations of 'egocentrism'), turns out to be the "center of gravity" of N’s attempts at self-justification. This prevalence of 'bad memory' in weight and importance will play its role at the stage when the composition of the text is determined (see S. 6).

[39] Cf. Bender's treatment of Panikovsky's goose-stealing and Koreiko's slowness as scientific phenomena (Appendix B, 31-32); see also the "psycholinguistic" treatment of feigning and its fiasco in the episode from Bulgakov (ibid., 35) where, as in our maxim, this "scientific" masquerade functions as the last member of the "triad" scheme "Figures I-IV-I.’’

[40] Cf. the middle position assigned to the scientific approach in the "triptych" of A. Koestler (1964: 2); see also S. 1.

[41]  Cf. the transformation of focus into topic as one of the typical devices used in advertising and propaganda (see Wierzbicka, 1968: 107-111).

[42]  It should be emphasized that the order [a + b] in (35) does not result from a deliberate choice, for up to now the question of the possible order of text components has not been raised except with respect to the situation of the FAILURE of the hyperbolized 'egocentrism' (22), but not to the whole of the maxim.

[43] In order to make sure that the alternative order of members — [a + b] — would alter the general impression produced by the maxim, let us imagine that (35) is the final text. It is clear that the comic effect of the situation (22) would be weakened, for the ‘failure' (now the culmination) would be blurted out prematurely instead of being spectacularly prepared through RECOIL and INCREASE. At the same time, the element of ‘exposure,' contrary to DD, would get a considerable prevalence over ‘blurring': in the first place, the tone of regret would sound false against the background of the "happy ending’’ with N’s memory proving good after all;  secondly, the "main EMBELLISHMENT" ('bad memory'), placed in the "weak" initial position would be weakened, and the false tone of regret would sound like outright sarcasm. The general result would be not ‘an undoubtedly comic situation with blurred unmasking of egocentrism' but rather ‘a sarcastic description of openly unmasked egocentrism.'

[44] The third theoretical possibility -- X2 is similar to X1with respect to 'badness' -- is not mentioned because of its obvious unsuitability for EMBELL­ISHMENT, which is the main function of Figure I:passing of  'vice' for another 'vice' is possible, but it is far from the comic effects typical of Figure 1.Nevertheless, for mnemonic purposes we use the symbol "0" (and not "+").

[45]It should be admitted that the mutual ordering of the types II and III is open to discussion.

[46] The "mechanicity" of behavior can manifest itself, for example, in stereotyped repeti­tion of certain actions: thus Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times keeps tightening bolts even though the circumstances are no longer appropriate. Stereotyped behavior is a comic trait which partially accounts for the effect of La Rochefoucauld's maxim analyzed in the present paper (see S. 4).

[47] Technically the exaggeration of the property E is most often carried out by means of AUGMhyperb.

[48] Strictly speaking, this example simultaneously illustrates Figures IV and III, since the outcome of the situation is the 'fiasco' not only of 'lying,' but of 'pretensions' (= 'overemphasizing of one's own I') as well. This fiasco in the "I" line can be observed in another anecdote with 'Je" as its punch-word(see Appendix B, 33b), where no 'lie' is involved and the 'fiasco' (in handling French) undermines the character's heroic posture (incompatible with linguistica mistakes, a traditional way of comic deflation). As in the case of 'lying' (example 33a), the pretensions and their fiasco are COMBINED in one word (Je). It is interesting to point out that in both cases the theme 'unjustified overemphasizing of one's own I' is ingeniously CONCRETIZED by grammatical means (the "code" sphere, see Shcheglov & Zholkovskij, 1976: 239-240) — through the grammatically incorrect absolute use of the pronoun je.