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arcane as one finds in cyberpunk. Nevertheless, there is never any narrative so
simple and self-sufficient in terms of information that audiences need make no
contribution in order to render the story intelligible.Thus, as of any fiction, junk
fictions require active consumers.
So far the readerly activities I have called attention to have been what might
be called cognitive. But, of course, the consumers of junk fiction not only derive
satisfaction and value from the cognitive judgments they make, they also derive
satisfaction from the moral and emotional judgments that are part and parcel of
their reading. If in Ben Bova™s novel Mars, our growing conviction “ on the basis
344 ALTERNATIVE TOPICS

of various hints and clues before it is stated “ that the expedition is deteriorating
physically and psychologically is a cognitive judgment, then our classification of
the newscaster Edith as an opportunist is a moral judgment and our hatred for the
vice-president is emotional.
Quite often in junk fictions, readers and viewers know more than the characters
in the stories about what is going on. For example, in North by Northwest, the audi-
ence knows that George Kaplan does not exist, but Roger Thornhill, who has been
mistaken for George Kaplan, does not.This not only enables us to anticipate what
will happen in scenes where Thornhill searches out George Kaplan, but also raises
the emotion of suspense in us about whether and when Thornhill will learn the
truth. In this case, knowledge, emotion, and morality “ since our sense that Thorn-
hill is morally right contributes to the substance of our suspense “ lock us into the
story.8 And, in general, our engagement with a junk fiction depends upon the mobi-
lization of our cognitive, moral, and emotive powers, for it is the active exercise of
these powers that gives junk fiction a transactional value for its consumers.
The paradox of junk fiction arises from supposing that it is true that people read
popular fictions for their stories “ that is, that people are interested in junk fictions
for their stories; and, that if people read a certain sort of fiction for their stories, then
knowing the story precludes any interest in the fiction; and, finally, that people who
read junk fiction read stories (story-types) that they already know. This, in turn,
implies that people are and are not interested in junk fictions.The psychoanalyst and
the proponent of genre reading as reading in a system avert this contradiction by
denying that the readers of junk fiction read for stories “ rather they read for wish-
fulfillments, on the one hand, and for systems, on the other.
Not attracted to either of these approaches, I propose that we dissolve the
contradiction by denying the proposition that if people are interested in a certain
sort of fiction, then knowing the story precludes any interest in the fiction.Why?
Because we can be interested in the story as an occasion to exercise our cognitive
powers, our powers of interpretation and inference, our powers of moral judg-
ment and emotive assessment. Junk fictions can support these activities; indeed,
they are often designed to encourage them.That we know the story-types already
in no way deters our deriving this sort of transactional value from junk fictions.
Perhaps in many circumstances knowledge of these story-types may make our
active engagement with junk fictions more zestful in the way that playing games
with well-defined rules enables us to hone our abilities more keenly.
If I am right and junk fictions afford transactional value to readers and view-
ers, then there is nothing mysterious or irrational about consuming junk fictions.
For within the context of recurring story-types, it is possible to exercise our cog-
nitive, moral, and emotional powers. Baseball games are repetitive, but we play
them again and again because they afford the opportunity to activate and some-
times even to expand our powers.There is nothing mysterious or irrational about
this when we realize that performing the activity itself is a source of pleasure and
satisfaction. Likewise with junk fictions, the activities of following the story, of
morally assessing situations and characters as well as of admiring or despising them
THE PARADOX JUNK FICTION 345
OF


occupy our time with varying degrees of satisfaction even if we are already famil-
iar with the generic plot.
Undoubtedly it sounds strange to attempt to justify the rationality of con-
suming junk fiction on the grounds of the activities that it abets. For one of the
hoariest commonplaces concerning such fiction is that it renders its audiences
passive;9 that it stupefies them; that it is a kind of narcotic. But this view of junk
fiction is unwarranted. First, if the truth be told, the active/passive distinction is
unpersuasive. After all, it is very difficult to conceive of a completely passive
response to anything, especially to anything like a text. Doesn™t the most lack-
adaisical response involve some cognitive processing?10 Is there such a thing as a
thoroughly passive response?
So, at the very least, the burden of proof lies with the detractors of junk fiction
to define, in some reasonable way, whatever they mean by passivity. For unless they
are able to propose some plausible notion of passivity with respect to junk fiction,
we need not hesitate to think of junk fiction in terms of activity.
Detractors of junk fiction or, as it is sometimes called, kitsch, maintain that the
audience for junk fiction is passive when compared to the audience for high art.
Moreover, they explain this by claiming that junk fiction is “easy” while high art,
or at least high art of the twentieth century, is “difficult.”The idea seems to be that
high art demands effort and, hence, activity on the part of its consumers, while
kitsch and junk fiction can be consumed effortlessly and, therefore, passively.
Now it is true that popular art, including junk fiction, is designed for effortless
consumption and that it is rarely difficult. However, it is a logical error to presume
that ease of consumability entails passivity, or that activity only correlates with
what is difficult. Though difficulty may function to goad activity, there can be
activity where there is no difficulty. And this concession is all that we need in
order to dissolve the paradox of junk fiction by reference to the activities of the
reader of junk fiction.
Someone might charge that the activities that I have invoked with respect to
junk fiction are not unique to this sort of narrative. Canonical classics and mod-
ernist narratives also support the kinds of activities I have discussed; in fact, they
may even in general stimulate these kinds of activities more than standard exam-
ples of junk fiction.
Of course, I freely admit both of these claims.The readerly activities in virtue
of which consuming junk fictions is rational are the same or, at least, are on a con-
tinuum with many of the activities elicited by canonical and modernist fictions.
And these latter sorts of fiction may stimulate more readerly activity than junk fic-
tion; and, in that sense, may even be of greater or higher value. However, admit-
ting all this does not undercut my more modest conclusion: that typically junk
fiction does promote certain rewarding, readerly activities that make it rational to
consume junk fictions in cases where we are already familiar with the story.That
these activities can be engaged elsewhere, perhaps even more intensively, does not
compromise the fact that they are also available in junk fictions where they serve
to make reading, viewing, and listening worthwhile.
346 ALTERNATIVE TOPICS

Here it is important to note that unlike some defenders of junk fiction, I am
not claiming that junk fiction has some unique standard of value of its own that is
incommensurable with the standards of what might be called ambitious literature.
For the activities that make consuming junk fictions worthwhile are on a contin-
uum with those available in ambitious fiction.
This, of course, does not imply that junk fiction is an evolutionary way-station
on the trajectory to ambitious fiction; in fact, I doubt that reading junk fiction
necessarily puts one on the pathway toward reading more ambitious fiction. But
this is compatible with maintaining that the value in junk fiction is on a contin-
uum with the value of ambitious fiction, even if consuming junk fiction does not
lead one inexorably to cultivate more of the same value in ambitious fiction.
Just as a taste for beer does not inevitably lead to a taste for champagne, an
appreciation of the transactional value of junk fiction does not lead typical readers
to a taste for high literary culture. And even persons accustomed to the transac-
tional value of ambitious literature can savor the perhaps lesser virtues of junk fic-
tion in the same way that a connoisseur of champagne can appreciate beer.
Indeed, even the wine taster may think beer is what one should have some of the
time, though she values champagne, overall, as finer.
Lastly, the kinds of readerly activities that I have been discussing should not be
confused with either games of make-believe, on the one hand, or resistant readings,
a.k.a. recodings, on the other. For I am not convinced that while watching The Fugi-
tive the viewer must make believe that she sees a train hitting a bus, whereas the
viewer cannot appreciate the film without at numerous points structuring what she
sees in terms of whether or not the hero is about to be captured, that is, without fol-
lowing the plot protentively in light of how the story is likely to unfold.
Moreover, the relevant readerly activities are not of the type that people in cul-
tural studies refer to as recodings or resistant readings. For so-called recodings
involve audiences in using junk fictions for creating meanings that serve their own
special purposes.Australian aborigines viewing Western movies and cheering when
the Indians annihilate the white settlers are said to recode those movies “ to derive
a significance from the story that was unintended by the makers of the narrative and
yet is politically galvanizing for the aboriginal community (and its political strug-
gles).11 Recodings, in this sense, either reconfigure or add something alien to the
narrative, something that corresponds to the political needs of the consumers.
Now I have no reason to doubt that, as a matter of sociological fact, recoding and
resistant reading occurs. I am not so convinced that it occurs with the frequency and
the invariantly progressive cast claimed for it by certain leading figures in cultural
studies. There may be recoding going on, but recoding is not the sort of readerly
activity on which I rest my case for the dissolution of the paradox of junk fiction.
For recodings are ultimately arbitrary.Any group, in a certain trivial sense, can
make anything mean anything else for its own purposes. However, the readerly
activities that I have been talking about are not arbitrary responses to the text.
Rather they are normatively correct “ they are the responses that the ideal reader
of the text should have to the text. Reading the comic novel Artistic Differences by
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METAPHOR


Charlie Hauck, you should come to hate Geneva Holloway.That is what the text
or, more precisely, the author expects you to do. The text has been designed to
elicit that response. The text requires a reader who fills it in by hating Geneva
Holloway, but that hatred is not a readerly invention ex nihilo. Nor is it a recoding.
For it is not arbitrary, but rather proposed by the text in a structured way.
Perhaps one might attempt to dissolve the paradox of junk fiction by invoking
the phenomenon of recoding. My own tendency, however, is to resist this move. For,
in the first place, I am not convinced that there is as much recoding going on as is
commonly supposed by academic critics and, if I am right about this, then recoding
would not yield a comprehensive solution to the paradox. But, as well, I suspect that
it is very likely that recoding as it is most frequently described may not usually be a
straightforwardly rational response to a text, and that, therefore, the invocation of
recoding will not usually rationally justify our consumption of junk fiction.
Instead, I argue that the kinds of rational activities that junk fictions afford “
such as interpreting, inferring, following the story, issuing moral judgments and
emotive assessments “ make sense of our consumption of stories that are admit-
tedly formulaic.That other sorts of fiction might be even more stimulating along
these dimensions in no way precludes the possibility that consuming junk fictions
can be a self-rewarding activity, albeit one that is limited relative to certain other
alternatives. So, inasmuch as it is reasonable to anticipate that junk fiction can be
the source of transactional value, choose your reading for the flight to your next
professional convention with an easy conscience.




VISUAL M E TA P H O R
I . I N T RO D U C I N G V I S UA L M E TA P H O R

It is the contention of this essay that there are visual metaphors.That is, there are
some visual images that function in the same way that verbal metaphors do and
whose point is identified by a viewer in roughly the same way that the point of a
verbal metaphor is identified by a reader or a listener.
The term “image” here is intended to refer only to human artifacts. It is not,
for instance, meant to apply to the outlines of animals or the suggestions of faces
discernible in clouds. The visual images that I have in mind in this essay are the
products of intentional human activity.
By calling the images in question “visual,” I wish to signal that these images are
of the sort whose reference is recognized simply by looking, rather than by some
process such as decoding or reading. One looks at a motion picture screen and

From: Aspects of Metaphor, ed. by Jaakko Hintikka (Kluwer Publishers, 1994), 189“218.
348 ALTERNATIVE TOPICS

recognizes that a woman is represented; one looks at her hand and recognizes that
she is holding a gardenia.
Such images, of course, are symbols. But comprehending such image-symbols
does not rely upon codes nor could there be a dictionary according to which one
might decipher or read such images. Rather one looks at the screen and recog-
nizes that which the images represent, that is, wherever one is capable of recog-
nizing the referents of the images in what we might call normal perception
(perception not mediated by codes).
What in common speech are called “pictures” are prime examples of visual
images in the sense that I am using this concept. In the case of a picture, I can rec-
ognize what it is a picture of simply by looking in those cases where what it is a
picture of is something with which I am already familiar or that I am already
capable of recognizing in, so to speak,“nature.”
For example, in the case of Gericault™s Portrait of an Officer of the Chasseurs
Commanding a Charge (1812), I recognize it as a depiction of a man on a white
horse in military attire as well as recognizing that in his right hand he holds a
saber.1 I understand that this is a saber not by virtue of a correlation of this
inscribed shape to a dictionary-like entry, but by looking.
Arguably, we learn to recognize pictures of things in tandem with the develop-
ment of our capacity to recognize the very things that are pictured.2 The capacity to
recognize x perceptually comes with the capacity to recognize pictures of x percep-
tually. Pictures belong to the class of symbols I call visual images because they are
comprehended perceptually, that is, without recourse to any subtending code.
Of course, pictures are not the only types of visual images. Sculptures can also
be visual images, as can typical theatrical scenes when we perceptually recognize
that the actors depict people.Visual images, then, are symbols whose overall refer-
ence as well as the reference of their elements “ such as the officer™s saber above “
are recognized perceptually.
Visual metaphors are a subclass of visual images “ symbols whose elements are
recognized perceptually. Moreover, there is a striking structural analogy between
what I am calling visual metaphors and verbal metaphors: namely, where verbal
metaphors are frequently advanced via grammatical structures that appear to por-
tend identity “ such as the “is” of identity or apposition “ visual metaphors use
pictorial or otherwise visual devices that suggest identity in order to encourage
metaphorical insight in viewers.The relevant visual device of this sort that will be
emphasized in this essay “ which will be elucidated below “ is what can be called
homospatiality.3
The possibility of producing visual metaphors is available in every artistic
medium that employs visual images. Furthermore, this is a possibility that has been
realized. For there are some visual metaphors in every existing artistic medium
that traffics in visual images, including: painting, sculpture, photography, film,
video, theater, and dance.
The purpose of this essay is to characterize visual metaphors: to suggest how
we identify them; to note their recurring features; to indicate how they function;
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METAPHOR


and to discuss the ways in which they are interpreted. In order to facilitate this
project, it is probably useful to begin by providing a list of what I take to be
straightforward cases of visual metaphors. Here are six examples.
1. Rene Magritte™s 1945 painting Le Viol (The Rape) is a composite portrait. At
the bottom of the painting we immediately recognize a right shoulder and a neck.
But as our eyes move up the painting, where we would expect to find a head, we
instead see the naked, headless front of a torso of a woman, beginning at the top of
her thighs and extending to the upper reaches of her chest, just above her breasts.
Atop the headless torso are somewhat unruly, loosely flowing, shoulder-length
tresses, parted on the right side.We immediately recognize the constituent elements
of the painting “ the neck, the torso, the hair. And, furthermore, we easily grasp the
metaphorical point of the painting as a whole “ that the face is a torso.
That is, we use the image of the torso as an opportunity to see faces in a new
light “ to see eyes as breasts, noses as navels, and smiles as the triangle formed by
the intersection of the torso with the juncture of the legs. Of course, we may also
comprehend this image as projecting the metaphor that the body is a face; the
image, that is, may invite us to think about the visual appearance of bodies in the
light of visual features of faces.This tendency in certain visual metaphors to afford
alternative, symmetrical insights with respect to central elements of the image is a
feature of visual metaphors to which we will return.
2. Pablo Picasso™s 1951 sculpture Baboon and Young is surely an example of the
sort of thing that Picasso had in mind when he wrote that “My sculptures are
visual metaphors.”4 We immediately recognize a depiction of an erect primate
with a smaller creature, presumably her offspring, sprawled across her chest and
riding on her belly. But as we look at the sculpture, we also notice that the

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