Graphemic creativity in poetry: A dialogue with the Chinese ideogram




Wong, Elaine S.

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This dissertation examines the creative expressiveness of written signs in poetry through an immanent perspective of language, i.e. language as sense transformation. The main argument is as follows: language effectuates sense through the transformative sense-event that, like a border, both connects and separates the linguistic sign's expression and content. In discursive circumstances, expression is that which expresses; content is that which is expressed. Since what is expressed must be expressible to begin with, content also supplies the expressible for the sense-event. In graphemic creativity, the written sign's expression-form becomes an expressible that intervenes in sense together with content-expressible. The connecting-separating function of sense facilitates the convergence of content and expression without ruling out the divergent forces between them. Chapter 1 introduces the concept of graphemic creativity, grounded in an understanding of the linguistic sign as a heterogeneous entity, and presents an expression-content framework of the linguistic sign that, following Louis Hjelmslev and Gilles Deleuze, treats writing as an autonomous mode of expression. Chapter 2 explores a rhetorical practice unique to Chinese writing known as character dismantlement (xizi) to show that graphemic composition can generate expressivity. Chapter 3 traces the development of the ideogram into a poetic concept and a concrete poetic form, and demonstrates that the concrete ideogram is a gateway to subtle dimensions of variation and becoming in language. Chapter 4 explores the incorporation of a graphic dimension to the production of writing (and non-writing) in attempts of traversing linguistic borders, and shows that the graphic necessarily complicates the graphemic.


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expression and content, graphemic creativity, ideogram, sign theory, visual poetry