VANISHING POINT. ON READING 19th CENTURY WRITINGS
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The British author, Elaine Freedgood, distinguishes two types of meaning in the Victorian novel: metaphorical meaning, determined by symbolic culture, and metonymic meaning related to the material history of things, to their real existence. For example: the mahogany furniture in Jane Eyre is a symbol of prosperity, but also a gist of the history of slavery and colonial deforestation, never presented directly to our eyes. The things 'remember' their past; a reader should take them seriously and recognize that the most inconsequential of objects can in fact be an object of considerable consequence. Can one read the 19th-century Polish novel metonymically? In Polish literature, history of an object is presented in a patriotic context: for example, Rzecki's room is associated with a soldier's equipment. Let us try to read this text in a different way and ask: what can the things tell us? What can the doll, the eponymous object in Prus novel, tell us about itself? What is the history of doll (doll as a doll, not as a symbol or sign)? In the past, dolls have been the object of cult; later, the dolls have been designed by artists. In the 19th century, dolls were produced on a large scale, sold in shops. Nobody prayed to them, nobody cared about their artistic shape. The doll, desanctified and profaned, turned into a commodity, is a good emblem of our modernity.
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