Tropes that connect human corpses and literary corpora are as old, perhaps, as writing itself, yet in recent years the personification of texts has come under scrutiny. Despite such critical tendencies either to disregard connections between people and texts as manifestations of pathetic fallacies or to overvalue the biological and historical identity of writers over the linguistic content of their texts, written arguments against real oppression and suppression remain powerful precisely when writers use tropes to bestow language, writing, or texts with basic characteristics of living organisms. Drawing on Nakano Shigeharu's passing use of the trope “the language of slaves” to describe the practice of using blank type and deletion marks under imperial Japanese censorship, this article argues that recent assessments of the ethics of personifying texts and language are far from universal.
Jonathan E. Abel; Personification and a Trope of Writing: Nakano Shigeharu's “Language of Slaves”. Comparative Literature 1 December 2013; 65 (4): 466–486. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2376642
Download citation file: