Monday, June 05, 2006


I was reading an essay by Frank Kermode today, called 'Can We Say Absolutely Anything We Like?' It was originally an MLA paper in 1974 but first published in a 1977 book of essays dedicated to Lionel Trilling, who had died 2 years previously (he was 70). Kermode talks about Michael Polanyi (1891-1976), the Hungarian-British physical chemist and philosopher - who reads Polanyi anymore? - and uses the word 'anamorphosis' quite a bit, and the opposition 'proximal' and 'distal'. This is what the OED gives as the primary definition of 'anamorphosis':

"A distorted projection or drawing of anything, so made that when viewed from a particular point, or by reflection from a suitable mirror, it appears regular and properly proportioned; a deformation."

(The other two definitions: one is botanical, the other rare.)

In passing, Kermode calls Roland Barthes 'nomoclastic', by which I think he means, that Barthes messes with the names of things, or even destroys the names of things (by analogy with 'iconoclastic'). The OED has nothing to say about 'nomoclastic' and nor, amazingly, does Google.


caskared said...

Barthes was nomoclastic-tastic in my opinion.

Semafor said...

Nomoclastic - law-breaking (nomos - Gk. "law"). Cf. antinomian, "opposed to the obligatoriness of moral law").

Is the term finishing any time soon? It would be good to meet up.

Semafor said...

Obviously, I mean "law-breaking" in the same sense as iconoclasts are "breakers" of images. Perhaps "law-destroying" would be a more vivid translation.

Anonymous said...

anamorphosis: I remember a vinyl record by a folk group (Steeleye Span?) that had a distorted picture with the record. If you held the picture vertical and perpendicular to your nose, then you could see the lady lead singer's face looking properly proportioned.