Saturday, February 4, 2017
The Phatic Turn
I'd like to discuss, in a very roundabout way, Gerald Aiken's statement that "An interest in phatic communion has enjoyed something of a renaissance recently", in "Polysemic, Polyvalent and Phatic: A Rough Evolution of Community With Reference to Low Carbon Transitions" (2016). I've yet to make a jeesusjalutasallveelaeval post about it because there's simply too much goodness there (I would like to take my time in internalizing Aiken's very well made points - same with Charles Zuckerman).
This revolution I think he may have noticed from the sheer amount of literature currently employing the term "phatic". We can't be the only ones who have noticed it. With reference to Jakobson's view of these related disciplines, phaticity seems to encompass communication sciences, which include (in concentric order) anthropology, semiotics, linguistics, and poetics. Phatic Communion had its origins in anthropology so that's insured - anthropologists use it frequently and will most likely continue to do so for quite some time.
In semiotics and linguistics, Jakobson's phatic function is dominant. There are several distinct interpretations (e.g. as communication function pure and simple, as discourse markers, as a form of interjections, in politeness behaviour, etc.) which I hope to make out (and consolidate as best as I can) in the future. So that's solid. "Phatic" is a common term in linguistics and semiotics already, and it is most often read as a term belonging to these fields.
With poetics, on the other hand, I hope that my own upcoming paper will help to revitalize it, particularly in the extended interpretation I provide. If I do get it published in some journal related to poetics, it's possible that the poetic gap will be filled in the coming years. Here I'm referring to the fact that despite Jakobson putting the phatic function forth in "Linguistics and Poetics" and discussing related issues in poetic analyses, it has become more common in prose studies. So there's an unnatural gap - the phatic function is not used where it ideally should be (in poetics).
I've become so fond of that sentence (in the beginning) by Aiken because it's a sign (for me) that we're not the only ones making the connection, taking notice of the increasing popularity of the term, and its continuing development and refinement currently in progress. In the beginning of this journey I remarked that phatic studies needs to become self-aware and establish it as a unique research interest, perhaps something like an interpretive framework, an alternative set of theories and conceptions for discussing modern issues of communication.
In a few decades I hope to look back at this period and point to the likes of Aiken as a particularly significant phase in the development of phatic studies, the one where synthesis of all previously put out information starts to take place. I have this dream of compiling a research project guide with PDF files of basic readings, relevant publications, commentary, pointers, glossary, contacts for people active in the field, etc. During this decade I'd like to get far enough to start sharing the data I've collected from the 20th century along with our overview/metareview.
So let's make some effort, perhaps in the latter half of this year, to finish the first instance of our survey-in-progress. Would you be willing to give Harmon's story wheel another whirl? I'd prefer to begin the process again and go the route in the first-person of the hero, proceeding step by step, beginning with the first: do we know what our home-base is? Where do we situate, say, Phatica, a tentative stand-in for a hero (and the general concept of phaticity), as the starting point? It would have to be somewhere she can return to.
Effectively, the revolution, this "phatic turn" in (human) communication sciences (and beyond?) is the adventure. Maybe we would need to begin with Bronislaw Malinowski (and/or Herbert Spencer?) and phatic/social communion to introduce the main character and the setting (something like... intellectual thought about the social nature of speech?)... But here I'm already hitting a wall because I learned from a Youtube reading of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality (1755) that "sympathy" and "sentiments" in the interrelated sense used by Spencer and Malinowski has a looong history possibly reaching Aristotle. That's definitely something to get into sooner rather than later, but maybe not the right stuff for the survey.
Posted by Semiophrenic at 11:20 AM