Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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March 09, 2009
TiR's favorite chiasmus of the week

"Our obligation is not to torch the past, but to pass the torch."

quoted here, spoken at recent memorial for the late Ron     Carey

Though technically the above might better be called an example of antimetabole.


TiR's extensive (& pointless) notes state that our favorite chiasmus as of October 2005 (not posted here then) was to be found in Chapter 12 ("Savior") of The Autobiography of Malcolm X:

"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, my brothers and sisters -- Plymouth Rock landed on us!"

Soon thereafter, as perhaps inevitably happens to some of those who pause to wonder about the above quote, TiR's favorite chiasmus came from Cole Porter's lyrics to "Anything    Goes."

The apex of our antimetabole obsession & chiasmania probably hit last summer, when we traced its/their appearances to, among other places:


Pascal (as per Erec R. Koch)

Sir Isaac Newton

Rousseau (as per Jameson)

this dude

the Situationists, as per Paul Mann
(& as consistent w/ our previous fascination with rev palindromes)


advertizing copy


Russian humor

the foundational epigram of Derrida's The Politics of Friendship

Yeats' "triple chiasmus," as per Helen Vendler

visual chiasmus, e.g., Rembrandt's 1630 "The Prophet Jeremiah Mourning over the Destruction of Jerusalem," as per DeMan via Sanford Budick

and the speeches of Mitt Romney.

Maurice Hunt, in his great, above-linked 2000 article on Shakespeare's "Antimetabolic King John," links the device to notions of


a pulling in opposite directions;


the "knotting" of ideas and "ideational gridlock";

seeming clarifications that clarify nothing;

shape shifting between truth & falsehood;

the collapse and "counterchange of identities";

vertigo, paradox and "circular discourse";

containment in a barren space;

self-enclosure & self-consumption;

and a "depressing no-win situation."

"Antimetabole is thus essentially suited for conveying ideational indifference, claustrophobia, or stalemate."

To be sufficiently clever and bloggy, this post should end with something antimetabolic
(but lame)
          , don't we know?

          No, we don't.