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Sebastian Matzner

Sebastian Matzner

Thesis title: The Forgotten Trope: Metonymy in Poetic Action
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Educational Background

Sebastian studied Greek and Latin Languages and Literature, History of Religions and Comparative Literature at the universities of Marburg and Giessen (Germany) before taking the MA in Comparative Literature at King’s College London. He began his PhD at King’s in 2008.


Although metaphor and metonymy are generally understood as occupying the centre of the tropical space, metonymy has received little scholarly attention in its own right.  This thesis seeks to fill this gap in literary scholarship by establishing a genuinely literary theory of metonymy in poetic action.  Based on the notion of poetic language as defamiliarisation, this project sets out to explore the literary structure and poetic functions of metonymy.  How do we recognise metonymies?  Can they be ‘translated’ into literal expressions and what, if anything, is lost in the process?  In short: what is the point of using a metonymy?  Following a critical assessment of available views on metonymy, a newly established theory of metonymy will be tested and refined by a close reading of metonymic occurrences in a select corpus of ancient Greek texts, from Homer, Pindar and tragedy, as well as poetic prose (chiefly Plato), in comparison with ‘classic’ 18th and 19th century German translations of the texts in question by Goethe, Hölderlin, Voss and others.

First supervisor: Professor Michael Silk

Second supervisor: Professor Matthew Bell

Research Interests

Theory of poetic diction, classical reception studies, literary theory ancient and modern, history and theory of rhetoric, Greek-German comparative studies, gender studies and queer theory.

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