Eliot commences his dish, after all, by announcing that it should not now commence: "NOT THE MOMENT QUITE / TO GOSSIP BUT ..." But of course, in depicting Eliot saying what he should really not now be saying, Merrill portrays him prefacing his comments with gossip's rhetorical trope par excellence, paralipsis
, and seizing quite the right moment for gossip, which can depend in no small part on the seeming inappropriateness of its occasion for effect.
(Gerard Genette has labeled situations in which narrators tell more than they seemingly should be able to know--paralepsis, and situations in which narrators tell less than they know paralipsis
.) But underneath this epistemological question is a concern with causality: how this effect (this narrator's knowing or withholding this information) can be reconciled with what appear to be insufficient causes to produce it (the limitations of what such and such a narrator in such and such a situation can be presumed to know, or the limitations that unselfconscious naivete put on a narrator's command of the telling).
Later estate panegyrics tend towards length and effusiveness, filled out with digressions, elaborations, repetitions, and instances of throat-clearing paralipsis
of the kind discussed above ("should I be so mad to go about / To give account of ev'ry thing throughout...").
, to some extent occupation and, of course, plain lying.
But the very insistence on prolepses and other narrative distortions such as paralepsis (unnecessary but detailed information) and paralipsis
(putting aside important information) only attest to the status of the story as a therapeutic construct that creates relations and bonds among the "story community".
(Just as I was making a note to myself to e-mail someone from my former rhetoric department to find out what this trope was called, Roth announced that his friend Alain Finkelkraut had told him it was either paralipsis
or proslepsis.) Each of the moments of proslepsis was amplified and made visceral and visualizable by the very fresh memories of the tour.
But even these lead frequently to listings of what ancient authority has to say about other urns--Frye's "piling up of enormous erudition"--and this leads to long discussions of how the contents of those lists--the contents just described and discussed--will not be discussed, in a kind of extended paralipsis
or feigned omission.
With this classic use of a mixed paralipsis
, or verbal irony, Colon's exasperation with his community's myopic "senoritas" is clear.
442), describing the paralipsis
as articulating a sense of horror, "as if the potential matricide is the point at which we reach the genuinely unspeakable" (ibid.).