The crozier and the pen

The crozier and the pen

In Brief

Figure of speech. The fifth headline of Aeolus, "THE CROZIER AND THE PEN," refers to churchmen and journalists by means of things associated with each. The term for this common device in rhetoric and poetry is metonymy: referring to something as if it were the thing associated with it.

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Metonymy (muh-TON-uh-mee, from Greek meta- = changing places with + onoma = name) is "substitute naming." It resembles metaphor in that one thing stands for another by simple power of evocation, without the need for explicit connectives such as "like" or "as." A metonym, however, suggests its counterpart merely by virtue of being commonly associated with it. To cite a few American examples, the White House refers to the executive branch of the government, stuffed shirts are pompous people, and suits are business executives. The line between metonymy and synecdoche, which uses a part to stand for the whole, can sometimes be very faint.

Richard Nordquist ( quotes from Hugh Bredin's Poetics Today (1984) a sentence that captures the difference between metonymy and metaphor: "Metaphor creates the relation between its objects while metonymy presupposes that relationship." From Murray Knowles and Rosamund Moon's Introducing Metaphor (2006) Nordquist cites another excellent distinction: "Metonymy and metaphor also have fundamentally different functions. Metonymy is about referring: a method of naming or identifying something by mentioning something else which is a component part or symbolically linked. In contrast, a metaphor is about understanding and interpretation: it is a means to understand or explain one phenomenon by describing it in terms of another."

When the metonym's work of reference is accomplished, no further thinking is needed, a fact which can be seen in Joyce's headline, "THE CROZIER AND THE PEN." It refers back to the publisher of the newspaper, who has just walked through the office, and forward to the archbishop, who is mentioned in the first sentence of the new section: "— His grace phoned down twice this morning, Red Murray said gravely." The crozier is a sheephook-like staff carried by bishops and archbishops, symbolic of their pastoral care. Like the pen, it can be used to readily refer to a profession, without prompting any further thought.

Stuart Gilbert identifies these devices as "concrete synechdoche," which seems wrong since a crozier is not really part of a bishop, nor a pen of a journalist. For metonymy he cites the earlier headline, "THE WEARER OF THE CROWN." That is not quite right either: the crown may serve as a metonym for the monarch, but in this case Joyce avoids the trope by referring explicitly to the person who wears it, so no figure of speech is really involved. Robert Seidman repeats Gilbert's mistake about this phrase, but he correctly identifies "the crozier and the pen" as metonymy. He also observes that the use of a pen to symbolize journalism is repeated later in Aeolus: "That was a pen," Myles Crawford says of Ignatius Gallaher.

Shortly after this, the editor uses similar metonyms for journalists and lawyers: "Press and the bar!" Newspaper reporters are readily associated with the printing press, and lawyers with the bar. In the sentence that follows, Crawford undoes the metonymy in the same way that "the wearer of the crown" did: "Where have you a man now at the bar like those fellows, like Whiteside, like Isaac Butt, like silvertongued O'Hagan. Eh?"

JH 2023
Crozier made for Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles by Paul Nixon in 2011. Source: