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Ambivalenza, ambiguità e ironia nella ricezione del nome letterario

Volker Kohlheim

Abstract


This paper posits a differentiation between ambivalence, ambiguity and irony in names used in literature, and considers them as phenomena of literary reception: a name can be ambivalent, ambiguous or ironical only in so far as the reader feels it to be so. We speak of onymic ambivalence when a name admits of two, and only two, mutually exclusive readings: it can be interpreted as either a proper or a common noun (Ernest vs. earnest), as a first name or a surname (Werner), or as a masculine or a feminine name (Frankie). In contrast with onymic ambivalence, onymic ambiguity obtains if the separate meanings of the name are not mutually exclusive but jointly effective in the interpretation. Thus, redende Namen (cratylic names) are always ambiguous, in that the reader cannot know from the outset whether they are meant literally or not. Another kind of onymic ambiguity is created when a protagonist’s first name and surname contrast in a certain way (Tonio Kröger) reflecting the figure’s ambiguous character. With irony, there is room for neither ambivalence nor ambiguity. As a rule, the author indicates unambiguously that a certain name is to be understood in its opposite sense.


Keywords


Ambivalence; ambiguity; irony of literary names.

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