A Deconstruction of the three Linguistic Metafunctions: Holger Benkel’s Meißelbrut

Thomas Hawes


The three linguistic metafunctions posited in systemic functional grammar are deconstructed in Benkel’s (2009) volume of poems Meißelbrut - both in the Derridean sense of an excavation of meaning and alsoin terms of reversing their construction. These metafunctions ordinarily perform the following tasks: the ideational describes events, states and entities; the interpersonal maintains relations with others; and the textual organises the message. However, Benkel’s ideational meaning, rather than clarifying who does what and when, mystifies with paradoxical metaphors. Instead of maintaining the roles of writer and reader, the interpersonal is undermined by the absence of any fixed narratorial point of view and the audience is sucked into a swirling multiplicity that puts their own identity in doubt. Finally, the normal theme-rheme information structure is replaced by a textual chaos pointing both backwards and forwards, inwards and outwards. Benkel’s aim is to break down our assumptions about ‘reality’ and challenge us to rethink all aspects of our identity by deconstructing - even decomposing! - the physical elements of humanity in a manner somewhat akin to Margaret Atwood. This paper will examine how he does so through each of the metafunctions in turn before summing up the effect they create when taken together.

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University of Sunderland

ISSN 2057-2042 (Print)
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