occupatio- A note from “History of the German Language Literature from 1600- Present”

I have so many things I’m reading an learning about that I don’t have enough time to blog about them before I learn something new. I have a post I’d really like to write about “post-colonial” literature and about the uncanny, but those will have to wait. For now, I’m using the time between my literary history lecture and Russian grammar seminar to write about something I learned today, namely the term occupatio. 

Because this is something people do when introducing a term, I’m going to do it too (namely, insert a definition from the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms): 

 A rhetorical device (also known under the Greek name paralipsis) by which a speaker emphasizes something by pretending to pass over it: ‘I will not mention the time when…’ The device was favoured by Chaucer, who uses it frequently in his Canterbury Tales.

I came across the concept that occupatio describes for the first time in my Russian short-fiction class when my professor was pointing out the strange way the narrator addressed the cockroaches in a text that I’m ashamed to say I can’t recall the name of. I just remember how the narrator mentioned cockroaches that weren’t scurrying under the staircase. So, for me, that rhetoric device that I’ve seen in several literary texts since then finally has a name for me.

Apparently, this rhetorical device gets used a bit in Barock (Baroque)  literature. It’s a literary move parallel to ineffability, namely the Unsagbarkeit, or inability to express something (whether it be from conceptual difficulty or taboo).

I am happy I learned this today, and maybe you are too.

In closing, I leave you with this that I found when googling “cockroaches in Russian literature”:

And Mitka I shall squash like a cockroach. At night I crush black cockroaches with my slipper: it makes a cracking sound when you tread on them. Your Mitka will make a cracking sound, too.
Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov. Book Eleven.

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