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Metaphor in literature Peter Stockwell. Whispering lunar incantations Dissolve the floors of memory (T.S. Eliot) The sky was the colour of television,

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Presentation on theme: "Metaphor in literature Peter Stockwell. Whispering lunar incantations Dissolve the floors of memory (T.S. Eliot) The sky was the colour of television,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Metaphor in literature Peter Stockwell

2 Whispering lunar incantations Dissolve the floors of memory (T.S. Eliot) The sky was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel (William Gibson) No man is an island (John Donne) Juliet is the sun (William Shakespeare) I sing the body electric (Walt Whitman) Animal Farm (George Orwell) Nymphomation (Jeff Noon)

3 Some older views of metaphor Metaphor is ‘giving the thing a name that belongs to something else’… ‘All such arts are fanciful and meant to charm the hearer. Nobody uses fine language when teaching geometry’ Aristotle, Rhetoric III. 1404a Metaphor possesses an ‘untranslateableness in words of the same language without injury to the meaning… [The poet] diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that belnds, and (as it were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power, to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination. This power […] reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities: of sameness, with difference; of the general, with the concrete; the idea, with the image; the individual, with the representative; the sense of novelty and freshness, with old and familiar objects’ Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, p.524

4 An early linguistic model of metaphor (based on ‘selectional restrictions’) The manisa shark + animate+ + mammal- + male+ / - + human- + definite - + language ability- language ability + aggressive + vicious + cunning + carnivorous + gills +marine habitat Consider: He’s not a shark No man is an island He strode in a swarm of fireflies

5 IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning. Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame. He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

6 IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning. Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame. He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

7 Metaphor = lexical blends, compounds, premodifiers: (‘cyborg’, ‘mere-stape’, ‘pigeon-winged books’) grammatical metaphor: (‘the door dilated’, ‘ whispering lunar incantations dissolve the floors of memory’, ‘Patience soon replied’) similes, comparisons, analogies: (‘like a virgin’, ‘dead as a doornail’) allegories, fables, fiction: (The Fairy Queen, Aesop, The Russia House) Isomorphism =

8 Isomorphism = mapping between domains sourcetargetsource concrete, familiar, given target abstract, unfamiliar, new

9 Juliet is the sun targetsource sourcetargetsource concrete, familiar, given target abstract, unfamiliar, new The skywas the colour of television targetsource No manis an island targetsource Even the men swimming below the surface turned into gleaming chimeras ( target ), like exploding pulses of ideation in a neuronic jungle ( source ) J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World

10 LIFE IS A JOURNEY I don’t know where I’m heading This was his career path Faced with the decision, she didn’t know which way to turn Her future was clearly mapped out Looking behind him, he had overcome many obstacles Congratulations on your new arrival He has passed away

11 LIFE restructured as A JOURNEY ► selection of mapped elements - interpretation ► selection of mapped elements - textuality ‘Well, we think that time “passes”, flows past us; but what if it is we who move forward, from past to future, always discovering the new? It would be a little like reading a book, you see. The book is all there, all at once, between its covers. But if you want to read the story and understand it, you must begin with the first page, and go forward, always in order. So the universe would be a very great book, and we would be very small readers.’ Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed TIME IS A BOOK

12 Most of the world's great cities have grown haphazardly, little by little, in response to the needs of the moment...The evolution of a city is like the evolution of the brain: it develops from a small center and slowly grows and changes, leaving many old parts still functioning... The brain must function during the renovation. That is why the brainstem is surrounded by the R-complex, then the limbic system and finally the cerebral cortex... In New York City, the arrangement of many of the major streets dates to the seventeenth century, the stock exchange to the eighteenth century, the waterworks to the nineteenth, the electrical power system to the twentieth... In the seventeenth century you travelled between Brooklyn and Manhattan across the East River by ferry. In the nineteenth century, the technology became available to construct a suspension bridge across the river. It was built precisely at the point of the ferry terminal... This use and restructuring of previous systems for new purposes is very much like the pattern of biological evolution. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos)

13 simile, analogy and extended metaphor copula constructions apposition and parallelism partitive and genitive expressions premodification compounds and lexical blends grammatical metaphor sentence metaphor allegory and fiction The Linguistic Realisation of Metaphor The brain is like a city. The brain is a city. The brain, that teeming city. In the streets of my mind. The urban brain. Mindscape. The city sleeps. This is the nerve-centre of the body. THE BRAIN IS A CITY

14 Structure-mapping expressive metaphorexplanatory metaphor Our dried voices, whenLike a ball on a cosmic pool, We whisper togetherDiscovery had bounced off the Are quiet and meaninglessgravitational field of Jupiter, As wind in dry grassgaining speed in the process. Or rats’ feet over broken glass In our dry cellar Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: T.S. Eliot, The Hollow MenA Space Odyssey richnessclarity

15 Gaunt: This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands, This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings, Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth, Renowned for their deeds as far from home,— For Christian service and true chivalry,— As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son: This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land, Dear for her reputation through the world, Is now leas’d out,—I die pronouncing it,— Like to a tenement, or pelting farm: England, bound in with the triumphant sea, Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame, With inky blots, and rotten parchment bonds: That England, that was wont to conquer others, Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. (Richard II, II.i)

16 The three of them played cautiously, circling like boxers in the first rounds of a fight, testing each other with jabs and head-feints, gradually settling into the feel of the ring… He was hoping for an early blowout, a massacre, but in the first two hours Pozzi merely held his own, winning about a third of the pots and making little if any headway… any number of times he was forced to fold after betting on the initial three or fours cards of a hand, occasionally using his bad luck to bluff out a victory… Fortunately the bets were rather low in the beginning… and that helped keep the damage to a minimum… Nashe could see the other two begin to sag, as if their wills were buckling, visibly giving way to the attack… one look at the table was enough to tell Nashe that everything had changed, that tremendous battles had been fought in his absence… they seemed to have him on the run, pushing hard to break his confidence, to crush him once and for all… he was turning into a corpse before Nashe’s eyes… Pozzi had been given an emergency transfusion, but that did not mean he was going to live. He would pull through the present crisis, perhaps, but the long-term prospects were still cloudy, touch-and-go at best. Nashe had done everything he could, however, and that in itself was a consolation, even a point of pride. But he also knew that the blood bank was exhausted… Nashe assumed he was dead… the hand was alive and well… If Pozzi won, he would be off and running again… Nashe could not help feeling a bit let down. Not so much for the king, perhaps, but for the absence of another heart. Heart failure, he said to himself. Paul Auster, The Music of Chance

17 The three of them played cautiously, circling like boxers in the first rounds of a fight, testing each other with jabs and head-feints, gradually settling into the feel of the ring… He was hoping for an early blowout, a massacre, but in the first two hours Pozzi merely held his own, winning about a third of the pots and making little if any headway… any number of times he was forced to fold after betting on the initial three or fours cards of a hand, occasionally using his bad luck to bluff out a victory… Fortunately the bets were rather low in the beginning… and that helped keep the damage to a minimum… Nashe could see the other two begin to sag, as if their wills were buckling, visibly giving way to the attack… one look at the table was enough to tell Nashe that everything had changed, that tremendous battles had been fought in his absence… they seemed to have him on the run, pushing hard to break his confidence, to crush him once and for all… he was turning into a corpse before Nashe’s eyes… Pozzi had been given an emergency transfusion, but that did not mean he was going to live. He would pull through the present crisis, perhaps, but the long-term prospects were still cloudy, touch-and-go at best. Nashe had done everything he could, however, and that in itself was a consolation, even a point of pride. But he also knew that the blood bank was exhausted… Nashe assumed he was dead… the hand was alive and well… If Pozzi won, he would be off and running again… Nashe could not help feeling a bit let down. Not so much for the king, perhaps, but for the absence of another heart. Heart failure, he said to himself. Paul Auster, The Music of Chance

18 Conceptual metaphor ANGER IS A DANGEROUS ANIMAL ANGER IS HEAT ANGER IS HOT LIQUID IN A CONTAINER ARGUMENT IS A JOURNEY LOVE IS WAR ARGUMENT IS WAR IS A FAIRY TALE COMMUNICATION IS SENDING DEATH IS DEPARTURE IDEAS ARE PLANTS LIFE IS A DAY THEORIES ARE BUILDINGS TIME IS MONEY UNDERSTANDING IS SEEING WORDS ARE COINS WORLD IS THEATRE GOOD IS UP THE COUNTRY IS A HOUSEHOLD …

19 Book Ends Baked the day she suddenly dropped dead we chew it slowly that last apple pie Shocked into sleeplessness you’re scared of bed. We never could talk much, and now don’t try. You’re like book ends, the pair of you, she’d say, Hog that grate, say nothing, sit, sleep, stare... The ‘scholar’ me, you, worn out on poor pay, only our silence made us seem a pair. Not as good for staring in, blue gas, too regular each bud, each yellow spike. At night you need my company to pass and she not here to tell us we’re alike! Your life’s all shattered into smithereens. Back in our silences and sullen looks, for all the Scotch we drink, what’s still between’s not the thirty years or so, but books, books. Tony Harrison

20 They had a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars by the edge of an empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs K eating the golden fruits that grew from the crystal walls, or cleaning the house with handfuls of magnetic dust which, taking all dirt with it, blew away on the hot wind. Afternoons, when the fossil sea was warm and motionless, and the wine trees stood stiff in the yard, and the little distant Martian bone town was all enclosed, and no one drifted out their doors, you could see Mr K himself in his room, reading from a metal book with raised hieroglyphs over which he brushed his hand, as one might play a harp. And from the book, as his fingers stroked, a voice sang, a soft ancient voice, which told tales of when the sea was red steam on the shore and ancient men had carried clouds of metal insects and electric spiders into battle. Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

21 The Cage In the waking night The forests have stopped growing The shells are listening The shadows in the pool turn grey The pearls dissolve in the shadow And I return to you Your face is marked upon the clockface My hands are beneath your hair And if the time you mark sets free the birds And if they fly away towards the forest The hour will no longer be ours Ours is the ornate birdcage The brimming cup of water The preface to the book And all the clocks are ticking All the dark rooms are moving All the air’s nerves are bare. Once flown The feathered hour will not return And I shall have gone awayDavid Gascoyne

22 References Downes, W. (1993) ‘Reading the Language Itself: Some Methodological Problems in D.C. Freeman’s “‘According to My Bond’: King Lear and Re-Cognition”’, Language and Literaure 2(2): Gavins, J and Steen, G. (eds) (2003) Cognitive Poetics in Practice, London: Routledge. Freeman, D.C. (1993) ‘Read “Reading the Language Itself” Itself’, Language and Literature 2(2): Freeman, D (1996) ‘According to My Bond: King Lear and Re-Cognition’, in Weber, J J (ed.) The Stylistics Reader, London: Arnold, pp [and in Language and Literature 2(2)]. Gibbs, R. (1994) The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought, Language and Understanding, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Goatly, A. (1997) The Language of Metaphors, London: Routledge. Johnson, M. (1987) The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lakoff, G (1987) Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lakoff, G and Johnson, M (1980) Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lakoff, G and Turner, M (1989) More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Langacker, R.W. (1987/1991) Foundations of Cognitive Grammar. Vol. 1: Theoretical Pre-Requisites, / Vol 2: Descriptive Applications Stanford: Stanford University Press. Stockwell, P. (1999) ‘The inflexibility of invariance’, Language and Literature 8(2): Stockwell, P. (2002) Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction, London: Routledge. Turner, M. (1987) Death is the Mother of Beauty: Mind, Metaphor, Criticism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Turner, M. (1991) Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Turner, M. (1996) The Literary Mind, Oxford: OUP. Ungerer, F. and Schmid, H-J. (1996) An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics, London: Routledge. Weber, J-J (1995) ‘A cognitive-linguistic analysis of Doris Lessing’s “To Room Nineteen”’, in P. Verdonk and J-J. Weber (eds) Twentieth Century Fiction: From Text to Context, London: Routledge

23 For this lecture presentation, and other material Follow the Teaching link on my website: Peter Stockwell from


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