EDITOR: Monika Fludernik
TITLE: Beyond Cognitive Metaphor Theory
SUBTITLE: Perspectives on Literary Metaphor
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Studies in Rhetoric and Stylistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Donatella Resta, Università del Salento and CRIL (Lecce, Italy)
The book “Beyond Cognitive Metaphor Theory. Perspectives on Literary Metaphors”,
edited by Monika Fludernik, is a collection of articles that enters a 30-year
tradition of studies on metaphor triggered by Lakoff and Johnson’s Cognitive
Metaphor Theory (henceforth CMT). The publication of “Metaphors We Live By”, by
Lakoff and Johnson in 1980, has led to an exponential growth of interest in
metaphor as a phenomenon ubiquitous in everyday language. The main tenet of CMT
is that concepts used in everyday speaking (e.g. love, life, war) are
represented and understood through metaphorical processes. Metaphor is used
unconsciously and automatically, and it is accessible to everyone because it is
an integral part of human thought and reasoning. Metaphor is a matter of thought
and not merely of words (Lakoff and Turner 1989). Thus, much effort has been
devoted to identify conceptual metaphors (e.g. LOVE IS A JOURNEY) that lie
behind everyday expressions (e.g. “Our relationship has hit a dead-end street”),
showing that metaphor is not a tool used by poets but a fundamental element in
everyday conversation. Interestingly, within CMT, Lakoff and Turner (1989) also
addressed the role of metaphor in poetry and proposed their “field analysis” of
poetic metaphor. The main idea of this analysis is that poetic language is
special and goes beyond ordinary language, even if it is based on everyday
linguistic and conceptual tools. In sum, Lakoff and Turner (1989) posit that
poets use the same tools as everyday language but in original, more talented and
Nevertheless, within cognitive studies, there is more interest in conventional
rather than creative metaphors. Fludernik tries to fill this gap by focusing on
the status of literary metaphor within many text readings and, at the same time,
suggesting some insights on how to go “beyond” CMT.
The book is divided into two parts. Part I consists of six essays (Chapters 1-6)
and Part II consists of eight essays (Chapters 7-14). The volume opens with the
“Introduction”, by the editor, and ends with brief bibliographical notes on all
In the introductory chapter, Fludernik lays out the rationale of the volume.
After pointing attention to an example of literary metaphor drawn from “Measure
for Measure”, by Shakespeare, the editor introduces key questions when studying
literary metaphor from a cognitive perspective, and proposes a combination of
literary criticism and CMT. Then, Fludernik guides the reader through the book
by discussing the central thread of all contributions.
Part I, entitled “Indigenous Non-Cognitive Approaches to Metaphor”, consists of
papers focusing on theories of metaphor that are alternatives to CMT. The
relation between these alternative positions and CMT is not univocal in the
sense that, as shown below, figurative language is investigated from very
Chapter 1, “Systematizing Verbal Imagery: On a Sonnet by Du Bellay”, by Hans
Georg Coenen, provides the basic points of a theory of analogy to metaphor.
First, Coenen discusses terminology, starting from the assumption that verbal
imaginery, including metaphorical language, is based on analogy (i.e.
symmetrical relationship between two items), and analogy is based on the concept
of description (i.e. attribution of descriptive content to an object). In the
second part of his essay, Coenen uses analogy theory to discuss the
interrelation of images in a love poem by the French Renaissance poet Du Bellay.
For illustrating more complex analogies, like those in the Du Bellay’s sonnet,
Coenen makes use of a two-dimensional matrix (i.e. a “figurative field”). The
author recognizes that the analyzed poem could be an example of the conceptual
metaphor LOVE IS WAR, but concludes that an analysis through the identification
of a “figurative field” offers “an abstractive and […] rationally grounded,
motivation for the use of imaginery” (p. 34).
In Chapter 2, “Catachresis A Metaphor or a Figure in Its Own Right?”, Elzbieta
Chrzanowska-Kluczewska challenges the conceptual approach to metaphor by
considering it, not as the key-notion of conceptualization processes, but rather
as one of “figurative and rhetorical bent of the human mind” (p. 36). The basic
point of Chrzanowska-Kluczewska’s proposal is a division of figurative language
into three groups: “Catachresis one”, or metaphor that supplies a lexical gap;
“Catachresis two”, which is the exact opposite, or an extremely innovative and
even absurd metaphor; and “Catachresis three”, which is a figure on its own, and
a text-forming strategy that acts at the metatextual level of description. These
three typologies of figurative language, respectively, are claimed to resemble
Cicero’s three official oratoris: docere (‘to teach’); delectare; (‘to please’);
and movere (‘to move’).
In Chapter 3, “Literary Metaphor Between Cognition and Narration. The Sandman
Revisited”, Benjamin Biebuyck and Gunther Martens discuss the gaps of the
cognitive approach to literary metaphor. The aim of their proposal is to
maintain the “benefits” of the cognitive approach while introducing some
elements that may more clearly show the singularity of literary metaphor and
narrative. Thus, the model by Biebuyck and Martens pays attention to the
interconnectedness of figurative networks and to the emergence of a “narrative
potential” by integrating cognitive, rhetorical, and narratological approaches.
It is proposed within an analysis of Hoffmann’s “night piece”, “The Sandman”
(1816), a novella that contains several forms of figurativeness. The authors
conclude that approaching literary metaphors (and other figures of speech) from
a narrative angle may offer more fruitful perspectives of analysis.
In Chapter 4, “Reaching Beyond Silence. Metaphors of Ineffability in English
Poetry -- Donne, Wordsworth, Keats, Eliot”, Ina Habermann investigates how
metaphors are used in literary discourse to express the ineffable. She analyses
the following works: Donne’s “The Extasie” (1633), where the ineffable is the
impossibility of describing the experience of romantic love; Wordsworth’s “Ode:
Intimation of Immortality from Recollection of Early Childhood” (1807), in which
the ineffable is a Romantic evocation of eternity; Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian
Urn” (1819/20), which contains the evocation of silence, inscrutability, and
ineffability; and finally, Eliot’s “The Four Quartets” (1944), which attempts to
describe the ineffable mystery of life.
In Chapter 5, “Literary Criticism Writes Back to Metaphor Theory. Exploring the
Relation Between Extended Metaphor and Narrative in Literature”, Bo Pettersson
identifies some shortcomings in CMT when applied to literary metaphor. He argues
that the cognitive approach is not able to account for the complexity and
specificity of literature if it follows only a top-down search for conceptual
metaphors. Thus, by analyzing specific examples (e.g. Blake’s poems “The Sick
Rose”, “The Tyger”, and “A Poison Tree”, as well as Magnus Mill’s fiction)
Pettersson argues that both extended metaphors and narrative elements, as well
as their interrelations, must be taken into account when interpreting both
poetic and fiction texts.
Also Tamar Yacobi, in Chapter 6, “Metaphors in Context. The Communicative
Structure of Figurative Language”, proposes a contextualist approach to literary
metaphors by discussing examples taken from poetry and prose, with special
attention to Henry James. Figures of speech are always embedded in a
communicative context, and surrounded by a co-text. Moreover, both transmitters
and receivers of the communicated figure of speech have an active role in
enriching the functionality of the figure through self-characterization,
rhetoric, irony, plot dynamics, semantic density, and emotional and ideological
impact. Metaphors, linked to the communicating agents and relative frameworks,
acquire “global narrative roles” (p. 132).
Part II of the book, entitled “Cognitive Metaphor Theory and Literary Analysis”,
addresses the applicability of CMT to creative uses of language.
Chapter 7, “Conceptual Metaphor and Communication: An Austinian and Gricean
Analysis of Brian Clark’s Whose Life Is It Anyway?”, by John Douthwaite, sets a
strong challenge to CMT by proposing a “reformation” from a pragmatic point of
view. The dichotomy between conventional metaphors, which are automatically
retrieved, and literary metaphors that are reconstructed through a process of
pragmatic inferencing, is the main focus of this essay. The key question is
discussed in both theoretical and practical terms with examples from Brian
Clark’s play about euthanasia, “Whose Life Is It Anyway?”. The aim of this
analysis is to show how meaning is produced in the text and to evaluate the role
of cognitive metaphors in the process of constructing meaning.
This critical opening is followed by some reading proposals and creative
applications of CMT. Margaret Freeman, in Chapter 8, “The Role of Metaphor in
Poetic Iconicity”, disentangles the difference between literary and conventional
metaphors by emphasizing the iconic role of metaphor in poetry. She discusses
one sonnet by P.B. Shelley, which is structured by the metaphor ENTROPY IS
SHIFT, and thus is an icon of reality, and a poem by H. Smith, in which, on the
contrary, metaphoric schema do not create any resemblance of felt life.
One more reading proposal is provided in Chapter 9, “‘One should never
underestimate the power of books’: Writing and Reading as Therapy in Paul
Auster’s Novels”, by Beatrix Busse, who applies Fauconnier and Turner’s (2002)
theory of blending to Paul Auster’s “The Brooklyn Follies” (2006) and “The Book
of Illusions” (2002) and examines how the conceptual metaphors WRITING IS
ILLNESS and IMAGINATION IS MEDICINE are elaborated in the texts.
Chapter 10, by Michael Kimmel, “Metaphor Sets in ‘The Turn of the Screw’. What
Conceptual Metaphors Reveal About Narrative Function”, opens a very new
perspective for exploring texts from a broader narratological perspective.
Kimmel discusses how conceptual metaphor may contribute to narrative functions
following five levels (i.e. theme-setting and foregrounding, the enrichment of
motifs and the creation of symbolic nodes, the generation of plots and
characters, the creation of specific literary effects, and reader affective
involvement). The author proposes an integrative viewpoint, based on empirical
observations, that shows how metaphor directly affects, for example, literary
characterization, interaction, and immersive reading.
In Chapter 11, “Hyperliteralist Metaphor: The Cognitive Poetics of Robert Musil
in His Novella ‘Die Portugesin’”, Ralph Müller focuses on Robert Musil’s
aesthetical reflections and discusses how his metaphorical style in the work
“Die Portugesin” can be interpreted within the cognitive poetics framework.
Müller claims that the identification of conceptual metaphors in literary texts
should be completed by information about contextual and stylistic differences
between linguistic realizations of conceptual metaphors. After explaining what
hyperliteralist metaphors in literature are, the author displays how cognitive
principles work and how “moderate hyperliteralism” may be useful in describing
Musil’s metaphorical realizations.
In Chapter 12, “Storyworld Metaphors in Swift’s Satire”, Michael Sinding focuses
on the interplay of CMT and cognitive narratology by discussing allegory and
satire in Swift’s “A Tale of a Tub”. Sinding shows how metaphor may enter a
spatial modeling in Swift’s work, considering that spatialization of metaphor,
and other rhetorical figures, is very common in storyworlds of satiric
narrative. The question is discussed within a wide perspective which combines
CMT (specifically, the analysis of the main conceptual metaphors for satire’s
action schema) and cognitive narratology (by looking at the interplay of
metaphor and story).
In Chapter 13, “Conventional Metaphor and the Latent Ideology of Racism”, Andrew
Goatly addresses more general issues on texts and focuses on how ideology and
discourses of racism turn into metaphorical representations. Goatly argues that
there are certain cognitive metaphors (e.g. SIMILARITY IS PROXIMITY, CATEGORY IS
A DIVIDED AREA) which, even if indirectly, support cognitive structures of
division and exclusion. Note that this claim, supported by several instances
from newspaper articles, is set between an ideological interpretation of CMT and
The final chapter, “The Journey Metaphor and the Source-Path-Goal Schema in
Agnes Varda’s Autobiographical Gleaning Documentaries”, by Charles Forceville,
broadens the applicability of CMT by discussing non-verbal realizations of
conceptual metaphor. Forceville concentrates on two autobiographical
documentaries directed by Agnés Varda which are strictly related to the
source-path-goal schema and points out aspects of metaphor that transcend
traditional verbal metaphor, thus opening up very new patterns of analysis.
This book provides interesting contributions to the field of metaphor studies.
The title and the subtitle exemplify the two main aims of this collection of
One aim was to show what there is “beyond” the cognitive approach to metaphor
(Part I) by proposing alternative views. This aim is achieved because valid
positions contrasting with CMT (e.g. Coenen’s theory), as well as more extended,
context-driven approaches (e.g. Pettersson’s contribution) are proposed. It is
clear that the theories presented here are only a small part of the possible
ways of addressing the question. I think that the most evident shortcoming with
respect to alternative perspectives is the lack of any reference to the
pragmatic approach to literary metaphors (e.g. Pilkington 2001, Sperber & Wilson
Unexpectedly, the challenge to CMT outlined in the first part is not maintained
in the second part of the book because many contributions confirm the validity
of the cognitive approach to metaphor by proposing very interesting
interpretations of literary works. Actually, Part II exemplifies the intentions
of the subtitle (“Perspectives on Literary Metaphors”) and accomplishes the
other aim of the book, i.e., to overcome the strong interest in conventional
metaphors, which has dominated metaphor studies in wake of CMT. This aim is
achieved by providing fascinating analyses of literary metaphor within creative
interpretations of poems and novels, and by re-creating a communication between
literary and linguistic studies. Noticeably, in Part II, the label “literary
metaphor” refers to a broad category of creative uses of language because in
addition to the analysis of metaphors in poems (e.g. Habermann, Freeman) and
extended metaphors (e.g. Pettersson), as well as applications to genre studies
(e.g. Sinding), ideological discourse (e.g. Goatly) and non-verbal metaphorical
representations (e.g. Forceville) are proposed.
The book may be good for both metaphor study experts and beginners because even
though it is highly specialized in its theoretical proposals, the key concepts,
especially those of CMT and the theory of blending (Fauconnier & Turner 2002),
are extensively explained. Moreover, the very clear applications of CMT to texts
in the second part of the book prove as a useful field guide for all. The main
tenets of cognitive approaches to metaphor are explained in more than one
chapter of the book and are skillfully discussed in relation to specific topics
or chosen literary texts. This is a great advantage because chapters can be
individual readings, even though the book maintains a strong central thread as well.
Overall, the book is well-organized. Each chapter introduces and develops a
topic with broad references to theoretical frameworks and with several practical
examples. The analyses of literary works are very detailed and useful for
In sum, in relation to existent literature on the topic, this book has an
important advantage because it pays attention to more creative forms of
metaphors. As outlined above, a possible shortcoming is the lack of interest in
pragmatic approaches (beyond the proposal by Douthwaite, which is close to a
pragmatic view) that are not “indigenous non-cognitive approaches”, as are the
ones proposed in Part I, but could give very interesting frameworks of analysis
of literary metaphors considered as an important pragmatic phenomenon.
I think that potential future research might best address the specificity of
literary metaphor, if any, in a theoretical framework, as well as practical
applications not strictly influenced by CMT heritage. Undoubtedly, this book is
a useful starting point for achieving this goal.
Fauconnier, Gilles & Mark Turner. 2002. The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending
and The Mind’s Hidden Complexities, New York: Basic Books.
Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Language, Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Lakoff, George & Mark Turner. 1989. More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to
Poetic Metaphor, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Pilkington, Adrian. 2000. Poetic Effects: A Relevance Theory Perspective,
Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Sperber, Dan & Deirdre Wilson. 2008. A Deflationary Account of Metaphor. In R.
W. Gibbs (Ed.), The Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge
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