LINGUIST List 23.121

Fri Jan 06 2012

Review: Linguistics & Literature; Linguistic Theories: Fludernik (2011)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 06-Jan-2012
From: Donatella Resta <>
Subject: Beyond Cognitive Metaphor Theory
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EDITOR: Monika FludernikTITLE: Beyond Cognitive Metaphor TheorySUBTITLE: Perspectives on Literary MetaphorSERIES TITLE: Routledge Studies in Rhetoric and StylisticsPUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)YEAR: 2011

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-yeartradition of studies on metaphor triggered by Lakoff and Johnson’s CognitiveMetaphor Theory (henceforth CMT). The publication of “Metaphors We Live By”, byLakoff and Johnson in 1980, has led to an exponential growth of interest inmetaphor as a phenomenon ubiquitous in everyday language. The main tenet of CMTis that concepts used in everyday speaking (e.g. love, life, war) arerepresented and understood through metaphorical processes. Metaphor is usedunconsciously and automatically, and it is accessible to everyone because it isan integral part of human thought and reasoning. Metaphor is a matter of thoughtand not merely of words (Lakoff and Turner 1989). Thus, much effort has beendevoted to identify conceptual metaphors (e.g. LOVE IS A JOURNEY) that liebehind 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 ineveryday conversation. Interestingly, within CMT, Lakoff and Turner (1989) alsoaddressed the role of metaphor in poetry and proposed their “field analysis” ofpoetic metaphor. The main idea of this analysis is that poetic language isspecial and goes beyond ordinary language, even if it is based on everydaylinguistic and conceptual tools. In sum, Lakoff and Turner (1989) posit thatpoets use the same tools as everyday language but in original, more talented andskillful ways.

Nevertheless, within cognitive studies, there is more interest in conventionalrather than creative metaphors. Fludernik tries to fill this gap by focusing onthe 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 allcontributors.

In the introductory chapter, Fludernik lays out the rationale of the volume.After pointing attention to an example of literary metaphor drawn from “Measurefor Measure”, by Shakespeare, the editor introduces key questions when studyingliterary metaphor from a cognitive perspective, and proposes a combination ofliterary criticism and CMT. Then, Fludernik guides the reader through the bookby discussing the central thread of all contributions.

Part I, entitled “Indigenous Non-Cognitive Approaches to Metaphor”, consists ofpapers focusing on theories of metaphor that are alternatives to CMT. Therelation between these alternative positions and CMT is not univocal in thesense that, as shown below, figurative language is investigated from verydifferent perspectives.

Chapter 1, “Systematizing Verbal Imagery: On a Sonnet by Du Bellay”, by HansGeorg Coenen, provides the basic points of a theory of analogy to metaphor.First, Coenen discusses terminology, starting from the assumption that verbalimaginery, including metaphorical language, is based on analogy (i.e.symmetrical relationship between two items), and analogy is based on the conceptof description (i.e. attribution of descriptive content to an object). In thesecond part of his essay, Coenen uses analogy theory to discuss theinterrelation 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”). Theauthor recognizes that the analyzed poem could be an example of the conceptualmetaphor LOVE IS WAR, but concludes that an analysis through the identificationof 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?”, ElzbietaChrzanowska-Kluczewska challenges the conceptual approach to metaphor byconsidering it, not as the key-notion of conceptualization processes, but ratheras one of “figurative and rhetorical bent of the human mind” (p. 36). The basicpoint of Chrzanowska-Kluczewska’s proposal is a division of figurative languageinto three groups: “Catachresis one”, or metaphor that supplies a lexical gap;“Catachresis two”, which is the exact opposite, or an extremely innovative andeven absurd metaphor; and “Catachresis three”, which is a figure on its own, anda text-forming strategy that acts at the metatextual level of description. Thesethree typologies of figurative language, respectively, are claimed to resembleCicero’s three official oratoris: docere (‘to teach’); delectare; (‘to please’);and movere (‘to move’).

In Chapter 3, “Literary Metaphor Between Cognition and Narration. The SandmanRevisited”, Benjamin Biebuyck and Gunther Martens discuss the gaps of thecognitive approach to literary metaphor. The aim of their proposal is tomaintain the “benefits” of the cognitive approach while introducing someelements that may more clearly show the singularity of literary metaphor andnarrative. Thus, the model by Biebuyck and Martens pays attention to theinterconnectedness of figurative networks and to the emergence of a “narrativepotential” 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 authorsconclude that approaching literary metaphors (and other figures of speech) froma narrative angle may offer more fruitful perspectives of analysis.

In Chapter 4, “Reaching Beyond Silence. Metaphors of Ineffability in EnglishPoetry -- Donne, Wordsworth, Keats, Eliot”, Ina Habermann investigates howmetaphors are used in literary discourse to express the ineffable. She analysesthe following works: Donne’s “The Extasie” (1633), where the ineffable is theimpossibility of describing the experience of romantic love; Wordsworth’s “Ode:Intimation of Immortality from Recollection of Early Childhood” (1807), in whichthe ineffable is a Romantic evocation of eternity; Keats’s “Ode on a GrecianUrn” (1819/20), which contains the evocation of silence, inscrutability, andineffability; and finally, Eliot’s “The Four Quartets” (1944), which attempts todescribe the ineffable mystery of life.

In Chapter 5, “Literary Criticism Writes Back to Metaphor Theory. Exploring theRelation Between Extended Metaphor and Narrative in Literature”, Bo Petterssonidentifies some shortcomings in CMT when applied to literary metaphor. He arguesthat the cognitive approach is not able to account for the complexity andspecificity of literature if it follows only a top-down search for conceptualmetaphors. Thus, by analyzing specific examples (e.g. Blake’s poems “The SickRose”, “The Tyger”, and “A Poison Tree”, as well as Magnus Mill’s fiction)Pettersson argues that both extended metaphors and narrative elements, as wellas their interrelations, must be taken into account when interpreting bothpoetic and fiction texts.

Also Tamar Yacobi, in Chapter 6, “Metaphors in Context. The CommunicativeStructure of Figurative Language”, proposes a contextualist approach to literarymetaphors by discussing examples taken from poetry and prose, with specialattention to Henry James. Figures of speech are always embedded in acommunicative context, and surrounded by a co-text. Moreover, both transmittersand receivers of the communicated figure of speech have an active role inenriching the functionality of the figure through self-characterization,rhetoric, irony, plot dynamics, semantic density, and emotional and ideologicalimpact. 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 GriceanAnalysis of Brian Clark’s Whose Life Is It Anyway?”, by John Douthwaite, sets astrong challenge to CMT by proposing a “reformation” from a pragmatic point ofview. The dichotomy between conventional metaphors, which are automaticallyretrieved, and literary metaphors that are reconstructed through a process ofpragmatic inferencing, is the main focus of this essay. The key question isdiscussed in both theoretical and practical terms with examples from BrianClark’s play about euthanasia, “Whose Life Is It Anyway?”. The aim of thisanalysis is to show how meaning is produced in the text and to evaluate the roleof cognitive metaphors in the process of constructing meaning.

This critical opening is followed by some reading proposals and creativeapplications of CMT. Margaret Freeman, in Chapter 8, “The Role of Metaphor inPoetic Iconicity”, disentangles the difference between literary and conventionalmetaphors by emphasizing the iconic role of metaphor in poetry. She discussesone sonnet by P.B. Shelley, which is structured by the metaphor ENTROPY ISSHIFT, and thus is an icon of reality, and a poem by H. Smith, in which, on thecontrary, metaphoric schema do not create any resemblance of felt life.

One more reading proposal is provided in Chapter 9, “‘One should neverunderestimate the power of books’: Writing and Reading as Therapy in PaulAuster’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 Bookof Illusions” (2002) and examines how the conceptual metaphors WRITING ISILLNESS and IMAGINATION IS MEDICINE are elaborated in the texts.

Chapter 10, by Michael Kimmel, “Metaphor Sets in ‘The Turn of the Screw’. WhatConceptual Metaphors Reveal About Narrative Function”, opens a very newperspective for exploring texts from a broader narratological perspective.Kimmel discusses how conceptual metaphor may contribute to narrative functionsfollowing five levels (i.e. theme-setting and foregrounding, the enrichment ofmotifs and the creation of symbolic nodes, the generation of plots andcharacters, the creation of specific literary effects, and reader affectiveinvolvement). The author proposes an integrative viewpoint, based on empiricalobservations, that shows how metaphor directly affects, for example, literarycharacterization, interaction, and immersive reading.

In Chapter 11, “Hyperliteralist Metaphor: The Cognitive Poetics of Robert Musilin His Novella ‘Die Portugesin’”, Ralph Müller focuses on Robert Musil’saesthetical 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 textsshould be completed by information about contextual and stylistic differencesbetween linguistic realizations of conceptual metaphors. After explaining whathyperliteralist metaphors in literature are, the author displays how cognitiveprinciples work and how “moderate hyperliteralism” may be useful in describingMusil’s metaphorical realizations.

In Chapter 12, “Storyworld Metaphors in Swift’s Satire”, Michael Sinding focuseson the interplay of CMT and cognitive narratology by discussing allegory andsatire in Swift’s “A Tale of a Tub”. Sinding shows how metaphor may enter aspatial modeling in Swift’s work, considering that spatialization of metaphor,and other rhetorical figures, is very common in storyworlds of satiricnarrative. The question is discussed within a wide perspective which combinesCMT (specifically, the analysis of the main conceptual metaphors for satire’saction schema) and cognitive narratology (by looking at the interplay ofmetaphor and story).

In Chapter 13, “Conventional Metaphor and the Latent Ideology of Racism”, AndrewGoatly addresses more general issues on texts and focuses on how ideology anddiscourses of racism turn into metaphorical representations. Goatly argues thatthere are certain cognitive metaphors (e.g. SIMILARITY IS PROXIMITY, CATEGORY ISA DIVIDED AREA) which, even if indirectly, support cognitive structures ofdivision and exclusion. Note that this claim, supported by several instancesfrom newspaper articles, is set between an ideological interpretation of CMT andcultural studies.

The final chapter, “The Journey Metaphor and the Source-Path-Goal Schema inAgnes Varda’s Autobiographical Gleaning Documentaries”, by Charles Forceville,broadens the applicability of CMT by discussing non-verbal realizations ofconceptual metaphor. Forceville concentrates on two autobiographicaldocumentaries directed by Agnés Varda which are strictly related to thesource-path-goal schema and points out aspects of metaphor that transcendtraditional 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 ofessays.

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 validpositions contrasting with CMT (e.g. Coenen’s theory), as well as more extended,context-driven approaches (e.g. Pettersson’s contribution) are proposed. It isclear that the theories presented here are only a small part of the possibleways of addressing the question. I think that the most evident shortcoming withrespect to alternative perspectives is the lack of any reference to thepragmatic approach to literary metaphors (e.g. Pilkington 2001, Sperber & Wilson2008).

Unexpectedly, the challenge to CMT outlined in the first part is not maintainedin the second part of the book because many contributions confirm the validityof the cognitive approach to metaphor by proposing very interestinginterpretations of literary works. Actually, Part II exemplifies the intentionsof the subtitle (“Perspectives on Literary Metaphors”) and accomplishes theother aim of the book, i.e., to overcome the strong interest in conventionalmetaphors, which has dominated metaphor studies in wake of CMT. This aim isachieved by providing fascinating analyses of literary metaphor within creativeinterpretations of poems and novels, and by re-creating a communication betweenliterary and linguistic studies. Noticeably, in Part II, the label “literarymetaphor” refers to a broad category of creative uses of language because inaddition to the analysis of metaphors in poems (e.g. Habermann, Freeman) andextended metaphors (e.g. Pettersson), as well as applications to genre studies(e.g. Sinding), ideological discourse (e.g. Goatly) and non-verbal metaphoricalrepresentations (e.g. Forceville) are proposed.

The book may be good for both metaphor study experts and beginners because eventhough 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 textsin the second part of the book prove as a useful field guide for all. The maintenets of cognitive approaches to metaphor are explained in more than onechapter of the book and are skillfully discussed in relation to specific topicsor chosen literary texts. This is a great advantage because chapters can beindividual readings, even though the book maintains a strong central thread as well.

Overall, the book is well-organized. Each chapter introduces and develops atopic with broad references to theoretical frameworks and with several practicalexamples. The analyses of literary works are very detailed and useful forfurther studies.

In sum, in relation to existent literature on the topic, this book has animportant advantage because it pays attention to more creative forms ofmetaphors. As outlined above, a possible shortcoming is the lack of interest inpragmatic approaches (beyond the proposal by Douthwaite, which is close to apragmatic view) that are not “indigenous non-cognitive approaches”, as are theones proposed in Part I, but could give very interesting frameworks of analysisof literary metaphors considered as an important pragmatic phenomenon.

I think that potential future research might best address the specificity ofliterary metaphor, if any, in a theoretical framework, as well as practicalapplications not strictly influenced by CMT heritage. Undoubtedly, this book isa useful starting point for achieving this goal.


Fauconnier, Gilles & Mark Turner. 2002. The Way We Think: Conceptual Blendingand 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 toPoetic 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: CambridgeUniversity Press.


Donatella Resta is completing her Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Salento and the CRIL Laboratory (Lecce, Italy). Her doctoral research concerns literary metaphor studied from both a psycholinguistic and electrophysiological point of view.

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