Introductory Readings on Metaphor

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Introductory note:

All the works cited below relate to metaphor beyond the traditional definition of literary criticism. They usually offer a view of metaphor that is both wider and deeper than what we know as one of many tropes and all of them see metaphor as more than just a textual bauble but rather something fundamental for the way we think about the world. Most of them are directly influenced by or broadly compatible with the conceptual or cognitive metaphor theory.

This bibliography is of necessity selective but further references can be found in the books cited as well as in the four book-length bibliographies of metaphor research published since 1970 (see below). This collection of references tries to list influential and/or typical works that can provide an introduction to the field for somebody coming from outside. Those interested should also consult the journal Metaphor and Symbol (formerly Metaphor and Symbolic Activity ) published by Erlbaum since 1985. The bibliography is divided thematically into five sections and the topics bear an unapologetic slant towards discourse analysis and education. A list of relevant links valid as of January 2005 is also provided.

Please let me know of any inaccuracies, possible misrepresentations, or significant omissions.

Metaphor bibliographies (ordered chronologically):

  • Shibles, Warren A. 1971. Metaphor: An annotated bibliography and history . Whitewater , Wisconsin: Language Press.
  • Noppen, Jean-Pierre van, René Jongen, and Sabine de Knop. 1985. Metaphor: A bibliography of post-1970 publications : 5. Library and information sources in linguistics. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Noppen, Jean-Pierre van, and Edith Hols. 1990. Metaphor II: A classified bibliography of publications, 1985 to 1990 : 5. Library and information sources in linguistics. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Knop, Sabine de, René Dirven, Ning Yu, and Birgit Smieja. 2005. Bibliography of metaphor and metonymy . Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Available electronically only at:

Conceptual Metaphor Theory

Key works (Ordered chronologically)

Schön, Donald A. 1979. Generative metaphor: A perspective on problem-setting in social policy. In Metaphor , ed. Ortony, Andrew, 254-83. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

One of the first to suggest that metaphor is central rather than anomalous to the cognitive process and applied this insight into the analysis of social policy debates.

Reddy, Michael. 1979. The conduit metaphor. In Metaphor and thought , ed. Ortony, Andrew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The paper that first described – building on Schö n’s generative metaphor – the metaphor of ideas as things that can be transmitted and provided an inspiration to Lakoff and Johnson 1980. Appeared in an influential collection (see below).

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The key work that introduced the idea of conceptual or cognitive metaphor that is central to our conceptual system, and thus gave rise to a new research paradigm reframing the distinction between the figurative and the literal.

Lakoff, George. 1993. Contemporary theory of metaphor. In Metaphor and thought, 2nd edition , ed. Ortony, Andrew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Article-length overview of the main points of conceptual metaphor theory (including the invariance principle) that appeared in a second edition of Ortony’s famous collection. A draft available in full online (see below).

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York: Basic Books.

The founders of the field return to the topic and investigate its broader implications. Examines many core concepts of Western thought (causality, logic) from the perspective of an embodied metaphor.

Fauconnier, Gilles, and Mark Turner. 2002. The way we think: conceptual blending and the mind's hidden complexities. New York: Basic Books.

Although, strictly speaking, not about metaphor at all, this book suggest a mechanism, conceptual integration, through which metaphors and all other interactions of conceptual domains can be explained.

Kövecses, Zoltán. 2002. Metaphor: a practical introduction . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Up-to-date, book-length overview of the field. Summarizes clearly and accessibly a large proportion of the research done since 1980, including conceptual integration (blending). Excellent resource!

Other research (Ordered alphabetically)

Barcelona, Antonio ed. 2000. Metaphor and metonymy at the crossroads: a cognitive perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Dirven, René, and Ralf Pörings eds. 2002. Metaphor and metonymy in comparison and contrast. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Gibbs, Raymond W., and Tomasz Komendzinski eds. 2002. Metaphor: a multidisciplinary approach . Torun: Wydawnictwo Mikolaja Kopernika.

Three examples of numerous edited volumes that have appeared since 1985 containing works by metaphor scholars of all fields with a strong predominance for the conceptual metaphor approach.

Lakoff, George. 1992. Metaphors and war: The metaphor system used to justify war in the gulf. In Thirty years of linguistic evolution , ed. Pütz, Martin, 463-82. Philadelphia; Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

One of the first, if not the first, attempts to use the tools of conceptual metaphor theory to political discourse analysis. Circulated on the internet as an open letter and still available online.

Lakoff, George. 2002. Moral politics: how liberals and conservatives think . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Combines metaphor and cognitive model theory to provide an incisive (largely impartial) analysis of American politics. First edition came out in 1996, the second became a favorite of Howard Dean.

Turner, Mark. 1987. Death is the mother of beauty: mind, metaphor, criticism . Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press.

Investigation of how the conceptual metaphor can be used in literature. One of the ‘big metaphor books’ of the late 80s.

Other Views of Metaphor

Davidson, Donald. 1978. What metaphors mean. Critical Inquiry : 5.

Much discussed and controversial article claiming that metaphors only have a literal meaning and their interpretation is a question of pragmatics.

Kittay, Eva Feder. 1987. Metaphor: its cognitive force and linguistic structure. Oxford: Clarendon.

Offers a perspective on the use of metaphor in text based on semantic fields, broadly compatible with but independent of conceptual metaphor theory. Builds on work by I. A. Richards and Max Black.

Leezenberg, Michiel. 2001. Contexts of metaphor . Amsterdam: Elsevier.

A recent overview of theories of metaphor other than conceptual metaphor theory, including a critique of the conceptual perspective.

Ortony, Andrew ed. 1993. Metaphor and thought . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Second edition of a famous collection (see Reddy above) containing many influential views of metaphor from scholars from various disciplines (such as M. Black, J. Searle, T. Kuhn, D. A. Schön, G. A. Miller, or H. Gardner). The original contributors appear (some reprints some updated) joined by others (six in total including Lakoff) who have made significant contributions to the field since 1979.

Ricoeur, Paul. 1977. The rule of metaphor: multi-disciplinary studies of the creation of meaning in language. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

An influential constructivist view coming from continental philosophical thought.

Psychological Perspectives on Metaphor Processing

Gentner, Dedre. 1982. Are scientific analogies metaphors? In Metaphor: Problems and perspectives , ed. Miall, David S., 106-32. Brighton: Harvester.

One of the early explorations of the place of metaphor in the place of the psychology of analogical thinking taking into account Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors we live by.

Gentner, Dedre, Brian F. Bowdle, Phillip Wolff, and Consuelo Boronat. 2001. Metaphor is like analogy. In The analogical mind: perspectives from cognitive science , eds. Gentner, Dedre et al., 199-253. Cambridge , Mass.; London: MIT Press.

A paper-length overview of some twenty years of development in the field of psychology of metaphor trying to bridge some competing views.

Gibbs, Raymond W. 1994. The poetics of mind: figurative thought, language, and understanding . Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

A significant overview of evidence from psychological and psycholinguistic research supporting conceptual metaphor theory.

Glucksberg, Sam with a contribution by Matthew S. McGlone. 2001. Understanding figurative language: from metaphors to idioms . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

A survey of a decade of psycholinguistic research on the use of metaphors in daily conversational. language. McGlone critically examines some claims made by Lakoff and Gibbs.

Metaphor and Discourse Analysis

Charteris-Black, Jonathan. 2004. Corpus approaches to critical metaphor analysis . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Chilton, Paul. 1996. Security metaphors: Cold War discourse from containment to common house : Conflict and consciousness; v.2. New York: Peter Lang.
Dirven, René. 1994. Metaphor and nation: metaphors Afrikaners live by . Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Musolff, Andreas. 2004. Metaphor and political discourse: analogical reasoning in debates about Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Four works that combine the tools of conceptual metaphor theory and critical discourse analysis (including references to many other investigations). Charteris-Black and Musolff also explore the idea of using both specific and general corpora for metaphor research.

Metaphor and Education

Note: Works in this section should be seen more as examples of what can be possible than cornerstones of a well-defined field of research.

Conceptual metaphor theory and education

Cortazzi, Martin, and Lixian Jin. 1999. Bridges to learning: Metaphors of teaching, learning and language. In Reasearching and applying metaphor , ed. Cameron, Lynne, 149-76. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

A detailed investigation of links between teacher metaphors and their culture. Includes overview of important literature on metaphor of education and similar research.

Inbar, Dan E. 1996. The free educational prison: Metaphors and images. Educational Research 38:77-92.

An oft-cited paper investigating students’ and teachers’ metaphorical perception of themselves and their environment based on a large-scale questionnaire study. Suggests implications for teacher preparation. (Many similar studies published since reach similar conclusions.)

Taylor , William ed. 1984. Metaphors of education . Studies in education, new ser., 14 . London; Exeter , N.H.: Heinemann Educational Books for the Institute of Education University of London.

An early edited volume (only partially reflecting new developments) with contributions on the importance of metaphor in education from eminent educationalists.

Metaphors in educational discourse and practice

Note: This is a highly selective overview since metaphors and their implicit or explicit exploration are ubiquitous in educational discourse. The works below make variously explicit attempts to elaborate metaphors and show what role they may play in the different spheres of the educational world.

Cameron, Lynne. 2003. Metaphor in educational discourse . London: Continuum.

Looking at the use of low-level metaphors in the language of teachers in the classroom.

Grant, David, and Cliff Oswick eds. 1996. Metaphor and organizations . London; Thousand Oaks , Calif.: Sage.

Although, not directly about education, many of the contributions to this volume explore organizational metaphors applied to education.

Henig, Jeffrey R. 1994. Rethinking school choice: limits of the market metaphor . Princeton , N.J.: Princeton University Press.

An attempt at engaging in a political discourse by explicitly exploring the opponent’s metaphor and taking it to its conclusion.

Ormell, Christopher. 1996. Eight metaphors of education. Educational Research 38:65-75.

A short but interesting attempt to define education by creating metaphors that educators should adopt. This is a common genre in which all educational thinkers seem to engage at some point.

Wincek, Jean. 1995. Negotiating the maze of school reform: how metaphor shapes culture in a new magnet school. New York; London: Teachers College Press.

An analysis of the role metaphors played in the introduction of a new approach to teaching in an experimental school discussing (like many others) discrepancies between metaphor and practice. Includes overview of work on metaphors in education going back to the 1960s.

Metaphors as an educational tool

Note: Ortony (1993) contains a section with four contributions in this area.

Bacon, Stephen. 1983. The conscious use of metaphor in outward bound . Denver , Colorado: Colorado Outward Bound School.

A practical, theory-free, account of how metaphorical understanding of simulations with respect to one’s life situation can be crucial for the effectiveness of alternative educational techniques. This is one of the first among numerous works confirming a link between metaphor, identity and learning.

Bromme, Rainer, and Elmar Stahl. 2005. Is a hypertext a book or a space? The impact of different introductory metaphors on hypertext construction. Computers and Education 44:115-33.

An investigation of the link between the use of a metaphor in instruction and results of instruction.

Ponterotto, Dianne. 1994. Metaphors we can learn by. English Teaching Forum 32.

A brief suggestion for using conceptual metaphors in intermediate EFL instruction. One of many similar studies.

Metaphors online

The Metaphor and Metonymy Group (UK Resource)

Center for the Cognitive Science of Metaphor Online (US Resource)

Blending and Conceptual Integration

Metaphors in Scientific Thinking

Workshop on Metaphor and Contemporary Science - 25 & 26 November 2002
(includes videos of talks)

Mental Metaphor Databank

Lakoff: Contemporary theory of metaphor (full text)

Compiled by Dominik Lukeš, (c) 2005


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