Problems of Metaphor, Film, and Perception

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Metaphor has been understood and explained within at least two different
theoretical frameworks. First, metaphor has been considered a special kind
of poetic or rhetorical form. In the traditional view of the eighteenth century
metaphor was conceived of as mainly a decorative trope, or “a sort of
happy extra trick with words” (Richards 1972 [1936], 90); in the modern
view it is creative, interactive, and also part of everyday language (Richards
1972 [1936]; Black 1962). Despite these differences, both decorative and
creative views conceive metaphors as specific and manifest stylistic features
that trigger a comparison between two things of different kinds. Second,
in conceptual metaphor theory, metaphor is not only claimed to be widespread
but also a constituent of everyday language. Further, conceptual
metaphors structure not language only but also thinking, perception, and
action (Lakoff and Johnson 1980). In this view, metaphors are conceptual
structures that in a systematic fashion underpin manifest metaphors. In the
first theoretical framework, the move from language to images and other
modalities is a difficult one and many scholars who are skeptical about the
value and evidence of visual or multimodal metaphors embrace this view
on metaphor. In the second, no such move is needed because metaphors
are considered as conceptual structures. The move from specific instances
to deep structure, from language to concepts, frees the metaphor from
sentence structures that—however central to metaphors—seem incompatible
with visual forms of representation. Those scholars who embrace this
view on metaphor tend to be very positive about visual and multimodal
In this article I will show that both pessimists and optimists are wrong
but for different reasons. The article first presents the trope-view on
metaphor and some examples of visual and multimodal metaphors are
discussed. It is argued that the lack of syntax and the perceptual singularity
of visual depictions are not as big a problem as some like to think. Then
the concept-view on metaphor is presented and, again, some related visual
and/or multimodal examples are discussed. It is argued that the reference to
thought and action can be quite deceptive and implies some serious pitfalls.
Yet it can also have explanatory value.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmbodied Metaphors in Film, Television, and Video Games : Cognitive Approaches
EditorsKathrin Fahlenbrach
Number of pages14
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date12 Oct 2015
ISBN (Print)9781138850835
ISBN (Electronic)9781317531210
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2015
SeriesRoutledge research in cultural and media studies

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