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History of Metaphor

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 25 November 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of metaphor.

In Shakespeare's As You Like It, the melancholy Jaques declares: "All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players." This is a celebrated use of metaphor, a figure of speech in which one thing is used to describe another.

Metaphor is a technique apparently as old as language itself; it is present in the earliest surviving work of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Homer developed it into an art form, and his invention of the epic simile was picked up by later writers including Milton. In the Middle Ages the device of allegory underpinned much of French and English writing, while the Metaphysical poets employed increasingly elaborate metaphorical conceits in the sixteenth century.

In the age of the novel the metaphor once again evolved, while the Modernist writers used it to subvert their readers' expectations. But how does metaphor work, and what does this device tell us about the way our minds function?

With:

Steven Connor
Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck, University of London

Tom Healy
Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Sussex

Julie Sanders
Professor of English Literature and Drama at the University of Nottingham

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    David E. Cooper, 'Metaphor' (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989)

    Robert Alter, 'Imagined Cities: Urban Experience and the Language of the Novel' (Yale University Press, 2005)

    Judith Anderson, 'Translating Investments: Metaphor and the Dynamic of Cultural Change in Tudor-Stuart England' (Fordham University Press, 2005)

    Steven Connor, 'Charles Dickens' (Blackwell, 1985)

    Raymond W. Gibbs Jr, ‘Feeling Moved by Metaphor’ in 'The Language and Literature Reader' ed. Ronald Carter and Peter Stockwell (Routledge, 2008), pp. 209-18

    Murray Knowles and Rosamund Moon, 'Introducing Metaphor' (London: Routledge, 2006)

    George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, 'Metaphors We Live By' (University of Chicago Press, 1980)

    David Punter, 'Metaphor' (Routledge, 2007)

    Ann and John Thompson, 'Shakespeare, Meaning and Metaphor' (Harvester Press, 1987)

    Christiana Whitehead, 'Castles of the Mind: A Study of Medieval Architectural Allegory' (University of Wales Press, 2003)

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