In what way is it possible that one can “wrap one’s mind around”
something? Why not the other way around? How did that expression arise,
and what does it convey? Couldn’t we just say “understand?”
This course explores the nature of metaphor and related phenomena
(simile, metonymy, hyperbole, …), asking what makes them succeed -- or
fail -- communicatively, what recurring patterns there are, how these
phenomena are similar, and how they differ. We will also examine what
these phenomena might say about the way members of a particular culture
(or human beings in general) conceptualize the world, about the extent
to which we have “literary minds” in which thoughts are inextricably “wrapped” in metaphors. We will consider both ‘creative’ or ‘new’
metaphors and so-called ‘dead’ metaphors, looking at contemporary (and
to some extent historical) linguistic theories to compare the questions
they are trying to answer and to gain tools for hands-on experience
exploring metaphoric language.
The course has no prerequisites, and we will cover some basic
terminology as needed, but it is also an advanced seminar. A prior
course on the structure of English or another language (beyond applied
intermediate skills), a prior course in linguistics, or an equivalent
background could be helpful.
This course will be of interest to those curious about language and its use, both in general and in ‘Literature’; those fascinated by the relationship between human language and human
cognition; those interested in languages -- in how they differ and how
they are the same; and those who enjoy language puzzles and/or finding interesting patterns
in the language of a particular text, author, situation, etc.
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