Dynamic meaning construction in metaphor clusters: attraction, framing and scenarios?

Demjen, Zsofia (2014). Dynamic meaning construction in metaphor clusters: attraction, framing and scenarios? In: 10th Conference of the Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor (RaAM10): Metaphor in Communication Science and Education, 20-23 Jun 2014, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

URL: http://convegni.unica.it/raam2014/


In this paper I outline the main types of metaphors involved in the description and communication of affective states in the Smith Journal of ‘The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath’. I examine metaphor clusters to see how the interaction of different source domains can be discussed to account for the meanings constructed by the collective. The MIP procedure (Pragglejaz, 2007) is used for initial metaphor vehicle identification, followed by a zooming out to consider individual linguistic metaphors in each other’s context.
I show that Plath used metaphor more frequently and more diversely in her description of negative affective states than positive ones. This seems to be consistent with Cameron’s (2013) negativity hypothesis that metaphor tends to be used more in negative constructions, scenarios and experiences.
In addition, I discuss the interaction of vehicle terms in extended clusters of metaphor. For example, in to feel his mind soaring, reaching, and mine caged, crying, impotent, self-reviling, Plath describes a negative state of mind. Although this is a small section of a longer cluster of metaphors, I argue that the full meaning of even this example is not easily reconstructed on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis, especially when the topic in question is as complex as affective states. Instead, one should discuss the interaction between and among the vehicle terms: the constructed metaphor scenario involves Plath’s mind as participant in a contrastive relationship with his mind as participant: her mind immobile while his moves great distances. This initial contrast frames the entire cluster facilitating a contrastive interpretation of impotent and self-reviling as simultaneously passive and in the process of attack. The combination of impotent with enforced immobility (caged) suggests a sense of helplessness, and crying, although it may have several interpretations, is in this case attracted into this helplessness scenario by its close proximity to impotent. In addition, the potential interpretation crying as representative of anger is also brought to the fore by the proximity to self-reviling, while other meaning, such as sadness, remain backgrounded. The notions of scenarios, in the sense of ‘mini-narratives’ (Musolff, 2006; Semino 2008), framing and attraction (Cameron and Low, 2004) among others will be discussed as particularly helpful in describing these interactions.

Cameron, L. (2013) The dynamics of metaphor and empathy. Plenary Presentation at the RaAM Seminar on Metaphor, Metonymy and Emotions, 2-4 May 2013, Poznan, Poland.
Cameron, L and Low, G. (2004) Figurative Variation in Episodes of Education Talk and Text. European Journal of English Studies, 8, 355-373
Musolff, A. (2006). Metaphor scenarios in public discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 21 (1), 23-38.
Pragglejaz Group (2007). MIP: A method for identifying metaphorically used words in discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 22 (1), 1-39.
Semino, E. (2008) Metaphor in Discourse. Cambridge University Press

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