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Metaphor

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Graham Allen.

NOTE: this talk is not on the usual day/time of Humanities Society talks but on Thursday 4th June from 16.30.

The first section of the talk describes what might be called a standard metaphor, in which one contemplates something, then adds a comparison that sharpens one’s awareness of the object. What had been a mere word becomes an experience. The second section is about what might be called the extreme metaphor. The phrase describes a situation in which “connotative” perception precedes “denotative” perception: the comparative term (the so-called “vehicle” of the metaphor) comes out to meet the object. It does not wait to be thought of, summoned, or added to the object. I conclude that the differences between these two forms of metaphor are irreconcilable. I will then point out that there are some genuine difficulties in distinguishing between metaphor and nonsense. it is also well known that people with Asperger’s syndrome tend to take metaphors literally: what is more, the signals registered in their brains in response to metaphors and to nonsense are the same. Finally, I would like to point out that the narrative element in metaphor has not been fully recognized. I believe that each metaphor is a mini-narrative, and that, therefore, it does not make much more sense to ask whether a metaphor carries information about the “tenor” than to ask whether a story carries such information.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Humanities Society talks series.

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