CLEN 4910: Metaphor and Media
Prof. Dennis Tenen | dt2406 at columbia
M, W 2:40pm to 3:55pm
613 Hamilton Hall
This course offers a survey of major works on metaphor, beginning with Aristotle and ending with contemporary cognitive and media theory. Appropriate for both undergraduate and graduate students, our sessions will involve weekly discussion and an occasional "lab" component, in which we will test our theoretical intuitions against case studies of literary metaphor and metaphor in the fields of law, medicine, philosophy, and design.
I am particularly interested in ways metaphors "break" or "die," whether from disuse, overuse, or misapplication. In their classical sense, metaphors work by ferrying meaning across from one domain to another. For example, by calling a rooster "the trumpet of the morn," Shakespeare means to suggest a structural similarity between horn instruments and birds. Note that this similarity cannot pertain to the objects in their totality. The analogy applies to the call of the bird only or perhaps to the resemblance between a beak and the flute of a trumpet. The metaphor would also fail were we to find no perceivable analogies between birds and trumpets. Similarly, computer users who empty their virtual "trash bins" are promised the erasure of underlying data. The course will conclude by examining the metaphors implicit such media transformations.
Course Requirements & Grading
Students will be expected to read the approximate equivalent of three scholarly articles per week, to attend the seminar weekly, and to participate in the class discussion both in person and online. A midterm and final exams will reward those who keep up with the readings. Advanced students will have the option to integrate the course's themes with the subject matter of their expertise.
- 25% Class & Online Participation†
- 25% Metaphor Lab Worksheets
- 25% Midterm Exam
- 25% Final Exam
OR (for graduate students only)††
- 25% Midterm Project Proposal (requires an in-person consultation)
- 25% Final Project
† Concise weekly forum posts responding to the reading, asking questions / sharing expertise regarding the lab assignments.
†† Undergraduates wishing to pursue an independent project still have to take the midterm and the final exams.
When in doubt, cite! Plagiarism is insulting to your fellow students, your instructors, and to the research community at large. It wastes my time and yours, and is, ultimately, not worth the risk. Consult Columbia’s guidelines at http://www.college.columbia.edu/academics/integrity or ask me for help early in the writing process.
The syllabus is continually updated to match the pace of the course on our GitHub page. Weekly responses to the readings are due on Piazza. Please submit all homework assignments to the appropriate folder in Courseworks.
Provisional Schedule & Reading List
- Aristotle's Poetics (335 BCE), Ch. XXI, XXII, XXV
- Aristotle's Rhetoric (367-347 BCE), Book III: Ch. 2, 3, 4, 10
- Cicero, On Oratory (55 BCE), Book II:LXV (pp. 159-160) and Book III:XXXVIII-XLIII (pp. 235-242)
- Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory (95 CE), Vol II Book V:XI, pages 271-297; Vol III Book VIII:VI, pages 301-345.
- From Augustine's On Christian Doctrine (~400 CE), Book III: Ch. 1-41 (pp. 80-105).
- From De Copia (1512) by Erasmus Volume 24, Ch. 10-31 (pp. 304-348).
- Giambattista Vico's The New Science (1725), Book II, Section II "Poetic Logic" (pp 114-152).
- Francis Bacon, "The Idols of the Marketplace" (1620) in The New Organon XXXVI-LXI (pp 19-33).
- Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, from Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge (1746), Part II, Section 8-15 (pp 150--195).
Lab: Dictionary of Metaphor I
- Thomas Hobbes, from Leviathan (1651) Ch IV "Of Speech."
- John Locke, from An Essay on Human Understanding (1689), Book III (pp 396-465).
Jean Jacques Rousseau, "Second Discourse" (1754)
- "An Account of Some Observations Made by a Young Gentleman, Who Was Born Blind, or Lost His Sight so Early, That He Had no Remembrance of Ever Having Seen, and Was Couch'd between 13 and 14 Years of Age" by William Cheselden in Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 35. (1727–1728), pp. 447–450.
- Dennis Diderot, "Letter on the Blind" (1749), pages
- Part 1 in Johann Gottfried von Herder's Sculpture (1778), pages 33-46.
- Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement (1790), sections 49 (pp. 197-205) and 59 (pp. 248-252).
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, excerpts from Biographia Literaria or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions (1817)
- Friedrich Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" (1873)
- Gertrude Buck, The Metaphor: A Study in the Psychology of Rhetoric (1897)
- Viktor Shklovsky, "The Resurrection of the Word" (1914)
- Viktor Shklovsky, "Art, As Device" (1917)
- Readings from The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1936) by I.A. Richards, Lectures V, VI.
- Kenneth Burke, "Four Master Tropes" (1941).
William Empson “Metaphor” in Structure of Complex Words (1951)
- Roman Jakobson, "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Disturbances"
- Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah's, "The Magical Power of Words" (1968).
Lacan's "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud" (1957) Julia Kristeva, "Breaching the Thetic: Mimesis" (pp. 57-61 in Revolution in Poetic Language, 1984). Selections from Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946) Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah's, "Form and Meaning of Magical Acts" in Culture, Thought, and Social Action: An Anthropological Perspective (1973)
Jacques Derrida and F. C. T. Moore, "White Mythology" (1974). Selections from Paul Ricoeur's The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language (1978) "Metaphor and the Main Problem of Hermeneutics" by Paul Ricoeur.
- Hannah Arendt, "Language and Metaphor" and "Metaphor and the Ineffable" in The Life of the Mind (1975), pp. 98-129.
- Metaphors We Live By (1980), pp. 3-52 by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.
- Lakoff, George. “The Death of Dead Metaphor.” Metaphor and Symbolic Activity 2, no. 2 (June 1987): 143–47.
Week 11 & 12
- Apple Human Interface Guidelines: The Apple Desktop Interface (1987). Pages 3, 10, 20, 22--23.
- "Chapter 5: Design Principles for Human--Computer Activity" by Brenda Laurel, in Computers as Theater (1991), pages 125--166.
- Carroll, J.M., and John C. Thomas. 1982. “Metaphor and the Cognitive Representation of Computing Systems.” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics 12 (2): 107–16.
- "Why 'Dark Thoughts' Aren’t Really Dark: A Novel Algorithm for Metaphor Identification" in Computational Intelligence, Cognitive Algorithms, Mind, and Brain (CCMB) by Dan Assaf, Yair Neuman, Yohai Cohen, Shlomo Argamon, Newton Howard, Mark Last, Ophir Frieder, and Moshe Koppel.
- "Metaphor as a Medium for Emotion: An Empirical Study" by Saif M. Mohammad, Ekaterina Shutova, and Peter D. Turney.
- "Intersecting Word Vectors to Take Figurative Language to New Heights" by Andrea Gagliano & Emily Paul & Kyle Booten & Marti A. Hearst
Selections from Stephen Pepper's World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence (1992)
"What Metaphors Mean" Davidson Roger White, Structure of Metaphor Donald Davidson, “What Metaphors Mean” Max Black, “How Metaphors Work: A Reply to Donald Davidson” Reading Max Black, “More About Metaphor” John Searle, “Metaphor” Cleanth Brooks on “Metaphor, Paradox, and Stereotype.” Poems
Selections from Persuasions and Performances: The Play of Tropes in Culture (1986) by James Fernandez. Selections from Henry Louis Gates Jr., "The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism" (1989)