Accepted Paper:

Metaphor in wider contexts  


John Leavitt (Université de Montréal)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers implications of the metaphor/metonymy opposition in ritual language, anthropological writing, and, time permitting, in Indian as contrasted with Western theory.

Paper long abstract:

Similarity and contiguity have been taken to be the fundamental poles of mental association in most of Western history, from the ancient Greeks to Medieval schoolmen to Enlightenment literary theorists to British empiricist philosophers and psychologists to the linguistics of Kruszewski and the poetics of Jakobson and the anthropology of Lévi-Strauss. Metaphor, a figure based on similarity, has, then, always been defined in distinction to metonymy, a figure based on contiguity. This paper briefly considers the consequences of taking the movement of metaphor (literally "carrying beyond") not by itself, but in relation to that of metonymy (literally "naming beyond") in three contexts. 1) That of ritual language, in which metaphor can be seen as a process of worldmaking and metonymy as one of anchoring that world in lived experience; 2) that of contemporary anthropology discourse, in which the heavy use of metaphor, a typically Romantic trope, characterizes periods of optimistic exploration (Boasianism, structural anthropology, symbolic anthropology, perhaps the "ontological turn") and that of metonymy, a typically Realist trope, that of pessimistic critique (post-modernism, the reflexive turn); 3) finally, if there is time, a comparison of the central Western dichotomy of similarity and contiguity with comparable ones in Indian philosophy and aesthetics.

Panel RM-LL03
Metaphor: transfer and the motion of language [LingAnthLing panel]