Metaphor and Writing: Figurative Thought in the Discourse of Written Communication

By Smith, Bradley | Composition Studies, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Metaphor and Writing: Figurative Thought in the Discourse of Written Communication


Smith, Bradley, Composition Studies


Metaphor and Writing: Figurative Thought in the Discourse of Written Communication, by Philip Eubanks. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. 214 pp.

In Metaphor and Writing, Philip Eubanks makes two general contributions to scholarship on the discursive framing of writing. First, Eubanks contextualizes conceptual metaphor use for framing everyday language about writing by connecting the Conduit Metaphor to other conceptual elements. Second, Eubanks calls attention to the rhetorical dimension of figurative language use at the conceptual level. In order to accomplish these tasks, Eubanks analyzes the use of "writer" and "to write" in a corpus of texts drawn from interviews with professional writers and from texts that comment on writing effectively. The first of these two contributions provides the structure for much of book, parsing out a number of different conceptual elements and ending with a defense of the Conduit Metaphor, based on its use in context. The rhetorical dimension also carries throughout Eubanks' argument and functions as the connection between the different conceptual elements discussed.

In chapter 1, Eubanks posits that conceptual metaphors are part of a "rhetorical give and take" between different conceptual elements (conceptual metaphors, conceptual metonymies, graded categories, licensing stories, and conceptual blends) that help people define writing (23) . After arguing for this rhetorical relationship, Eubanks discusses some of the different elements involved in the conceptualization of writing. Chapter 2 shows a common double bind that occurs in everyday discourse about writing: all those who write are not "writers." Eubanks suggests that this double bind occurs because of the graded categories that people use to define the concepts "writer" and "to write." He argues that the category "to write" has two prototypical forms: the pen-to-paper prototype (a transcription model) and the typical actions of a prototypical writer (35) . Eubanks adds an additional bind in the third chapter, where he describes the tension between the general-ability view of writing (all writing situations require a similar and transferrable set of abilities) and the specific-expertise view (different writing situations require different sets of abilities that will not transfer from one situation to another).

Eubanks argues in chapter 4 that these binds occur because there are three different licensing stories for categorizing writing: the literate inscriber (the basic transcription of thoughts to paper), the good writer (the ability to exercise good judgment as a composer and thinker), and the author writer (writers who exemplify "a moment of becoming; a strong desire to express thoughts in writing; powerful, automatic, non-logical writing experiences; a commitment to truth-telling; and an exceptional love of reading and words") (79). According to Eubanks, these stories are hierarchical and largely nested and are thus interrelated, though some features attenuate at the highest level, the author writer level (62-63) . Furthermore, these stories rely on two metonymies for their construction: Writing is Thought and Writing is Identity (63) .

In chapter 5, Eubanks discusses the role that the metonymy Writing Is Speaking plays in the conceptualization of written communication. Specifically, Eubanks focuses his analysis on the concept of voice, connecting the concept back to the metonymies Writing Is Thought and Writing Is Identity and to the licensing stories discussed in chapter 4. This line of argument leads Eubanks to identify and define three different characterizations of voice, which correspond to the three licensing stories mentioned above: Writing As Transcription, Writing As Talk, and the Discovered Voice (104). Like their licensing stories, these characterizations of voice have a nested relationship (104). Chapter 6 returns to the metonymy Writing Is Identity and more fully examines its relationship to the concept of the Writing Self. …

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