Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Allegory, Maps, and Modernity: Cognitive Change from Bunyan to Forster

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Allegory, Maps, and Modernity: Cognitive Change from Bunyan to Forster

Article excerpt

One of the most famous examples of a conceptual metaphor of the kind first analyzed in George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's Metaphors We Live By is Life Is a Journey. One of the most famous expressions of this conceptual metaphor is, in turn, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. Bunyan's work is an allegory, that is to say, a massively extended metaphor and so an extended linguistic expression of Life Is a Journey. Thomas Macaulay in 1830 declared of Bunyan's work that "every reader knows the straight and narrow path" (561). Any journey necessarily follows a path, and Macaulay's assertion expresses the widespread belief that the life journey of The Pilgrim's Progress is along an absolutely straight path.

The Pilgrim's Progress was first published in 1678. E.M. Forster's short story" The Other Side of the Hedge" was first published in 1911, in The Celestial Omnibus. It, too, is an allegory, its narrator travelling along a road that is apparently absolutely straight. There are others on this road too, and it becomes clear that allegorically it is the road of historical progress. If The Pilgrim's Progress expresses Life Is a Journey, then "The Other Side of the Hedge" expresses History Is a Journey. The parallels between the two works seen from this angle seem striking, for not only do both allegorical journeys seem to be straight-line journeys but also the issue of whether you should depart from this apparently straight line is central in both works. In terms of metaphorical structure, they seem to be closely related. Yet, if one accepts the traditional view of conceptual metaphor of Metaphors We Live By, it is difficult to see how this can be so, for the two works express quite separate conceptual metaphors: Life Is a Journey and History Is a Journey, the first having the individual life as its target domain while the second has collective history as its target domain.

Recent metaphor theory has moved away from regarding individual conceptual metaphors such as Life Is a Journey as cognitively fundamental. This can already be seen in George Lakoff and Mark Turner's More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor, with its notion of generic metaphors, such as Events Are Actions, that receive a range of different specifications. More recently, Joseph Grady, in "A Typology of Motivation for Conceptual Metaphor: Correlation vs. Resemblance," has termed "primary metaphors" as those very general metaphors underlying our system of conventional metaphor that are based on regular correlations within our everyday experience. Examples of such metaphors are Difficult Is Heavy and Valued Aspects of Experience are Precious Possessions (82-84). More specific metaphors, such as Death Is a Thief, result from specifications and/or combinations of these primary metaphors. The basis for the notion of primary metaphor is already present in George Lakoff's "The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor" with its concept of the Event-Structure metaphor, which consists, in effect, of a set of related primary metaphors such as: States Are Locations; Changes Are Movements; Purposes Are Destinations; Means Are Paths (220-25). A conceptual metaphor, such as Life Is a Journey, is a specification of this general Event-Structure metaphor, which can itself be further specified by Love Is a Journey or A Career Is a Journey.

The Life Is a Journey of The Pilgrim's Progress and the History Is a Journey of "The Other Side of the Hedge" are thus different but closely related specifications of the same Event-Structure metaphor. Theft main difference is that, while in one, individual lives are conceived as journeys along an apparently perfectly straight road, in the other it is the process of collective history. What is striking is the common source domain image of the perfectly straight road. Lakoff thinks that structures such as the Event-Structure metaphor are probably cognitive universals, with cultural variation involving different specifications of these general structures (224-25). …

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