3
PUBLIC METAPHOR

It is important to grasp that metaphor, however we might define it, constantly exceeds the literary even as it forms its basis; metaphor is the common substratum of the representation of institutions, corporations, public bodies. The French Marxist thinker Louis Althusser described how we are ‘interpellated’ through language (Althusser 1977: 162–70); that is to say, how we are constituted as subjects. We are given to believing, he said, that we are in some sense free agents, coherent subjects in our own right, when in fact we are at the mercy of an ideological flood that threatens to engulf us. Although Althusser did not say as much, we might suggest that the principal way in which we are interpellated is through metaphor, and also that we are interpellated as metaphor.

For example, as I open my newspaper today I see an article under the headline, ‘Tobacco giants deny fraud in $280bn trial’. Now, it is obvious that tobacco companies are not actually giants, although equally it may not be easy to say what actually is a giant. What is being said here is that tobacco companies are very large, but this does not stop the flow of metaphor. For where there are giants there are giant-killers; and, as a reader of a liberal newspaper, I am being interpellated, hailed as part of a specific cultural and historical community, through this hardly remembered but still potent fairy-tale connection. I am being addressed as somebody who is on the side of the giant-killers, somebody for whom the size of the

-42-

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Metaphor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Metaphor i
  • The New Critical Idiom ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Editor’s Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Classical Problem- Figurative Language 11
  • 2 - Eastern and Western Metaphor 26
  • 3 - Public Metaphor 42
  • 4 - Metaphor and the ‘Text Instead’ 57
  • 5 - Metaphor and Psychoanalysis 72
  • 6 - Metaphor, the Uncanny, DÉjÀ-Vu 87
  • 7 - Metaphor, Difference, Untranslatability 102
  • 8 - Metaphor and the Postcolonial Turn 113
  • 9 - Some Examples and Limits 125
  • 10 - Conclusion 136
  • Glossary 146
  • Bibliography 149
  • Index 156
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