"Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish -- a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.

"The concepts that govern our thought are not just matters of the intellect. They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities. If we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor."

-- from: Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors We Live By.

In this course we will explore Lakoff and Johnson's thesis, first by learning in some detail how metaphors work, which will involve a bit of practice in semantics and in linguistic observation, and then by observing and analyzing the use of metaphor in our own and others' language, thought, and action. For students interested in meaning, and in integration of their entire educational experience, this procedure can often lead to startling intellectual insights.

To aid us in this enterprise, there will be readings of some works that shed light on the nature of metaphors and/or manipulate them masterfully, including a fair amount of fantasy and science fiction. Class discussion and regular participation in a local computer discussion group are required; in addition, writing assignments include biweekly writing and a term research project.

Texts for this seminar are available at Shaman Drum Books

(out-of-print books will appear in a course pack).
They include the following, hyperlinked below, often to Copernic search results.
And here's where you can get Wordnet, the best (and cheapest) computer thesaurus in the world.
  • Lakoff & Johnson
  • Gregory Bateson
  • Metaphors We Live By
    Mind and Nature
    (Text at Shaman Drum)
    (Coursepack at Excel on South U.)
  • David Brin
  • Neil Stephenson
  • Vernor Vinge
  • Barry Hughart
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Startide Rising & The Uplift War
    Snow Crash
    A Fire Upon The Deep
    Bridge of Birds
    Small Gods & Hogfather
    (SF novel & its sequel)
    (SF novel)
    (SF novel)
    (Fantasy novel)
    (Fantasy - 2 novels in the same series)
    More about the class
    Last change November 18, 2001