Lakoff and Turner – More than Cool Reason

This is my 2nd book review for 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge although it is the 3rd book I’ve finished. I’ll be writing some comments on the other book shortly.

Lakoff, George, and Mark Turner. 1989. More than Cool Reason : a Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I will admit that the explanations sometime bog down a bit. Once you get the method of their analysis you can probably do some of it on your own and thus the repetition gets a tad pedantic. All in all, though, it is an excellent introduction to how our language and thought processes work, showing that metaphor infuses worldviews.

One must be somewhat careful coming to this book with the expectation that it is entirely about poetic metaphor. It is not. In fact, the bookseller categories on the back cover are: Literary Criticism / Linguistics / Cognitive Science.

That said, it does address metaphors in poetry, but its larger task is explaining how metaphor works and arguing for a specific theory of metaphor, based on the Grounding Hypothesis versus most other theories of metaphor based on variations of the Literal Meaning theory.

This book came in handy for my Madwomen Poets class last week as I had just decided to write about Plath’s poem, “You’re,” and I then read the section on global readings of a poem.  I was noticing something in the structure itself similar to what I decided the poem was about and this book gave me the language to explicitly state what I intended.

About a fifth of the book is dedicated to the Great Chain metaphor, in both its basic and extended versions. This section is quite interesting and provided me a far better appreciation for the depth and prevalence of this metaphor. One of the more interesting uses of this section is in their explication of proverbs.

I highly recommend this book as an introduction to metaphor. I have previously read both Metaphors We Live By and Women, Fire and Dangerous Things and no doubt they helped me in reading this book. But I honestly think this might be the best one of the three to begin with. Then move on to Metaphors We Live By, and if you are still interested in the research, and cognitive aspects, of metaphor and concepts then have at Women, Fire and Dangerous Things.

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The Footnote: A Curious History – a review, of sorts

Grafton, Anthony. 1997. The Footnote: A Curious History. Rev. ed. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

This was the first book I read for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

I don’t think I have much to say about this book. I did enjoy it but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It was both more and less. It was more in that it was focused, and fairly deeply, on the footnote in history; i.e., in historical writing or history as discipline. It was less in that it wasn’t a history of footnotes in general.


  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1 Footnotes: The Origin of a Species
  • 2 Ranke: A Footnote about Scientific History
  • 3 How the Historian Found His Muse: Ranke’s Path to the Footnote
  • 4 Footnotes and Philosophie: An Enlightenment Interlude
  • 5 Back to the Future, 1: De Thou Documents the Details
  • 6 Back to the Future, 2: The Antlike Industry of Ecclesiastical Historians and Antiquaries
  • 7 Clarity and Distinctness in the Abysses of Erudition: The Cartesian Origins of the Modern Footnotes
  • Epilogue: Some Concluding Footnotes
  • Index

On the role(s) of the footnote:

“In the modern world … historians perform two complementary tasks. They must examine all the sources relevant to the solution of a problem and construct a new narrative or argument from them. The footnote proves that both tasks have been carried out. It identifies both the primary evidence that guarantees the story’s novelty in substance and the secondary works that do not undermine its novelty in form and thesis. By doing so. moreover, it identifies the work of history in question as the creation of a professional” (4-5).

“Footnotes exist, rather, to perform two other functions. First, they persuade: they convince the reader that the historian has done an acceptable amount of work, enough to lie within the tolerances of the field. … Second, they indicate the chief sources the historian has actually used” (22).

On the dagger in the back:

“Like the shabby podium, carafe of water, and rambling, inaccurate introduction which assert that a particular person deserves to be listened to when giving a public lecture, footnotes confer authority on a writer.
Unlike other types of credentials, however, footnotes sometimes afford entertainment—normally in the form of daggers stuck in the backs of the author’s colleagues. Some of these are inserted politely. Historians may simply cite a work by author, title, place and date of publication. But often they quietly set the subtle but deadly “cf.” (“compare”) before it. This indicates, at least to the expert reader, both that an alternative view appears in the cited work and that it is wrong” (7-8).

Nowadays, most of us know from the conference or the dreaded webinar experience that that “shabby podium, …” does nothing of the kind to assert someone deserves to be listened to, except in the polite professional sense. We may, often as not, be polite by quietly as possible leaving that session.

Footnotes do have their critics:

“More than one recent critic has pointed out that footnotes interrupt a narrative. References detract from the illusion of veracity and immediacy … (Noel Coward made the same point more memorably when he remarked that having to read a footnote resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love” (69-70).

Sadly, some footnotes are like that. Thankfully not all.

The best of all possible footnotes:

“No one negotiated the bibliographical and moral minefields of this brand of scholarship more expertly than the great philosopher Leibniz—who not only proved by metaphysical argument that he was living in the best of all possible worlds, but also proved by extensive archival research and the publication of any number of texts that his patrons, the house of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, could boast of the best of all possible genealogies” (182).

Sorry, I couldn’t help but include this quote as just the previous night before coming across it I was urging Sara to read Candide.

Perhaps my newest motto:

“I am most truly (said Bayle) a protestant; for I protest indifferently against all Systems, and all Sects” (192fn5).

Summation of the history of the footnote:

“Naturally it took time for anything resembling a uniform citation practice to establish itself in the varied ecologies where Europe’s scholars fought with note and claw for intellectual space” (219).

I adore the phrase “fought with note and claw for intellectual space.”

“Footnotes flourished most brightly in the eighteenth century, when they served to comment ironically on the narrative in the text as well as support its veracity. In the nineteenth century, they lost the prominent role of the tragic chorus. Like so many Carmens, they found themselves reduced to laborers and confined to a vast, dirty factory. What began as art became, inevitably, routine” (229).

“One could say much the same … of the footnote. A palimpsest, it reveals on examination research techniques framed in the Renaissance, critical rules first stated during the Scientific Revolution, the irony of Gibbon, the empathy of Ranke, and the savagery of Leo—as well as the slow growth of publishing conventions, educational institutions, and professional structures which reshaped historians’ lives and work” (229).

If one only wanted the extremely short version of the story, the 13-page Epilogue does a pretty good job of recapping the story of the historian’s footnote.

If you like history and historiography then this book is probably for you. If you are looking for a quick introduction and overview then read chapter one and the Epilogue.

12 Books, 12 Months Challenge

A friend who was unhappy with her previous attempts at book clubs, in-person and virtual, decided a book club where we each read whatever it is we want to read might work better. Thus, 12 Books, 12 Months was born.

Here are the rules for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge:

  • Pick 12 titles from your To Read Pile.  These should be titles you currently own in whatever format you prefer.
  • Acquisition of other formats or translations is permitted.  So, if you have a paperback but want to read on your Kindle, you can get a Kindle copy.  If you have a library copy but want to buy your own, that’s kosher.  Heck, if you own a copy and want to check another out from the library, I’m not gonna stop you.
  • Post your list in your public space of choice by September 1, 2010.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your list.
  • Read all 12 titles between now and September 5, 2011.  Might as well tack on an extra long weekend at the end for cramming.
  • When you finish a title on your list, post about it in your public space of choice.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your review.
  • Once a month, I’ll post a round-up of the reviews posted from that month so that we all know what everyone else has read.

My list:

  1. Ronald Gross, Peak Learning I am trying to find some kind of structure (best word I can think of at the moment) to help me get a grip on my own pursuit of lifelong learning and am hoping this might have some ideas that I can (and will) implement. I know goodreads says that I am currently reading this but that was months ago and I will need to start over. I hadn’t got very far anyway.
  2. Catherine C. Marshall, Reading and Writing the Electronic Book I am interested in e-books for a variety of reasons and while I love print books I also think e-books can one day provide immense value over and above the mostly “convenience factor” that they now provide.
  3. Carol Collier Kuhlthau, Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services Even though I expect to disagree a fair bit, I did like some of the ideas from a short bit of Kuhlthau that we read in 501 (intro course), and, really, the title says it all for me. Also, seeing as Kuhlthau is one of the major players in this area I need to know her ideas better if I am going to be critiquing work in this area of the field.
  4. Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening This is another one that I started a while back. I got almost halfway through before being “interrupted” by a couple of weddings and a move. Going to start over. I am interested in Buddhism and its tenets, at least the non-mystical kind. I have another of his books on my TBR shelf that I am also looking forward to reading.
  5. Michel Meyer, Of Problematology: Philosophy, Science, and Language This came recommended by David Bade via his citing it in a couple of places and then some f2f discussion. What is problematology”? The study of questioning.
  6. George Lakoff and Mark Turner, More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor Metaphor and poetry. ‘Nough said.
  7. Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History From the inside jacket blurb: “The weapon of pedants, the scourge of undergraduates, the bete noire of the “new” liberated scholar: the lowly footnote, long the refuge of the minor and the marginal, emerges in this book as a singular resource, with a surprising history that says volumes about the evolution of modern scholarship.” I have been wanting to read this for several years and finally acquired a copy earlier this year.
  8. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, The Social Life of Information I have been wanting to read this ever since it was brought to my attention in LIS501 Fall 2004. In fact, I probably acquired this copy back then so that I could. ::sigh:: Oh well, I’ve had books in storage for this long that I acquired in the mid-80s and still haven’t read. Anyway, hoping that it will have something useful to say about “information” beyond society’s preoccupation with the “stuff.”
  9. Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse I have read a couple of her books and have quite enjoyed them. I am particularly looking forward to rereading Eros the Bittersweet some day.
  10. Jorge Luis Borges, Seven Nights Seven lectures over 7 nights in June and August 1977. Topics are: The Divine Comedy, Nightmares, The Thousand and One Nights, Buddhism, Poetry, The Kabbalah, and Blindness. I have seen these referenced in multiple places and am looking forward to them. I also highly recommend Borge’s This Craft of Verse (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)
  11. Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions Can one really have too much Borges? I think not.
  12. George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss I adore Middlemarch and Silas Marner and also enjoyed the other shorter things of hers I have read. I have this in 2 different editions, the Penguin Classics referenced here and a nice leather bound one from some set of “great books.” I have been wanting to get to this for a while and a couple of months back I read some idiot commenting on free e-books that “If I had wanted to read The Mill on the Floss I would have done so in college!” Screw the idiots of the world! I’ve read a bunch of e-books and almost every one of them has been free. And many of them have been exceptional!
  13. S. R. Ranganathan, Classification and Communication This was recommended to me by fellow student, friend, and all-around-brilliant-guy, Tom Dousa. This, as Tom assured me, will probably run counter to what I believe about the interface of these topics but one must understand one’s betters if one is to critique them.

Whoops! How did I end up with 13 books?

There are scores more books I want to/could read and there are certainly more on my goodreads to-read shelf besides being a couple (or more) score not on the list.

The above are all certainly currently near the top of my TBR list but things changes; i.e., interests, focus, discovery of something previously unknown or just published, ….  Thus, I am going to reserve the right to substitute any book for one on this list.  As I see it I will probably read more than 12 books in the next year anyway so maybe they’ll only be additions. One can hope.

What’s on your list? [Whether or not you intend to participate in this or any other challenge, I am interested.]