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.