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Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium

Volume 23 | Issue 1 Article 5

4-1-1997

Cognitive Metaphor and Literary Theory: Towards


the New Philology
Donald C. Freeman

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Freeman, Donald C. (1997) "Cognitive Metaphor and Literary Theory: Towards the New Philology," Deseret Language and Linguistic
Society Symposium: Vol. 23 : Iss. 1 , Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/dlls/vol23/iss1/5

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Cognitive Metaphor and Literary Theory:
Towards the New Philology

Donald C. Freeman
University of Massachusetts. Amherst

Thanks to a growing body of unanswered criti- That import was not a car. a cheese. or a perfume. It
cism, a scandal over "science studies" involving one of was a product of French intellectual jouissance called
the most influential journals of "cultural studies" and deconstruction. which became coupled to the distinctly
"theory," and a stunning recantation by one of its most IJ(mjouissant Anglo-American lit-crit machine.
renowned practitioners, the ascendancy of so-called Deconstruction has eluded all efforts at succinct
literary "theory" may be coming to an end. Lest we definition, but we might characterize it as an effort to
lapse unwittingly into one of "theory's" laziest intel- interrogate existing paradigms of knowledge by dis-
lectual habits. however, we must remember that in any secting the unstated assumptions, implicit metaphors.
argument for paradigmatic change, mere critique of the etc., of the language in which these paradigms are ex-
status quo, skepticism tout court, is only half the job. pressed. Deconstruction marked the genesis of the new
"Just say no" is just too easy. For the other half of the "interdisciplinarity," a variety of scholarship in which
job-a start at repairing the damage that "theory" has the researcher no longer needs to know much about the
wrought literary criticism and scholarship--we need to "inter" discipline. In the case of this Ur-theory-
develop and institutionalize a new and serious program deconstruction-the "inter" discipline was linguistics.
for literary study. However, by declining to acquire at least the rudi-
After a brief account of the present state of affairs, ments of modern linguistics. Jacques Derrida and his
I will suggest such a program: what I call the New disciples ignored the vast volume of contemporary lin-
Philology-a term encompassing such fields of study guistic research and theory. Instead, they "recuper-
as stylistic~, discourse structure, narratology, contem- ated" a programmatic book representing the work of
porary metrics, the European poetics descended from the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who con-
the Prague School and Russian Fonnalism, the new and veniently wrote in French, but inconveniently died
growing body of research in cognitive metaphor, in 1913.
and enough nonspecialist knowledge of contemporary Now even if Derrida et al. had gotten right the
linguistics to do work in these fields. With the New version of Saussure's work upon which they purport to
Philology as a basis. scholars and critics of literature rely (and there is substantial unrebutted evidence that
and the language of literature can begin restoring they got it wrong), I have always found it passing
literary study to the standing it once enjoyed as a strange that for a philosophical and literary theory based
serious academic discipline. upon language. Derrida turned to a work, Saussure's
In its contemporary form, "theory" began when a Course in General Linguistics, that predates by fifty
French import solidified its presence on these shores. years the theoretical revolution that has created modern
20 DONALD C. FREEMAN

linguistics. This work, moreover, was not written less all knowledge has become the province of,
by the scholar whose name is on the title page, but not sociology and anthropology professors, but
was produced by two of his colleagues and fonner literature professors and their students. We have
students relying entirely on their notes and those seen books by English professors on pedophilia
taken by still other students on Saussure's lectures and cross-dressing; dissertations by English Ph.D.
in his introductory course in general linguistics, students on birthing and Los Angeles thrift shops.
which was unsurprisingly entitled "Course in Gen- The Miltonist Stanley Fish has published a book
eral Linguistics." on literary theory and the law'-not legal themes
It is rather as though we at this conference de- in literature, but essays claiming to show how
veloped a revolutionary new theory of physics, "theory" can deconstruct court decisions, legal
qualified as we are to theorize about physics, based principles, and the like. In an earlier essay that
on the notes of three students in Mathematics 101 became the title piece of his controversial book
as it was taught by Albert Einstein at the Bun- There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and
desinstitut fUr Technik in ZUrich at about the same It's a Good Thing, Too," Fish ventured into Con-
time. Most of us have suffered the damage to our stitutional law, proposing that the United States
self-esteem consequent upon our reading in stu- abandon Constitutional guarantees of free speech
dent exams and term papers their versions of our that have been elaborated in more than two cen-
lecture notes. But even if Charles Bally and Albert turies of jurisprudence and are the envy of an
Sechehaye, the two compilers of Course in Gen- apparently unenlightened world. Instead, Fish
eral Linguistics had themselves gotten Saussure's would assign authority over what speech shall be
thought right (a matter that is not free from permitted to whatever group currently holds po-
doubt), that book is not the source of Saussure' s litical power. All of this work has made bold and
standing among practicing linguists. Just as explicit claims for being "interdisciplinary" or
Einstein was first a physicist and only secondarily "multidisciplinary."
a mathematician, so was Saussure first an Indo- Most recently-and fatefully-"theory" has
Europeanist, a very good one, and secondarily a ventured into what its practitioners call "science
general linguist. Saussure's standing in linguis- studies." Philosophers and some social scientists
tics derives chiefly from his brilliant hypothesis also are involved in this effort, but I will limit
about Indo-European laryngeals. developed in a myself to literature professors. The aim of this
series of complex, technically detailed scholarly work is to interrogate-to put in question, to
papers that most of you doubtless know better problematize-the scientific method, ideas of
than I do--scholarly papers that are not, shall we empirical evidence, scientific objectivity, scien-
say, nightstand reading. tific "laws," and so forth. The flavor of this work
My purpose in this diatribe is not to beat up is perhaps best captured in a comment attributed
on Saussure or the compilers of Course in Gen- to (and not denied by) an editor of the leading
eral Linguistics-far from it. Rather, I mean journal of this brand of cultural studies. Social
to argue that insofar as deconstruction is basic to Text. Said he, "I won't deny that there is a law of
"theory" and "interdisciplinarity," and I believe gravity. I would nevertheless argue that there are
that it is both; and insofar as deconstruction as a no laws in nature, there are only laws in society.
theory in and of itself is founded upon a concep- Laws are things that men and women make, and
tion of language, the House of Theory is like that they can change.'"
unto a house built upon the sand, with the conse- Imagine yourself to be someone who stands
quence, as this audience doubtless will recall, outside this work, who has professional training,
that in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, perhaps primary professional training, in the disci-
chapter X, verse 27, "the rain descended, and the pline that is the "inter-discipline." the discipline
floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that is being joined to "theory." Further imagine,
that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." if you will. that you believe that the "interdisci-
Perhaps the theory crowd hasn't yet gotten to plinary" "theorist" who is writing about your field
the Sennon on the Mount. But the winds, at least. of expertise knows little or nothing about it. What
have been blowing for a long time. The scope of do you do'? You can ignore it. That is what lin-
interdisciplinary "theory" has broadened from the guists did with deconstruction, for I do not know a
base of deconstruction into the New Historicism single linguist who believes in it. Nor am I aware
and, most recently, into what has become known of any published critiques of the deconstructionist
as "cultural studies." In "cultural studies," more or enterprise by academics whose primary field of
COGNITIVE METAPHOR AND LITERARY THEORY 21

scholarly endeavor is theoretical linguistics. Sokal submitted this farrago to the editors of
Although linguists have taken up-indeed, have Social Text, who published it without demur, and,
revolutionized-many literary topics such as significantly, without seeking the advice of a real
metrics, narrative, poetic form, and metaphor, I scientist, as opposed to a practitioner of "science
do not recall more than a half-dozen conference studies." Sokal's essay appeared in Social Text
papers or published articles on deconstruction as a regular article, part of a special issue on the
at meetings of the Linguistic Society of America so-called "science wars."
or in that body's journal, Language. Very few Alas, simultaneously, and without telling the
critiques have been published of the New His- editors of Social Text, Sokal published in the
toricism or cultural studies (with one significant gadfly journal Lingua Franca an essay' exposing
exception, to which I shall shortly turn); at the his "Transgressing the Boundaries" article as a
same time, professional historians of my ac- complete hoax. He adopted this strategy, Sokal
quaintance have been bemused by what they see wrote, to show that "a leading North American
as New Historicism's impossibly na'ive view of journal of cultural studies ... [would] publish an
historiography. article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it
If you can't ignore "theory," you can take up sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideo-
arms against it. John Ellis, who has published logical preconceptions."" His Social Text article
extensively in both literature and linguistics, wrote was. Sokal wrote, a parody of "science studies"
an annihilating critique, Against Decollstruction: that was, in his own words, "a melange of truths,
that sank virtually without trace. I have not seen a half-truths, quarter-truths. falsehoods, non-
single significant replyS to that short book from sequiturs, and syntactically correct sentences that
any of the scholars whose line of work Ellis's have no meaning whatsoever."10 This tempest
book absolutely demolishes. burst forth from the academic teapot into a story
In a sense, these unhappy developments are carried on the front page of the New York Times
not surprising. The problem with trying to refute a one Saturday morning. A torrent of defenses,
body of work in the humanities, particularly in counterattacks, and counter-defenses ensued, cul-
literature, is that the concepts are very slippery, minating (for the moment, at least) in a brilliant
and literary study has little if any tradition of essay in the New York Review o.{ Books eviscerat-
building upon a previous generation's work. As a ing "science studies," written by Steven Wein-
result. there is almost no philosophy of knowledge berg, a physicist who holds the Nobel Prize. II
about literary study. Dismayingly, Social Text's editorial standards
Science, however. has a strong tradition of in the Sokal Affair attracted many staunch
building upon existing foundations. and an entire and prominent defenders. In an essay on the
discipline, the philosophy of science, devoted to Op-Ed page of the New York Times, the ubiquitous
what should count as a scientific fact, scientific Fish assailed Sokal's demonstration as an ethical
argumentation, scientific method, and so on lapse and sought to defend "science studies" by
(notice, by the way, that there is no such thing as comparing the rules of physics to the rules of base-
the humanistic method). So two scientists who be- ball.'2 More sweeping defenses could be heard in
lieved scholars of "science studies" were ludi- private academic corridor chat. A common theme
crously (one might say "Iudically") ignorant of was that Sokal's action had "damaged interdisci-
basic science attacked "science studies," in a book plinary research." What the Sokal affair has dam-
called Higher Superstitioll." This critique drew aged, of course, is had interdisciplinary research.
some attention in the academic world, but virtually Equally disturbing has been the rhetorical success
none outside it. of Social Text's defenders in damage control, lim-
In the spring of 1996, however, this situation iting the scope of Sokal' s critique to "science stud-
changed dramatically. A physicist named Alan ies" in an effort to obscure the larger issue of slip-
Sokal wrote an article, "Transgressing the shod interdisciplinary humanistic research in
Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneu- general. The thread of "interdisciplinarity" con-
tics of Quantum Gravity,'" that appeared to be nects "science studies" to virtually all of the
a practicing physicist's conversion to the cause of remaining "theoretical" enterprises: the faux lin-
"science studies." Among the bolder claims in guistics of deconstruction; what I am reliably
Sokal's essay is his assertion that the famous informed is the faux history of the New Histori-
constant of Euclidean plane geometry, Jt, is a his- cism; the fau.t law of "legal studies," and the faux
torically contingent variable. anthropology and sociology of "cultural studies."
22 DONALD C. FREEMAN

The Sokal Affair has demonstrated with appalling Exactly. Even Fish, a brilliant critic, the best
clarity that the "theory" undertaking has been of my generation, who nevertheless must bear
intellectually flawed from the start: circular, self- a large share of responsibility for the present
serving, and belligerently ignorant. quandary of literary scholarship, has recently con-
I believe that these events constitute a cau- fessed that he "like! s I savouring the physical
tionary narrative. Its moral is: Bad things happen 'taste' of [literary I language at the same time that
when a bunch of mutually validating smart people [heJ workfs] to lay bare its physics.""
think that they are above the rules. For us as The convergence of these developments and
academics, I think these rules include at least the the Sokal Affair suggests that the time is now ripe
following obligations: to make our work and its for a regeneration of literary scholarship using
premises clear to our nonspecialist peers and analytical methods, some of which are new and
to the public; to answer serious critiques of our many of which have been around for a while
work in serious and nondismissive ways; to be but virtually ignored by mainstream literary re-
willing in principle to modify or abandon posi- search.It> This body of work makes it possible to
tions when we cannot answer these critiques; develop what I am pleased to call "real theory":
to protect the right of our intellectual adversar- accounts of literary works, oeuvres, genres, peri-
ies to teach and publish their views. especially ods, etc., that are in principle predictive, explana-
when they oppose our own; to pronounce as tory. and falsifiable. Real theory is crucial to what
experts only where we possess expertise; and, I want to call the New Philology; at the end of
most importantly, to police our own disciplines by this talk I will elaborate what I see as its crucial
calling to account the half-baked and the aspects.
meretricious. I focus here on one such methodology, cogni-
My firm belief that literary study can be saved tive metaphor. Cognitivists argue that metaphor is
from its current leadership may be, as Dr. Johnson a primary mode of thinking that is prior to and
wrote of second marriages, the triumph of hope not restricted to language. On this argument,
over experience. Still. there is room for guarded metaphor is constructed as schematized embodied
optimism. Some of the best and most ardent prac- and enculturated experience-spatial stories, on
titioners of "theory" are beginning to question the latest account-that is projected into abstrac-
assumptions in which their careers are heavily in- tions. Consider. for example. the many ways in we
vested. Frank Lentricchia, the quondam "Dirty think about the abstraction we call "life." One im-
HarryLl of literary theory," has, without explicitly portant way is to think of life as a journey along
admitting it, retracted most of his own "theoreti- a path. Cognitivists say that we project or map a
cal" work. Lentricchia writes: skeletalized mental representation, a schema, of
the elements and structure of our physical experi-
If the authority of a contemporary literary ence of journeys into the abstraction "life." Those
critic lies in his theory of x, then wherein lies elements are a beginning, an end, a route or path
the authority of the theory itself? In disciplines for the journey, something that moves (called a
in which he has little experience and less "trajector"), and a vector of progress. The struc-
training, the typical literary critic who wields ture would include the fact that the path has mar-
a theory is not himself a sociologist, historian, gins and that the normal progress along the path is
or economist, as well as a student of literature. forward from beginning to end. I7
A scandal of professional impersonation? No, Evidence for this analysis is found in idioms
because the impersonators speak only into the like "he's reached the end of the road" (meaning
mirror of other impersonators and rarely to "he has died"), notions of our lives "getting side-
those in a position to test their theories for tracked," that we're "getting on in years," the
fraudulence. An advanced literature depart- idea of "career paths" or, more crucially for this
ment is the place where you can write a dis- audience, "tenure tracks," and so on. But there
sertation on Wittgenstein and never have to is literary evidence, too, in abundance: the first
face an examiner from the philosophy depart- line of the Divine Comedy ("Midway in the jour-
ment. An advanced literature department is ney of our life"), Robert Frost's "The Road Not
the place where you may speak endlessly Taken," Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not
about gender and never have to face the stop for Death," and so on. The claim is that one
scrutiny of a biologist, because gender is just a of the terms in which we think of life is that of
social construction, and nature doesn't exist. I• a journey.
COGNITIVE METAPHOR AND LITERARY THEORY 23

Or consider the many different abstractions In the depths of his despair in Act IV, the protago-
that we conceptualize in terms of our schematized, nist observes:
embodied experience of containers. Containers
consist of a bounded periphery with an inside and [M)y way of life
an outside. We often think of moods and states of Is faWn into the sere, the yellow leaf;
affairs as containers: we are "in a bad mood" or And that which should accompany old age,
"get into [and out ofl trouble." There is no a priori As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
reason why we should think of moods or states of I must not look to have ....
affairs in terms of containers. Yet we find our- V.iii.22-26.
selves "struggling to get out of bad relationships,"
we go "into" and "out of" debt, etc. Debts and bad Here Shakespeare-typically, I suggest-
relationships inhibit our ability to act freely. In blends four metaphorical projections, BAD IS DOWN
cognitive terms, they constrain our freedom of (the opposite of GOOD IS UP, part of the VERTICAL-
movement; we find it difficult to get from the in- ITY schema), LIFE IS A YEAR, LIFE IS A PLANT, and
side to the outside of their containing periphery. LIFE IS A JOURNEY. This last metaphorical projec-
Cognitivists claim that our understanding of tion Shakespeare-again, typically-manages to
these abstractions is not arbitrary, but consistent evoke a second time with one word, "troops,"
with the independently motivated idea of meta- where old age is seen as a kind of triumphal
phorical projection from our schematized, embod- parade with troops of friends passing in review-
ied experience of restriction and containment into along a path.
our frustrated desire to escape what limits our The CONTAINER schema is likewise well estab-
freedom of movement. We map this physical ex- lished by Act V. Lady Macbeth has remarked of
perience into an otherwise unstructured, abstract her husband in Act I that he is "too full 0 'the milk
idea of the emotional state called a mood." of human kindness / To catch the nearest way"
I want to demonstrate how these ideas be- (I.v.14-16). She understands Macbeth's body as a
come a program for "real" literary theory by com- container full of the wrong liquid. She would also
mitting a venial sin: reexamining part of an essay change the liquid that fills the container of her
I recently published ''! on one of the most analyzed own body and seal it:
speeches in literature, the "Tomorrow and tomor-
row and tomorrow" speech in Machcth: Come, you Spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, And fill me, from the crown to the toe,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, top-full
To the last syllable of recorded time; Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools Stop up th'access and passage to remorse;
The way to dusty death. That no compunctious visitings of Nature
Out, out, brief candle! Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, between
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, Th'effect and it!
And then is heard no more: it is a tale I.v.40-47.
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. Both the PATH and CONTAINER schemas are
Machcth, V.v.19-2S.'" crucial in the "To-morrow" speech. There, the
path along which time once traveled so freely for
By this point in Machcth the metaphorical Macbeth has become contained within a "petty
projection LIFE IS A JOURNEY, part of the PATH pace." Shakespeare projects the schematized, em-
schema, is well established in the play's dramatic bodied experience of containers onto the abstrac-
language. In Act I, when Duncan anoints Malcolm tion of depressed frustration. Macbeth is inside
as his successor, Macbeth remarks: the container of his crimes and their conse-
quences, futilely seeking to escape to the outside.
The Prince of Cumberland!-That is a step These consequences are in the future, and it is
On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, that future that constrains Macbeth to the "petty
For in my way it lies. pace" of those "tomorrows." Time and Macbeth
Liv.4S-50. march in measured steps along each point. each
24 DONALD C. FREEMAN

day, of the "way to dusty death," which is as tableau of human mortality (the "fools"), life itself
inevitable an end to that path and that journey (the lamp held by "all our yesterdays"), the trajec-
as the pen of a civil servant recording a legal tory of our lives ("'the way"), and our lives' con-
document, left to right, syllable by syllable, until tainment by the inevitable terminal point of "dusty
the end of time. death." This horizontal spatial tableau now-in
Two vague measures of time now become four words, "Out, out, brief candle!"-is rotated
pluralized and reified in another iteration of the ninety degrees to the vertical, with those entities
LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor. As they "light fools and relationships intact. The path now has its
the way to dusty death," our yesterdays (the source point not in the illuminating lamp of "all our
source point in the PATH schema) illuminate a path yesterdays" but in the flame of the candle. That
forward that is now constrained by the clearly flame of life-for LIFE IS LIGHT-is the trajector, the
visible terminal point of "dusty death." As the moving entity, like the "fools" of 1.22. The flame
"fools" of humankind inevitably march toward now moves vertically, down the brief path from its
that unmoving terminus, their-and Macbeth's- present location in the candle's wick to its extinc-
path becomes a shrinking container, as the tion at the unmoving terminal point of the candle's
metaphors LIFE IS LIGHT and LIFE IS A JOURNEY base, just as the "fools" inevitably move horizon-
become fused, as is represented in Figure I. tally toward the unmoving terminal point of "dusty
Once we understand this passage as cognitive death." Life is still a journey, but that journey now
metaphor enables us to understand it, as the pro- is down the candle-and BAD IS DOWN. The candle.
jection from a complex of very simple, ordinary, like the cone of light thrown by the illuminating
embodied experiences of JOURNEY, PATH, CON- lamp of "all our yesterdays," is a bounded object.
TAINER, and LIGHT, Shakespeare's sheer genius When the candle goes out, darkness will fall, and
unfolds. He lays out a precise horizontal spatial if LIFE IS LIGHT then DEATH IS DARKNESS.

Figure 1

<

o
death -
CD
()
0
"""
light
xx 0
lit path -
0.......

3
CD
yesterdays

vector of time

death
COGNITIVE METAPHOR AND LITERARY THEORY 25

But that is not the end of this story. As candles variety of elements that make up the prototypical
burn down, they cast flickering shadows. The steps Wagnerian opera fit together: Teutonic myth,
of that shadow are, like the "to-morrows" of the symphonic (rather than operatic) orchestral ac-
speech's beginning, constrained to the very short companiment, massive choral singing, powerful
distance that an actor can "strut" (itself a short and theatrical staging of a richness and complexity
constrained step) upon a stage, which is a con- previously associated only with plays. Wagner
strained locus, and for a very short time, much less scored for orchestras and choruses that were
than the one-day minimum implied by "tomorrow" twice the customary size employed in operatic
and "our yesterdays." productions. He even designed an instrument
Finally, Shakespeare's Macheth invokes the called the Wagner tuba to get just the right brass
common metaphor LIFE IS A STORY, describing life sound, the distinctive voice that we hear, for ex-
as a "tale," one of the simplest prose literary ample, in the Siegfried's Funeral section of Die
forms, prototypically a straightforward narrative Goetterdaemmerung. Wagner even wrote his own
line without flashbacks or subplots. But the tale of libretti and then composed the music that tit them.
Macbeth's life is a "tale told by an idiot," and He designed and built a special opera house, the
tales told by idiots lack a coherent time scheme- Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, that would give maxi-
they are journeys without coherent beginnings and mum effect to his totalizing (often terrifyingly
ends. Macbeth' s mature career is, tinally, a narra- totalizing) operatic vision. In Wagner's greatest
tive that is not a straight line but a meaninglessly opera'>, everything tits.
contorted and convoluted path, in which what I think Macheth is like that. Everything tits. It
should have come at the end Chonor, love, obedi- is the shortest of Shakespeare's plays; I don't
ence, troops of friends" [V .iii.25]) came at the think Macheth contains one extra word. And I
beginning, at a time when we think the natural believe that cognitive metaphor as one basis for
movement is upward from where we are. "real" literary theory can demonstrate this claim
Taken together, the CONTAINER and PATH more persuasively than any other theory I know.
schemas interact in this speech to create a four- For once we accept that metaphor is not a matter
dimensional cognitive model of Macbeth's down- of language but a matter of thought prior to lan-
fall: the path of his career becomes a container guage-that, in Mark Turner's felicitous phrase,
that constrains him in height (he can only "creep" metaphor is part of the literary mind"-we can
and "strut"; he can no longer "o'erIeap," as he see that the interaction of the PATH and CONTAINER
does earlier in the play), that constrains him in schemas I have described captures not only the
width ( the "syllables" of time are recorded-and language of the passages I have analyzed, but
limited-horizontally; the actor-trajector in life's many other elements of the play. Indeed, even the
drama can "strut" over no wider an area than critical language written about Macheth over
a theatrical stage), that constrains him in depth the last two centuries is dominated by PATH and
(the "dusty death" of his end is now clearly lit and CONTAINER metaphors.
visible), and that constrains him in time (Mac- For example, by the time the play gets to the
beth's "yesterdays" impel him toward a now enu- "Tomorrow" speech, we have already seen Mac-
merable and tinite set of "tomorrows"). There is a beth's career conventionally metaphorized as a
reason why this speech is one of the most quoted journey along a path. But the beginning of Mac-
and analyzed passages in the literature of the beth's final downfall also invokes the PATH
world-and I believe that a cognitive-metaphoric schema. Birnam Wood travels a path toward its
analysis provides a perspicuous account of that terminal point of Dunsinane. Lady Macbeth sleep-
reason. walks-like that "tale told by an idiot," the path of
This kind of intense microanalysis is by no her journey is deranged: it has no coherent begin-
means all that cognitive metaphor can tell us ning or end. Shakespeare portrays Duncan's
about this play. I have come to regard Macheth as deathbed as being in a room contained in a castle
a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk, one of those untrans- contained within a wall, strongly foregrounding
latable German nominal compounds meaning each of these elements. Macbeth himself remarks
roughly "total or totalizing work of art." I tirst en- at dusk that "light thickens," as though it had been
countered that term in reading about the operas boiled down in the container of the witches' caul-
of Richard Wagner, which some musicologist dron whose contents are simmered, as they put it,
(whose name I have long since forgotten) charac- to a "gruel thick and slab." And Macduff as the
terized as Gesamtkunstwerke. All of the great embodiment of retribution brings the CONTAINER
26 DONALD C. FREEMAN

and PATH schemas full circle. He finally forces advanced students in literature-English litera-
Macbeth literally to reverse direction on the path ture, at any rate-studied English lanKuaKe and
of his life ("Turn, Hell-hound, turn" [V.viii.3]). In literature, and were obliged as a part of their pro-
his birth by Cesarean section, Macduff leaves fessional training to have firsthand acquaintance
the container of his mother's womb "[u]ntimely with English and Germanic philology and the
ripp'd" (V.viii.16) from the conventional child- then-contemporary analytical tools, knowledge,
bearing path (metaphorized in English as "the and theoretical insights available for their study.
birth canal") when he begins the journey of his Justifications for that requirement have not weak-
life. Macheth is a Gesamtkunstwerk. ened; on the contrary, the Chomskian and post-
Now this analysis doubtless could be im- Chomskian theoretical revolutions in linguistics
proved. But I do not know of any close-grained and the huge expansion of our knowledge about the
study of this speech's language that connects human faculty of language greatly strengthen
as much of that language as does this analysis to the case for requiring that advanced literature
the play's larger issues and other dramaturgical students study English language in its contempo-
elements: its plot, the structure of particular rary theoretical paradigms-for its substance, to
events, and so on. I believe that these virtues arise be sure, but just as important, for the intellectual
from the theory of language upon which it is style of modern linguistics. Linguistics has tradi-
based, which in tum undergirds the program of lit- tions of frank and spirited debate; of fundamental
erary research and scholarship that I propound discussion of what constitutes a theory and how
here. a theory can be supported or falsified; of deep re-
Cognitive metaphor is an important part of spect for facts and for evidence; and, despite the
what I propose to call the New Philology. The strongly left-wing political orientation of many
New Philology would assert for the present work prominent linguists (a commitment demonstrated
that literary criticism of dramatic poetry begins not only in words, but in deeds), a traditional reluc-
with a rigorous analysis of its core metaphorical tance to equate particular scholarly approaches
projections, along the lines of the foregoing with personal politics. Contemporary doctoral
claims for PATH and CONTAINER metaphors as students in literature should have a more than
crucial to a reading of Macheth, part of which nodding acquaintance with contemporary theories
I have articulated here; in Othello, the KNOWING of language: syntax, phonology, semantics, prag-
IS SEEING metaphorical projection and its progeny; matics, discourse.
in KinK Lear,22 BALANCE metaphors; and, in I believe that the decline to virtually zero of
Antony and Cleopatra, metaphors of CONTAINER, philology-the broad range of linguistic fact and
LINKS, and PATH. 21 This methodology most highly theory that was crucial in the training of literature
values those analyses that give the deepest and scholars-has occurred pari passu with the ascen-
broadest account of those projections and their dancy of "theory." I am convinced that at least
operation in both the play's language and in its in the English-speaking world, the professional
plot, characterization, stage business, stage prop- training and now the paradigms of research and
erties, etc. publication in literary study have fallen prey
I call this work the New Philology to make it to an intellectual Gresham's Law: Bad ideas
clear that I am not advocating a return to the Good have largely driven out good. Ideas that can be
Old Philology that I was driven through: Gothic, parodied so successfully that the parody fools self-
i-mutation in Old Norse, and Hartmann von Aue's proclaimed experts are bad ideas. Ideas whose
Middle High German courtly epic, Der Anne Hein- proponents will not answer serious critiques are
rich. Memories. memories. That stuff sure was old, bad ideas. Ideas expressed in deliberately and de-
but most of it really wasn't very good. Rather. I de- fiantly, even proudly, obscurantist language~.j are
nominate this work The New Philology in the hope bad ideas. Ideas that have been shown to be
that this approach to English studies will come to founded on fundamental errors in the disciplines
be seen as the truly interdisciplinary venture in lin- of which their proponents profess knowledge are
guistics and literature that it is. At the same time. as bad ideas. Ideas whose defenders routinely engage
I have suggested, the rubric of the New Philology in ad hominem etfeminam attacks, guilt by associ-
would encompass other contemporary interdiscipli- ation, and self-serving claims of personal and
nary research in the language of literature. political virtue are bad ideas. As I remarked to an
I do wish to acknowledge one link of the New audience in Budapest three months ago, scholars in
Philology to the past. There was a time when that part of the world will perhaps have had more
COGNITIVE METAPHOR AND LITERARY THEORY 27

first-hand acquaintance than have my colleagues in 6. Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher
this country with the lethal combination of intel- Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with
lectual correctness and political correctness. Science (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univer-
But it does not suffice, as I suggested at the sity Press. 1994).
outset, to bemoan these developments, even though 7. Social Text. #46/47 (1996): 217-52.
the Sokal Affair has demonstrated that growing 8. Alan Sokal, "A Physicist Experiments with
academic and public concern about the decline of Cultural Studies." Lingua Franca 6.1 (1996): 62-64.
the humanities is well founded. We must present a 9. Ibid., 62,
constructive and serious alternative program to the 10, Alan Sokal, "Afterword," in Social Text (in
bad ideas of "theory." I believe that the New press).
Philology is such a program, one that can help re- II. Steven Weisberg, "Sokal's Hoax," New York
direct literary scholarship toward insights that are Review or Books, August 8, 1996, 11-16.
rigorous. falsifiable, and humanized. 12. Stanley Fish, "Professor Sokal's Bad Joke,"
If we would but hear it, the Sokal Affair is a New York Times, May 21, 1996, 23 [National Edition].
wakeup call. Thanks to twenty and more years of 13. "Dirty Barry" was the sobriquet of a t1Im char-
"theory," the serious study of literature has suf- acter. a highly unorthodox San Francisco police lieu-
fered enormous damage, the full consequences of tenant. played by the American movie star Clint East-
which are only beginning to be realized. 25 I be- wood in several films in the 1970s and 1980s, The films
lieve that the New Philology offers us a promising immortalized the phrase, "Make my day."
basis upon which to reconstruct the study of litera- 14. Frank Lentricchia, "Last Will and Testament
ture as an academic discipline: literary analysis of an Ex-Literary Critic," Lingua Franca 6.6 (1996): 65,
and criticism whose merits do not depend on its 15. Stanley Fish, "Why Literary Criticism Is Like
author's politics; literary analysis and criticism Virtue," in Professional Correctness: LiterGl)' Studies
that is open, explicit. and arguable; literary analy- and Political Change (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1995),
sis and criticism that is, in the best sense, real 110.
literary theory. I belive that the New Philology is 16. As with interdisciplinary research in the
such a program, one that can help redirect literary humanities. the problem with "theory" hasn't been
scholarship toward insights that are rigorous, falsi- the idea of theory, but bad practices in the theoretical
fiable, and humanized. enterprise-"bad" in the senses I will suggest in the fol-
lowing discussion.
17. The best and clearest account I know of the
LIFE tS A JOURNEY metaphor is to be found in George
Lakoff and Mark Turner. More Than Cool Reason: A
Notes Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1989).
I. Stanley Fish. Doing What Comes Naturally 18. For a full account of the CONTAINER schema,
(Durham. NC: Duke University Press. 1989). see Mark Johnson, The Body ill the Mind (Chicago:
2. Stanley Fish. There's No Such Thing as Free University of Chicago Press, 1987), 21-23.
Speech. and It's a Good Thing. Too (New York and Ox- 19. H'Catchling] the nearest way': Macbeth and
ford: Oxford University Press. 1994). 102-19. Cognitive Metaphor." Journal of' PraMmatics 24 (1995):
3, Andrew Ross. comment in a lecture at the 689-708. Sec this essay for a fuller account of the
New York Academy of Sciences. February 7. 1996. analyses I sketch out here of carl ier speeches in the
Cited by Sheila Peuse. <http://weber.u.washington.edu/ play.
~jwalsh/ sokal/peuse,cgi>. 20. All citations are from Mac/)eth, ed. Kenneth
4. John Ellis. Against Deconstruction (Princeton. Muir, the Arden Shakespeare [Third Series] (London
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), and New York: Routledge. 1984).
5. The only review I have been able to find that is 21. Mark Turner. The Literary M illd (New York
even arguably of any substance adroitly skips over what and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
I believe to be Ellis's central claim: that deconstruction 22, See Donald C. Freeman .... According to my
proceeds from a theory of language and that Derrida and bond': King Lear and Re-Cognition," Language and
his followers have deeply. grievously, perhaps even de- Literature 2 (1993): 1-18.
liberately. misread the Course in General Linguistics, 23, I take up these claims for Othello and Antony
See Christopher Norris. "Limited Think: How Not to and Cleopatra, as well as more extended versions of the
Read Derrida," Diacritics 20.1. (1990): 17-36. arguments presented here for King Lear and Macbeth,
28 DONALD C. FREEMAN

in my forthcoming book, Shakespearean Metaphor:


A Cognitive Approach.
24. See, for example, the exchange between
Donald Morton and a number of interlocutors in PMLA
III (1996): 133-34,470-72.
25. For a similar account from a different perspec-
tive, see William E. Cain, "A Literary Approach to Lit-
erature: Why English Departments Should Focus on
Close Reading, Not Cultural Studies," Chronicle of
Higher Education, December 13, 1996, B-4-5. The title
alone is astonishing. Imagine an essay in Science
entitled "A Biological Approach to Biology."