Reclaiming a unified American narrative
Lexical, grammatical, and story metaphors in a discussion of polarized identities
As part of an on-going project to apply metaphor analysis to understanding the cultural polarization that has recently obstructed discourse about political and cultural issues in both the United States and Europe, this essay examines the lexical, grammatical, and story metaphors in a recent editorial column, by conservative columnist Ross Douthat, that also focuses on this topic. In a key section of the essay, Douthat uses a blend of complex grammatical and lexical metaphors to highlight the contrast between the traditional American identity narrative of settlement and conquest and a recently emerged liberal counter-narrative, which Douthat epitomizes by quoting former President Obama’s repeated insistence that “That’s not who we are.” Douthat’s argument is contextualized by the reproduction of an image with the title “Engraving of a massacre of Indian women and children in Idaho by 19th century white settlers,” which strengthens the contrasts and implied ironies embedded in his complex combination of grammatical and lexical metaphors. These relationships are brought into sharp focus through the metaphor-led analysis of the text and its interaction with the image, demonstrating the value of this approach to discourse analysis.
Keywords: metaphor, narrative, American national identity, cultural polarization, Trumpism
Published online: 05 November 2019
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