Publication details [#10266]

Steen, Gerard J. 1990. How to do things with metaphor in literature. English for Specific Purposes LXVIII (3) : 658–671. 14 pp.
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Article in journal
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Steen addresses the question of how to do things with metaphor in literature from the perspective of new developments in literary studies. There is an ambiguity in this question that pertains to the agent of the doing of things with metaphor in literature: Is this the reader or the researcher of literature? The question is whether there are differences in the understanding of metaphor when people read literary texts in contrast with non-literary texts. An experimental study will allow for an exploration of the role of metaphor in literary comprehension. It can be expected that readers will experience a literary text without metaphors as less literary than a literary text with metaphors. The experiment consists of two parts: In a first part the signalling function of metaphors for literariness was studied by a manipulation of the experimental text. The second task consisted of an underlining task in which subjects had to underline 10 typically literary passages. The experiment shows that the presence or absence of metaphors does not influence the literary status of a text. This insight may have a bearing on the teaching of literature in that the classification of texts as literary cannot proceed via the road of metaphoricity alone; students are able to identify most metaphors in a text correctly. (Sabine De Knop)