Publication details [#2779]

Bowden, Darsie. 1993. The limits of containment: Text-as-container in composition studies. Sextas Jornadas de Jóvenes Investigadores de la Universidad de Alcalá 44 (3) : 364–379. 16 pp.


A study of the use of the container metaphor in discussion of writing. The use of metaphor allows for discussion of difficult-to-conceptualize topics. The container metaphor is used not only for writing, but to describe many facets of the human experience. It has been proposed that this is largely due to the metaphoric understanding of human bodies as containers. Various examples of the metaphor in writing are presented, and implications are discussed. It is suggested that this theory, widely accepted among linguists, needs to be examined among composition writers. The main danger of this metaphor is the possibility of viewing the material on paper as decontextualized and isolated from the rest of the writer's world knowledge. This is a challenge to the idea that knowledge is ever changing. The container metaphor also suggests that the meaning or "content" of a word lies in the word itself, not in the writer or reader. Other limits are discussed, including ownership and boundaries on creativity. Alternative metaphors at times appear in writing texts, but the dominant metaphor is that of the container. Suggestions for teaching in a different metaphor language are offered. (Copyright 1994, Sociological Abstracts, Inc., all rights reserved.) (T. Wilmott in LLBA 1994, vol. 28, n. 1)