Publication details [#359]

Birgisson, Bergsveinn. 2012. Skaldic blends out of joint: Blending theory and aesthetic conventions. Metaphor and Symbol 27 (4) : 283–298. 16 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
London: Psychology Press


This article discusses in what way metaphor theory is related to aesthetics. In particular, the claims of universality laid down by blending theory are questioned. The problem is addressed using literary examples from Old Norse skaldic poetry (9th–14th centuries), which contain kennings, i.e., novel metaphors. The term kenning-variant is used to label the linguistic realisations of kenning-models, which in turn are conventional conceptual metaphors. In contrast to the conceptual metaphors discussed in contemporary cognitive linguistic literature, skaldic metaphors are not rooted in the classic Greco-Roman aesthetic tradition of claritas and harmony, but in a pre-Christian aesthetic concept unique to the North. The general aim with kennings is not, as it is with contemporary conceptual metaphors, to make the abstract concrete but to make the concrete unusual. The conclusion drawn is that the mental processes involved in the interpretation of metaphors can be influenced by aesthetic context and that the issues of differing aesthetic conventions need to be addressed within contemporary metaphor theory.