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Metaphors We Live By

Finally, I read chapter 7. The reason I wanted to be in the Deeper Reading group is that two years ago, I picked up this dense and wonderful book called Metaphors We Live By. I haven't finished it yet (each chapter sustains me for about a month's worth of thinking). Anyway, after the groups presented last year, I decided I had to get Deeper Reading because it suggests ways to teach with metaphor. Gallagher draws from Metaphors We Live By several times, but for me most helpfully here:

...George Lakoff and Mark Johnson contend that by teaching students to think in metaphorical terms we are helping them cultivate an "imaginative rationality." When we ask a student to think metaphorically, they note, we "permit an understanding of one kind of experience in terms of another, creating coherences by virtue of imposing gestalts that are structured by natural dimensions of experience. New metaphors are

capable of creating new understandings, and, therefore, new realities." (235)

I was prepared to argue against Gallagher's use of metaphor to interpret meaning from text because my growing understanding of Lakoff's work is that the metaphors we live by, the ones embedded in our language, and therefore our thinking, limit us. For example, Lakoff describes the "shapes" of common metaphors, like happiness is up (things are really looking up today), or the future is a container (we need to build for a better tomorrow). However, we all know that happiness is more complicated than our cliches would have us believe. It is a complex combination of pain and joy and the proper spirit to navigate their divide. My concern about Gallagher's approach was that if we give students metaphorical organizers for their literary interpretations, we would enable them to avoid complexities, the very ones that he would have us call "imaginative rehearsals" for life's moral dilemmas.

However, by the end of chapter 7, Gallagher offers his own disclaimers. The metaphorical organizers he offers are not to be used like worksheets. Each metaphor ought to arise organically from the text under study, and students should be encouraged to create their own metaphors. Furthermore, when completing a metaphorical analysis, students should be encouraged to do so in metaphorical terms.

So the curmudgeon in me is thwarted, and the poet is singing. I get to teach metaphor all the time, not just during creative writing units!


Jen, you've enlighted me. I was delighted to have the format about metaphore beccause I find that students who need a visual to understand can benefit from a prompt that will help them contain the idea in their brain. Especially with younger students I find it improtant to give as many hooks for memory as possible so that later they will have a reference. I also know that some children come (or are born??) understanding metaphore and can blow them like bubbles about nearly anything they encounter.
Thanks for insight!

What a great insight. I, too, loved the metaphor section of his book. I agree that students should create their own metaphors, but like Lynn said, some students can come up with them almost instantly where others struggle. I put together some graphic organizers to help students create metaphors in the hope that they will see the important components and eventually create their own. It's a lot longer process than most people realize.