What is it about?

This handbook chapter outlines various types of pictorial/visual metaphor (the contextual, hybrid, simile, and verbo-pictorial types) and explains how they differ from multimodal metaphors: metaphors whose target and source domain are represented exclusively or predominantly in different "modes." The modes discussed here are the visual an the written-verbal modes. The metaphors in five print advertisements and one short animation film are analysed.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson 1980) claims that humans can only understand abstract phenomena by systematically comparing them with concrete, physical ones. Put differently, our species draws on embodied metaphors of the ABSTRACT TARGET DOMAIN A IS CONCRETE SOURCE DOMAIN B, by mapping/projecting features from the source domain to the target domain. A consequence of the view that we THINK (not just write and talk) via metaphors is that metaphors inevitably also surface in visual and multimodal representations. Issues briefly addressed include the influence of genre on metaphor identification and interpretation, the difference between creative and structural metaphor, and the fact that other tropes besides metaphor await theorization from a cognitivist perspective.


In later work have delved deeper into most of the issues raised in this 2008 chapter, for instance in chapters in Klug and Stoeckl (2016) and Fahlenbrach (2016). Over the past few years I have co-authored papers on small corpora of political cartoons featuring metaphors. A forthcoming chapter (in Manuela Romano, ed., Metaphor in Social-Political Contexts. Critical, Socio-Cognitive Approaches. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, planned for 2023 or 2024) provides guidelines for how to identify and interpret visual and multimodal metaphors in political cartoons.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Metaphor in Pictures and Multimodal Representations, September 2008, Cambridge University Press, DOI: 10.1017/cbo9780511816802.028.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page