What is it about?

A logical consequence of Lakoff and Johnson's claim that metaphor is first and foremost a matter of thought and action, and only derivatively a matter of language, is that metaphors should also be ubiquitous in visuals. And indeed they are. Advertising is a genre that often uses visual metaphors to make claims about products and services. This book shows how Black's (1979) "interactive/creative" theory of metaphor works unproblematically for visual metaphors. Several subtypes of visual metaphor are identified, one of which (the "verbo-pictorial" metaphor) I would later rebaptize as one type of "multimodal" metaphor. About multimodal metaphor I wrote a series of papers and chapters. With Eduardo Urios-Aparisi, I co-edited Multimodal Metaphor (Mouton de Gruyter 2009).

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Why is it important?

Proposing that, and how, metaphors can be expressed visually and multimodally helped substantiate Conceptual Metaphor Theory's claim that metaphor is a key conceptual tool in human thinking and acting. Moreover, visual metaphor constitutes an intriguing form of visual communication and visual rhetoric. Its theorization thereby feeds into visual and multimodality studies.


An updated, and more complete perspective on this topic was developed in my online course on pictorial and multimodal metaphor. Since the appearance of this monograph -- which also has a chapter arguing for the pertinence of relevance theory for theorizing visual communication -- I have refined, and expanded on, various of its ideas. In later work I have focused on other genres besides advertising (e.g, political cartoons -- see El Refaie [2003]); on moving (as opposed to static) images, specifically commercials and films; and I have started to investigate not just Blackian creative metaphors, but Lakoffian conceptual ones. Animation films is a great medium for examining conceptual metaphors. Another direction in which my work has developed is in addressing other tropes besides metaphor, such as metonymy, antithesis, and allegory.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

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This page is a summary of: Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising, January 2002, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.4324/9780203064252.
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