Fostering Understanding of the Role of Metaphors in Interdisciplinary Contexts
An important goal of teaching the humanities, specifically composition classes, should involve helping students understand the role of language in the making of meaning. Metaphor, in this context, is usually discussed as a characteristic of language alone. However, Lakoff and Johnson (1980) suggest that "metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature"(39). Thus, the metaphors we use directly influence our beliefs, actions, decisions, and ultimately our research and cultural norms. Understanding this process, however, is conceptually difficult for students since their surface use of language often goes unexplored. Therefore, several activities are necessary to foster a deeper insight regarding the implications of Lakoff and Johnson's influential work. This paper/presentation will detail the various activities that assist students with building a deep understanding of this theory and its implications. The tasks students complete also develop skills in close reading, summarizing, illustrating, comparing and contrasting, analyzing, reflecting on their writing process, and conducting productive research in scholarly journals. Sample student work will also be presented. Ultimately, this set of scaffolded activities leads to a change in how students view the world, empowering individuals to understand how they shape their reality and how others shape theirs, but most importantly, how such meanings are subject to modification. This is an important goal of the humanities.
Keywords: Metaphor, Interdisciplinary Knowledge, Writing process, Critical thinking skills, Empowerment, Language
Dr. Marlene Szymona
Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Science, Department of Writing and Communications, National University