Review of Andreas Musolff. 2016. Political metaphor analysis. Discourse and scenarios. Bloomsbury, 194 p

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Abstract



Metaphors in political discourse have recently attracted the attention of many prominent scholars (Anikin, Budayev, Chudinov 2015; Budaev, Chudinov 2017; Charteris-Black 2014; Ponton 2016 among others). Being an important and widely used expressive means, metaphor has a great impact on the course of political communication. Scholars refer to it as “the most relevant of the figures of speech used in political discourse” (Arroyo 2010: 416) and point to its connection with other figures of speech, such as irony and sarcasm (Charteris-Black 2014; Musolff 2017). Metaphor is aimed at strengthening the speaker’s arguments and enhancing the interest of the audience. According to the researchers, metaphor is a kind of mirror where national consciousness on a particular stage of development is reflected, regardless of anybody’s preferences (Budaev, Chudinov 2017). Consequently, political metaphor is a whole set of mirrors reflecting different aspects of social life. Metaphors make it possible to depict a complicated problem as a less difficult one, single out some of its aspects, accentuating it or, on the contrary, distracting public attention from it. Metaphors can point to possible solutions and warn against negative consequences. They reflect the peculiarities of national mentality and stereotypes and reveal conflicting issues. The meaning of metaphors lies in their captivating nature: “metaphors have the capacity to remain in the collective consciousness for a long time after they have been coined” (Arroyo 2010: 416). The research of metaphors has a great significance. Developing the theory of G. Lakoff and M. Johnson (Lakoff, Johnson 1980), scholars state that metaphor is more than a rhetoric device, it is a cognitive process between the addresser and the addressee (Budaev, Chudinov 2017), (Charteris-Black 2005). The character and frequency of metaphors largely depend on the recipient. They may perform different functions, forming a positive or negative attitude to its object (Musolff 2017). In Andreas Musolff’s book “Political metaphor analysis. Discourse and scenarios” the focus is on political metaphors in their close connection with political reality. Metaphors both form the current political tendencies and appear due to existing situation. The author states that metaphors “are organized around prototypical core concepts that shade into less typical examples” (37). Thus, the notion ‘domain’ is too vague to provide a sufficient grounding for metaphors. According to the author, metaphors form clusters which group around certain political notions and trends. Andreas Musolff suggests a scenario-oriented approach, which describes the emergence of a metaphor, defines the life and time of a metaphor scenario. The author gives a detailed analysis of the situations that lead to the creation of a new metaphor, its further development and a “complex of blending effects” (52). It is stated that metaphors might be “phenomena of long and short duration”, depending on the sphere they belong to and on political situation. Some of these spheres are pointed out. For example, the author regards political conflict as war, and metaphors used in this context refer to the notions of fight and battle. Closely connected with the war is another sphere - racism. This topic has always posed a great challenge for creating new metaphors as well as developing the old ones. Here A. Musolff recalls the “most horrific and far-reaching case of a metaphor becoming reality <...> the reconceptualization of Jewish people from a group defined as ‘a parasite race’ in German Nazi discourse” (23). The metaphor is still alive. Like in Hitler’s rhetoric, which considered Jews as “parasites in the body of other peoples”, some contemporary politicians describe “immigrants as parasites” (80), which gives rise to impairing tolerance and raising national hatred. Considerable attention is paid to family scenarios, which split into several groups: parent-child relationship; kinship terms (baby, children, cousins across the channel etc.); married life (couple, third partner, adultery, separation, divorce, marriage of convenience) (31-32). A large group is represented by body-based metaphors, such as: the transplant of a European organ onto the British body (Financial Times 17 January 2013) (P. 61), body politic, state body, collective body of the people (P. 62-63). The author states, that there are heart, body and belly metaphors; moreover, nations tend to associate themselves with certain organs/parts of body, considering the whole of it to be the world. Interpretation of the nation as body metaphor is related to particular discourse traditions and rely on socially dominant scenarios. The author stresses that these scenarios are “entrenched in their discourse communities” (131). There are other ways of metaphorizing nations, for example, representing them as persons. The author states that the metaphorization of a nation/state as a person goes beyond “grammar agency’ and “entails far-reaching political evaluations” (111). The understanding of metaphors requires four stages: reception, semantic reconstruction, interpretation, ideological acceptance (134). Both sides are engaged in the process - the speaker and the recipient, so metaphor production and interpretation is collaboration, which inevitably requires efforts of all the interlocutors. In conclusion, Musolff expands on scenario-based approach as the one that has advantages over others because “clusters of metaphor occurrences are related to certain political tendencies” (133) and are viewed in connection with the existing situation. Nevertheless, the author points out that the analysis of metaphor scenarios is not a replacement but a complement to other levels of cognitive metaphor study (138). The importance of this research is evident, for the communicative social and political “responsibility for any action ensuing political metaphors lies with their users and interpreters” (139). Andreas Musolff’s book opens vast perspectives for further development of research on metaphors. The analyzed material is up-to-date and sets a vivid example of current political speech. The results of the study can be used in teaching rhetoric, political discourse analysis, theory and practice of the English language.

Anna A Gornostaeva

Moscow State Linguistic University

Email: anngornostaeva@yandex.ru
Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Translation and Pedagogics

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