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Reviews371 Metaphors ofMind in Fiction and Psychology, by Michael S. Kearns; viii & 247 pp. Lexington: University ofKentucky Press, 1987, $25.00. "It is astonishing what a different result one gets by changing the metaphor! Once call the brain an intellectual stomach, and one's ingenious conception of the classics and geometry as ploughs and harrows seems to setde nothing. But then . . . call the mind a sheet of white paper or a mirror, in which case one's knowledge of the digestive process becomes quite irrelevant." So writes George Eliot (The Mill on the Floss), one of the subjects of Michael Kearns's admirable study of metaphors of mind in fiction and psychology. Like Eliot, Kearns is concerned with various and changing metaphors of mind and with their implications for the ways in which we understand mental phenomena and their relations to the world at large. Kearns's study concentrates on the period from the beginning of the eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century, a period in which metaphors of mind undergo a momentous change from the metaphor "mind-as-entity" (the mind as a discrete, tangible and localized entity) to that of "sentience-as-life" (the life of mind as a living sentient whole identical in all significant respects with the person with whose physical body it is associated). However, Kearns argues that change did not occur uniformly, either between or within the two discourses—psychology and literature—with which he is principally concerned. "Between," because, in fact, literature led the way: sentience-as-life metaphors are apparent in novels from the beginning of the nineteenth century but do not emerge in psychological works until the end ofthe century. "Within," because though from the early eighteenth century until these later developments in literature and psychology some writers, both literary and psychological, recognized limitations in the mind-as-entity construct, they were unable to dissociate themselves from its characteristic modes ofmetaphoric articulation. Such discursive tensions and the efforts to overcome them constitute Kearns's central subject: "the search for a language ofthe mind in the midst ofchanging concepts ofthe mind" (p. 3). Kearns's account ofthe search is a model ofinterdisciplinary inquiry bridging physiology, psychology, philosophical psychology and mainstream English fiction (Richardson, Sterne, Charlotte Brontë, Dickens, George Eliot, Henry James). The account is no mere procession of major instances (though persuasive readings of Locke, Hume, Mill, Spencer and others are also offered). Lesser known figures (Bain, Upham, Carpenter, Lewes) are also represented and all discussions are informed by a conception of metaphor outlined in a valuable chapter on metaphor theory. The conception is contextual (metaphors as embedded in particular discernible intentional contexts) and draws on Grice's "cooperative principle" (authorial expectation that readers will acknowledge au- 372Philosophy and Literature thorial intentions and readerly agreement so to do). A key distinction established here is between "theory-constitutive" and "generative" metaphors: while the former tend to help further elaborate an existing view of the world, the latter possess adegree ofnovelty that helps to generate a new theory. Kearns proposes that the metaphor mind-as-entity often performs a theory-constitutive function in both fictional and psychological writings of the eighteenth century; by contrast , in some nineteenth-century fiction the metaphor sentience-as-life performs a generative function. A familiar limitation in much work of this kind is that literature tends to be reduced to the status of the merely evidential. Though some of Kearns's readings —Sterne, Richardson—offer little more than this, his accounts of other novelists have important potential critical implications—for instance, his discussion of the ways in which Dickens and Brontë elaborate and threaten, but fail to transcend, the mind-as-entity conception. The extended critical readings offered (Eliot and James) are impressively detailed and acknowledge subde but significant distinctions between texts. That these readings are so instructive is in part a function of Kearns's determination, in respect of both literature and intellectual history, to see pre-Freudian texts and their mentalistic metaphors in their own terms, "without Freudian conceptual and terminological baggage" (p. 18). Such a determination typifies a book in some respects written against the current of recent developments in literary studies. So too does the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 371-372
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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