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Motives for Metaphor

Literacy, Curriculum Reform, and the Teaching of English

by James E. Seitz

Publication Year: 1999

Despite urgent calls for reform, composition, literature, and creative writing remain territorial, competitive fields. This book imagines ways in which the three English camps can reconnect. Seitz contends that the study of metaphor can advance curriculum reform precisely because of its unusual institutional position. By pronouncing equivalence in the very face of difference, metaphor performs an irrational discursive act that takes us to the nexus of textual, social, and ideological questions that have stirred such contentious debate in recent years over the function of English studies itself. As perhaps the most radical (yet also quotidian) means by which language negotiates difference, metaphor can help us to think about the politics of identification and the curricular movements such a politics has inspired.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Front Cover

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pp. 1-9


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pp. ix-x


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pp. 16-11

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pp. xi-xii

This book, like many books, was a long time in the making, and there are numerous people who provided intellectual and emotional sustenance as my project evolved over the years. For their encouragement and perceptive response when I first began to investigate theories of metaphor as a graduate student at New York University, ...

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Prologue: Metaphor and the English Studies Curriculum

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pp. 1-20

What strikes me about these lines—and brings me back to them again and again—is the irony, the near contradiction, of the addressee’s enjoyment (“You like it . . .”) and the objects of that enjoyment: things that are “half dead”; the wind “like a cripple”; the repetition of “words without meaning.” ...

Part One. Paradox

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1. Aberrant Figures: Composition and the “Teaching” of Metaphor

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pp. 23-57

I have often been struck—particularly during the past academic year, while the English department in which I teach has been engaged in discussions of curricular reform—by the reiterated wish on the part of faculty members that students who enter upper-division courses be able “to know a metaphor when they see one.” ...

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2. Higher Learning: Reading (for) Metaphor in the Literature Class

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pp. 58-90

Like many others, I have long thought that introductory courses, be they in composition or in literature, present the most formidable challenge for teachers of college English. But lately I am not so sure. While “freshman composition” and “sophomore literature,” as they are often termed, both remain a special kind of pedagogical project, ...

Part Two. Possibility

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3. Literal Fictions: Equivalence, Difference, and the Dialogic Metaphor

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pp. 93-128

One of the most striking features of contemporary theories of metaphor lies in how often these theories refer to the “speaker” and the “hearer” of metaphor—as if figurative language were primarily an oral phenomenon. While it is evident that some theorists, in recognition of the fact that metaphor occurs in texts as well as in speech, ...

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4. “Other Formulations”: Reading and Writing the Fragmentary Text

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pp. 129-154

In one of his most celebrated novels, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979), Calvino creates a narrative structure that places the act of reading itself at the center of attention. As a writer who revels in complicated fictional patterns, Calvino accomplishes this metatextual feat through two unusual techniques— ...

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5. Performing Selves: The Writer as Metaphor

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pp. 155-193

In his tour de force, Exercises in Style, Raymond Queneau presents a deceptively simple narrative in ninety-nine different ways, each of which represents an alternative stylistic approach to the “same” set of characters and events. Since the plot, which describes a minor conflict on a bus, seems relatively innocuous, ...

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Epilogue: Toward a Metaphoric Curriculum

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pp. 194-208

The preceding chapters have proposed that a reconception of the English studies curriculum might begin with a reconception of metaphor, both because of its overlapping position among the disciplinary domains within that curriculum (literature, composition, creative writing, and so on) and because of its unique way of negotiating “difference” ...


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pp. 209-232

Works Cited

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pp. 233-248


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pp. 249-254

Back Cover

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pp. 274-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780822971993
E-ISBN-10: 0822971992
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822956921
Print-ISBN-10: 0822956926

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 1999

Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture
Series Editor Byline: David Bartholomae and Jean Ferguson Carr, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 300729943
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Motives for Metaphor

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English philology -- Study and teaching.
  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • Report writing -- Study and teaching (Higher).
  • Curriculum change.
  • Literacy.
  • Metaphor.
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