22 September – Charles Forceville

LIFE IS A JOURNEY: Embodied metaphor in short animation films

The source-path-goal (SPG) schema is one of the most embodied schemas governing human conceptualization (Johnson 1987, Turner 1996). Literally structuring the concept of the JOURNEY, it metaphorically shapes our understanding of what constitutes purposive activity. In Conceptual Metaphor Theory (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson 1980, 1999; Gibbs 2008, Kövecses 2010) terms, one of the metaphors “we live by” is thus LONG-TERM PURPOSIVE ACTIVITY IS MOVEMENT TOWARD A DESTINATION; its popular formulation is LIFE IS A JOURNEY (Katz & Taylor 2008 and Ritchie 2008).


Still from “Father and daughter” (Michael Dudok de Wit, NL/UK 2000)

But if, as CMT holds, we think metaphorically, the importance of the SPG schema cannot be properly assessed without examining it in other modalities than language alone. I have charted the JOURNEY metaphor in documentaries (Forceville 2006, 2011), but for various theoretical reasons the medium of animation is ideally suited for analyzing the journey metaphor (Forceville and Jeulink 2011, Forceville 2013, Forceville in prep. a, b; see also Kromhout and Forceville 2013).

The aim of Charles Forceville’s presentation this week is threefold: (i) to demonstrate the necessity of studying SPG in multimodal rather than just in purely verbal manifestations to further test CMT’s claims about its centrality in human conceptualizing; (ii) to show how SPG both enriches and constrains possible interpretations of the films under consideration; (iii) and to conclude how the medium (here: animation) in which SPG appears as well as the pertinent textual genre (here: art film) affect its possible interpretations. A few short animation films will be shown to support and elucidate the points made.