Research Meeting Dunja Wackers and Kiki Renardel de Lavalette

Event Date: December 12, 2017
Event Time: 9:00-11:00

This meeting will be moved to another date 

Countering figurative analogies in British Public Bill Committee debates by Kiki Renardel de Lavalette

In February I will attend the 2nd edition of the conference “Argumentation and language” in Lugano, Switzerland. This talk will be a rehearsal of the presentation that I will give at that conference. I will present a paper in which I studied  argumentation in British Public Bill Committee debates by focusing on the way in which figurative analogies are countered by means of argumentation. In these legislative debates, in which prescriptive standpoints for a course of action are commonly advanced, legislators sometimes frame their arguments in metaphorical terms. These so-called figurative analogies can mislead legislators into taking wrong decisions with regard to the acceptability of a bill by oversimplifying the issue under discussion. This suggests that resisting figurative analogies by putting forward argumentation aimed at countering them is a crucial and necessary skill for legislators in order to come to a well-informed decision about the acceptability of the proposed legislation.

The goal of the paper is to explore the phenomenon of countering figurative analogies in authentic legislative debates, and to show that resistance to figurative analogies is a complex phenomenon comprising various types of criticisms to different types of metaphor. To this end, we analyse case studies of resistance to figurative analogies found in the British Public Bill Committee debates on the Education Bill 2010-11 by making use of the three-dimensional model of metaphor (Steen, 2011a) and the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation (Van Eemeren, 2010). 

Resistance to violence-related metaphors for cancer by Dunja Wackers

Following the cognitive revolution in metaphor research, over the past decades a myriad of studies has pointed out the ubiquity and importance of metaphor in language, thought, and more recently, communication (e.g. Steen 2008). Mapping characteristics of one domain onto another, metaphor has been shown to fulfil different basic and fundamental functions in the ways we reflect on aspects of our lives and the ways in which we express ourselves in communicating with one another. What has been neglected in this context, however, is the fact that sometimes metaphors are also resisted. Illustrative are the arguments provided by Granger in support of her claim that “[h]aving cancer is not a fight or a battle” (The Guardian, April 25, 2014): Spelling out what it actually means if one speaks of a cancer patient ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ a ‘fight’ with cancer, she concludes that such utterances are “uncomfortable and frustrating to hear” for people diagnosed with cancer, noting that “even for those who survive or ‘conquer’ the disease, it will remain with them for the rest of their lives”. 

The phenomenon of resistance to metaphor raises questions as to how and when this happens, and what the exact motivations for resistance amount to. The present paper provides a characterisation of resistance to violence-related metaphors for cancer from an argumentation theoretical point of view. Insights from the pragma-dialectical approach to argumentation (Van Eemeren 2010) are used to explain what forms resistance to violence-related metaphors for cancer may take and how this can be explained in relation to different aspects of contested metaphors.

In this paper it first will be discussed how two models of violence-related metaphors may be distinguished for developing a better understanding of their potential to elicit resistance. In a number of case studies it will be shown for both models how two types of arguments that are frequently provided in support of resistance correspond to (different aspects of) two specific argumentation schemes, i.e. the schemes of argumentation by (figurative) analogy and (negative) pragmatic argumentation. The exact relation of resistance to these schemes will be explained with reference to the focus of the resistance, which in the examples that will be discussed lies either on the metaphor itself or on real-life (detrimental) effects that may be caused by people using the metaphor in question in relation to cancer. 

Romy van den Heerik • May 23, 2017


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