Lévi-Strauss and Lakoff/Johnson

Both articles discuss the notion of the fundamental unit of language. Lévi-Strauss’ article argues that myths should not be analyzed as a series of sentences with a definite chronological order; the important part of a myth lies in its story, not its syntax. So long as the story is not lost, myths can be told in all kinds of different ways. To Lakoff and Johnson, the fundamental units of literature (or at least of metaphors) are words and sentences. They argue that words and sentences have meaning independent of their context or speaker(s) and believe that different people having different interpretations of a word/sentence does not  present a tremendous problem.


The Lakoff/Johnson piece was more interesting to me because it gave so many specific examples of metaphors and tried to interpret the logic behind them (i.e. physical space). What I wonder is how Cleanth Brooks’ article (“Metaphor, Paradox, and Stereotype”) ties into Lakoff and Johnson’s ideas. Brooks talked about how metaphors can become outdated and therefore no longer useful. We all understand the metaphors in Lakoff and Johnson’s article; we use those expressions routinely in everyday life. However, if our human thought processes are indeed “largely metaphorical” as Lakoff and Johnson argue, what will happen to our thought processes or the literature that gets created if the metaphors we take for granted in everyday life become outdated?

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