MSB brainstorming

13 February 2018

Dr Great Art Podcast Episode 30: Trope and Metaphor

Dr Great Art podcast, Episode 30: Trope and Metaphor. A podcast in preparation for discussions of visual metaphor: one aspect of terminology, trope and metaphor. iTunes, Spotify, or #arthistory #metaphor


Dr Great Art Podcast 30

Trope and Metaphor

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 30th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

I likely will be discussing Visual Metaphor in Art more and more frequently in future podcasts. This is because it will be returning to a preeminent position within my thoughts. I have a contract for a book with the wonderful Bloomsbury Academic Press and their Analytic Aesthetics and Contemporary Art Series edited by Tiziana Andina and David Carrier. The working title for my book is Visual Metaphor in Contemporary Art and Analytic Philosophy. Thus, I will be writing it while doing future podcasts.

I am particularly interested in receiving and discussing YOUR, my listeners' and friends,' ideas concerning visual metaphor in fine art. It is usually studied, if at all, in posters, popular media ad campaigns, and the like. I am interested in sophisticated, complex and original uses of visual metaphor in contemporary art including but not limited to painting, sculpture, installation, comics and so on.

First, though, is this podcast concerning one aspect of terminology.


I will often be using the term trope in my podcasts when figurative language in general is meant ---- and especially when discussing the visual equivalent of this. Metaphor is one usual term for the idea which is discussed here. Unfortunately, though, this word is used in two distinct applications, one general and one particular. Confusion often results from this failure to distinguish the species from the genus. Metaphor may mean alternately either figurative expression itself, the genus, therefore identical with figurative language or trope, OR that particular instance thereof, the species, usually described as follows:

Metaphor: A figure of speech, an implied analogy in which one thing is imaginatively compared to or identified with another, dissimilar thing. In metaphor, the qualities of something are ascribed to something else, qualities that it ordinarily does not possess (as Kathleen Morner and Ralph Rausch describe it in their NTC's Dictionary of Literary Terms).

That is, the famous description of metaphor as a "comparison without a like or as," which is always taught in high school and secondary school literature classes. The most famous of these is "Achilles is a lion."

Useful terminology does not allow a thing to be a species of itself. So using the word metaphor is laden with difficulties. Other terms bring other difficulties, all probably reflecting the various underlying philosophies of the animal under study. Various general terms include trope, figure and figurative language. The latter two would cause a problem when the theory is applied to visual art. Anything containing the word language is not interdisciplinary enough and figure in visual art is widely used to mean the human form (e. g. "figure painting").

These terms are inadequate in reference to literature and visual art anyway. They clearly reinforce views of the subject opposite to those I espouse. Connotations such as figure skating or ornateness come to mind, declaring metaphor to be no more than decorative fancy, a kind of sport. (Nothing against THAT, but not anything near my interpretation of metaphor.) There are linked terms such as scheme, conceit, symbol, rhetoric, poesy, poetics, analogy, etc. Yet each expresses a particular idea somewhat askew of my intentions and my own theoretical interests. In fact, as my metaphor(m) or central trope theory comes ever more to the fore, I believe it will be shown that some of these terms describe ideas which are corollaries or particular instances of metaphor(m). They will each be addressed in the future.

In short, the problems with the term reflect old, deficient and competing theories of the thing itself. HOWEVER, I will NOT be using trope in the way it is often now misused in the artworld to mean clich├ęd symbol! Trope, is an older umbrella term for all rhetorical analogies (metaphor, metonymy, litotes, etc.) One which I have revived. All the arts, probably all thought, is based in tropaic thought. If you are really looking for a term for a "commonplace notion not often recognized as such," then you probably mean topos (plural topoi) NOT trope.

Trope is derived from turning, which might suggest that analogies of any sort are decorative twists on normal "transparent" speech. However, it seems that trope and its concomitant adjectives tropological or tropaic are the most promising. Turning can be envisioned in other, more evocative images and analogies. Turning something around to perceive more sides of it. Turning something toward the light to see it better. And so on.

Therefore it will serve as the general term, metaphor will be chiefly used in its specific application ("no like or as" species), occasionally substituting for the general, along with the other terms mentioned, where this occurs in common use and for stylistic variety. Metaphor is included in the title of our website, my dissertation and my book title for the word play as noted in my theory of metaphor(m) [spell], and because it remains an important keyword in any literature search of poetics.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, in addition, cognitive science, especially pragmatic, embodied cognitive theory, now envisions metaphor as the broad basis of thought itself. Generally when I am talking about metaphor here, I mean the process of making embodied visual analogies. When I mean all the possible forms of this, I will write trope. When I mean a specific form (such as in the paper I posted online recently, "Beyond Like and As in Images: Metonymy and Metaphor in Some Recent Art"), I will use the appropriate specific term from rhetoric, explaining it and why I am using it.

These include: Trope, Metaphor, Metonymy, Simile, Synecdoche, Litotes, Hyperbole, Irony, Analogy, Allegory, Symbol, Metalepsis. More about them in the future.

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 30.

Trope and Metaphor

If you enjoy my podcasts, please go to Apple podcasts and give me 5 stars and a recommendation! It helps others find this podcast. Additionally, if you have any questions or requests for topics, please feel free to contact me with them! I'd truly enjoy covering them! Especially about visual metaphor!

If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, on Metaphor(m) in Art History, and on Mongrel Art. Once again, I'd like to thank Chloe Orwell, Brad Elvis, and the rock band the Handcuffs for composing, performing and recording my theme song, "Shut Up and Paint," a tiny portion of which begins and ends every Dr Great Art Podcast.

You can find or contact me at (spell)
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