chapter  12
19 Pages

Storyworld Metaphors in Swift’s Satire: Michael Sinding


I would like to bring together cognitive narratology and conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) by examining how metaphors enter into the spatial structure of the storyworld of Swift’s A Tale of a Tub.1 David Herman defi nes storyworlds as “mental models of who did what to and with whom, when, where, why, and in what fashion in the world to which recipients relocate [ . . . ] as they work to comprehend a narrative” (2002: 5). Thus spatial modeling is essential to narrative understanding: stories prompt readers to “spatialize storyworlds into evolving confi gurations of participants, objects, and places”2 (2002: 263).3 The technique of spatializing metaphors in storyworlds (sometimes called “realization” or literalization) goes back to Aristophanes (Whitman 1981), and continues in postmodernists like Pynchon. Essentially, the author takes a conceptual connection implicit in linguistic metaphor and uses it to structure an imagined scene or story. J. Paul Hunter notes the centrality of the technique in Gulliver’s Travels:

Swift is especially fond of literalizing metaphors and turning them into narrative events; he has, for example, courtiers walk tightropes, dance before the king, etc.; he has Gulliver urinate on the royal palace and land in excrement when he tries too ambitious a leap; and the government of Laputa oppresses its subjects by hovering over them or physically crushing their rebellion. The stable society at the end of Gulliver seems to me to have a similar status. (2003: 239 n26)

My list of authors suggests that the technique is often satirical. It is also similar to allegory, but distinct from it, as I will discuss below. CMT claims that “image schemas” structure human perception and are also central to the structure of concepts (both literal and metaphorical). I will argue that, as they also structure narrative spatialization, they therefore guide the projection of metaphors in the spatial structure of imagined storyworlds.