About the Facets

The Mind is a Metaphor website allows for faceted browsing. You may search for metaphors by entering a keyword or keywords, an author name, or a year directly into the search box; or you may select (and unselect) filters from the left side of the main page, narrowing and expanding search results. While browsing, a quick glance at the facets displayed on the left side of the page, will give you some sense of the distribution of a metaphor across periods and genres as well as some indication of the beliefs and backgrounds of those authors who have used the metaphor in their writing.

Specific facets are more fully explained below.

Literary Period. Although the preponderance of metaphors collected here originate in the long eighteenth century, I continue to add to the database and have plans to expand the collection of metaphors across neighboring periods, working my way forward to the twentieth century. Conventional periodizations for English literature, drawn loosely from the Norton Anthology of English Literature, are provided as follows:

  1. Middle Ages (500-1500)
  2. Tudor Literature (1485-1603)
  3. Early Modern (1500-1800)
  4. Elizabethan (1558-1603)
  5. Seventeenth Century (1600-1700)
  6. Early Seventeenth Century (1603-1660)
  7. Civil War and Commonwealth (1641-1660)
  8. Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1819)
  9. Restoration (1660-1714)
  10. Augustan (1700-1745)
  11. Eighteenth Century (1700-1799)
  12. Age of Sensibility (1740-1798)
  13. Industrial Revolution (1760-1840)
  14. Romantic (1785-1832)
  15. French Revolution (1789-1815)
  16. Nineteenth Century (1800-1900)
  17. Reform and Counterrevolution (1815-1848)
  18. Victorian (1837-1901)
  19. Aestheticism and Decadence (1870-1901)
  20. Twentieth Century (1900-1999)
  21. Edwardian (1901-1914)
  22. Modernism (1910-1945)
  23. Interwar (1914-1939)
  24. Post-WWII (1945-1989)

Metaphor Categories. Treated here is the long eighteenth century, a neoclassical period; that is, a period that would, by confronting the past, newly classify the world. My categories are meant to help map those constellations of metaphors for the mind that visitors to this site will find most interesting. My categories and subcategories are then a heuristic or a finding aid. They do not correlate with any rigid concept scheme. They are a product of inductive work, of clustering and classifying those metaphors I've collected. The categories are imposed upon the unruly figuration I've dredged up; they do not cut cleanly into the discourse nor could they. Note, a metaphor--the same metaphor--may belong to multiple categories.

Genre. Major generic divisions here observed include poetry, non-fiction prose, prose fiction, and drama.

The Gender of an author is given where known. Women writers are currently outnumbered almost six to one in the database. I'm not happy about that and have considered trying to better balance the authors. Still, Katherine Philips, Sarah Fielding, Anna Seward, and Anna Letitia Barbauld contribute many of my favorite metaphors.

Another thing, a disclaimer. The binary (in fact, ternary: Male/Female/Unknown) nature of these gender assignment must not go unremarked. Such distinctions are without nuance and ineluctably political. I recognize that this eighteenth-century project cannot help but reinscribe distinctions made modern by the history surveyed. But in borrowing Enlightenment forms (the dictionary, the commonplace book) and practices (taxonomy) in my scholarly writing, I try to make strange the present. And in organizing the past in database tables and entries, I want to, likewise, promote categorical confusion as thematic. A metaphor, by one description, is a "category mistake."

So. In the sometimes murky taxonomy applied in this interface, Anonymous is not a woman--even though She may have, in fact, written much of the Bible. (And I take it, for what it's worth, that Paul the Apostle authored the assertion "there is no male and female.") My labeling currently lists Jack Halberstam's author function as "Male," but I plan on resetting such assignments occasionally and as necessary in order to remind myself and others that an improvised metrics is required in the transitional present.

Nationality. The English literature of the period in which I am most interested bedevils the assignment of "nationality." The long eighteenth century in England is witness to two Acts of Union (1707, 1800) and a declaration of independence by the American colonies. I have tried to specify authors' nationalities according to their places of birth. There are then English, Scottish, and American authors listed here, but only a few "British" authors. My ancients are either "Greek" or "Chinese" or "Roman." Kant and other Prussian writers are labeled "German." I realize that "Irish or Anglo-Irish" is a particularly unsatisfactory national designation. And the category "African or Afro-British" is worse than unsatisfactory.

A second disclaimer then: here I let an early modern conception of race as nation mark important eighteenth-century writers (Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, and others). Many of these writers brilliantly invoke and evade the category, with Olaudah Equiano being the most famous and most famously ambivalent example of an Afro-Anglo-American author. After 1800 I do not use the unfixed race/nation category: Frederick Douglass's metaphors are tallied as American; Frantz Fanon's, French. I emphasize here that my labels are not an attempt to foreclose the discussion of identity. Just the opposite.

Politics. An author is given a party label only when I find mention of his or her politics in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography or an equally reputable biographical source. The label is applied to authors and not to works of literature, which necessitates the use of some cumbersome labels. (Daniel Defoe, for example, is notorious for changing political affiliations.) My labels were first generated for a set of clustering and classifying experiments undertaken with the computer scientist D. Sculley. These experiments tested connections between metaphorical usage and party affiliation and are the subject of an article on "Meaning and Mining" published in Literary and Linguistic Computing: link. As I am interested primarily in metaphor and eighteenth-century party politics, I have been most assiduous in labeling eighteenth-century authors.

Religion. An author's religious beliefs are likewise labeled when given in the ODNB. Converts from one religion to another are so labeled. Again, converts may collect multiple, conflicting labels. (Vide John Dryden.)

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.