TNA Fellow Dario Del Fante: Metaphors of Crisis – Metaphorical Patterns Across Discourses in Literature and Newspapers

Dario Del Fante is Assistant Professor at the University of Ferrara. A description of his project can be found below: 

“The international outbreak of Coronavirus has radically changed our lives and challenged the stability of our contemporary societies. Based on some preliminary findings and on previous research, I came across several similarities in the way migration and pandemics are metaphorically represented. Particularly, I identified three metaphorical mapping which are used to describe both migration and epidemics: water metaphors, fire metaphors, war metaphors. If we consider that human reasoning as intrinsically metaphorical and imaginative and that our abstract conceptual representations are grounded in sensorimotor systems, metaphors connects these two realms by mapping the domain of familiar and concrete experience (the Source Domain) onto the domain of predominantly abstract and complex concepts (the Target Domain), thus enabling us to better understand the rich fabric of reality that surrounds us. In this case pandemics/illness and migration are a kind of subjective, sensitive experience that tends to be talked and conceptualised through metaphorical expressions. Considering that Source/Target metaphorical mappings are systematic and that they reproduce themselves across similar situations, the analysis of the metaphors used to describe and conceptualize issues such as coronavirus and migration, could reveal how the Western society (in a very broad sense) react and relates to crisis through language. Within this large project, I identified two aspects which would require some improvements and which could be dealt with during the fellowship. The first improvement concerns the methodology used to identify metaphors by implementing an approach based Topic Modelling, which might have a strong impact on metaphor research in terms of time and quantity of text analyzed. The second improvement concerns the connection between literary texts and metaphors. Metaphors have also a creative function and are something that creatively revives our concepts. Literary writers can be seen as creator of metaphors, which gradually lose their metaphoricity and are adopted in “ordinary” language use. Therefore, a focus on literary text might reveal whether some metaphorical mappings have emerged from literary texts and how the first occurrence where linguistically created.”