Meaning and Metaphor
Literary Studies     

  Spring 2019
   Mon, 15:30 - 17:20
   Thursday 15:30 - 16:20



Webpage address:
  Prof. Kendall A. JOHNSON
     Office Hours: Tuesday afternoons, TBA
     and by appointment

     Office: 7.43 Run Run Shaw Tower
"Put by the curtains; look within my Veil;
Turn up my Metaphors, and do not fail;
There, if thou seekest them such things to find,
As will be helpful to an honest mind."

-John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, 1678

Course Description and Primary Texts| Course Requirements | Learning Outcomes | Schedule | Electronic (PDF) Files |

NOTE: Links jump to points further down on this page

The course reads literary text in order to consider different definitions of metaphor and operations of figurative language. It presents the identification and analysis of metaphor as a tool in the study of texts of all kinds, and introduces approaches which see the study of metaphor as a key to understanding human cognition, the relationship of literature to history, and the importance of social context to the notion of "meaning." The course shows how questions about metaphor are at the heart of debates about methods of interpretation across the humanities and social sciences, and illustrates the role of metaphor in fundamental ideological discussions. The course equips students to analyse a range of texts in terms of metaphor and gives them a grounding in longstanding debates about meaning, interpretation and the relationship of language to reality.

BOOKS: available in the University Bookstore, on, or as PDF files:



  1. Attendance and participation in course sessions: Scheduled meeting times will consist of both lectures on and discussions of assigned reading. It is your responsibility to read the material before hand and be able to discuss this material during class. Un-excused absences and being late will affect adversely your final grade.

  2. Posting to the Moodle Group discussion: Please notice that there is a Moodle Group for this course; you can access it by going to the HKU Portal and logging in. Click on the "My eLearning" tab and it will take you to a page with the link to: Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018.

    At points during the semester (approximately every other week), I will assign a short (approximately 300-500 words) response paper to a group of you. You will post your response on Moodle. Another group of you will then log on to Moodle and respond to a post. This will enable you to read and respond to other students' interpretations of the course materials.

    These postings will be part of your grade-- they are an excellent way of participating in the discussions (especially if something occurs to you outside of class, or you don't get a chance to say what you wanted during the course time).

  3. Class Presentation: Throughout the course schedule are "Presentations" (see below) on a theoretical concept, historical event, or topic. At some point during the semester, you will work with a partner or small group to prepare a short class presentation (5-10 minutes) in which you provide an overview of your assigned topic. As part of your presentation, please prepare a one-page summary, distribute this summary to members of the class before you speak, and post the summary to Moodle.

  4. Midterm and Final exam: These two cumulative exams will consist of short answer responses and a take-home essay.

    Note: When writing your short essays it is important for you to acknowledge through proper citation any secondary sources that you use. If you borrow someone else's words or ideas be sure to mention this in the body of the essay or in a footnote. Here is the University definition and policy on plagiarism. In regard to formats for proper academic citation (APA, Chicago, MLA), please consult: Purdue University OWL: Citation Chart

    Your final grade will be an average of these four requirements. The tentative breakdown is: class attendance and Moodle (30%); presentation (10%); Midterm (30%); Final essay (30%).


  • Students will be able to convey key concepts and philosophies behind the notion of "metaphor." They will be able to trace the logic of metaphoric relation in the historical patterns of national constitution and development, including contemporary political and cultural events.

  • The course will foster students' abilities to read closely a variety of media and genres (literature, legal documents, paintings, films) and to connect the form of literature to key cultural and theoretical themes.

  • Demonstrate how consideration of a text's immediate and potential extended audiences are important factors in the interpretation of that text and its utilization of metaphor.

  • Exercise skills of interpretation and communication that enable students to think critically, to evaluate arguments, and to respond constructively in writing and in speech, and in both formal and informal environments.

  • Cultivate the enjoyment of intellectual experience in everyday life and continue to broaden students' visions of the dynamic relationship between literature, history, geography, science, and the arts.


PART I: Metaphors and Religious Faith
Jan 14 & 17:
Reading Like a Puritan
Moodle Group posting #1:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018

Before Wednesday (January 16) at 12 am (midnight) please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2019 in which you choose a letter from the The New England Primer and analyze it as a tool for teaching children how to read. What might you infer about the way Puritans viewed the world and their lives? If you prefer to comment on someone's posting (instead of writing your own) that is good too. Your posting should be somewhere in the range of 300-500 words. Remember that your analysis begins with your choice of an image-- why did you choose this particular one?

Commissioned 1837; placed 1844
US Capital rotunda, Washington, DC
Robert Walter Weir

"Literacy Then and Now"
Andrew Newman
Common-Place, (April 2002)

Jan 21 & 25:
John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678; 1684)

Please read the first part of Pilgrim's Progress (to page 165 in the Penguin edition)-- try to get as far as you can...
Terms: God, Sin, Grace, Providence, Predestination, Vocation, The Word, Typology, Jeremiad

I will refer to the following in lecture:

Moodle Group posting #2:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2019

Before Wednesday (24 January) at 12 am (midnight) please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018. How might readers in the British colonies of North America have read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress in ways that reflected their experience as colonists? You might refer back to The New England Primer or another text that we have discussed. Also, it would be a good idea to refer to a specific passage or image in Bunyan's book as you make your point.

Your posting should be somewhere in the range of 300-500 words. Feel free to respond to a posting by your classmate (agreeing, disagreeing, or extending her or his interpretation).

(1821, 1850)

Francis Bacon's

Novum Organum (1620)

Jan. 28 & 31:
Mary Rowlandson
Recommended Reading: (only suggestions for your further consideration; but these may be used in the take-home portion of your exams)

  • Michael Wigglesworth, Day of Doom (1662; stanzas 144-152; 166-181-- pg. 62, 65)
  • Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939; 1954)
  • William Cronon, Changes in the Land : Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England(1983)
  • Daniel Ricther, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America(2003)
  • Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (2000)
  • James Axtell "White Indians of North America" The William and Mary Quarterly 32.1 (Jan. 1975)
  • James Axtell and William C. Sturtevant, "The Unkindest Cut: Or, Who Invented Scalping" The William and Mary Quarterly 37.3 (July 1980)

  • Moodle Group posting #3:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018

    Before Wednesday (January 30) at 12 midnight please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018 in which you Before Wednesday (January 30) at 12 midnight please post a short response paper in which you identify a metaphor in Rowlandson's captivity narrative and explain a broader significance for the metaphor in regard to the meaning of the text.

    Compare the
    Boston and London
    title pages
    WEEK 4:
    Feb 14:
    Rowlandson Part II
    • Anne Bradstreet, "In Memory of my dear grand-daughter Elizabeth Bradstreet," "On My Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet," "The Author to Her Book," from The Tenth Muse (1650) and Several Poems (1678) (click icon to right)
    • John Locke's Second Treatise on Government, especially Chapter 5

    • Sherman Alexie, "Captivity"

    • Susan Faludi, America's Guardian Myths, The New York Times (7 September 2007)

    Anne Bradstreet
    and John Robinson
    on Pilgrim children


    WEEK 5:
    Feb 18 & 21:
    Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography
    Moodle Group posting #4 :          Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018

    Franklin's autobiography is full of "anecdotes" (short tales or stories) and observations. Before Wednesday (Feb. 20) at 12 midnight please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018 in which you choose one from his autobiography. We will discuss your selection in class. Here are some questions for you to consider in your selection: How do the principles Puritan faith appear (or not appear) in Franklin's life story? How does Franklin use the telling of his life to represent the United States as a nation-- is Franklin presenting himself as a typical "American"? You can respond to someone else's post if you prefer.

    Review of Isaacson's
    Franklin bio

    Walter Isaacson
    on Franklin
    WEEK 6:
    Feb 25 & 28:
    Franklin & Emerson's "Nature" (1836)
  • Presentation 1: Excerpt from Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-05; English translation, 1930)

  • Midterm Exam

    There are two parts to the Midterm. The first is a short answer test that takes place during class on February 28 (Thursday).

    The second part is a take-home exam question that will be due at the beginning of class on March 11 (Monday).

    Take-home part of the midterm

    Caricature of the "transparent eyeball"
    by Christopher Cranch
    M / Th,
    Mar. 4 & 7

    Reading Week: Douglass's The Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (no class)

    WEEK 7:
    Mar. 11 & 14
    Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life (1845)

  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845); See pages in 1-36 Quote Pack 3|

  • Douglass on Garrison
    from My Bondage and My Freedom(1855)

    Anon., oil on wood
    The Met., NYC


    WEEK 8:
    Mar. 18 & 21:
    The US Civil War (1861-65)

    John Brown,
    Julia Ward Howe,
    and the "Battle Hymn
    of the Republic"
    Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

    Portraits of
    Abraham Lincoln

    WEEK 9:
    Mar. 25 & 28
    Louisa May Alcott, Little Women and Good Wives (1868-69)

    Moodle Group posting #5 :          Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018

    Clearly Alcott had read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress Before Wednesday (March 27) at 12 midnight please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_2A_2018 in which you explain one of the metaphors that Alcott borrows from Bunyan. What stays the same in her use of the metaphor? How does she change it and why? Feel free to respond to someone else's post if you prefer.

    Walt Whitman and Lincoln

    Hospital Sketches

    WEEK 10:
    Apr. 1 & 4
    Alcott and The Wizard of Oz (1939)

    Wizard of OZ
    Victor Fleming, 1939

    WEEK 11:
    Apr. 8 & 11:
    Ann Petry's The Street (1946)

    WEEK 12:
    Apr. 15 & 18:
    Petry, The Street and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

    WEEK 13:
    April 25:
    Ann Petry, The Street

    Final class...

    Final Exam:

    Due beginning of class on May 9 (Thursday).

    The final