Meaning and Metaphor
Literary Studies     

  Fall 2022
   Monday, 2:30-3:20pm;
   Thursday, 1:30-3:20


Webpage address:
  Prof. Kendall A. JOHNSON
     Office Hours: Monday afternoons, 3:30-5pm
     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 texts 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 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_1A_2022.

    At points during the semester (approximately every other week), I will assign a short (approximately 200-300 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. Part of the challenge of this assignment will be sticking to the time limit (10 minutes).

  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

    Here is a break-down of the grading range in regard to essays:

    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


Sept 1:

Our Journey Begins
  • Defining terms: What is a Metaphor? What is Meaning?

  • Etymology of Metaphor

Plato's Cave,
The Republic, Book VII


Sept 5:

Sept 8:
Reading Like a Puritan
Key Terms: Literal, Figurative, Trope, Symbol, Metaphor, Allegory, Anagogy, Eschatology (Soteriology)

  • St. Augustine's Confessions (circa 400 CE)

  • Learning to read from The New England Primer | Full version with commentary

    Moodle Group posting #1:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2022

    Before Wednesday (Sept 7) at 12noon, please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2022 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 200-300 words. Remember that your analysis begins with your choice of an image-- why did you choose this particular one?

  • Embarkation of
    the Pilgrims

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

    WEEK 3:

    Sept 12
    no class:

    Sept 15
    John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678; 1684)       PDF

    Please read the first part of Pilgrim's Progress (to page 165 in the Penguin edition)-- try to get as far as you can...

    Key terms (discussed in class): Catholic / Protestant, Calvinism, Puritan / Pilgrim, Transubstantiation / Consubstantiation, God, Original Sin, Regeneration, Grace, Providence, Predestination, concursus dei, Vocation, the Word, Covenant, Typology, Jeremiad

    I will refer to the following in lecture:

  • William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (written, 1620-1647; first published 1856),
    Chapters 1-5, 7, 9, 10-14, 28;
    Here is an image of Bradford's manuscript; Online edition (from the Early Americas Digital Archive, Univeristy of Maryland)
  • John Winthrop, "Model of Christian Charity" (1630, aboard the Arabella)    |     "City on the Hill"
  • Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (1741, delivered)    |     spider above the flames of hell (jeremiad)

    Moodle Group posting #2:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2022

    Before Wednesday (14 Sept) at 12noon please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2022.

    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.

    Feel free to respond to a posting by your classmate (agreeing, disagreeing, or extending her or his interpretation).

    Your posting should be somewhere in the range of 200-300 words.

  • Maps of
    Pilgrim's Progress
    (1821, 1850)

    WEEK 4:

    Sept. 19:

    Sept. 22
    Bunyan continued; Mary Rowlandson
    Moodle Group posting #3:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2022

    Before Wednesday (Sept 21) at 12noon: Identify a metaphor in Rowlandson's captivity narrative and explain how it functions to create meaning in the text.

    Feel free to respond to a posting by your classmate (agreeing, disagreeing, or extending her or his interpretation).

    Your posting should be somewhere in the range of 200-300 words.

    Compare the
    Boston and London
    title pages
    WEEK 5:

    Sept 26:

    Sept 29
    Rowlandson continued...

    Key terms: Divine Right of Kings, Empire, Imperialism, Colonialism, Nation, Republic, Citizen, Property, Romance

    Anne Bradstreet
    and John Robinson
    on Pilgrim children

    PART II: Metaphors of National Enlightenment

    WEEK 6:

    Oct 3:

    Oct 6:
    Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography
    Presentation 1: Definition of the term Romance, from Bedford Handbook [Davina and Tina]
          Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, #4 (31 March 1750)

    Presentation 2: Ernest Renan, "What is a Nation?" (Sorbonne, 11 March 1882)

    Presentation 3: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983) Selection

    Presentation 4: Excerpt from Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-05; English translation, 1930) [Chloe]

    Presentation 5: Excerpts from Karl Marx on the Commodity and Commodity Fetishism from Capital, Vol. I (1867)

    Francis Bacon's

    Novum Organum (1620)

    Walter Isaacson
    on Franklin
    Oct 10

    Oct 13

    Reading Week:

    Please read selections from Emerson's essay "Nature" (1836)
    and get a head start on Douglass's The Narrative of the Life of an American Slave

    WEEK 7:

    Oct 17:

    Oct 20
    Franklin & Emerson's "Nature" (1836)
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature" (1836)
      Introduction; Chapter I (Nature); Chapter IV (Language)

    Caricature of the "transparent eyeball"
    by Christopher Cranch
    WEEK 8:

    Oct 24

    Oct 27
    Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life (1845)

  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845)

    Midterm Exam

    There are two parts to the Midterm. The first is a short answer test that takes place during class on October 31 (Monday).

    The second part is a take-home exam question that will be due by 11 pm on November 4 (Friday) [PLEASE NOTE: the deadline is now extended to the beginning of class on Monday, November 7].
    Guidelines on creating a good thesis

    Take-home part of the midterm

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

    Anon., oil on wood
    The Met., NYC

    PART III: Metaphors of Civil War and Reunion:

    WEEK 9:

    Oct 31:

    Nov 3
    The US Civil War (1861-65) and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Good Wives (1868-69)

    Portraits of
    Abraham Lincoln

    WEEK 10:

    Nov. 7

    Nov 10
    Continued: Louisa May Alcott, Little Women and Good Wives (1868-69)
    Presentation 6: Barbara Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860" (1966) [Ashley and Yoyo]

    Presentation 7: Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny" (1919) [Duncan and Justin]

    Presentation 8: Sigmund Freud, "Fetishism (1928) [Ariel and Charlie]

    Presentation 9: Sigmund Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia" (1925) [Cheryl and Darren]

    Hospital Sketches

    WEEK 11:

    Nov 14

    Nov 17
    The Wizard of Oz (1939)

    Presentation 10: Toril Moi, What is a Woman? Sex, Gender, and the Body in Feminist Theory (1999) [Diljot and Hebe]

    Presentation 11: Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity [Esther and Anita](1990)

    The Wizard of OZ
    Victor Fleming,
    WEEK 12:

    Nov 21:

    Nov 24
    Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson

    Walt Whitman, "When Lilacs last on my Dooryard Bloomed" (1865),
    in Leaves of Grass (1855, 1856, 1860, 1867, 1871-72, 1876, 1881, 1888-89, and 1891-92)

    Emily Dickinson, "There's a Certain Slant of Light" (#258; 1890)

    Presentation 11b: Ferdinand de Saussure, selections from "Course in General Linguistics" (1972)

    Presentation 12: Jacques Lacan, "Anamorphosis" and "The Line and Light" (1973)      |      Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors (1533) [Kenta]

    Presentation 13: Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I..." from Ecrits(1966; 1977) [Vinson]

    Presentation 14: Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," in Lenin and Philosophy (1971): Part I | Part II [So Fei]

    Presentation 15: Political Allegory and The Wizard of Oz [Kinson and Nikka]

    Walt Whitman

    WEEK 13:

    Nov 28:

    Dec 1:
    CPD 3.16
    next door
    End of our journey

    Recommended: Ann Petry, The Street

    Final Exam:

    Due Monday, December 19 by 5 pm by email.

    The final