Meaning and Metaphor
Literary Studies     

  Fall 2019
   Wed, 9:30 - 12:20


Webpage address:
  Prof. Kendall A. JOHNSON
     Office Hours: Wednesday afternoons, 2:30-4pm
     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_1A_2019.

    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. 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
WEEK 1 & 2:

Sept 4:

Sept 11:
Reading Like a Puritan
Moodle Group posting #1:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2019

Before Monday (Sept 9) at 11:59 pm 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)

Sept 18:
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: 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:

Moodle Group posting #2:          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2019

Before Monday (16 Sept) at 11:59 pm please post a short response paper at the Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2019.

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 300-500 words.

(1821, 1850)

Sept. 24:
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_1A_2019

    Before Monday (Sept 22) at 11:59 pm: 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 300-500 words.

    Compare the
    Boston and London
    title pages
    WEEK 5:
    Oct 2:
    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       |      Chapter 5, selections on "property"

    • Sherman Alexie, "Captivity"

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

    • Terms: Divine Right of Kings, Empire, Imperialism, Colonialism, Nation, Republic, Citizen, Property, Romance

    Anne Bradstreet
    and John Robinson
    on Pilgrim children

    Francis Bacon's

    Novum Organum (1620)


    WEEK 6:
    Oct 9:
    Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography
    Moodle Group posting #4 :          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2019

    Before Monday (Oct. 7) at 11:59 pm: Franklin's autobiography is full of "anecdotes" (short tales or stories) and observations. 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 the anecdote? How does Franklin use the telling of this anecdote 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.
    Presentation 1: Excerpt from Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-05; English translation, 1930) (Ishaan)

    Presentation 2: Excerpts from Karl Marx on the Commodity and Commodity Fetishism from Capital, Vol. I (1867) (Christy, Jason)

    Review of Isaacson's
    Franklin bio

    Walter Isaacson
    on Franklin
    Oct 16

    Reading Week: Please read Emerson and get a head start on Douglass's The Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (no class)

    WEEK 7:
    Oct 23:
    Franklin & Emerson's "Nature" (1836)
    Presentation 3: Definition of the term Romance, from Bedford Handbook (Andrew, Christy)

    Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, #4 (31 March 1750)

    Caricature of the "transparent eyeball"
    by Christopher Cranch
    WEEK 8:
    Oct 30
    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|

    Midterm Exam

    There are two parts to the Midterm. The first is a short answer test that takes place during class on October 30 (Wednesday).

    The second part is a take-home exam question that will be due at the beginning of class on November 6 (Wednesday).

    Take-home part of the midterm

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

    Anon., oil on wood
    The Met., NYC


    WEEK 9:
    Nov. 6:
    The US Civil War (1861-65)
    Presentation 4: Ernest Renan, "What is a Nation?" (Sorbonne, 11 March 1882) (Crystal and Yvonne)

    Presentation 5: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983) Selection (Jeff)

    Presentation 6: Barbara Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860" (1966) (Kelvin, Kiki)

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

    Portraits of
    Abraham Lincoln

    WEEK 10-12:

    Dear English 1036ers,

    This course will move on-line as a result of the cancelled course sessions.

    Here are the changes that we need to make:

    • Moodle Postings (4 more)

      Since we are not meeting, you will be asked to do 4 more Moodle postings this semester. One of these Moodle Postings is probably already done: everyone should do is Moodle Posting #5 on Alcott and Bunyan. That leaves everyone with 3 more Moodle Postings that respond to the Presentations

    • Presentations of an Essays/Topics

      Scheduled Presenter(s) of an Essay/Topic, please post your Handout or Power Point to Moodle.

      Importantly, there are now individual discussion threads for each presentation essay/topic. As the Presenter(s), please get the discussion started by posting first. In your posting, select a passage (a phrase, sentence, paragraph) from something that we have read this semester--this selection could be anything, but Bunyan, Rowlandson, Franklin, Douglass, and Alcott's Little Women are perhaps the most likely texts from which you should select your passage. But, you might also select something from a minor reading (that we spent less time on) or from another presentation's Essay/Topic.

      In your Moodle posting, interpret the passage (the selection) by using a key idea from your presentation's Essay/Topic. Your Moodle posting is meant to get your fellow classmates to think--so it is ok to admit confusion--or to ask a question that you invite others to answer as you put the selection together with the Essay/Topic of your presentation.

      In regard to length: you can go as long as you like, but aim for somewhere between 250-350 words. This suggested word-count does not include the passage that you have selected. Also, you might need to summarize briefly the idea from your Essay/Topic, so that is why going over 350 is definitely a possibility. Of course you can refer people to your PowerPoint/Handout that you post under that thread.

      Everyone else in the class: Please respond to the Presentation Moodle postings. There are plenty to choose from. Each week please do a Moodle posting. You are free to comment on any of the presentations. You can also reply to someone else's posting--agreeing and extending their point; disagreeing with their point by offering another interpretation; or offering another selection from something that we have read this semester that is related to the Presenter's essay. You might also refer back to your Presentation Essay/Topic and see how it fits into this one.

      If you have already been a Presenter, than you are all set. Also, to the new Presenters who post on Moodle: please feel free to count your post that "gets the ball rolling" as one of the 4 additional Moodle postings for this course.

    • Final

      Here is the Final.
      The due date is: Wednesday, December 10 by 5 pm. Please email me your essay rather than turn it in on campus. [kjohnson@ hku . hk]
    In summary: Our course ENGL1036 will move on-line with the same grade-break down but in an adapted form because we won't be meeting in person. Instead of our meetings, please post 4 more Moodle Postings--this includes the Alcott/Bunyan (#5) and 3 more related to the Presentations that are new discussion threads, initiated by the Presenters who use their Essay/Topic to interpret a selection that we have read. The "Final" will be available soon (I will announce the active link) and you can email that to me by Wednesday 10 December at 5pm.

    WEEK 10:
    Nov. 13

    Louisa May Alcott, Little Women and Good Wives (1868-69)

    Presentation 7: Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny" (1919) (Rachel)

    Presentation 8: Sigmund Freud, "Fetishism (1928) (Chloe and Natalie)

    Presentation 9: Sigmund Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia" (1925) (Lorraine, Shania)
    Moodle Group posting #5 :          Moodle group for ENGL1036_1A_2019

    Clearly Alcott had read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress Before Monday, Nov 11 at 11:59 pm please post a short response paper 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 11:
    Nov 20

    Alcott and The Wizard of Oz (1939)

    Presentation 10: Jacques Lacan, "Anamorphosis" and "The Line and Light" (1973) (Enoch, Karen)

    Presentation 11: Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I..." from Ecrits(1966; 1977) (Michelle)

    Presentation 12: Toril Moi, What is a Woman? Sex, Gender, and the Body in Feminist Theory (1999) (Grace, Lacus)

    Presentation 13: Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) (Aida, Ida)

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

    Wizard of OZ
    Victor Fleming, 1939

    WEEK 12:
    Nov 27:

    Last class

    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)

    Recommended: Ann Petry's The Street (1946)

    Presentation 15: Amendments 13, 14 & 15 (1865, 1868, 1870) (Douglas)

    Presentation 16: Plessy v. Ferguson - 163 U.S. 537 (1896)

    Presentation 17: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka - 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

    Final Exam:

    Due Wednesday, December 10 by 5 pm-- please turn in a paper copy to the School of English (7th Floor; Run Run Shaw Tower).

    The final