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Examining Metaphors in Biopolitical Discourse
Unformatted Document Text:  Metaphors in Biopolitics, page 5 mass media coverage in the United States of genetically modified foods and embryos, the Theresa Schiavo lawsuit and news coverage, and the inheritance tax. The four issues constitute a case study of metaphoric language that we explore both figuratively and literally. We ground our argument in a cognitive and constructionist vein, building on empirical research on metaphor comprehension (for reviews see Glucksberg, 2008; Gibbs, 2006, 2008) and borrowing from the framing insights of William Gamson and his colleagues within the context of Foucauldian discourse processes in biopolitics. And because the available research does not support definitive claims about causal effects on audiences, we instead buttress our claims by examining public opinion surrounding the four exemplars, offering an exogenous avenue to help illuminate the mapping of metaphoric message framing to audience framing, as recommended by Yin (2003). That is, focusing on text alone limits conjectures about media effects, while public opinion polls offer a glimpse into possible linkages (Benoit, 2001; Stromer-Galley & Schiappa, 1989; Yin, 2003). Figurative and Literal Metaphors We begin with an examination of a type of ambiguous metaphor where the relationship between figurative and literal interpretations is entwined (Cameron, 2007). What defines this type of metaphor is the presentation of a metaphorical phrase as if it were a literal description of the topic. An example from Lynne Cameron’s study of reconciliation talks between Jo Berry, daughter of a British MP killed by an IRA-planted bomb, and Pat Magee, the former IRA operative who planted the bomb. Berry described her journey of understanding and healing in terms that can be understood as simultaneously referring to her literal travels through England and Ireland and to her

Authors: Coleman, Cynthia-Lou. and Ritchie, L. David.
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Metaphors in Biopolitics, page 
5
mass media coverage in the United States of genetically modified foods and embryos, 
the Theresa Schiavo lawsuit and news coverage, and the inheritance tax. The four 
issues constitute a case study of metaphoric language that we explore both figuratively 
and literally.
We ground our argument in a cognitive and constructionist vein, building on 
empirical research on metaphor comprehension (for reviews see Glucksberg, 2008; 
Gibbs, 2006, 2008) and borrowing from the framing insights of William Gamson and his 
colleagues within the context of Foucauldian discourse processes in biopolitics. And 
because the available research does not support definitive claims about causal effects 
on audiences, we instead buttress our claims by examining public opinion surrounding 
the four exemplars, offering an exogenous avenue to help illuminate the mapping of 
metaphoric message framing to audience framing, as recommended by Yin (2003). That 
is, focusing on text alone limits conjectures about media effects, while public opinion 
polls offer a glimpse into possible linkages (Benoit, 2001; Stromer-Galley & Schiappa, 
1989; Yin, 2003).
Figurative and Literal Metaphors
We begin with an examination of a type of ambiguous metaphor where the 
relationship between figurative and literal interpretations is entwined (Cameron, 2007). 
What defines this type of metaphor is the presentation of a metaphorical phrase as if it 
were a literal description of the topic. An example from Lynne Cameron’s study of 
reconciliation talks between Jo Berry, daughter of a British MP killed by an IRA-planted 
bomb, and Pat Magee, the former IRA operative who planted the bomb. Berry described 
her journey of understanding and healing in terms that can be understood as 
simultaneously referring to her literal travels through England and Ireland and to her 


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