Metaphors as Maieutics of Learning

By Martin Cortazzi

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #54
Institute of Commonwealth Studies: London, England
July 2–4, 2004
(see list of papers from #54)

    This paper examines the mappings of meanings of sets of metaphors in the Bahá'í writings to argue that they create spaces for reflection and creativity in a `maieutic' function of serving as midwives of learning. Building on Hatcher's (1987, 1994, 1997) application of literary views of metaphor to Bahá'í texts, the paper employs the frameworks of cognitive linguistics (Lakoff & Johnson 1980; Lakoff 1993; Kovecses 2002) and its applications (Cameron & Low 1999; Cortazzi & Jin 1999) to learning and teaching, In the Kitáb-i-Iqán, for example, the explanations of symbols as metaphors are themselves textured in further sets of metaphors to provide readers with multiple meanings and systematically productive ambiguities. While some of these are conventional conceptual metaphors, or establish conventions, others are perhaps culturally specific.

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