This article proposes an essential pragmatic adjustment to the model of bidirectionality in verbal metaphor comprehension that has been developed from Max Black’s interaction theory of metaphor, most recently in the 2017 special issue of Poetics Today titled “Bidirectionality and Metaphor” (38.1). My target first proposal stipulates that, in the creation and comprehension of metaphoric expressions in natural discourse contexts, bidirectional processing always initiates with an abstraction from the target domain that is effectively projected on the source domain, promoting structural predicates in the source domain that may then be relevantly projected back on the targeted abstraction (or, more broadly, intention-in-context). I present this proposal from three angles. The first is theoretical and shows that, though Black himself intimated the basic logic of a target first approach to metaphor, cognitive theory since Black has instead followed his more explicit lead, positing a source first approach that assumes rather than explains the metaphor. The second angle is historical and involves the recovery from Romantic-era philosophical poetics of a fully articulated target first model of bidirectionality. The third angle is practical and argues the potential significance of the target first model for psycholinguistic experimental design as well as clinical and educational interventions for individuals with metaphor-processing disorders.
Target First: On “Bidirectionality and Metaphor”
Mark J. Bruhn, professor of English at Regis University (Denver, Colorado), is the author of Wordsworth before Coleridge: The Growth of the Poet’s PhilosophicalMind, 1785–1797 (2018); coeditor (with Donald R. Wehrs) of Cognition, Literature, and History (2014); and guest editor of a special double-issue of Poetics Today titled “Exchange Values: Poetics and Cognitive Science” (2011). His work on Wordsworth, style, and cognition appears in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (2015), The Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth (2015), The Palgrave Handbook of Affect Studies and Textual Criticism (2017), and the de Gruyter Handbook of British Romanticism (2017).