Study Notes for Lecture 2: Some Definitions Why include definitions of “metaphor” and “myth” in an environmental studies course? Because people think in metaphors and myths. More especially, they convey their values, consciously and unconsciously, through figurative language. All of your adult life, facing environmental issues, you are going to have to be able to evaluate statements of fact—by having a sense of how science is done—and statements of value by having a sense of the language in which people have talked about nature, found values in it, and conferred values on it. You are also going to want to understand your own values, your responses to the natural world and the arguments people make about it. Barry Lopez writes that a flight of snow geese is like a Bach cello piece. What are the implications of that metaphor? What is the perceived likeness, or analogy, on which it is based? John Muir says a Sierra windstorm is like a vast symphony. Same questions. METAPHOR AHD: “A figure of speech in which a a term is transfwerred from the object it ordinarily designates to an object it may designate only by implicit comparison or analogy, as in the phrase evening of life.” It comes from the Greek word for “transfer.” A metaphor is a comparison between two things based on some perceived likeness. Sometimes it explains an unfamiliar thing by saying it is like a familiar thing: Ecology is housekeeping. Sometimes it explains a familiar thing by saying it is like an unfamiliar thing: Love is a lion’s tooth. Sometimes it is more like an equation, the energy flowing in both directions in the comparison. When Homer in an elaborate metaphor in the Iliaddescribes an army sweeping across a plain like an autumn storm, you are meant to feel both that armies are like storms and that storms are like armies. A SIMILE is, as you learned in school, the kind of metaphor that uses likeor asto make the comparison explicit: My love is like a red, red rose. SYMBOL AHD: “Something that represents something else by association, resemblance or convention; especially a material object used to represent something invisible.” There are other meanings that won’t concern us. E.g., symbols in musical or mathematical notation. Symbols can be conventional—that is, socially agreed upon and not metaphorical (not based on resemblance or association) like the red, octagonal stop sign or the red curb for
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