The Price of Metaphor is Eternal Vigilance: Language Metaphors in Popular Genetics

By Bradon Smith.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Using literary critical tools, this paper will examine the role played by metaphor in contemporary popular science writing on genetics. Following Richard Whitley’s assertion that popular science writing’s ‘expository practices are not epistemologically neutral’ I argue that, given its central pedagogical role in popular science writing, an analysis of the use of metaphor is critical to our understanding of popular scientific discourse. In this paper, I engage in textual analysis focussing on the presence and effect of just one metaphor – that of language – in popular science writing on genetics. Specifically, I argue that language metaphors are deployed strategically to support the authors’ positions on genetic determinism: metaphors of language, with a few notable exceptions, are seen to generally present a gene-centric approach to ontogeny.

Keywords: Popular Science, Metaphor, Genetics, Determinism

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 10, pp.79-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 542.551KB).

Dr Bradon Smith

PhD candidate, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Bradon Smith is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, from which he also received his BA and MPhil. His doctoral research focuses on the role and effect of literary techniques in contemporary popular science writing and the parallel impact of scientific metaphor and representations of science in contemporary fiction. He also has research interests in the aesthetics and rhetoric of climate change, on which he co-convenes an interdisciplinary research group.


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