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Cancer as a metaphor

Potts, Amanda and Semino, Elena 2019. Cancer as a metaphor. Metaphor and Symbol 34 (2) , pp. 81-95. 10.1080/10926488.2019.1611723

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Since the publication of Susan Sontag’s highly influential Illness as Metaphor in 1978, many studies have provided follow-up analyses on her critique of metaphors for cancer, but none have investigated her claims about the uses and implications of cancer as a metaphor (e.g., the cancer of corruption), and her prediction that medical advances would make this metaphor obsolete. In this article, we present the first systematic study of cancer as a metaphor in contemporary English. We show the forms, frequencies, and functions of 925 metaphorical uses of cancer-related vocabulary in two large English language corpora, and discuss their implications for: (a) the framing of the phenomena that are most frequently described as cancers and of potential courses of action to be taken in relation to these phenomena; (b) perceptions of cancer itself; and (c) theoretical accounts of what makes a metaphor successful, in terms of its effectiveness and its applicability to a wide range of topics. In this way, we provide detailed evidence, and additional nuance, for Sontag’s critique of cancer as a metaphor and put forward an explanation for the current persistence of this metaphor, despite its controversial status.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge): STM, Behavioural Science and Public Health Titles
ISSN: 1092-6488
Related URLs:
Date of Acceptance: 23 April 2019
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 11:01

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