Conceptual metaphors of anger and embodied realism in Middlemarch

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This article traces conceptual metaphors of anger in George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’ and argues for the importance of their role in narrative realism. It does so by showing that the figurative language of the novel is both embodied (i.e., arises in direct analogy with the bodily experience of anger) and culturally embedded. Notwithstanding the physiological and cultural conventionality of these expressions, Eliot employs a high degree of conceptual and linguistic management in her novels. This article suggests the need to broaden theories of narrative realism to take account of the network of metaphoric expressions that contribute to the form of narrative representation designated here distinctly by the term ‘embodied realism’. This discursive technique is understood to have evolved mimetically to enhance a reality effect that captures emotional recognition and authenticity, and to rely on entrenched and lexicalized mental models of anger shared by both author and reader. It is argued here that the strategy of metaphorically representing anger is most likely sub-consciously adopted yet consistently applied by Eliot. The result is a familiar sensation encoded in experientially-motivated language which prompts the reader to construe meanings that are both experientially logical and also narratively relevant. The involvement of readers in pre-existing anger schemas that are encapsulated within fairly stable metaphorical patterns and activated in the course of reading thus provides a highly reliable roadmap for interpretation, whilst also lending linguistic validity to the capability of the realist novel to elicit emotional engagement and to enforce behavioural norms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalSydney Studies in English
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • George Eliot
  • Middlemarch
  • metaphor
  • embodied realism
  • anger

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