Metaphor and Apophatic Discourse: Putting Sells in Dialogue with Lakoff and Johnson
Carroll, Thomas D.
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In the book, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, Michael A. Sells presents a performative theory of apophatic discourse. His idea is that apophatic discourse functions as a semantic analogue to mystical experience through \"meaning events.\" Although he acknowledges that an appreciation of the subtleties of metaphor is crucial to an understanding of mystical language, Sells does not discuss the extensive literature on metaphor theory from the last few decades. In this essay, the author explores how George Lakoff and Mark Johnson\'s theory of metaphor may enrich Sells\' theory. Further, he addresses what Lakoff and Johnson may learn from Sells\' treatment. While there are no conflicts, strictly speaking, between the metaphysical pictures suggested by the two theories. Sells\' picture of the world allows for fissures of meaning at which Lakoff and Johnson\'s theory at best hints. Ultimately, Lakoff and Johnson\'s conception of metaphor requires that Sells\' theory of apophatic discourse be reexamined.