Political imagery of Europe: A house without exit doors?

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The paper investigates metaphors from a sample of around 100 passages from British and German media texts from the 1990s in which house and construction imagery is employed to describe European policy issues. The analysis shows differences between their use in the national debates as well as two general thematic shifts in the metaphorical concept of Europe-as-a-house which correspond to significant policy changes. First, the concept of the Common European House propagated by M. Gorbachev made room for the vision of a highly integrated EU building soon to be finished. Then, from 1997 onwards, the focus shifted to construction delays to structural deficiencies. The metaphorical 'source domain' of a building thus appears to adapt flexibly to divergent 'target domains'. These findings contradict any deterministic view of 'source domain' structures as constraining the way in which political issues are conceived. In contrast to cognitivist assumptions about a strict internal 'logic' of metaphorical concepts, no one specific interpretation of the house imagery can be said to dominate the EU debate. This points towards the need for a revision of cognitivist metaphor theory as regards the use of metaphors in public discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-229
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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