Literal or metaphorical? Conventional or creative? Contested metaphoricity in intense emotional experiences

Sarah Turner, Jeannette Littlemore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Downloads (Pure)


Metaphor has long been considered a ‘way in’ to people’s experiences, with metaphor analysis being used to gain insights into a range of psychological and physiological phenomena. However, a number of challenges arise when analysing metaphor in such contexts. We reflect on the challenges we have encountered in our research into intensely emotional and/or personal experiences related to bereavement and religious belief. Both areas showcase metaphor operating in the ‘liminal spaces’ of human experience. The spaces between life and death, personhood and non-personhood, and belief and non-belief prove rich ground for metaphor, but the qualities of these metaphors are as complex and elusive as the concepts they are being used to describe.

We explore how metaphoricity in general, and creative use of metaphor in particular, in these contexts are flexible phenomena, opening up new questions as to what ‘counts’ as a (creative) metaphor. We propose three levels at which people use or experience metaphor, show how these interact, and propose a number of methodological factors to be taken into consideration when conducting metaphor research in such complex areas of human experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-58
Number of pages22
JournalMetaphor and the Social World
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.

This document is the author’s post-print version, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer-review process. Some differences between the published version and this version may remain and you are advised to consult the published version if you wish to cite from it.


  • metaphor
  • metaphor identification
  • metaphoricity,
  • emotion
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


Dive into the research topics of 'Literal or metaphorical? Conventional or creative? Contested metaphoricity in intense emotional experiences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this