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"Presencing" metaphors: "light" in the Gospel of John
Wilson, Laura E
Minifee, PaulMoore, Rebecca
In this project, I explore the ways in which the nature of metaphors rhetorically contributes to achieving a sense of "presence." Using the metaphor "light" the Gospel of John as a case study, I argue that metaphors uniquely lend themselves to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's theory through their appeal to the imagination and their aptitude to incite multiple meanings and associations at once. First, I recount some of the key scholarship on metaphor to highlight some of the various forms and functions of metaphors. While traditionally metaphors were considered to be exclusively poetic, many scholars have demonstrated the ways they are essential and foundational to language. By connecting two previously unrelated terms, metaphors stimulate reason and imagination in the creation of a new meaning and a new way to conceive of a subject. I also evaluate how metaphors function in the Bible to comprehensibly depict a way of thinking of and experiencing the divine, continually making available the grounds for interpretation and belief. Second, I describe Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's theory of presence, defined as the speaker's ability to make the audience aware of something absent but essential to their argument. Then, I discuss the subsequent scholarship on presence that further examines the ways in which circumstances and stylistic devices awaken the audience's imagination, achieving an overall or global effect that moves the audience into response. I then connect metaphors to presence, evaluating how the comparison made by the metaphor can have a more permanent and on-going presence through a changed mind. Lastly, I briefly introduce the context of the Gospel of John before conducting a rhetorical analysis of John's use of the metaphor light in connection with Jesus. I show how John uses light to presence current first-century understandings of God as light, mostly appealing to Jewish understandings of the light of God's divine presence, the Law, the Temple, and the light described in the Hebrew Bible and through the figure of Wisdom in Wisdom Literature. Also, by combining an ontological metaphor with a theology of the Paraclete-Spirit, John further presences Jesus' association with God and life beyond the gospel's situational context, making it accessible to readers of all times. I conclude by arguing that John's message relies on metaphor to presence a multiplicity of meanings about Jesus' identity, portraying him as a guiding light that reveals truth and extends God's presence to the world in a unique and dynamic way. Reevaluating the relationship between metaphor and presence in the interpretation of biblical metaphors can have dramatic implications involving an experience of God for people of faith.
Rhetoric and Writing Studies
Arts and Letters
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2010
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