Historical consciousness and metaphor: Charting new directions for grasping human historical sense-making patterns for knowing and acting in time

Paul Zanazanian


In adding on to narrative as one dominant means of studying and analysing expressions of historical consciousness, this paper attempts to explicate two potential roles of metaphor for fully capturing human historical sense making patterns as they pertain to living life. By bringing together cognitivist viewpoints regarding conceptual metaphors and their underlying mappings of core life concepts with more literary uses of metaphor as a central means of re-describing reality through paranarrative readings of textual extracts, a potentially novel way of looking at the operations of historical consciousness emerges – one where conventionalized conceptual metaphors underlying the logic of history seem to embed the conditions under which individuals either rely on pre-given significations of the past for knowing and acting in time, or rather seek plausible-like meanings instead. The author illustrates his ideas through an analysis of Milan Kundera’s embellished commentary on the ironies regarding the politics of remembering and forgetting during Czechoslovakia’s communist period in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. In recognizing the experimental nature of his endeavour, the author nonetheless calls for further exploration and empirical research, particularly with real world human participants, to develop metaphor as a respected medium of research in the area of historical consciousness.


Historical Consciousness; Metaphor; Historical Sense-Making; Narrative Studies.

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Historical Encounters is a double blind peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the empirical and theoretical study of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education.

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ISSN 2203-7543