Times of Metaphor - a symposium on the temporal, metaphorical, and the still and moving image

deadline for submissions: 
June 12, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Cole Robertson / Royal College of Art

Times of Metaphor - a symposium on the temporal, metaphorical, and the still and moving image

A one-day symposium at Royal College of Art
June 12th  2021, London UK


The aim of this one-day symposium is to investigate how conceptions of time condition or affect our awareness of metaphorical meaning in still and moving images. 


The idea of ‘metaphor’ is to a great extent intertwined with ideas of time and space. From its origin in the ancient Greek word μεταφορά (metaphorá) (Anna Novokhatko, EAGLL (Brill)) we can presuppose that a metaphor is dealing with a change that is made possible by the carrying over from one point to another. The implicit notion of time in this transfer has always played an important part in the discussion on metaphor. Whether the view on metaphor has been proposed as a series of leaps in human thought (Friedrich Nietzsche, Truth and Lies, 1873), as the combination of words in the syntagmatic relation of speech (Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, 1916), or as the development of complex placing of pictographs emerging from the editing of film stock (Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form, 1949, Jayda ed.). 


Traditionally the study of visual metaphor in still and moving images has been focused on the capacity for visualisation. That is, creating and maintaining a symbolic ‘language’ where one image (eg clouds) stands in for another concept (eg sadness). Our symposium will go beyond this narrow understanding of visual temporal metaphor, looking into the visualization of time in super- and meta-structures attendant to the image in addition to its content (eg framing, sequencing, linear reading etc). 


During this symposium, we, therefore, will hone in on and continue the critical engagement with both the material, experiential and the aesthetic aspects of visual images, which in their creation of metaphorical meaning might help us to shed light on the exact relation between the specific temporalities of these images and the temporal nature of the metaphorical.


Although the proposed papers do not have to be limited to the following traditions, we will in the symposium take as point of departure the foundational texts for the definition of metaphor the works of philosopher Paul Ricoeur in The Rule of Metaphor (1977) and conversely cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Philosophy in the Flesh (1999). These sources represent differing conceptions of the ways metaphors are constituted and function in language, thought and perception. Over the decades these frameworks have been central to establish the study of metaphor as a phenomenon that has helped our search for meaning that reaches far beyond language alone. Covering areas such as psychology, linguistics, hermeneutic phenomenology, cognition, the social and the visual arts, these theoretical positions will provide theoretical frameworks to launch our symposium and ground the conversations that emerge.


We are for the symposium seeking papers that put forward a specific conception of the meaning of ‘metaphor’ and the ways these types of metaphors manifest in still or moving images. Accepted papers will thus contain the following two requirements:


  • A clearly articulated statement about the theoretical framework(s) used to approach their understanding of metaphor.


  • Specific case studies, images, objects or examples to underpin and demonstrate their thinking.


We welcome proposals from career researchers, postgraduates, as well as practitioners working with the areas of, but limited to still and moving images, such as photography, film, animation, the visual arts, new media, design, computational imagery, data visualization etc. 


Please send an abstract of 300-500 words along with a brief bio of 100 words to timesofmetaphor@gmail.com in a word document by December 7th 2020, 23:59 (BST). Final papers will be expected to be a maximum of 3,000 words, and presenters will be given 30 minutes to speak. Please feel free to also email any questions to this address.


Important dates:

October 6th - call for papers

December 7th - abstract deadline

February 1st - notification of accepted papers

April 30th - papers deadline with updated abstracts to the organisers

June 12th - symposium takes place in London, UK


Please note that due to the ongoing restrictions and safety measures imposed on public institutions due to Covid-19, the final date and format for the symposium may change as we wait to evaluate in early spring for the possibility of in-person participation. We will notify participants in reasonable time to adjust any travel arrangements.



Carmen Hannibal https://www.rca.ac.uk/students/carmen-hannibal/ 

Cole Robertson https://www.rca.ac.uk/students/cole-robertson/