About the Database
The Mind is a Metaphor, is an evolving work of reference, an ever more interactive, more solidly constructed collection of mental metaphorics. This collection of eighteenth-century metaphors of mind serves as the basis for a scholarly study of the metaphors and root-images appealed to by the novelists, poets, dramatists, essayists, philosophers, belle-lettrists, preachers, and pamphleteers of the long eighteenth century. While the database does include metaphors from classical sources, from Shakespeare and Milton, from the King James Bible, and from more recent texts, it does not pretend to any depth or density of coverage in literature other than that of the British eighteenth century.
☞ The database was assembled and taxonomized and is maintained by Brad Pasanek
The bulk of the metaphors were collected during Brad Pasanek's graduate school career, in the English department at Stanford University. An early version of this database, built in Filemaker, served as the basis for his dissertation titled, Eighteenth-Century Metaphors of Mind, A Dictionary. Stanford: 2006.
I/Brad continue to add to the database and edit the entries. Be aware that not all entries are complete. There are typos and mistakes mixed in the database as well. I edit as I compile but don't catch all my mistakes--and I make a lot of mistakes.
There are many strange and surprising metaphors in the database; please do go looking for them. In March of 2006, I launched a blog-like site of short explications of my favorite metaphors. I'll add to those pages as I continue working with the database, fishing out especially interesting metaphors of mind. In the future I hope to integrate these explicative pages and the database, so that my visitors can move back and forth between metaphor and mini-essay, evidence and claim. To that end, a USC undergraduate named Casey Stark--a whiz and a credit to research assistants everywhere!--freed the metaphors from their original Filemaker format and built a new relational database in MySQL. I continue to tweak the the structure of Casey's PHP-MySQL assemblage. Stay tuned for further developments.
On the Contents of the Database
There are 8,768 metaphors in the database as of December 15, 2008. I've hundreds more marked in books and scribbled on notecards, and I am typing those up--slowly, surely. It's much easier to cut and paste.
I haven't completed all of my planned searches, and my protocol may be classified as "hunt-and-peck." But for the past two years I've been collaborating with D. Sculley, formerly of Tufts University's Department of Computer Science, now a credit to Google Pittsburgh. Employing on machine-learning methods, we have trained a computer to correctly label metaphors and non-metaphors. Our experiments suggest we may be able to automate much of the drudgery by using a classifier trained on a seed set of 100-200 labeled metaphors and non-metaphors. The hand-curated database of metaphors would then be put to work in bootstrapping efforts, repurposed as training data for automated classifiers sent forward and backward in history, departing from the eighteenth century in order to collect Renaissance and Victorian metaphors.
Should we eventually build an automated metaphor-classifier and charge it with exploring the great unread collections of electronic literature, we would be more confident in presenting a statistical picture of eighteenth-century discourse. In the meantime we have been conducting experiments and presenting papers on machine learning and literary studies, making the rounds at conferences in the digital humanities. Two papers we've written are forthcoming in Oxford's Literary and Linguistic Computing.
At present I conduct proximity searches for two character strings. I search one term from a set list ("mind," "heart," "soul," "thought," "idea," "imagination," "fancy," "reason," "passion," "head," "breast," "bosom," or "brain") against another a word that I hope will prove metaphorical. For example, I search for "mind" within one hundred characters of "mint" and find the following couplet in William Cowper's poetry:
- "The mind and conduct mutually imprint
- And stamp their image in each other's mint."
What follows is a rough breakdown of the database's contents:
- Provenance (last updated June, 2007)
- More than 5,980 of the metaphors were found keyword searching Chadwyck-Healey through Stanford's HDIS interface
- 783 metaphors are from my Orals reading or date from my first six months of collection
- 1,292 I've encountered while reading since then
- 417 were found browsing in Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO)
- 218 were found keyword searching the Liberty Fund's Online Library of Liberty (OLL)
- 188 were found keyword searching the Intelex Past Masters database
- 180 are from Roger Lonsdale's Eighteenth-Century Women Poets. Oxford: OUP, 1989.
- 150 are from the King James Bible (UVA edition)
- 67 were taken from Johnson's Dictionary
- 51 were found browsing in Early English Books Online (EEBO)
- 27 are from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
- 21 are from Ad Fontes Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts
- Some Rubrics (last updated June, 2007)
- 260 Animal entries
- 557 Architecture entries
- 874 Body entries
- 232 Garden entries
- 1,229 Government entries*
- 255 Liquid entries
- 794 Mineral entries*
- 258 Optics entries
- 471 Population entries
- 131 Visual Arts entries
- 432 War entries*
- 204 Weather entries
- 680 Writing entries*
- 1,306 Uncategorized entries
I've done in-depth proximity searches for Government, Mineral, War, and Writing metaphors. These categories are marked with an asterisk in the list above.
In my current book project, Eighteenth-Century Metaphors of Mind, A Dictionary, I analyze a collection of over 8,000 metaphors that I've assembled from various electronic and traditional sources. I consider the tacit assumption, shared by a variety of scholars, that changing metaphors are indicative--if not productive or constitutive--of broader cultural change. In contrast, my research makes clear that, with few important exceptions, metaphors of mind in the eighteenth century display astonishing persistence in the face of Enlightenment ferment and revolutionary change.
I am keenly interested in digital innovations in humanities research. But I am also a student of the history of the book. Technology enables my approach to discourse, but I remain situated in the longer tradition of philology and intellectual history. To best accommodate my material, I've structured my book as a dictionary or encyclopedia. There are no chapters in the manuscript, and I aim to shift my reader's focus from authors and texts to tropes and usages. Instead of chapters, I compose entries of five to twenty pages in length. In each entry I make local arguments about fancy's coinage, reason's empire, the court of conscience, strangers within, the mind's eye, a soldier's "mettle" or "metal," and so forth. Even the most unlikely metaphors have careers: the mind is once likened to meat rotating on a smoke-jack in the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus and then again in Tristram Shandy.