Forceville, Charles (2011). “The journey metaphor and the Source-Path-Goal schema in Agnès Varda’s autobiographical gleaning documentaries.”

The journey metaphor and the Source-Path-Goal schema in Agnès Varda’s autobiographical gleaning documentaries.” In: Monika Fludernik (ed.), Beyond Cognitive Metaphor Theory: Perspectives on Literary Metaphor, 281-297. London: Routledge.

Abstract: Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (“The Gleaners and I,” Dir. Agnès Varda, 2000) was a remarkable success, both in the director’s native country France and abroad. The many enthusiastic reactions Varda received in response to the documentary inspired her to make a sequel, Les glaneurs et la glaneuse … deux ans après (“The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later,” 2002). The films are unusual in their apparently episodic structure and in the high degree of interpretative freedom spectators seem to enjoy. In fact, however, Varda’s two nonfictional “road movies” (see Cohan and Hark 1997) are profoundly structured by two interrelated conceptual metaphors. The first one is a life is a journey (Lakoff 1993: 223; Johnson 1993: 167), which – since it is the goal-pursuing aspect of life that is at stake here – I will reformulate as a quest is a journey. The second metaphor that helps impose coherence on Varda’s complex films is a story is a journey. In order to capture the interrelations between the two metaphors, it is necessary to examine the schema that underlies their central elements: quest, story, and journey: the “Source-Path-Goal” schema.

This chapter sets out to demonstrate that the central metaphors a quest is a journey and a story is a journey, both rooted in the “Source-Path-Goal” (henceforth SPG) schema, strongly steer viewers’ interpretations of Varda’s films. The goal of this exercise is threefold. In the first place, since the SPG schema is often used metaphorically (Katz and Taylor 2008; Ritchie 2008), demonstrating its pertinence to films sheds light on the Cognitive Metaphor Theory (CMT) axiom that metaphor primarily governs thought, and only derivatively governs language (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 1999; see also Johnson 2007). In this respect, the current chapter ties in with my larger project of confronting CMT claims by considering them in the light of multimodal rather than verbal-only manifestations of metaphor (e.g., Forceville 2005a, 2006a, 2006b, 2008a, 2008b; Forceville and Jeulink 2008; see also Forceville and Urios-Aparisi in press). In the second place, the intention is to show that the SPG schema is a useful instrument for analyzing films that, in one way or another, are “road movies,” and to help theorize their generic features. Finally, although no exhaustive interpretation of the documentaries can be claimed, it is hoped that the analyses provide non-trivial insights into Varda’s extraordinary films.

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