W8: Descriptivism and Probative Metaphor in Cuneiform and Post-Cuneiform Technical Literature

Organizer: Justin Cale Johnson (Freie Universität Berlin)

In line with the theme of the RAI 61 (Geneva and Bern), namely ‘Text and Image’, the Descriptivism and Probative Metaphor workshop will look at the contrast between metaphor and descriptive language in the technical disciplines. This emphasis is particularly clear and theoretically interesting in descriptions of internal anatomy, which often licenses metaphorical language or one kind or another, and also in descriptions of plants and stones, for example, in the šammu šikinšu and abnu šikinšu lists. These lists develop a formulaic linguistic repertoire for the description of natural objects, and this descriptivism operates in a quite different way from the metaphor-driven phenomena that we find in discussions of internal anatomy.

For those elements of human anatomy that are not easily available for visual inspection, metaphors can often act as a probe or heuristic device, allowing for the conceptualization of functional or correlational relationships of one kind or another. Alongside a classification of descriptive practices, therefore, the panel will also seek to define those parts of human anatomy that require the use of probative metaphors. Conceptual metaphor theory offers one clear paradigm for these questions, but we also hope in the context of the workshop to investigate how metaphor-driven approaches can be compared or contrasted with descriptive paradigms.

This panel is the third BabMed workshop panel and like previous BabMed panels it will strive to include talks dealing with commensurable materials from postcuneiform Mesopotamia and the broader history of technical literatures. The first
of these panels was held in 2013 at the American Oriental Society (Portland, Oregon) and focused on technical compendia, while the second, at the RAI in Warsaw last year, focused on patients, patronage and performative identities. The proceedings of the first panel are currently in press at De Gruyter, while the second volume from RAI Warsaw is currently in preparation and will likely appear as a RAI Workshop volume with Eisenbrauns.

At present [6 March 2015] we have two slots still available on the panel. Prospective participants should send a title and a sentence or two describing their talk to:

Contact: jcale@zedat.fu-berlin.de