Metaphors of Conversion in Latin Late Antiquity

This project is the first extensive study on conversion metaphors for Latin Late Antiquity. Using cognitive-linguistic metaphor theories and model theory, it will systematically analyse metaphors as elementary parts of the linguistic range to communicate concepts of conversion. These conversion metaphors can be found in narratives on individual and group conversions as well as in general considerations on conversions. The project is based on the observations that conversions can only be thought of and communicated in metaphors but that at the same time, conversions produce new concepts of conversion. Therefore, metaphors function as models of and for conversions.

The project aims to describe conversion metaphors on three levels in detail: First, different conversion concepts will be brought out by reading conversion metaphors as mini-narratives. A single metaphorically used phrase can be considered a narrative because it describes several events with a coherent causal connection. This narrative may be applied to conversion and thus models a specific concept of conversion. Second, the project will analyse the boundary between elementary and conventionalised metaphors. Doing this, the research will answer questions of historical semantisation and lexicalisation about the language of conversion. The outcomes will allow a conclusion to be drawn about general processes of lexicalisation and will, therefore, contribute to research on historical metaphors. Third, the project will study the metaphors’ importance in communication about conversions. On this level, the conversion is considered a concept that is interpreted as a religious one, which reveals the unknown, abstract, and transcendent by using metaphors from the known, tangible, and immanent domain.

By focusing on the period from the middle of the 3rd to the middle of the 6th century, the project covers a time that has produced and canonised a great variety of religious ideas and at the same time (conversion-)metaphors.


10/2021– 09/2024

Funded by

Affiliated Persons

Photograph of Dr. Gina Derhard-Lesieur

Dr. Gina Derhard-Lesieur

Project Leader

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