Metaphor in the construction of a small group culture
Welch, Germaine Burchard
Davis, Philip W.
Doctor of Philosophy
A small group experience is analyzed from a hermeneutic stance for members' use of metaphor in construction of the emergent group culture. Metaphor is described as a process rather than a product of language. As process, metaphor is primarily an invitation to others to co-create, within a particular context, the objectifications and typifications that will come to represent the shared experience. As an extension of this concept, metaphor is thought to assume and invite intimacy by eliciting exposure of cognitive constructions used in the formulations of a constructed reality. Second, metaphor is described as an integrative device capable of incorporating and illuminating, within a single utterance, multiple aspects of the situation, and of facilitating the group's progress through developmental stages. The discourse used in this study was produced by nine members and a consultant of a self-study experiential group as they struggled to understand the nature of their task, the multiple roles they took in production of the event, and their interdependent relationships as they constructed the social reality of the experience. Metaphor both described and became the group's dynamics as it integrated contextual elements and identified member's fears and fantasies, thereby contributing to the development of the collective. In the first metaphoric instance the tension created by cameras and film crew, anonymity and job security, were addressed through an analogy about film ratings. Further analogies of guns, firing squads, sitting ducks, shipwrecks and desert islands, a Greek chorus, and even God, were developed as violence, aggression, power and competition, safety and rescue, alternated as dominant themes in the discourse. In each case, metaphor filled an important role in the group's dynamics. A brothel became the metaphoric vehicle for expression of underlying sexual aggression, directly alluding to the difficulty experienced by both men and women in their attempts to validate and legitimize individual roles in the group. The mechanisms by which this analogy developed and the consequences for the group are discussed.
Cultural anthropology; Sociology; Social structure; Linguistics