Thinking with Metaphors in Medicine: The State of the Art, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Thinking with Metaphors in Medicine

The State of the Art, 1st Edition

By Alan Bleakley


270 pages

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Hardback: 9781138229440
pub: 2017-06-23
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315389448
pub: 2017-07-06
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While medical language is soaked in metaphor, and thinking with metaphor is central to diagnostic work, medicine – that is, medical culture, clinical practice and medical education – outwardly rejects metaphor for objective, literal scientific language. This thought-provoking book argues that this is a misstep, and critically considers what embracing the use of metaphors and similes might mean for shaping medical culture, and especially the doctor–patient relationship, in a healthy way.


Thinking With Metaphors in Medicine explores:

  • how metaphors inhabit medicine – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse – and how these metaphors can be revealed, appreciated and understood;
  • how diagnostic work utilizes thinking with metaphors;
  • how patient–doctor communication can be better understood and enhanced as a metaphorical exchange;
  • how the landscape of medicine is historically shaped by leading or didactic metaphors, such as ‘the body as machine’ and ‘medicine as war’, which may conflict with other values or perspectives on healthcare, for instance, person-centred care.


Outlining the kinds of metaphors and resemblances that inhabit medicine and how they shape practices and identities of doctors, colleagues and patients, this book demonstrates how the landscape of medicine may be reshaped through metaphor shift. It is an important work for all those interested in the use of language and rhetoric in medicine, whether hailing from a humanities, social science or healthcare background.

Table of Contents


1. The Recovery of Metaphor in Medicine

2. Metaphors Make a Comeback

3. What Do We Know about Metaphors in Medicine and What Are The Consequences of Resisting Metaphor?

4. Medicine as War and Other Didactic Metaphors

5. Medical Metaphors as Resemblances: ‘Food for Thought’

6. Metaphors in Psychiatry

7. Aphorisms: Pocket-sized Medicine

8. Conclusions and Future Directions

About the Author

Alan Bleakley is Emeritus Professor at the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in the Medical Humanities

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Education & Training
MEDICAL / Nursing / Issues