Metaphor, Nation and the Holocaust

The Concept of the Body Politic

By Andreas Musolff

© 2010 – Routledge

210 pages

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Paperback: 9781138810037
pub: 2014-11-10
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About the Book

This book is the first to provide a cognitive analysis of the function of biological/medical metaphors in National Socialist racist ideology and their background in historical traditions of Western political theory. Its main arguments are that the metaphor of the German nation as a body that needed to be rescued from a deadly poison must be viewed as the conceptual basis rather than a mere propagandistic by-product of Nazi genocidal policies culminating in the Holocaust, and that this metaphor is closely related to the more general metaphor complex of the nation as a human body/person, which is deeply ingrained in Western political thought. The cognitive approach is crucial to understanding the nature and the origins of this metaphor complex because it goes beyond the rhetorical level by analyzing the ideological and practical implications of the conceptual mapping body-state in detail. It provides an innovative perspective on the problem of how the Nazis managed to ‘revive’ a clichéd metaphor tradition to the point where it became a decisive factor in European and world history. Musolff reveals how such a perspective allows us to explain why the body-state metaphor continues to be attractive for use in contemporary political theories.


"Musolff provides a fascinating investigation into the working of metaphors, particular Hitler's anti-Semitic metaphor scenarios."--Journal of Language and Politics 10:4

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 1: Introduction: Deadly Metaphors That Won’t Die? Bodies and Parasites as Concepts of Political Discourse Part I 2: The Cognitive Import of Metaphor in Nazi Ideology 3: Body, Nature and Disease as Political Categories in Mein Kampf 4: The Public Presentation and Reception of Anti-Semitic Imagery in Nazi Germany 5: Methodological Reflection: Body and Illness Metaphors in the Evolution of Western Political Thought and Discourse Part II 6: Solidarity and Hierarchy: The State-Body Metaphor in the Middle Ages 7: Concepts of Healing the Body Politic in the Renaissance 8: From Political Anatomy to Social Pathology: Modern Scenarios of the Body Politic and its Therapy 9: German Conceptual and Discursive Traditions of the Body Politic Metaphor 10: Conclusion: Metaphor in Discourse History Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Andreas Musolff is a Professor in the School of Language and Communication Studies at the University of East Anglia, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Discourse

Routledge Critical Studies in Discourse publishes high quality original research monographs broadly in the area of critical discourse studies. It seeks theoretically innovative and empirically rigorous research that advances our critical understanding of the interrelations of discourse and social processes, including all aspects of power relations (such as maintenance and perpetuation of dominance; negotiations of power and resistance; as well as solidarity formations for group empowerment). The series supports interdisciplinary research, and welcomes investigations of new topics, domains, issues, frameworks and methods, as well as fresh perspectives on established ones, from a variety of international and cultural contexts. A broad understanding of "discourse" is adopted in the series to include systematic and explicit analyses of spoken/written language and other modes of semiosis (e.g. visual images, sounds, gestures and actions).

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Holocaust
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General