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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Paul Turpin

First Committee Member

Marlin Bates

Second Committee Member

Teresa Bergman


Despite the presence of metaphors in American political discourse, little scholarly attention has been paid to the functioning of economic metaphors. This study addresses this shortcoming by examining the use of economic metaphors in contentious argument, while paying attention to how metaphor's linguistic variability derives from the rhetorical nature of discourse, and how the context of conflicting ideologies facilitates clashes between larger political metaphors. After establishing the ubiquity of metaphor in economic policy discourse, this study elaborates on an understanding of a fractured political discourse with an historical model that traces this fracture back to four dominant ideological positions. Finally, rhetorical criticism grounds the research by refining a conceptual theory of metaphor into a methodology that directs attention to more elaborate analogies and extra-discursive narrative elements. The chosen artifact for this study is Bill Clinton’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech, due to its relevance in contemporary American political and economic discourse. Clinton’s address defended Obama’s incumbent appeal for a second term as U.S. president by concentrating on the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis as a case study about the philosophical differences between the Democratic and Republican Parties. Clinton constructs a narrative of the American economy by using individualistic progress metaphors that animate a cooperation-conflict dichotomy of Democratic and Republican opposition. In turn, Clinton borrows from and contributes to a set of more broadly salient path metaphors that cohere around a future-oriented and generative conceptualization of Modern Liberal public policy.





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