Many people might assume that metaphors are linguistic devices that pithily play on associations between unrelated kinds of things. These associations, many might further assume, show how deft an author can be at using a turn of phrase or how agile a speaker might be using widely known imagery to illustrate a point. Such assumptions are not completely arbitrary, as metaphors do indeed have important literary aspects. This device, though, is often presumed to be a mere literary or rhetorical trope designed to enliven one's language or show intellectual dexterity in discourse. Metaphor is, in this view, a mere trick designed to conceal or cover over the truth by making a superficial comparison with unrelated phenomena. ...
In this Article, I intend to do two things. First, I will briefly discuss the way in which metaphor has a formative and ontological effect on how we see and live in the world. Here, I will draw upon the work of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, touching upon the notion that we "live by" certain metaphors. In Part II of this Article, I will discuss the basic theory behind cognitive or conceptual metaphor. While not an exhaustive treatment, this discussion should orient the reader to the fundamental aspects of this theory. Then I will develop one particular category of metaphors that Lakoff and Johnson have identified, which has subsequently been picked up by others in discussions of contemporary political theory (especially in the European context). This class of metaphors relates to the theme of exclusion. My decision to discuss this particular class of metaphors is not happenstance. These are metaphors that are frequently used in the legal academy to discuss the status of people who teach legal skills related courses.
This leads me to my second task. The remainder of the Article (Part III) will be devoted to evaluating and discussing some of these metaphors of exclusion with an eye to the ontological effect they have upon those who teach legal skills courses (particularly "legal writing"). I must caution that this discussion is not simply another in a long line of calls for the increased status of legal writing and legal skills professors (although it might be that at some level as well), but is instead a look at how those of us in these positions sometimes unwittingly contribute to the reinscription of exclusionary metaphors and ultimately to the re-entrenchment of the hierarchy itself. In my view, this reinscription, in turn, makes it impossible to change the dynamic of power and status that reigns in the contemporary legal academy. If I am correct, we (those of us who teach legal skills) have as much responsibility as anyone for the current state of affairs. Who we are and how we are perceived can be changed. By recognizing that status is-in a very true way-a metaphorical relationship, we perhaps have more power to change our own situations than we might dare to imagine.
David T. Ritchie, Who is On the Outside Looking In, and What Do They See?: Metaphors of Exclusion in Legal Education, 58 Mercer L. Rev. 991 (2007).