PhD Symposium on Metaphors

PhD Symposium on Metaphors:
Conceptualising Horizons of Meaning
Venice, 26-28 February 2024


In their influential book published in 1980 (i.e. Metaphors We Live By), George Lakoff and Mark Johnson revolutionised the way we think of metaphors, suggesting that, far from being a mere matter of language, metaphors constitute a powerful device deeply grounded in our conceptual system, which enables our understanding of the world.

Their theory has had unprecedented implications in a vast array of research fields ranging from politics to psychology, showing that indeed metaphors constitute the core of human experience and knowledge.

By recognising the fundamental role of metaphors in shaping our perception and interpretation of reality, and the centrality of metaphors in our everyday thoughts and language, this symposium seeks to unravel the intricate threads that connect metaphors to diverse disciplines, encouraging exploration and dialogue within and across different areas of knowledge and research.

Symposium topics

We invite scholars worldwide to submit abstracts that discuss and analyse metaphors as devices for understanding all fields of knowledge and research from various perspectives.

Suggested perspectives include, but are not limited to:

  • Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies (STS), Human Geography: indigenous metaphors in rethinking human and non-human relationships, metaphors and feminist thought, re-evaluation of dominant metaphors, metaphor as a decolonising method, the possibility and impossibility of metaphors.
  • Archaeology and Heritage Management:exploring the metaphorical language employed in ancient texts, inscriptions, and material culture, unveiling the cultural and symbolic dimensions embedded in ancient civilisations.
  • Gender Studies: examining the use of metaphors to characterise, describe, and express gender identities in different contexts, eras, and cultures, and how the metaphors often define and shape these very identities; shedding light on love or sexual relationship as the metaphor of the power relation between the West and East.
  • Linguistics: investigating on how metaphors convey ideas and emotions by bridging the concrete and the abstract; exploring the multifaceted relationship between figurative and literal use of language.
  • Literary Studies and Literary Theories: Eastern and Western literary theory of metaphors and textual analysis of how metaphors shape our imagination of the world in literary texts, especially with a comparative or a transcultural perspective.
  • Literary Urban Studies: approaching urbanism and architecture through the lenses of literature, by analysing the role of space as a metaphorical device and the relationship between physical spaces and their literary representations.
  • Philology and Language Phylogeny: exploring how metaphors constitute an integral part of the methodologies underlying some research fields such as Text Criticism (e.g. stemma codicum as metaphors of the tradition) and Linguistic History and Development (e.g. language trees).
  • Tourism Management and Marketing Communication: "Orientational metaphors" is what sociolinguists use to describe the dynamic relationship between modern tourists and tourist destinations, as the local image of a destination and its associated meanings are the main reason why we are attracted to go there to seek the experience we desire. The correct use of metaphors in tourism discourse is also an important part of destination promotion in modern society.
  • Visual Arts: Examining metaphors in visual arts, exploring the ways in which artists use metaphors to convey complex messages, evoke emotions, and challenge conventional interpretations.

We warmly invite abstract submissions from emerging researchers, including PhD candidates, post- docs, early career researchers, and independent scholars, across diverse disciplines. We specifically encourage abstracts that explore the role and impact of metaphors within various research fields, shedding light on how metaphors function and shape disciplinary frameworks. We welcome interdisciplinary and boundary-crossing approaches that foster innovative perspectives and connections.

Abstract submission

Please submit your abstract (max 250 words) with an essential bibliography (3-4 sources), and a short bio (max 150 words) via e-mail to

We kindly ask you to submit your abstract and bio only in .pdf format.

The abstracts will be evaluated, and the conference program will be finalised by a committee of PhD candidates from the Department of Asian and North African Studies at Ca' Foscari University of Venice for the academic year 2023-2024.
This process will be completed by mid-December 2023

Important dates

  • Abstract Submission Deadline: 15 October 2023
  • Notification of Acceptance: 30 October 2023
  • Confirm Presence by: 30 November 2023
  • Conference Dates: 26-28 February 2024

Programme and venue

Keynote speakers

February 26, 9.00-10.00

Mieke Bal (University of Amsterdam)
Metaphors: Moving from Existing Words

February 26, 16.30-17.30

Andrea Molesini (Writer)
“Not all bastards are from Vienna”: Metaphors in translation


February 27, 9.00-10.00

Ernst van Alphen (Leiden University)
The Performativity of Metaphor: The Provocations of Artur Zmijewski

February 28, 9.00-10.00

James St. André (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Trap or Trapped? Lakoff and Johnson, Ortony, Zhuangzi


Ca’ Foscari (Aula Mario Baratto), Dorsoduro 3246 , Venice, Italy

This is an in-person event. Online participation can only be justified in specific cases at the discretion of the abstract-evaluation committee.
For more information and for queries please write to:

Travelling to Venice 

There are many ways to arrive in Venice, including air, sea, and land. The city can be reached easily by plane, car, and train. Venice is connected to the mainland (Venice-Mestre) through Ponte Della Libertà, a 4 km long bridge, where trains and cars can pass to the lagoon.
Marco Polo Airport is the nearest and the only airport in Venice where most intercontinental flights arrive. The airport is located nearly 5 miles (8 km) to the north of Venice. It is the city's main international airport and the fourth busiest airport in the whole of Italy. The terminal is well connected to the rest of the world from where you can avail yourself various bus services from to the city.
Treviso Canova Airport is another close airport from where you can transfer to Venice. Treviso Airport is located 25 miles (40 km) north of Venice and is mainly used by low-cost carriers.

Getting around in Venice and surrounding islands

Venice ACTV Water Bus Services
In the city of Venice, ACTV water buses replace conventional buses. The ordinary ticket (single ticket) is valid on all urban lines (vaporetto, tram, buses in Mestre and Lido, and People Mover) but is not valid to get to Marco Polo Airport by bus. Make sure to check various ACTV offers to get economic advantages for your transportation in Venice.

More to know
You may find much interesting information on the official website of the Città Venezia, the official tourism website of the City of Venice, or Civitatis Venice Network.
You can plan your public transport itinerary in Venice and check the timetables using CheBateo (available for iOS and Android). ACTV also has its own application AVM Venezia (available for iOS and Android). Besides the trip planner, the app can be used to buy the tickets and store them on the smartphone until needed. However, the tickets cannot be transferred to the Venezia Unica card but can be used only through the smartphone.


Rebecca Ciattini
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies,
Ca' Foscari University of Venice, joint degree with Heidelberg University
Research topic: Urban Poetics and Representation of Space in Persian Literature

Wenxin Jin
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies,
Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Research topic: (Sur-)influence Study between American Confessional and Chinese Third Generation Poetry

Cien Liang
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies, 
Ca' Foscari University of Venice 
Research topic: Chinese Cultural Tourism in Veneto

Laura Locatelli
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies, 
Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Research topic: Chinese linguistics

Michele Pulini
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies, 
Ca' Foscari University of Venice 
Research topic: Chinese Historical Linguistics (Old Chinese Phonology), Paleography and Philology (Pre-imperial excavated Chu manuscripts).
Investigating Morphological Derivation and Graphic Variation in Chinese Excavated Texts

Michele Scarlassara
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies, 
Ca' Foscari University of Venice 
Research topic: Retrofitting a Dubious Category: Envisioning Late Antiquity through the prism of Early Jewish and Christian Magical Traditions

Kesang Thakur
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies,
Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Research topic:Infrastructures, Sustainability and Transformation in the Indian Trans-Himalayas

Claudia Zancan
PhD Fellow, Department of Asian and North African Studies,
Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Research topic: Art and Archaeology of Japan: Symbolism and Social Significance of Visual Art in Pre-Protohistoric Japanese funerary context



Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Department of Asian and North African Studies (DSAAM)

Palazzo Vendramin, Dorsoduro 3462, 30123 Venice - Italy
Ca' Cappello, San Polo 2035, 30125 Venice - Italy