Conceptualizing Trauma in Don DeLillo’s Falling Man A Cognitive Approach to 9/11 Trauma Metaphor

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Daban Q. Jaff
Yasir A. Al-Jumaili


This paper explores the mapping process which is used to conceptualize trauma in one of the post-9/11 novels, namely DeLillo’s Falling Man. The paper focuses on how the traumatic experiences are represented through metaphors. Although many previous studies have attempted stylistic investigations to DeLillo’s novel, very little research approached its metaphorical language. As far as trauma experience is concerned, most of the previous studies discussed these experiences thematically (Kensiton and Quinn, 2008; Gray, 2012; Pozorski, 2014; Keeble, 2014). This study, therefore, offers a stylistic examination of the metaphors of trauma which are used to communicate the negative mental experiences in this novel. It examines the conceptualization of traumatic experiences encountered by the main characters as they are exposed to disturbing events. The study applies insights from Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980; 2003) to selected metaphors from the novel. The application of conceptual metaphor theory allows better understanding of how the abstract state of trauma is conceptualized and communicated through the course of the novel. The experience of trauma is represented variously in this novel, sometimes it is communicated through idiosyncratic metaphors (Moncef, 2016) and sometimes it is represented through using conventional metaphors. The study also examines the mapping process to see how conceptual structures are selected from different source domains and mapped onto the domain of the abstract state of trauma to convey the effects of these distressing experiences.


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Jaff, D. Q. and Al-Jumaili, Y. A. (2020) “Conceptualizing Trauma in Don DeLillo’s Falling Man: A Cognitive Approach to 9/11 Trauma Metaphor”, Koya University Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 3(1), pp. 123-131. doi: 10.14500/kujhss.v3n1y2020.pp123-131.
Author Biographies

Daban Q. Jaff, Department of English Language, Faculty of Education, Koya University, Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Daban Q. Jaff, Obtained his BA at Koya University. Obtained his MA at Koya university 2020. He is interested in American Literature, Metaphor, and discourse analysis, trauma and cognitive theories. Currently, he is a faculty member at Faculty education at Koya University.

Yasir A. Al-Jumaili, Department of English Language, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Koya University, Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Yasir Al-Jumaili, is an academic staff at the Department of English Language, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Koya University in Kurdistan Region, Iraq. He holds a BA in English Language and Literature, University of Baghdad (2000) and MA in English Medieval Literature, University of Baghdad (2004). He got his PhD in Romantic Poetry/Cognitive study, The University of Sheffield, UK (2018). His research interests lie at the interface between language and literature, such as disciplines of stylistics, cognitive poetics and discourse analysis. He is particularly interested in Cognitive metaphor theories. His research and teaching are closely related. The modules that he contributes to undergraduate level include: Romantic and Victorian Poetry, Renaissance Poetry and Metaphysical Poetry. He also contributes to postgraduate courses where he teaches Romantic Poetry and Literary Theory and Criticism.


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