Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Human Communications

First Advisor

Darrin Hicks, Ph.D.


Critical metaphor analysis, Culture war, Lawrence v. Texas, Metaphor, Sexual autonomy


This work explores how metaphor, specifically conceptual metaphor, is used to create the argumentative context, carry meaning, supply the enthymematic structure of the arguments, and transform the sexual autonomy controversy within the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. Research questions that guide this work include:

Is there evidence that the metaphor of "culture war" drives the argumentative context in the Lawrence opinion and is carried by other metaphorical constructions?

How is the social controversy over sexual autonomy advanced by conceptual metaphors in this legal text?

What are the dominant metaphors used to argue for sexual autonomy? What are the dominant metaphors used to resist the advance of sexual autonomy?

Does Critical Metaphor Analysis add substantially to our understanding of the argumentative strategy of both sides in the controversy?

Theoretical assumptions made in this study are in line with George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's conceptual metaphor theory and the embodied nature of cognition. The methodology selected to analyze the conceptual metaphors used in Lawrence v. Texas to argue about sexual autonomy is a variant of the Critical Metaphor Analysis method practiced by Jonathan Charteris-Black.

The textual analysis of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion and Justice Scalia's dissent reveals that "liberty" functions as the chief metaphor. Although the metaphor "culture war" is used explicitly by Justice Scalia only twice, and not at all used explicitly by Justice Kennedy, this metaphor as a descriptor of the nature of the argument of Lawrence v. Texas is indeed supported throughout the arguments by other related conceptual metaphors. Despite the absence of the "culture war" metaphor in Justice Kennedy's argument, the critical analysis of metaphor makes transparent the way he actually waged a very sophisticated rhetorical battle through metaphor in order to advance sexual autonomy. It also demonstrates that Justice Scalia's charge of the Court's engagement in "culture war" is not arbitrary, but supportable.

This study demonstrates the theoretical and methodological synthesis possible in using Critical Metaphor Analysis on legal texts, and gives apple evidence of the impact cognitive metaphor theory has on advancing understanding of both how a text works and what a text means. Critical Metaphor Analysis facilitates a level of intellectual rigor, as it does not require adopting an a priori ideological stance. Instead the analysis is grounded in the cognitive workings of our shared human minds and bodily experiences as expressed in our use of conceptual metaphor.

This work is a synthesizing demonstration of the need for critical rhetorical analysis of important judicial texts that will clarify the on-going role the courts are playing in the interpreting and shaping of our corporate life as a Nation.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Judy A. Bruce

File size

200 p.

File format






Included in

Communication Commons