Saturday, February 14, 2015

Vaccination and the Metaphor of the Needle

Really interesting essay-review by Jerome Groopman at the NYRB website about vaccination. One of his source materials is a book by Eula Biss called On Immunity: An Inoculation, in which Biss melds science, philosophy, and literature with her own experience as a new mother. Groopman cites this passage, which is a compelling one:
“Our bodies prime our metaphors,” writes James Geary in I Is an Other, his treatise on metaphor, “and our metaphors prime how we think and act.” If we source our understanding of the world from our own bodies, it seems inevitable that vaccination would become emblematic: a needle breaks the skin, a sight so profound that it causes some people to faint, and a foreign substance is injected directly into the flesh. The metaphors we find in this gesture are overwhelmingly fearful, and almost always suggest violation, corruption, and pollution.
This sounds like it could be describing our zombie obsession, too. Viruses confront us in hideous semi-human form.

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