Document Type


Publication Date

January 2010


This essay critiques and creates metaphoric genetic rhetoric by examining metaphors for genes used by representatives of the lay American public. We assess these metaphors with a new rhetorical orientation that we developed by building onto work by Robert Ivie and social scientific qualitative studies of audiences. Specifically, our analysis reveals three themes of genetic metaphors, with the first two appearing most frequently: 1) genes as a disease or problem 2) genes as fire or bomb, and 3) genes as gambling. We not only discuss the problems and untapped potential of these metaphors, but also we suggest metaphorically understanding genes interacting with the environment as a dance or a band. This essay has implications for rhetorical criticism, science studies, and public health.


This article was originally published in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 40(1): 46-70. doi: 10.1080/02773940903413415