Charles Forceville


Charles Forceville was born in Heemstede, NL, in 1959. He studied English at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where after graduating he taught in the English, comparative literature, and Word & Image departments. From 1996-1998 he did a post-doc “Narration in Fiction and Film” at the University of Leyden. Since 1999 he has worked in the Media Studies department of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, where he is associate professor and directed the Research Master programme from 2004 to 2012. He serves as member of the advisory boards of Metaphor and Symbol (where he earlier was book review editor), Journal of Pragmatics, Public Journal of Semiotics, Atlantis, Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, and the Benjamins series Review of Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Linguistic Studies of Language and Cognition in Cultural Contexts. Forceville heads the project Adventures in Multimodality/Structure & Rhetoric in Multimodal Discourse. From 2005-2008 he was external examiner of the MPhil Text and Visual Studies (TVS) at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Apart from publishing scholarly articles and book chapters, he wrote some 200 reviews of English-language fiction for the Dutch national newspaper Trouw (1987-2007). The volume Multimodal Metaphor (Mouton De Gruyter), co-edited with Eduardo Urios-Aparisi, appeared in 2009. In 2008 he was given the opportunity, together with Kurt Feyaerts and Tony Veale, to spend six months as visiting fellow at VLAC (Vlaamse Academie/Royal Flemish Academy) in Brussels, Belgium, to work on the project The Agile Mind: Creativity in Models and Multimodal Discourse. An edited volume on the topic is forthcoming with Mouton de Gruyter.

Forceville’s teaching in the Media Studies department pertains to various media and genres, including fiction film, documentary, animation, advertising, comics, and cartoons. He is also associated with the liberal arts and science programme at Amsterdam University College, where he teaches the course “Narrative across Media.”

Scholarly Background and Beliefs

“Educated in a literature and linguistics department, I started out with a passion for literature and other arts. But gradually I found the activity of interpreting works of art, while an enjoyable and important pursuit, no longer quite satisfied my scholarly ambitions. Discovering the Cognitive Linguistics’ work on metaphor coincided with a growing fascination with the study of images in popular culture. Combining these interests led to the publication of Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising (1996). Partly thanks to my appointment in Media Studies, a department which has tracks in film, TV, and New Media, my research has broadened from pictorial to multimodal metaphor, and from static representations to moving images. I began to complement insights from cognitivist approaches in metaphor studies (as practiced within the Researching and Applying Metaphor [RaAM] association), with those in film (as practiced by scholars united in the Society of Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image [SCSMI]). Lately I have rediscovered “narratology” as central to what humanities scholars can contribute to cognition studies. My general approach fits in very well with recent attempts to marry cognitivist approaches, including Relevance Theory, with evolutionary models to account for all manifestations of purposive activity. This affiliation, incidentally, in no way presupposes a simplistic degradation of art to an instinctual survival mechanism: an evolutionary approach is entirely compatible with the belief that the pursuit of the aesthetic is one of the activities that makes us human.

While I see text-based analyses of contemporary discourse as basic to my scholarly work, my goal, in the broadest sense, is thus to contribute to cognitivist theories of the image and of multimodal discourse. I strive to make my work both theoretically insightful and practically applicable and attempt to formulate my findings in such a way as to enable falsification as well as to provide starting points for empirical testing. One of my missions is to show that humanities-oriented research focusing on art and popular culture is of interest to work that is being done in the (social) sciences – and vice versa.”

For a full, regularly updated CV, please see my institutional homepage and the “Adventures in Multimodality” (AIM) blog, co-administered with Natalia Sanchez-Querubin.