How to Read Literature Like a Professor


Thomas C. Foster

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Conceit Term Analysis

A conceit is an extended metaphor that is used to structure a text. The example Foster cites is John Donne’s “The Flea,” a poem structured around the flea-as-metaphor for sexuality. It might be difficult to distinguish between a central symbol and a conceit, as both could appear throughout a text. In order to identify a conceit, look for signs that this metaphor is what is fundamentally structuring the text, as opposed to simply being a major element.
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Conceit Term Timeline in How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The timeline below shows where the term Conceit appears in How to Read Literature Like a Professor. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 25: It’s My Symbol and I’ll Cry If I Want To
Surface Reading vs. Deeper Reading Theme Icon
Symbol and Metaphor Theme Icon
Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon
...are not always so straightforward. In John Donne’s “The Flea,” the flea functions as a conceit (or extended metaphor), symbolizing sex. Because this metaphor is repeated throughout the poem, structurally uniting... (full context)