James Geary-Wit's End: What Wit Is

James Geary


James Geary is the deputy curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, editor of Nieman Reports, and former editor of the European edition of Time magazine. He is the author of five books including the New York Times bestseller The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism.

Hear James Geary at multiple DBF 2019 sessions:

Sunday, Sep 1 at 12:00PM
Wit and the Role of Humor in Writing
Sunday, Sep 1 at 2:30PM
Metaphor and Its Impact on Life, Sponsored by Successful Nonprofits


Metaphor and Its Impact on Life, Sponsored by Successful Nonprofits

New York Times bestselling author James Geary offers a fascinating look at metaphor in his book I Is An Other. Neuroscientist-turned-literary scholar, Laura Otis, uses metaphor as a vehicle for understanding the cultural and religious roots of emotion in novels, self-help books, and popular films in her book, Banned Emotions. Join these two authors as they discuss their shared interest in metaphor and its role in our lives.

Moderator: Robyn Fivush

Robyn Fivush is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology at Emory University, College of Arts and Sciences. She is well known for her research on parent-child narrative in relation to the development of autobiographical memory.

  • Historic DeKalb Courthouse presented by Creative Flame Media
  • Sun 2:30-3:15p Courthouse

Wit's End: What Wit Is, How it Works, and Why We Need It

Wit is often thought of as simply being funny. But wit is more than just having a knack for snappy comebacks. There is the serendipitous wit of scientists, the crafty wit of inventors, the optical wit of artists, the improvisational wit of musicians, and the metaphysical wit of philosophers. Wit is the quick, instinctive intelligence that allows us to think, say or do the right thing at the right time in the right place. James Geary explores every facet of wittiness, bringing the subject to life by writing each chapter in a style that exemplifies a different kind of wit. The chapter on witty verbal repartee is written as a dramatic dialogue; the chapter on the neuroscience of wit is written as a scientific paper; the chapter on the spirituality of wit is written as a sermon.

In I Is an Other, James Geary takes readers from Aristotle’s investigation of metaphor right up to the latest neuroscientific insights into how metaphor works in the brain. Along the way, he demonstrates how metaphor affects financial decision making, how metaphor lurks behind effective advertisements, how metaphor inspires learning and discovery, and how metaphor can be used as a tool to achieve emotional insight and psychological change. Geary also explores how a life without metaphor, as experienced by some people with autism spectrum disorders, significantly changes the way a person interacts with the world. As Geary demonstrates, metaphor has leaped off the page and landed with a mighty splash right in the middle of our stream of consciousness.Witty, persuasive, and original, I Is an Other showcases how a simple way with words, which in the past was considered a tool only for poets, is really a driving force in our society. This book will open readers’ eyes to the secret life of metaphor and its role in swinging elections, moving markets, and powerfully influencing daily life.

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