Charles Forceville

Charles Forceville studied English Language and Literature at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where after graduating he lectured in the English, comparative literature, and word & image Departments. He completed his PhD research, funded by the Dutch National Science Council (NWO), in 1994. The trade edition was published as Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising (Routledge, 1996). Since 1999, he has worked at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in the Media Studies department, where he directed the Research Master program from 2004-2012. Charles Forceville is now an Associate Professor.

In 2008, he spent six months as visiting fellow at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (VLAC) in Brussels, where he cooperated with Kurt Feyaerts and Tony Veale on the project “The Agile Mind: Creativity in Art and Multimodal Discourse”.

His research and teaching focuses on multimodal discourse, more specifically on multimodal metaphor, in advertising, documentary, animation film, and comics. He has published papers in journals such as Metaphor and Symbol, Journal of Pragmatics, Language and Literature, Poetics, Poetics Today, New Review of Film and Television Studies, as well as in edited books. Between 1987-2007 he wrote some 200 literature reviews for the Dutch newspaper Trouw.

Forceville is a member of the Advisory Boards of the journals Metaphor and Symbol, Journal of Pragmatics, Public Journal of Semiotics, Atlantis: Revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos, and Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, as well as of the Benjamins series Review of Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Linguistic Studies of Language and Cognition in Cultural Contexts.

His online course on Pictorial and Multimodal Metaphor can be found at For further information see and (Adventures in Multimodality blog).

“Relevance Theory and communicating by pictures and word & image texts”

Human beings are thoroughly purpose-driven creatures. In order to achieve their goals in life (getting food, shelter, love, sex, money, experiencing artistic catharsis, fame, respect, or simply catching a plane), people constantly, even automatically, judge phenomena confronting them by how these phenomena could help advance, or jeopardize, their goals. Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson make the search for goal-enhancing information the centre-piece of their Relevance Theory (Sperber and Wilson 1995, Wilson and Sperber 2004, Wilson and Sperber 2012), claiming that all human communication and cognition revolves around optimizing relevance. Although the authors present their theory as holding for all types of information, it is mainly based on face-to-face communication (but see Forceville 1996, 2005, 2009, Yus 2008). After briefly outlining the key ideas of Relevance Theory, I will in this talk show and discuss a number of pictorial and word & image “texts,” some of them metaphorical, that impart information visually, usually in combination with language in the light of Sperber and Wilson’s theory. The “texts” to be discussed include advertisements, cartoons, logos, cartoons, and comic panels. The talk’s goal is to explore how Relevance Theory needs to be adapted to account for visual and visual + verbal communication.