Metaphor Making Meaning: Dickinson’s Conceptual Universe
Journal of Pragmatics, Vol. 24, pp. 643-666, 1995
44 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2009
Date Written: 1995
If meaning, understanding, and reasoning in human language are achieved through bodily experience and figurative processes, as recent work in cognitive linguistics has argued, then the traditional notion of a separation in kind between ordinary discourse and poetic language no longer holds. Metaphor making, under this view, is not peripheral but central to our reasoning processes, not unique to poetical thinking but that which is shared by both ordinary discourse and the language of poetry. Poets, then, in their metaphor making, serve as arbiters of and commentators on the way humans understand and interpret their world. Much of Dickinson’s poetry is structured by the extent to which she rejected the dominant metaphor of her religious environment, that of LIFE IS A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME, and replaced it with a metaphor more in accordance with the latest scientific discoveries of her day, that of LIFE IS A VOYAGE IN SPACE. Examples from her poems show how the schemas of PATH and CYCLE and the AIR IS SEA image metaphor contribute to a coherent and consistent patterning that at the same time reflects a physically embodied world and creates Dickinson’s conceptual universe.
Keywords: conceptual metaphor, image schema, poetry, Emily Dickinson
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