Lust in Action: An Abstraction

Language and Style, Vol. 18, pp. 251-270, 1981

20 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2010

Date Written: October 1, 1981


Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129 is considered in two analytical contexts. The main context is as a case study in abstract cognition as studied by David Hays and his students. In that model a three level cognitive system (systemic, episodic and gnomonic) is linked to the world through a sensorimotor system. As an example, the concept of lying (“…lust/ Is perjur’d…”) is constructed within a network that represents the relationship between an utterance, some state of affairs in the world (figures 4 and 5). The essay the introduces another context, that of a cognitive system embedded in a brain whose activity is realized though complex electrochemical processes. The situation depicted in the poem is then described as that arising in a network where one set of cognitive capacities is active in anticipation and pursuit of sexual satisfaction while a different, and incompatible, set of capacities is active after satisfaction has faded into the past. The poem itself is a contemplative record of that maddening cyclic action.

Keywords: Shakespeare, sonnet, poetry, coognition, brain, hormone, neurotransmitter, cognitive network, semantics

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., Lust in Action: An Abstraction (October 1, 1981). Language and Style, Vol. 18, pp. 251-270, 1981, Available at SSRN:

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