Cognitive Poetics and Imagery
European Journal of English Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2 August 2005: pp. 117-130.
14 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2017
Date Written: 2005
Imagery is manifestly a basic and omnipresent constituent of the mental life of human beings, a cognitive prerequisite of symbolization and thought. The study of the poetic functions of imagery offers us a window into the cognitive semantics of the imaginative mind, but the literary contribution should not limit itself to illustrating the generalities of the mind; it should also address the issue of literature as such: what compelled humans to create art, poetry, and fiction, and in which sense can we be said to have a ‘literary mind’ (cf. Turner 1996)?
Imagery is a universally central dimension in poetic meaning production. Yet, cognitive poetics has made little effort so far to elucidate its semantic and semiotic mechanisms. Important as it is, imagery appears to constitute an issue exempt from deeper inquiry not only by the inherent difficulties and complexities of iconic structure but also by uncomfortable feelings about the entire field of mental representations in behaviorist psychology, analytic philosophy of mind, and anti-phenomenological thinking in general. In order to develop the study of poetic imagery in the framework of a cognitive semantics and semiotics, we suggest interrelating plain literary reading and cognitive research as directly as possible, and thus openly focusing on and exploring meaning production as it occurs in the poetic text, rather than using poetry only to illustrate certain notions in cognitive semantics.
Here, we will limit ourselves to analyzing two cases of reprocessed imagery, followed by some overall theoretical considerations on cognitive literary studies.
Keywords: Cognitive poetics, imagery, representation, simile, metaphor, mental spaces, blending, schemas, relevance
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