An outline of the cognitive theory of the poetic picture of the world
Maslova Zhanna Nikolayevna, Doctor of Science in Philology
Professor of the Foreign Languages Department, Balashov Institute (Branch) of Saratov State University after N.G. Chernishevsky
Balashov Town, Russia
In the whole, poetry is a kind of cognitive activity of the human being and it reflects the experience of interaction between a human being and the world. Cognitive analysis shows that the poetic text is a result of synthetic interaction of different structures of linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge. Special knowledge interacts with that one which is necessary for everyday life – common knowledge. As soon as poetry reflects the result of interaction between human being and the world we consider these two sides as “I”-system, “World”-system. The variety of subjective points of view, the interaction between “I”-system and “World”-system is possible to reduce to the three main cognitive strategies of interaction: Priest-strategy, Craftsman-strategy, Magician-strategy. Every cognitive strategy defines the set of basic parameters of the interaction between a person and the environment he exists.
Apart from the above mentioned cognitive strategies there are some restrictions of the conceptual content of PPW. It is related to a number of factors or metaconcepts – the concepts of the higher level. Metaconcepts include: Metaconcept VALUE, Metaconcept NORM, Metaconcept POETICAL, Metaconcept SIGNIFICANT ABSENCE. They define common field, where emotional and aesthetic experience is conceptualized, structured and represented. Also they fix standards, expectations and stereotypes about what events and situations may be the subject of poetry and what language form they should be represented in.
Cognitive poetics, cognitive strategy, metaconcept, poetic picture of the world, poetic concept, structures of knowledge
Маслова Ж.Н. Основные положения когнитивной теории поэтической картины мира
В статье предлагается когнитивная теория поэтической картины мира как методологическая основа для дальнейшего изучения поэтического текста. Главная мысль статьи состоит в том, что поэзия как искусство основывается на целостной системе концептуальных структур, которые являются честью концептуальной картины мира и получают языковую репрезентацию в языке поэтического текста. Когнитивная теория поэтической картины мира включает: определение основной когнитивной функции поэтической картины мира; определение знания, которое концептуализируется через данную функцию; структурирование области этого знания с выделением основных структурных концептуализируемых элементов; определение специфических категорий и уровней категоризации поэтической картины мира. Следующие важные части теории поэтической картины мира освещены в статье: структурная организация поэтической картины мира, положение о когнитивных стратегиях, положение о метаконцептах.
В целом, поэзия как вид когнитивной деятельности человека отражает опыт его взаимодействия с миром. Когнитивный анализ показывает, что поэтический текст представляет собой результат взаимодействия различных структур языкового и неязыкового знания. Специальное знание взаимодействует со знанием, необходимым в повседневной жизни, - обыденным знанием. Так как поэзия отражает взаимодействие между человеком и миром, их следует рассматривать как две системы: Я-система, МИР-система. Несмотря на разнообразие точек зрения, взаимодействие между данными системами сводится к трем главным когнитивным стратегиям взаимодействия: Жрец, Ремесленник, Фокусник. Каждая когнитивная стратегия определяет набор основных параметров взаимодействия между человеком и окружающим миром, в котором он существует.
Помимо упомянутых когнитивных стратегий существуют некоторые ограничения концептуального содержания поэтической картины мира. Это связано с наличием ограничивающих факторов или метаконцептов – концептов более высокого уровня. Метаконцепты включают: метаконцепт ЦЕННОСТЬ, метаконцепт НОРМА, метаконцепт ПОЭТИЧЕСКОЕ, метаконцепт ЗНАКОВОЕ ОТСУТСТВИЕ. Данные концепты определяют общие границы, в которых концептуализируется, структурируется и репрезентируется эмоционально-эстетический опыт. Они закрепляют знание о стандартах, ожиданиях, стереотипах и тех ситуациях, которые могут стать объектом поэтического осмысления, а также о языке, посредством которого они репрезентируются.
The article is devoted to describing some theses of the cognitive theory of the poetic picture of the world (PPW) as a methodological frame for further investigation of the poetic text as an object of cognitive poetics (Maslova 2012).
Poetic text is a sophisticated object for any philological or linguistics research. There are different approaches to the poetic text analysis. For this reason, different issues and features of the text are in the focus of different studies. One of the approaches consists in considering the poetic text as a special form of conceptual representation. We refer these works to the cognitive linguistics and cognitive poetic field.
Russian and foreign cognitive poetic researches are mainly related to the conceptual analysis, individual author’s picture of the world, figure/ground, prototypes, deixis, cognitive metaphor, schema theory, possible worlds theory, mental spaces, text world theory and contextual frame theory (Stockwell 2002; Brône Vandael 2009). All these studies are valuable, but the main idea of this article is that poetry as an art is based on the whole system of special conceptual structures which are the part of the conceptual picture of the world. They are represented in the language of the poetic text. Some of these structures have transpersonal character.
Analysis of a great number of writings in cognitive linguistics, cognitive poetics, psychology of creativity, text study showed clear tendency to investigate mental structures of human consciousness through the language of poetry. As a result, it becomes obvious that unique features of the poetic language are shaped with special mental basis which can be defined as the poetic picture of the world (PPW).
Cognitive theory of PPW includes several parts: study of structural organization of PPW, study of the cognitive strategies, study of the metaconcepts, and study of artistic (poetic) concepts. In the article structural organization of PPW, cognitive strategies and metaconcepts are observed.
1. STRUCTURAL ORGANISATION OF THE POETIC PICTURE OF THE WORLD
The complex relations between human’s subjectivity and objective reality are in the focus of cognitive analysis. These relations have been changing in history. It is important to highlight that the occurrence of the term “picture of the world” coincidence with new perception of the world in XVIII century (Heidegger 1993). Initially, the true was objective as a part of the world. The picture of the world appears when the true becomes an object of human mind, not an object of the real world any more. Due to this fact that the principles of interaction between human’s subjectivity and objective reality have changed the world reflected by human’s eye became the focus of cognitive analysis.
From our point of view, ability to create poetry is a kind of cognitive activity of the human being. We consider the poetic text in the cognitive linguistics context as the verbal representation of special conceptual structures. These conceptual structures are the parts of the conceptual picture of the world, but they constitute a subsystem – poetic picture of the world. Poetic picture of the world contains artistic (poetic) concepts, models and schemas for storage and processing of emotional and aesthetic experience of the human being. Poetic picture of the world is represented directly in poetry and in poets’ metatexts (theoretical writings) which are devoted to theoretical aspects of creativity – we can consider these metatexts as a secondary reflection on creativity.
One of the main tasks under consideration is finding out the common principles of conceptual representation in the poetic language. To investigate this issue we should remember that there are different types of knowledge are represented in the language. Types of knowledge which is the base for the poetic language are of different nature too. Focusing on the ontological triad (world system, system of language, conceptual system of the person), we distribute this knowledge as follows: encyclopedic knowledge is ontological for the world, language skills are ontological for the language (Boldyrev, 2009: 30-34), and basic knowledge of the poetic concepts, models and mechanisms has conceptual and linguistic nature. The types of knowledge exist in a synthetic form due to the interaction between a man and the world.
From our point of view, any poetic text fixes different stages of relations between a man and the world because poetry we can consider as an attempt to find harmony in these relations. So, poetry reflects the experience of interaction between a human being and the world. Therefore, the human being and the world are represented as two interacting systems – “I”-system, “World”-system.
Poetic picture of the world is defined as aesthetically meaningful conceptual subsystem which structures creative activity of a person in the process of creating alternative poetic reality. The main features of PPW are subjectiveness, dominance of emotionality, I-centricity, fragmentariness (Maslova 2011).
We consider PPW is a kind of informational matrix which is the base for creating of alternative poetic worlds. Theory of PPW gives possibility to make a detailed study of creative conceptualization and categorization represented in the poetic language.
Thus, the considering PPW as a separate object of cognitive research includes several consecutive steps:
• defining the kind of knowledge, which is conceptualized through this function;
• defining the main cognitive function of PPW;
• structuring the field of this knowledge, highlighting its main structural elements which are under the process of conceptualization;
• defining the specific categories and categorical levels of PPW.
As it was said, the idea of subjective reflection of the world gives us an opportunity to speak about the interaction of two systems – “I”-system, “World”-system. Accordingly to this idea, the leading cognitive function of PPW is developing the ability of orientation in the subjective reality; it is the base for bringing “I”-system and, “World”-system in the balance.
The main knowledge which is conceptualized through this function is the aesthetically meaningful subjective vision of the existential and emotional personal situations. The main structural elements of PPW should be regarded as poetic concepts, which accumulate understanding of the existential, emotional and sensuous experience, as well as poetic categories.
Creation of a poetic text is possible not only with encyclopedic knowledge, and knowledge of the linguistic patterns, but also with special metapoetic knowledge and knowledge of principles of understanding of the poetic language (Table 1). We attribute the result of creative reflection and the result of theoretical understanding of poetry to metapoetic knowledge. Structural components of the knowledge of language (Boldyrev, 2009: 30) correspond to the structural components of the knowledge of the poetic language. Encyclopedic knowledge and metapoetic knowledge are the components which are behind the creation of a poetic text too. They have nonlinguistic nature and belong to the ontology of the world. Knowledge of the poetic language has linguistic nature and belongs to the ontology of the language. Knowledge of famous poetic images, models and ways of image transformation, knowledge of the main artistic models of representation/transferring of emotional impression, knowledge of precedent texts has conceptual and linguistic nature. Saying this, we mean ontological triad: system of the world – system of the language – conceptual system of the human consciousness.
From this point of view, the poetic text is a result of synthetic interaction of different structures of linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge. In this case, special knowledge interacts with that one which is necessary for everyday life – common knowledge.
Between the substructures of the knowledge of language and the substructures of knowledge of the poetic language the following analogy exists: the knowledge of the objects of the world in the lexical categorization corresponds to the knowledge of the major poetic models of the emotional experience transferring; knowledge of the spoken linguistic forms corresponds to the theoretical knowledge of versification, knowledge of interpretative nature of language units and categories corresponds to the knowledge of idiostylistic (author’s stylistic) components of the poetic language. Thus, the methods and principles of the poetic interpretation of the world and the poetic language as the way of linguistic representation of the poetic interpretation are based on common knowledge and spoken language, but they have their own unique structure. Therefore, poetry reflects the result of interaction between human being and the world (“I”-system, “World”-system).
Poetic picture of the world is represented in poetry as a reflection under vital and emotional experience and in metatexts which are written by poets end dedicated to theoretical aspects of poetry, secondary reflection under creative work.
Poetic language is a link in the chain: emotion, impression, experience – poetic language as a keeper of mental implement for configuring and representation of information – poetic discourse. Poetic language, in this case, is not only the way for correct representation of author’s conception, but it is the way for correct reader’s interpretation and understanding. So, we can define poetic language as poetic linguistic code, where the words and images have special contextual meaning. Poetry is difficult for deep understanding without knowing of poetic linguistic code. This code is possible to reconstruct on the base of mass of typologically congenerous texts.
Table 1 shows that synthesis of components of knowledge, which takes place in writing poetry, related to creating special poetic code. This code helps to represent changeable man’s attitude to himself and to the world. The fact of writing poetry is an attempt to reach harmony in the inner life.
2. THREE cognitive strategies
Despite plenty of poetic texts, the variety of subjective points of view, the interaction between “I”-system and “World”-system is possible to reduce to the three main cognitive strategies of interaction: Priest-strategy, Craftsman-strategy, Magician-strategy. Every cognitive strategy defines the set of basic parameters of the interaction between a person and the environment he exists. Every strategy is represented in special linguistic characteristics and images’ combination. Moreover, these cognitive strategies are embodied in the basic parameters of the configurations of knowledge we use for writing/reading/understanding poetry and provide adequate interpretation of the poetic experience.
These strategies are segregated due to three types of texts significant for human culture. Historically, there were three types of such important texts: sacred texts, texts related to business activities; fictional entertaining texts. These types of the texts defined the main practices of exploration of the world. Priests consolidated the hierarchy of values and the conception of the universe in their sacred texts. Later, the artifacts became the basis for human relations and rules of business and production got the key role. It was the time when the huge amount of business tests was created. Then the man got more free time and entertainment and fictional entertaining texts became important. These three types of the texts symbolize three types of relations between the person and the world, three author’s positions and they are the base for investigation of three main cognitive strategies of interaction. The triad of author’s positions exists in different national literatures; it is not closely related to unique national and cultural specifics.
The cognitive strategies are reflected in three author’s position which can be applied to different national literatures. For example, Priest’s texts are based on the hierarchy and the greatness of the natural world, superiority of the nature and its forces, sacred geography (mythical Egypt, the third Rome ...), etc. “The poet also / Has his mythology. He tells you the moon arose / Out of the Pacific basin. He tells you that that Troy was burnt for a vagrant / Beautiful woman, whose face launched a thousand ships” (R. Jeffers).
Another strategy – Craftsman - corresponds to the man-made images associated with the work, farming, etc. Hand-made things from the world of artifacts are often used as symbols. Example: “ Lay me on an anvil, O God. / Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar. / Let me pry lose all walls. / Let me lift and loosen old foundations” (C. Sandburg). Craftsman strategy differs from the previous cognitive strategy in the hierarchy, which emphasizes the demiurge role of a man.
Magician’s texts represent different kinds of linguistics and textual play, a parody, allusions. Bright Magician’s texts are poetic texts of the postmodernism era. For example: “In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the / neon fruit supermarket, dreaming for your enumerations! / What peaches and what penumbras! / Whole families shopping / at night! Aisles full husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies / in the tomatoes! - And you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing / down by the watermelons” (A. Ginsberg). Magician strategy does not correlate with any particular hierarchy; this is a process of generating infinite masks and parody.
It should be noted that the types of these cognitive strategies are not strictly related to the definite historical periods of development of the human civilization and literature. We can only speak about the temporary predominance of one cognitive strategy when we talk about any poet, text or any period of time. This means that the cognitive strategies exist in a reduced form and does not disappear after they are worked out. Author’s position correlates with cognitive strategies but we can’t consider a figure of lyrical person and the types of cognitive strategies as the same. The Priest-strategy, Craftsman-strategy, Magician-strategy reflects only the general principles of interaction between the human being and the world as two alive systems. This typology defines unique direction vectors, which the conceptual and linguistic content is organized around.
Creative language function finds its realization in poetry. So, sentient experience of the person cannot be reduced to an emotional reaction to the phenomena of the external world. And in the process of creation of the poetic text and its reading and understanding the new knowledge appears, the initial meaning of the text becomes enriched. Obviously, information about previous artistic experience forms in human consciousness some expectations and stereotypes as not all the events and situations of our life can be considered as the subject of poetic reflection. Restriction of the conceptual content of PPW is related to a number of factors or metaconcepts – the concepts of the higher level.
Metaconcepts of PPW are the mental factors that define the basic principles of structuring the linguistic content of the poetic text. Metaconcepts include: Metaconcept VALUE, Metaconcept NORM, Metaconcept POETICAL, Metaconcept SIGNIFICANT ABSENCE. Metaconcepts define common field, where emotional and aesthetic experience is conceptualized, structured and represented. They act as “filters” in selection and representation of conceptual content. Also they fix standards, expectations and stereotypes about what events and situations may be the subject of poetry and what language form they should be represented in.
For example, the analysis of linguistic representations of the concept HUMAN’S BODY showed unequal representation in the poetry of the words that represent the human body. Besides frequent representations using the keywords, tradition of metaphorical and metonymical representations with reference to the separate parts of the body is variously represented in poetry. The following body parts are often represented in poetry: eyes, face, head, legs, breast, hair, hand, beard. In this case, in particular, the concept HEAD has less representation in comparison with the concept EYES: “Katie could put her feet behind her head” (D. Hall), “that be-/ neath his public head there was another head and it was a pyra-/ mid or something” (J. Tate); “they fell / effortlessly from the brainpan behind his eyes” (M. Bell), “Our arms quivering with fat, eyes / set in the bark of wrinkles” (M. Piercy), “the weak noise of her eyes” (E.E. Cummings), “dazed eyes / have enjoyed”, “I would like to bury / all the hating eyes / under the sand somewhere” (A. Sexton), “YOUR eyes and the valley are memories. / Your eyes fire and the valley a bowl” (C. Sandburg). This fact shows a reduced poetic potential of the concept HEAD and confirms two ideas. The first one: the different poetic concepts have different poetic potential. The second one: the difference in the quantity of linguistic representations of various poetic concepts is the result of difference in value of these linguistic units for representation of emotional and aesthetic experience. The linguistic level of the text shows that the system of evaluation is reflected in the system of linguistic standards - words and combinations of words that represent certain artistic (poetic) concepts. These words and combinations of words are the nuclear representations of the poetic concepts in PPW. Thus, snow is one of the nuclear representations of death in poetry: “the snow carefully everywhere descending” (E.E. Cummings).
Functions of mentioned metaconcepts are interrelated because the concepts with high subjective value form the basis of knowledge about poetic and poetry. Metaconcept VALUE determines how the poetic concepts in PPW depend on the subjective system of evaluation and how these concepts correlate with the hierarchy of values.
Metaconcept NORM fixes knowledge about the language mechanisms and means of creating poetic texts and poetic effect. Metaconcept NORM acts at different levels: level of the poetic language, level of linguistic representations of the poetic concepts, level of metro-rhythmic poetic schemes. For example, the traditional poetic concept LOVE is often presented through the words related to fire, flame, light: “For love - I would split open your head and put a candle in behind the eyes” (R. Creeley), “Fire is love and love is fire; / And the fire is within me” (J. Laset). These representations are often used because they correspond with the poetic norm and they are fixed in various metonymic, metaphorical and symbolic representations. Knowledge about the poetic norm helps to create the unique complex of specific information actual for PPW and for poetic language. But these specific meanings are also reserved to the words of ordinary language. These pieces of information are made actual when referring to the poetic text. Contradiction to the poetic norm is a source of the poetic effect too.
Specific information on the criteria for selection of suitable poetic themes is conceptualized with Metaconcept POETIC. Any situations, objects of the real world, feelings, emotions, actions, and means of language can be classified as poetic/unpoetic. Traditional poetic concepts have many various linguistic representations in poetry and such concepts we can consider as a kind of poetic standards which exist in national consciousness. These concepts are LOVE, LIFE, DEATH and many others: “Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink / Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain” (E. St Vincent Millay), “If you are lucky in your life, / you will get you raise the spoon / of pristine, frosty ice cream / to the trusting creature mouth / of your old enemy” (T. Hougland), “The death of the poet was kept from his poems” (W.H. Auden). Over time, the number of traditional poetic concepts and poetic themes is growing and changing. Some other situations and representation of concepts previously excluded from PPW can be integrated in poetry.
Metaconcept SIGNIFICANT ABCENSE defines involvement/non-involvement of linguistic units and mental objects in the field of poetic representation of emotional and aesthetic experience. We assume that, in general, the absence of any objects for human mind is as meaningful as presence of any objects. Metaconcept SIGNIFICANT ABCENSE is a limiting factor; it reduces the number of possible interpretations. Thus, to some degree, author’s and reader’s thinking gets some direction and configuration. For example, the night is compared with home for elderly people in the following text: “It's cozier thinking of night / As more an Old People's Home / Than a shed for a faultless machine” (W.H. Auden). As we see, traditional for PPW concept NIGHT is compared to non-traditional and initially non-poetic concept HOME FOR ELDERLY PEOPLE. This comparison becomes possible because both concepts are included in PPW. Thus, mental and linguistic levels are both in the same degree under the influence of metaconcepts.
In conclusion, poetic text in cognitive context should be considered as verbal representation of special conceptual structures because it fixes special kind of information and reflects the experience of interaction between a human being and the world. In poetry special knowledge interacts with common knowledge. So, we need in particular methodological frame for further investigation of the poetic text as an object of cognitive analysis. Cognitive theory of PPW also includes study of artistic (poetic) concepts (Minakhin 2013) and their typology, further investigation of processes of conceptualization and categorization.
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