Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Identity in Salman Rushdie's the Courtier. A Cognitive Approach

Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Identity in Salman Rushdie's the Courtier. A Cognitive Approach

Article excerpt

1 Introduction. Theoretical background and key analytical concepts

The study of linguistics and of literary criticism has benefitted since the development of Conceptual Metaphor Theory1 from a great deal of insight concerning the way we are structurally and cognitively built to conceptualize the world around us and also to express ourselves in reference to it and to us in a manner which echoes our bodies' make-up, movements and concerns and the ways in which we, with these bodies, interact with the world. Our conceptual organization and understanding of the world also echoes our most vital concerns such as the preservation of our integrity as physical creatures and as imagined/projected/conceptualized selves. (Damasio 1994). Conceptual metaphors are the means by which we organize relevantly, efficiently and abstractly the huge amount of knowledge that people have acquired and continue to acquire throughout history and evolution. They have become the archetypes of our conceptual system and we rely on them for the abstract ordering they represent for us. This systematic nature of thought and expression actually works through the association of two conceptual domains out of which the most concrete one (the source) lends structure and relevant features to the abstract domain (the target). It is based on the essential cognitive instrument of projection/mapping and the projection always works from the concrete structure of our reality and our interaction with it towards the abstract ordering of knowledge which borrows the organization of our concrete world and becomes relevant abstract structure denoting essential concepts such as: death, life, love, time, arguments, ideas, mathematical numbers and concepts, scientific paradigms, measuring gauges, rituals, advertisements, etc.: DEATH IS DEPARTURE, DEATH IS NIGHT, DEATH IS SLEEP, LIFE IS A DAY, LIFE IS LIGHT, LIFE IS A PRECIOUS POSSESSION, TIME IS AN OBJECT (MOVES), TIME IS A THIEF, ARGUMENTS ARE WAR, LOVE IS MADNESS, IDEAS ARE FOOD, fractions, negative numbers, irrational numbers, the BIG BANG cosmological model, the SUPERSTRING theory, the thermostat, speedometers, burial and wedding rituals, scenarios for advertisements like the TOBLERONE CHOCOLATE PYRAMYD, etc.2 The cognitive theory of metaphor is very elaborately explained in Conceptual Metaphor Theory as well as in Conceptual Integration Networks Theory3.

Although the two theories also deal with creativity and possible idiosyncrasy in metaphor elaboration and use, the question of creativity and the possibility of new meaning is very extensively and laboriously researched and explained by Cognitive Poetics4 scholars/linguists. Out of the Cognitive Poetics representatives I will refer mainly to Peter Stockwell and his detailed description of the Cognitive Poetics Theory (Stockwell 2002), to Margaret H. Freeman and her approach to literariness and iconicity which are ultimately circumscribed by metaphor and feeling, and to David Miall's Reader Response empirical research about foregrounding, literariness and the essential role of affect/feeling in cognition.

As far as creativity and the possibility of new meaning through metaphor are concerned, David Miall in his research on literariness developed his Defamiliarization theory based on metaphor and other foregrounded linguistic and structural features of a literary work and their impact on readers. (Miall, 1988, 1995, 2006, 2008). His theory is based on significant empirical research on the effects of foregrounded features on readers who end up renegotiating and recalibrating their identity during the experiential enactment reading process. Miall et al. (Miall, & Kuiken, 1994, 2002) have analysed in detail the actual response that foregrounded linguistic and literary features call up in readers of literature (poetry especially). Through these features readers' entire range of resources (emotional, conceptual, and images - in Damasio's definition of images as "the currency of our minds", Damasio 2000: 211) are implicated with a particular accent on feelings which contain or encode a person's most urgent self-concerns and identity. …

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