Aspects of Cognitive Poetics

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Aspects of Cognitive Poetics

by

Reuven Tsur

(The Beginning of a fascinating piece of writing)

“When one considers the perceived qualities of poetry, one cannot escape facing a rather disconcerting issue. Words designate “compact” concepts, whereas some poetry at least is said to evoke diffuse emotions, vague moods, or varieties of mystic experiences. Furthermore, as brain-research of the last few decades seems to suggest, language is a predominantly sequential activity, of a conspicuously logical character, typically associated with the left cerebral hemisphere; whereas diffuse emotional processes are typically associated with the right cerebral hemisphere. Thus, while we can name emotions, language does not appear to be well suited to convey their unique diffuse character. Accordingly, emotional poetry, or mystic poetry ought to be a contradiction in terms. We know that this is not the case. But this presentation of the problem emphasises that we have all too easily accepted what ought not to be taken for granted. The major part of this paper will discuss some ways poetry has found to escape, in the linguistic medium, from the tyranny of clear-cut conceptual categories. The case studies to be presented will illustrate how emotional qualities can be conveyed by poetry; and, as a more extreme instance, how “altered states of consciousness” are displayed by strings of words. One of the key-words in this respect is “precategorial information”; or, perhaps, “verbal imitation of precategorial information”. Two additional key-words will be “thing-free” and “gestalt-free”. Psychologists distinguish “rapid” and “delayed categorisation”. “Precategorial information” is more accessible through the latter. It will be pointed out that the reader’s decision style may be decisive here. Persons who are intolerant of uncertainty or ambiguity may seek rapid categorisation and miss some of the most crucial aesthetic qualities in poetry, including emotional as well as grotesque qualities. ”  

(Some Aspects of Cognitive Poetics by Reuven Tsur – https://www2.bc.edu/~richarad/lcb/fea/tsur/cogpoetics.html)

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