Cognition and Poetics: Minding Language and Literature

Jacob L. Mey

Abstract


Extending the concept of speech act, as it has been developed in classic pragmatics, I have defined the ‘pragmatic act’ as an interactive communicative practice in which we determine, and are determined by, the entire context of communication (See Mey 2002, chapters 8 & 9). Applying this notion to poetics, I want to establish the concept of the ‘poetic act’ by which we create the fictional universe called the ‘poetic space’. The poetic (or more generally, the literary) space is where authors and readers meet; furthermore, the poetic (or more generally, the literary) pragmatic act creates the ‘chronotope’ (to use Bakhtin’s expression) that characterizes the poetic context in time and space. The co-creators of this chronotope communicate by using their ‘voices’, understood as the entirety of their time/space affordances as authors and readers, aka. producers and consumers of the literary product. I will illustrate my ideas by analyzing a few texts: a sonnet by the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Fraga e sombra; an extract from Virginia Woolf’s novel Jacob’s Room; a work, Surfaces, by the contemporary US poet Peter Meinke; and finally a poem by the late US writer John Updike, entitled Commencement, Pingree School.


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(school) Pingree School, South Hamilton, MA 01982

(school) Here is the ‘official’ version of the last stanza (from Updike’s Collected Poems:

Through greenhouse shade and rustle to receive

A paper of divorce and endless leave.

As each accepts her scroll of rhetoric,

Up pops a Daddy with a Nikon. Click.

(verse) See comment earlier. Twenty years later, Updike changed the line to produce a more civilized poetic effect, when he revised the poem for inclusion in his Collected Poems.

References

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