‘Composition of place’, experiential set, and the meditative poem
A cognitive-pragmatic approach
Meditative poetry has the ability to reproduce aspects of the meditative experience. In this paper we explore this ability, trying to clarify the phenomenon by pointing out the cognitive processes involved. We focus on Christian Jesuit meditation and pinpoint one of its most effective elements: “the composition of place”. We argue that three main abilities associated with “the composition of place” are responsible for the meditative quality detected in poetic meditative texts: The text’s ability to evoke an orientation process; the text’s ability to support diffuse perception and encourage divergent ways of processing; the text’s ability to generate the mental set required for this experience, the absence of purpose, and to supply the conditions that enable such a mental set to exist over time. We illustrate our theoretical discussion through a close reading of two meditative poetic masterpieces: Donne’s Holy Sonnet No. 7, and the Spanish anonymous sonnet “A Cristo Crucificado”.
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