Publication details [#2833]

Brandt, Per Aage and John Hobbs. 2008. Elements in poetic space: A cognitive reading. Revista (Con)Textos Linguísticos (UFES) 2 : 146–168. 23 pp. URL


In this article we compare in two well-known poems the representation and function of space as experienced and imagined by human minds. According to Larsen (1996) and Brandt (1995), human representations manifest distinct but connected versions of an imaginary space, which unfolds canonically into three phenomenologically basic forms: the bio-imaginary, the socio-imaginary, and the phantasmic imaginary. The poems lead us to study this unfolding in a stepwise process directly related to their emotional meaning. We show that the general existential and metaphysical meaning of events and states in the textual content is linked to the evaluative morphologies of these spaces and versions of subjective embodiment. The guiding principle is that experienceable spaces are articulated by the natural elements into contrasts between proximal and distal sections, and that the bodily experience of 'near' and 'far' is further connected to thymic oppositions of euphoric and dysphoric values assigned to figurative contents. The spatial contrast between polar element oppositions of water (proximal) and air (distal), or implications thereof, appears to be particularly important in poetry. The inquiry into the semantics of the imaginary as such, or the 'imaginative mind' (Roth 2007), is a new enterprise in cognitive poetics, whereas it has many resonances in modern literary criticism. (Per Aage Brandt and John Hobbs)