, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 121-133

Objects and literary emotion: Memory and phenomena in cognitive poetics

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Abstract

This paper will explore recent developments in cognitive poetics’ research and theorizing about how memory is triggered by provoking phenomena to induce emotions in literary reading and viewing of film and television. In short, cognitive research shows that objects, whether still or part of a narrative action, prime and trigger personal experience which allows one to understand the situation and feel deeply for fictional characters and unfamiliar people in general.

In terms of poetics or interpretation in general, this cognitive research into memory is important for a variety of reasons: First, it investigates how objects are acted upon by subjective memory to produce a response or “reading” of a situation, literary or otherwise. This perturbation of subjective memory through emotional objects conjures up issues crossing philosophy, cultural theory, and the social sciences. The phenomenology of twentieth-century philosophy (e.g. Husserl, Heidegger) moves toward the field of neurophenomenology and cognitive research into not only the emotions, but the relationships of objects and subjectivity, as well as cognitive focus and foregrounding in interpretative processes. Second, the study of cognitive poetics or cognitive linguistics in general must account for object, subjectivity, and emotion inside of narrative schemas, not just a frozen, object-driven world. Third, thy cognitive research into memory, selection, and triggered emotion complicates the notion of paratext and therein text by showing that focus/ foregrounding are selective, or at least variable, from person to person. Fourth, the differences between print-bound literature and filmic/visual literature call into play various notions of paratext, yet research proves that triggered memories function the same way for the subject whether the text is print-bound or filmic.