Language, Cognition, and Literature
Stories are linguistic, cognitive, and cultural products, whether in the context of oral traditions, classical epics, and tragedies, or more contemporary forms of fiction, such as novels. Starting with recent cognitive theories of the evolutionary sources of culture, language, and art (primarily through the work of Merlin Donald, Terrence Deacon, and Michael Tomasello), this chapter discusses some of the mechanisms of the emergence of meaning in literary texts. Relying on theories of meaning originating in the study of cognitive underpinnings of language, primarily frame theory and blending, it shows how language mediates between cognitive constructs on the one hand and evolving narrative forms of symbolic expression on the other. Crucially, the emergent culture-specific forms of storytelling is shown to be immersed both in human culture's reliance on symbolic representation and in more and more complex linguistic forms. Using the linguistic and literary representations of the workings of the human mind as an example, it is argued that the evolution of literary forms is driven in the same degree by our cultural expectations, cognitive underpinnings of creative thought, and the emergence of appropriate linguistic constructions.
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