Reuven Tsur

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Reuven Tsur

Deixis in Literature
What Isn't Cognitive Poetics?


These days I am engaged in the preparation of a second, revised edition of my book Toward a Theory of Cognitive Poetics. My prospective publisher asked me to effect two contradictory changes in the book: drastically to abridge it; and to comment on research in cognitive poetics published after the first edition of my book. We agreed that my response will not consist of an overview, but of a series of case studies. I am starting with full-length articles which will be abridged in due course. This paper contains a case study of Peter Stockwell's chapter on deixis (Stockwell, 2002: 41–57). My response to Stockwell has a personal history too. There is a companion volume to Stockwell's book, Joanna Gavins and Gerard Steen (eds.) Cognitive Poetics in Practice. This volume is by various hands, and contains parallel chapters to Stockwell's chapters. I contributed the chapter on deixis. When Stockwell sent me his chapter on deixis, I sent him two long e-mails criticising it, from which parts of the present paper have been extracted. He has accepted some of my suggestions on "Ozymandias" as, for instance, that an inconclusive tone prevails in the last six lines, and a weak sense of closure in the last line, and that the two reinforce each other. But, as to the rest of the issues, our disagreement largely persists.

In what follows, I will ask two kinds of questions about critical statements: whether they illuminate an aesthetic object or some aesthetic problem; and whether they may be regarded as Cognitive Poetics. At the outset I will bring a series of brief extracts from one of Stockwell's central sections and a comparable one from E. M. Forster, with a few comments on them. Then I will present my arguments in a more orderly manner.

Let us start, then, with the culmination of Stockwell's chapter. He offers what he calls a Cognitive poetic analysis of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights—to demonstrate the explanatory power of his terms. Since I cannot quote here the whole section, I will quote a selection of key sentences from it, to indicate its outline. The rest of Stockwell's section is an elaboration of these key sentences, or "more of the same". The essence of this section is to enumerate the various kinds of "deictic centres", to exemplify them, and show their shifting sequence in the novel. I could find no trace of cognitive discussion in this section, and very little that can illuminate the sources of the novel's greatness, or unique character, or aesthetic quality; it rests, mainly, on the aesthetically (and cognitively) indifferent level. It is a sort of Introduction to Point of View in Fiction.

[The novel] is narrated primarily by Mr. Lockwood. Though he is a character in the novel as well, he occupies only the framing level, and takes no real part in the central story.

The first part of the story proper begins when Lockwood reads Catherine Earnshaw's diary-like comments in the margins of an old Bible he finds when spending a night at Wuthering Heights.


However, at this point we perhaps need more detail in terms of embedded narration.


The deictic shift is preceded by Lockwood inviting Nelly to tell him all about Heathcliff. The first part is clearly deictically centred on Lockwood.


The shift in deixis is perceptual (to Nelly), temporal (back twenty years), relational (Nelly's values are encoded hereafter), and textual (she becomes a new teller after the paragraph space, and her perceptions then apparently structure the narrative, though in fact the implied author 'Emily Brontë' continues to insert chapter headings across Nelly's narrative – 'Brontë' retains the compositional deixis). The spatial deixis remains constant: 'here' is Thrushcross Grange; though Nelly immediately shifts this to Wuthering Heights within a locative expression.


There is something of a blend in the edgework here, as 'I', 'she' and 'her' in the final sentence excerpted above all point deictically to Nelly Dean. ["Before I came to live here, she commenced—waiting no further invitations to her story—I was almost always at Wuthering Heights"].


Here we have the deictic shift initiated with textual deixis, referring back to the previous text. The 'I' narration suddenly shifts to a third person participant,


The narrative reverts to Lockwood on the last page,

All this leads up to the following conclusion:

The deictic shifts between different embedded narrators allow readers to track consistent threads through the novel. However, in the edgework, there are many examples where textual deixis and the compositional deixis of the implied author cut across chapter headings throughout.

That's it.

In Aspects of the Novel (first published in 1927), E. M. Forster gives a comparable (though much shorter) survey of shifting point of view in Dickens' Bleak House, which I will quote without omissions.

This is a ramshackly survey and for me the whole intricate question of method resolves itself not into formulae but into the power of the writer to bounce the reader into accepting what he says—a power which Mr Lubbock admits and admires, but locates at the edge of the problem instead of at the centre. I should put it plumb in the centre. Look how Dickens bounces us in Bleak House. Chapter I of Bleak House is omniscient. Dickens takes us into the Court of Chancery and rapidly explains all the people there. In Chapter 2 he is partially omniscient. We still use his eyes, but for some unexplained reason they begin to grow weak: he can explain Sir Leicester Dedlock to us, part of Lady Dedlock but not all, and nothing of Mr Tulkinghorn. In Chapter 3 he is even more reprehensible: he goes straight across into the dramatic method and inhabits a young lady; Esther Summerson. 'I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages, for I know I am not clever,' pipes Esther, and continues in this strain with consistency and competence, so long as she is allowed to hold the pen. At any moment the author of her being may snatch it from her, and run about taking notes himself, leaving her seated goodness knows where and employed we do not care how. Logically, Bleak House is all to pieces, but Dickens bounces us, so that we do not mind the shifting of the view point (Forster, 1962: 86–87).

For Forster, the whole intricate question of method resolves itself not into formulae but into the power of the writer to bounce the reader into accepting what he says. Stockwell develops, for the same purpose, the "Deictic Shift Theory" (DST). "Deictic shift theory models the common perception of a reader 'getting inside' a literary text as the reader taking a cognitive stance within the mentally-constructed world of the text. This imaginative capacity is a deictic shift which allows the reader to understand projected deictic expressions relative to the shifted deictic centre" (Stockwell, 2002: 46–47). My criticism, briefly, of this approach is that in his analyses Stockwell does not speak of the cognitive stance, only of the shifted deictic centres. Both writers assert that such shifts of point of view or of deictic centres do occur in novels and demonstrate the succession of points of view or of deictic centres. But neither of them tells us, beyond that, what kinds of arguments can be given to support the claim that a writer did succeed "to bounce the reader into accepting what he says", or what cognitive processes are involved. When it comes to analysing a work, both enumerate the succession of points of view or of deictic centres.

In Forster's case, we know at least what is the problem that his enumeration is meant to solve for him. It does not presume to be "cognitive analysis" (neither cognitive, nor analysis), merely one of several counterexamples (along with Gide's Faux Monnayeurs, and Tolstoy's War and Peace) to Percy Lubbock, who expects the author to adopt one consistent point of view in his novel. Even when he makes distinctions between various kinds of point of view, he does not do it in terms of subcategories such as perceptual, temporal, relational, textual and compositional deixis, but of functioning, such as "We still use his [the omniscient author's] eyes, but for some unexplained reason they begin to grow weak: he can explain Sir Leicester Dedlock to us, part of Lady Dedlock but not all, and nothing of Mr Tulkinghorn". By the way, while Stockwell regards shifting point of view as an outright virtue of a text, Forster carefully keeps descriptive and evaluative statements apart; he merely asserts that shifting points of view do exist in works generally accepted as masterpieces, pace Percy Lubbock's verdict.

The upshot of this comparison is this question: In what respects is Stockwell's analysis more cognitive than Forster's?

Labelling and Meaning-Making

Kinds of deictic centres (or, for that matter, of anything) can be endlessly multiplied and labeled by names through subclassification, such as Perceptual deixis, Spatial deixis, Temporal deixis, Relational deixis, Textual deixis, and Compositional deixis. "Perceptual deixis", in turn, may be further subcategorised into participant roles, as in

For example, the US President gives a speech (as speaker) written by a scriptwriter (source) in front of a crowd of schoolchildren (hearers) but the speech is addressed to the school principal who invited him (addressee), and the speech is recorded by TV camera crews (recipients) though the actual aim of the event is to communicate with the national electorate (target). (Stockwell, 2002: 49)

This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of subcategories. Stockwell encourages students to extend it: "Can you discern any other roles that might be evident in the communicative situation? How might these categories be adapted for written literary situations?" What constrains, then, the number of such sub- subclasses? I suggest that it is the usefulness of the classification. When Wayne Booth (1961) distingishes "real authors, real readers, implied author, implied reader, narrator, narratee, etc.", he does it for a very good reason: to dispel confusion which used to riddle much critical discourse. But what confusion do these categories of Stockwell's dispel? Alternatively, what insight into an aesthetic object or some aesthetic problem, or critical discourse would they afford? It appears to be pigeonholing for pigeonholing's sake.

When I was interviewed by Beth Bradburn about cognitive poetics for the Literature, Cognition, and the Brain website, I suddenly realised about my work something that until then I was not fully aware of. In most of my work I use traditional critical tools, and I appeal to cognitive theory only when I encounter some issue that cannot be handled in more traditional terms. I am shamelessly using the methods and terminology of "New Criticism", of Structuralism, of Analytic Philosophy, and others, and don't feel obliged to naturalise them in the cognitive community. My impression is that Stockwell was working quite differently.

What is more, Stockwell and I seem to be in disagreement as to what constitutes a cognitive explanation. My philosophy in this respect goes roughly as follows. When we use a word, any word, say "table, go, mysticism, I", extremely complex cognitive processes are involved. Recent cognitive research has devoted much effort to unearth these processes. The same is true of "deixis, metaphor" etc. Now when we point out that a given poem contains the word "table" or "mysticism", or some deictic device or some instance of conceptual metaphor, this will not automatically render our discussion cognitive, in spite of the enormous research devoted in the past to the cognitive processes underlying them. A discussion becomes cognitive when certain problems are addressed which cannot be properly handled without appealing to some cognitive process or mechanism in the specific discussion. A critical discussion does not become cognitive by virtue of the amount of past research invested in the elements it handles, but by virtue of the cognitive research applied to the solution of problems that arise in the text under discussion. Being able to push an electric switch doesn't mean that we are doing physics, even though much physical research went in the past into its invention.

I felt uneasy about three aspects of Stockwell's chapter. First, I have found very little in it that would justify the name "cognitive poetics". Even when he rechristens as deixis such well-worn terms as point of view, free indirect speech, suzhet, and so forth, it doesn't render them more cognitive than they were before. Besides, though I am trying to show in my contribution to Cognitive Poetics in Practice that deixis may have uses in poetry that can best be explained by assuming certain cognitive processes (see below), deixis in itself is no more cognitive than any other linguistic phenomenon. It is, of course, possible that deixis is underlain by illuminating cognitive processes that may account for important literary effects. But this remains to be shown. [1] According to my conception, cognitive poetics explores how cognitive processes shape and constrain literary response and poetic structure. I have found no trace of such cognitive processes in the chapter, unless one means such vague generalisations as "readers can project their minds into the other world, find their way around there, and fill out the rich detail between the words of the text on the basis of real life experience and knowledge". But if this is cognitive poetics then anything is cognitive poetics. Nor would I regard a statement like "Reading is creative in this sense of using the text to construct a cognitively-negotiable world, and the process is dynamic and constantly shifting" as sufficient justification for calling my work cognitive. I make this comment not because Stockwell's work doesn't endorse my conception of cognitive poetics, but because if one accepts this as cognitive poetics, then nothing remains in linguistics and literary theory that is not cognitive poetics. Certainly, everything that is language or literature goes through the cognitive system of authors, readers, and critics.

Second, I am less than happy with Stockwell's attempt at classifying deixis into six categories, and pigeonholing his examples in them. I must confess that I am not a great fan of pigeonholing. Even where one might expect more labelling and pigeonholing than anywhere else, in rhetoric, it is not universally welcome. As I suggested before, changing the names of the pigeonholes wouldn't solve the problem. This is for instance what Quintilianus has to say on this issue: "For it makes no difference by which name is either called, so long as its stylistic value is apparent, since the meaning of things is not altered by a change of name. For just as men remain the same, even though they adopt a new name, so these artifices will produce exactly the same effect, whether they are styled tropes or figures, since their values lie not in their names, but in their effect" (p. 353). Likewise, these artifices will produce exactly the same effect, whether they are styled point of view in fiction, or deictic centre. The section on Wuthering Heights, despite its heading Cognitive poetic analysis, contains no cognitive analysis whatever, it is sheer pigeonholing of successive, shifting points of view in the novel. (But there are a few interesting lines on theatre and film productions of the novel). Briefly, as Odette de Mourgues said back in 1953, pigeonholing gives certainty but no insight. (This is a brilliant cognitive observation by a non-cognitive critic).

Third, the distinction between "real authors, real readers, implied author, implied reader, narrator, narratee, etc." is very useful for avoiding confusion; but has nothing particularly cognitive about it, at any rate, no more than any other critical concept. It doesn't even belong specifically to a chapter on deixis, unless one means to say that when the real author says "I" it means something different from when the narrator says "I". But this is not a statement about deixis, only a statement about real authors and narrators, and not a very illuminating one. Stockwell's discussion of Mary Shelley, for instance, could occur in almost any non-cognitive introduction to fiction. But, to my taste, there is too much labelling, and too little discussion of effects in it.

Meaning-Making in "Ozymandias"

To illustrate my three above points, I propose to make a few comments on "Ozymandias".

1.       I met a traveller from an antique land
          Who said, Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
          Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
          Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
          And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
          Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
          Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things,
          The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
          And on the pedestal these words appear:
          "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
          Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
          Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
          Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
          The lone and level sands stretch far away.

How does Stockwell handle this poem? He points out three different persons in it, two different places (the implicit 'here' and 'the antique land'), and three different times, as well as a wide range of "deictic centres". Stockwell classifies deixis into six subcategories: Perceptual deixis, Spatial deixis, Temporal deixis, Relational deixis, Textual deixis, and Compositional deixis. He identifies instances of these subcategories in "Ozymandias", and labels them appropriately. In addition he enumerates "deictic centres" without calling them names. Thus we get "the deictic centre that says 'I' in the first line", "embedded deictic centre to understand the 'my' and 'ye' of the pedestal inscription", or "a time implicit in the present tense of 'met' and 'said'; the time in which the traveller was in the desert, chronologically in the past but deictically projected as a present tense 'stand' and 'these words appear'; and a deictic projection to the ancient time of the inscription when 'is', 'look' and 'despair' were written while Ozymandias was alive". We receive little indication what is the "stylistic value" of these deictic centres.

I have no doubt that "Ozymandias" is one of the most sophisticated poems in English literature, or in all the other literatures I know. This is due to the sophisticated use of point of view. As far as "deictic centre" is synonymous with "point of view", it is also due to deictic centre. But, as Quintilianus pointed out, it makes little difference by what name you call it, what matters is what the device does in the text. Here the manipulations of point of view (of deictic centres, if you like) are used to achieve various kinds of unprecedented ironic effects.The ironic narrator pretends to know nothing, not even that he is ironic. He is merely repeating what he has heard from a traveller from an antique land. He doesn't know what are the implications of the description, he doesn't even know whether it has any implications, and if you attribute to it any meaning, it is at your own responsibility. (The implied author, of course, knows a lot more, but this is besides the point). We do not know what was the traveller's sophistication or whether he understood the implications of what he reported. For all we know, he may have been impressed by the sublimity of the scenery, or by the emotions expressed by the shattered face, or by the sculptor's skill in mocking (imitating) them, and still be unaware of the other possible implications. The shift from the point of view of the speaker to that of the traveller is, then, trivial in itself; what is significant is that it is used in the service of an ironic attitude. But the same "deictic" device can be used to contribute to other very different qualities as well, as, for instance, in Verlaine's poem "Langueur" (Languor), in the line

2.       Là-bas on dit il est de longs combats sanglants.
                    Far away they say there are long, sanguinary battles

Deixis or not, both poets use "farawayness" and reported evidence as a "muting device". Shelley resorts to it to mute any emotional overtone of the narrator, generating an ironic, detached tone, while foregrounding the powerful sublime effect of the scene described. Verlaine, by contrast, uses an attenuated emotional tone suggesting some emasculate, enfeebled attitude. Thus, the same verbal device is exploited for very different effects: to generate an ironic, unemotional tone, and to convey a feebled emotional mood.

Now the really great feast of point of view (or deictic centres, if you like) in this poem concerns the inscription. Its words change their meanings in different contexts, determined by different points of view. These changing meanings are ironical to each other. For Cleanth Brooks, "irony is not the opposite of an overt statement, but 'a general term for the kind of qualification which the various elements in a context receive from the context'" (Wellek, 1963: 329; Brooks, 1968: 171).

In my various writings I have insisted that critical terms must have considerable descriptive contents; but the description has little significance in itself unless it is understood in relation to a wider theoretical framework or model. A critical statement can be true, and still trivial and devoid of interest, unless a theoretical framework or model imputes significance to it (cf. Tsur, 1992a: 500-535; Tsur, 2003: 212). Brooks's conception could serve as an epitome of this. On the descriptive level, the critic may point out the meaning of an expression in one context, and then the change of its meaning in another. "Irony" bestows aesthetic significance on this trivial description. "Irony", in turn, is assumed to be a structural principle in literature expounded at great length in Brooks's book. As to perceived effect, this change of meaning also allows the ironic narrator to pretend to know nothing: he merely quotes the exact words. It is the different contexts that prompt language-users to make different inferences from the same words. Ozymandias meant one thing, the nineteenth-century reader understands another. Ozymandias means "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair", you will never achieve my greatness. The nineteenth-century reader may understand "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair", because your greatness too will come to dust. This, of course, is derived from two different contexts (deictic centres, if you like): Ozymandias placed his statue, presumably, where the "store cities" or pyramids built for him by the children of Israel could be seen. The nineteenth-century traveller sees the wreck of the statue in the middle of the desert, where nothing but sand can be seen. There is an additional point of view, context, or deictic centre (if you like), from which the situation can be viewed: what is the message of the scene to, say, Napoleon in his Egyptian expedition? Even the phrase "King of Kings" may be seen in a changing perspective. Ozymandias presumably meant, literally, that he was a ruler over many kings. In the nineteenth century, the phrase "King of Kings" would have meant "God". It suggests another irony: the victory of the spiritual power of the former slaves over the physical power of Pharao. There is very little chance that an undergraduate (or full professor) will remember all the kinds of deixis Stockwell enumerates, and even less that these categories will help him to realise these effects of these changing perspectives, whether you call them deixis or not. But the changing inferences prompted by changing contexts will be applied intuitively. One need not burden memory with subcategories; the rules are available in one's linguistic or communicative competence. [2]

A suggestion by Winner and Gardner (1993) may explain why is the ironist's detached, impersonal tone perceived as so powerful. A literal remark is rarely if ever equivalent to an ironic one, because the choice of irony carries with it particular social effects. The ironist (here the implied author, perhaps) is perceived as being a certain kind of person—wittier, less confrontational, and more in control, than the utterer of a literal expression of displeasure. We may even consider different degrees of irony if we compare the message of "Ozymandias" to a more outspoken version of it in the verse drama The Tragedy of Man by the great Hungarian poet, Imre Madách (1823-1864). After the expulsion from Eden, "Adam and Lucifer travel through time to visit different turning-points in human history and the devil tries to convince Adam that life is (will be) meaningless and mankind is doomed. Adam and Lucifer are introduced at the beginning of each scene, with Adam assuming various important historical roles and Lucifer usually acting as a servant or confidante. Eve enters only later in each scene ". In "Scene IV Adam is a Pharaoh, Lucifer his Vizier, Eve the wife of a slave ". In this scene we witness the following dialogue:

3.      ADAM to Lucifer
        For one thing only long I in my heart,
        Madly it may be, but yet grant it me,
        I would upon the future boldly gaze
        To know, when some few thousand years have passed,
        Shall my renown endure?

                                                  While thou didst kiss,
       Didst thou not feel a gentle, cooling breeze
       That swept across thy face and then flew on?
       A little wave of dust doth mark its flight,
       That mounts a few short inches in a year,
       And some few cubits in a thousand years;
       Yet a few thousand years shall overwhelm
       Thy pyramids, and thy great name shall be
       Buried beneath a barrier of sand.
       Jackals shall in thy pleasure gardens howl,
       And, in the desert, dwell a servile race.
                    While Lucifer speaks all this becomes visible.

       All this no raging storm shall bring to pass,
       No shuddering upheaval of the earth,
       Only a little breeze that gently plays!
                                                         translation by J. C. W. Horne

This passage, like "Ozymandias", presents an ironic discrepancy between Pharao's presumption and a vision of destruction and oblivion. And here too there is an ironic discrepancy between the barely-noticeable breeze and layers of dust on the one hand, and their overwhelming destructive force on the other. But while the speaker in "Ozymandias" pretends to know nothing and understand nothing, Lucifer's ironic vision is deliberate, explicit and inspires a psychological atmosphere of patent purpose. In keeping with the dramatic character, it even suggests a sense of superiority and malicious joy. The speaker in "Ozymandias" is subtler, less confrontational and more in control. By the same token, the victim of irony feels here more vulnerable, more defenseless against some unsaid assault on his self-confidence. As I said, the manipulation of point of view has a decisive contribution to this effect.

I have tried to make aesthetic meaning out of the devices labelled as "deixis" or "point of view". All this, however, could be said about the poem by any "New Critic". You need no Cognitive Poetics for it.

Now a few minor comments on this poem. There is room for distinguishing between the Shakespearean and the Italian sonnet from the cognitive point of view, but not necessarily in a chapter on deixis. Now this poem, though containing 14 lines, approximates something like a sonnet, but is not exactly a sonnet, owing to deviations from the rhyme pattern. At any rate, neither this poem, nor the Italian sonnet can be said to be a deviation from the Shakespearean sonnet. If at all, one could regard the Shakespearean sonnet with its closing couplet as a deviation from the Italian sonnet, and not the other way around. Stockwell writes: "We might even recognise that a prototypical sonnet form often has its most dramatic final flourish in the last two lines (sometimes rhymed, as in Shakepeare's sonnets). However, Shelley places his most dramatic pair of lines ('My name is Ozymandias ... and despair') five lines before the end, in order further to emphasise their multi-centred and polyvalent nature. The inconclusiveness of the form is matched, of course, by the very weak sense of closure in the final line ('The lone and level sands stretch far away'), which also takes the scene spatially away from the deictic centre of the ruin".

Stockwell founds the "inconclusiveness" of the last six lines on thematic grounds: the occurrence of the dramatic peak in lines 10–11, and the absence of a "dramatic final flourish in the last two lines (sometimes rhymed, as in Shakepeare's sonnets)". But while he is aware of the potential contribution of the final couplet to a "dramatic final flourish", he doesn't know what to do with the emotional quality generated by the absence of such a couplet in, e.g., the prototypical Italian sonnet, or in the present poem. I submit that cognitive theory is exceptionally well-suited to handle such an issue. Thus, for instance, Leonard B. Meyer, who applies gestalt theory to music, discusses strong and weak shapes and their respective perceived effects as follows: "Because good shape is intelligible in this sense, it creates a psychological atmosphere of certainty, security, and patent purpose, in which the listener feels a sense of control and power as well as a sense of specific tendency and definite direction" (Meyer, 1956: 160). This would suggest that a relatively unpredictable rhyme pattern would generate a psychological atmosphere of uncertainty and lack of purpose. Notice that the rhyme pattern here is not merely less predictable than the couplet; "kings" in the "sestet" rhymes with "things" in the "octet", which is not only unpredictable in its own right, but also leaves the rhyme patterns of the two parts in a state of confusion. So, this uncertainty too may reinforce the inconclusive tone derived from the lack of "dramatic final flourish" and the weak sense of closure.

Here I would also like to mention a minor matter of interpretation. Even in this shattered condition of the statue, its "frown, / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, / Tell that its sculptor well those passions read / Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, / The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed". This visual image suggests the supremacy of the permanence of art over the transience of power. This is perhaps what the ambiguity of mocked (imitated / derided) too suggests. Here Stockwell inserts a curious assertion: "Even the printing process is echoed in the use of 'stamped'". It is difficult to understand how the printing process enters into the poem, except to satisfy Stockwell's need to adduce an example for what he calls textual deixis. The plain meaning of Shelley's phrase is that the passions were imprinted, or impressed upon the stone. Shelley's phrasing also involves an oxymoron: survive in a lifeless medium. I believe that, rather, "yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things" may have to do with the "paradox of imagination", what Coleridge called "the balance and reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities" (Biographia Literaria, Chapter IV). Thus, the shattered face becomes a striking embodiment of this paradox. This draws attention to an interesting issue in the process of interpretation, which we have already encountered: are we looking for as many deictic centres as conceivable whatever their contribution to the poem as a whole, or are we looking for details that support the emerging overall meanings or effects? What are the constraints on adducing deictic centres? [3]

While the absence of a closing couplet doesn't undermine the sonnet form, Shelley does blur it in a variety of other means. Such sequences of stressed syllables as "sands stretch far" in the last line blur the metric shape of the poem. Syntax is exceptionally meandering in this poem: a series of relative clauses are linked in a long chain overburdening short-term memory, and run-on sentences background rhyme patterns, so that stanza shapes (as far as they exist) cannot easily be recognised; but they are also blurred by the deviation from the sonnet's rhyme pattern. As I said, Cognitive Poetics is exceptionally well suited to handle the perceived effects of prosodic structures, and one of the fascinating things about it is that it relieves us of the need to fall back on impressionistic statements about them. Consider, for instance, the gestaltist distinction between strong and poor gestalts. Strong gestalts have, in certain conditions, a noted rational quality, poor gestalts display frequently some intense emotional quality. It is this correlation which Meyer's above analysis was meant to account for.

What can we learn from this about Shelley's poems in general, and this poem in particular? First of all, there is in romanticism a general tendency for weakened prosodic structures, mainly in Shelley and Keats. In most romantic poetry, the blurring of prosodic structures contributes to an emotional quality. In this poem, as I've said, prosodic structures are exceptionally blurred. Now the tone of this poem is anything but emotional. In irony at its best (and this is irony at its best) the speaker's attitude can be characterised as detachment, distance, disengagement, objectivity, dispassion. The manipulations of point of view in this poem, as I pointed out above, lead to imply grave things by saying apparently insignificant things in a detached tone. The fluid structures, the poor gestalts in this poem have a potential to contribute to precisely such a tone: a psychological atmosphere deprived of patent purpose, of a sense of specific tendency and definite direction may reinforce a tone of irony that pretends to intend nothing. Thus, an emotional and an ironical context may actualise different potentials of divergent prosodic structures (cf. my discussion of the effect of strong and weak prosodic gestalts on an ironic quality [Tsur, 1998: 245]). [4] As I said, both what Barbara Herrnstein-Smith (1968) calls "anti-closure" and the unpredictable rhyme pattern strongly reinforce this psychological atmosphere of the absence of patent purpose.

I don't mean to imply that this is what Stockwell should have written. I have discussed this poem at such outrageous length in order to make two crucial points. First, as Quintilianus said, it makes no difference by what name you call some literary device; what matters is its poetic effect. I wanted to show the effects of some poetic devices, and also how the effects of a wide range of devices combine to make some overall effect—in this case irony. I have even tried to suggest that irony has a social effect too which, in turn, may contribute to a detached but forceful tone. Second, through my prosodic discussion I also wanted to demonstrate how cognitive generalisations can be used for handling issues one cannot handle by earlier terminology (I have earlier discussed this poem in Tsur, 1992: 94–95; see also below).

Deixis and Orientation

What is, then, the typical effect of deixis on a poetic passage? In this and the next section I will trace just two such typical effects. Consider David Miall's question "Does cognitive deixis position a reader in relation to the points of view on offer in a narrative [or poem]?" The ensuing analysis suggests: "probably yes". In several of my works I explored poetic passages in which a peculiar combination of deixis and abstract nouns is conspicuous.

Consider the poem "Shepherd", by the Hebrew poet Abraham Shlonsky:

4.       This width, that is spreading its nostrils.
          This height that is yearning for you.
          The light flowing with the whiteness of milk.
          And the smell of wool,
          And the smell of bread.

A more sophisticated version I found in a poem by another great Hebrew poet (of the same school), Nathan Alterman:

5.       This night.
          The estrangement of these walls.
          A war of silences, breast to breast.
          The cautious life
          Of the tallow candle. [5]

Consider the phrases involving a concrete and an abstract noun. The normal, "unmarked", syntactic structure of such constructions would be that concrete, "spatio-temporally continuous particulars" as "bread", "wool", "walls", "candle" occur in the referring position (Strawson, 1967). (By "spatio-temporally continuous particulars" Strawson means objects that are continuous in space, and if you go away and come back after ten minutes, an hour, a week, or a year they still have the same shape). Such more abstract or more general qualities as "whiteness", "smell", "estrangement", should occur as attributes or predicates, e.g., "the white milk", or "the milk is white"; "the smelling wool", or "the wool has smell", or "the wool smells"; "the estranged walls", or "the walls are estranged". In these two excerpts, the adjectives are systematically turned into abstract nouns, and the abstract nouns are manipulated into the referring position instead the spatio-temporally continuous particulars. (I have called such transformations thematised predicates or topicalised attributes). "We may think of this as governed by a 'good reason' principle: many linguistic systems are based on this principle, wherein one option (the 'unmarked' option) will always be selected unless there are good reasons for selecting otherwise" (Halliday, 1970: 159). Here the "good reason" for selecting the "marked" option is to turn the attribute into what Halliday calls the "psychological subject", "the peg on which the message is hung, the theme being the body of the message". Thus, in these two excerpts, not the concrete objects, but their attributes that have no stable characteristic visual shapes are manipulated into the psychological centre of the message.

When I read such poetic texts, I have an intense sensation, involving an intense emotional atmosphere in both stanzas. The phrase "The estrangement of these walls", for instance, shifts attention from the walls to the estranged atmosphere in the room. In this verse line attention is directed away from the persons to the atmosphere. The deictic devices 'this' and 'these' have to do with the generation of a coherent scene; at the same time, they suggest that there is some perceiving 'I' in the middle of the situation. The line 'This height that is yearning for you' reinforces the presence of such a perceiving self; the verb yearning charges the abstraction with energy, and turns it into some active, invisible presence. All the sentences of this stanza are elliptic, which have here a deictic function: they point to the percepts of the immediate situation.Width and height are pure geometrical dimensions; but here they are somehow emotionally charged. Some readers report a feeling "as if the emotional atmosphere were thick". Some readers report a feeling as if they were plunged in this thick atmosphere. Some of those who report the latter feeling say that they feel some faint tactile sensation all over their skin; some others, on the contrary, that the boundary between their body and this thick texture was suspended.

Two unusual grammatic structures are conspicuous in these two excerpts. The first one is what I have called topicalised attribute, the manipulation of an attribute into the referring position. Such transformations are quite characteristical of poetry that displays some intense, dense emotionally charged atmosphere. In everyday life and language we do not usually distinguish between physical objects and their attributes (or perceptual qualities). When we perceive (or speak of) the one, we are inclined automatically to identify it with the other. But the two are far from identical. One of the tasks of the "abstract of the concrete" genitive phrases ("estrangement of these walls") may be to de-automatise the relationship between the attributes (or perceptual qualities) and the physical object. The other conspicuous grammatic structure concerns elliptic sentences. Elliptic sentences frequently contain a deictic element. This deictic element may have far-reaching poetic consequences. The function of an indicative predication is to affect the beliefs of the addressee, and to connect the utterance to extralinguistic reality (by suggesting "it occurred"). A noun phrase without predication places some event (or state of affairs) at the disposal of one's awareness, in abstraction from any claims concerning existence. If the phrase contains deixis it may, as we have seen, connect the utterance to extralinguistic reality, without affecting our beliefs.

About forty years ago I approached poetry from the point of view of "New Criticism" (it was "new" in the nineteen-twenties and the nineteen-thirties and forties). At that time I tended to explain the perceived quality of such poems as follows: we are confronted here with a concrete situation, but this concreteness is conferred on it only by the deictic devices; what we perceive in this situation are abstract nouns and qualities that have no stable characteristic visual shapes. Thus, our perceptions have a thicker texture than mere abstractions, but still lack some stable characteristic visual shape. Hence the intense, dense, but elusive feeling.

When in the late nineteen-sixties I began to develop my theory of cognitive poetics, I had to realise that processes of knowing and feeling involve streams of information of the same kinds. The difference between conceptual thinking and percepts or emotions is not in the kind of information, but, among other things, their organisation: the former is more compact and sequential, whereas the latter is more diffuse and simultaneous. This could explain how the loosening of the relationship between objects and their attributes rendered them less compact, more diffuse and emotional. While a logical argument has a beginning, middle and end (is sequential), a landscape is simultaneous. This may change the perception of even such abstractions as width and height into diffuse qualities. Consider two excerpts from William Wordsworth, the first one from his famous "Observations Prefixed to 'Lyrical Ballads'" (1800), the second one from his "Solitary Reaper". In both examples he uses the word overflow in a figurative sense, in relation to an abstract noun.

6.       For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings [...].

7.       Behold her, single in the field,
          Yon solitary highland lass!
          Reaping and singing by herself,
          Stop here or gently pass!
          Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
          And sings a melancholy strain;
          O listen! for the vale profound
          Is overflowing with the sound.
                    (Wordsworth, "The Solitary Reaper")

In spite of the occurrence of the word feeling in excerpt 6, the word feeling is felt to be conceptual, relatively less appropriate to the description of the perceived effect of this excerpt than to that of 7. Excerpt 6 is usually accepted as conceptual expository prose, notwithstanding the figurative use of overflow. In the last two lines of excerpt 7, by contrast, many readers report a feeling of being immersed in, or wrapped by, some thick texture that had little to do with auditory percepts, not unlike the feeling reported in connection with excerpts 4 and 5. Indeed, excerpt 6 is placed in a timeless and spaceless context, whereas in excerpt 7, by contrast, the presence of a perceiving consciousness in midst of a concrete landscape is indicated by the verbs "Behold", and "O listen". These verbs refer to the mental processes of perception, and are in the imperative mode. Imperative verbs have a strong deictic ingredient, because one can give a command only to someone present here and now.

In the ninteen seventies I came across cognitive psychologist Robert Orenstein's study of consciousness, in which he put forward the conception (which became the "received view") that while logical and rational consciousness is typically related to the left hemisphere of the brain, meditative consciousness is related to the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere processes information sequentially, and its output is experienced as compact and logical; the right hemisphere processes information simultaneously and its output is experienced as diffuse, integrating input from many senses. Orientation, emotions, and mystic experiences are all typically right-hemisphere activities. Regarding the poetic structure discussed in the present section, I claimed, the emphatic deixis evokes a coherent scene arousing imagined orientation which, in turn, transfers a significant part of language processing from the left to the right hemisphere, rendering the related percepts more diffuse. Orientation involves not only a perception of the surrounding space, but also a sense of one's own body's position.

I was trying to stay, for as long as possible, within literary theory, linguistics, philosophy and cognitive sience. But sometimes really compelling evidence turned up from the emerging brain science. During the past fifty years or so linguists have propounded a semantic-feature conception of meaning. Cognitive psychologists and brain scientists too speak of cognitive "features". The brain scientist Marcel Kinsbourne refutes the naive belief that the right hemisphere's output is featureless: "A holistic approach, leaving features and their relations unspecified, is as alien to right-hemisphere function as it is inimical to rationality in general" (Kinsbourne, 1982: 417). I claim that the right hemisphere's output is "ineffable" not because no semantic features are involved, but because those features are diffuse and simultaneous. It is not the information that is unparaphrasable, but its integration and diffuseness. Diffuseness and integration are not semantic information added, but the structure of information as it appears in consciousness. Whereas semantic information can be paraphrased, the impression that arises from its structure can only be described.

In 2001–2002 I extended the above conception to seventeenth century poetry of meditation as well. This poetry is said to have evolved from Jesuit meditation. The first stage of this meditation was "composition of place". The seventeenth century Jesuits as well as twentieth century scholars claimed that the entire success of the meditation depended on a proper execution of the composition of place; but they never explained why. In a paper published in Pragmatics and Cognition, Motti Benari and I argued that the composition of place requires the meditator to imagine himself in a specific situation of an episode from the life of Jesus or one of the saints and induce the meditative process through activating the right hemisphere by the orientation mechanism.

As I have suggested in various places (Tsur, 1987b: 4; 1992a: 360; 1998), since language is compact and linear by nature, the phrases "emotional poetry" or "mystical poetry" ought to be, but are not, contradictions in terms. Now the phrases are not contradictions in terms, precisely because poets found exactly the same solution as Ignatius and the Jesuits found. In romantic nature poetry, for instance, the insights into supersensuous reality are intimately associated with detailed nature descriptions, a "composition of place", as it were. The orientation mechanism involved imposes diffuseness on language.

There is no evidence in Orenstein's discussion for our conjecture concerning this effect of the orientation mechanism on meditation and poetic language. But after the article had already been accepted for publication by Pragmatics and Cognition we encountered brain research that may support this conception. Andrew Newberg, Eugene D'Aquili and Vince Rause (2001) conducted a SPECT camera brain-imaging study (the acronym stands for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) of Tibetan meditators and Franciscan nuns at prayer. To our pleasant surprise, these researchers claim that what they call the "orientation association area" (OAA) is "extremely important in the brain's sense of mystical and religious experiences, which often involve altered perceptions of space and time, self and ego" (29). This would massively support our speculations above based on the structure of literary texts, introspection, and earlier brain research. Their study attempted to obtain experimental evidence for their claim. They point out that there are two orientation areas, situated at the posterior section of the parietal lobe, one in each hemisphere of the brain:

The left orientation area is responsible for creating the mental sensation of a limited, physically defined body, while the right orientation area is associated with generating the sense of spatial coordinates that provides the matrix in which the body can be oriented. In simpler terms, the left orientation area creates the brain's spatial sense of self, while the right side creates the physical space in which that self can exist (Newberg, D'Aquili & Rause, 2001: 28).

These researchers found a sharp reduction in the activity levels of the left orientation association area. A SPECT image of the brain's activity during meditation indicates that the activity of "the left orientation area... is markedly decreased compared to the right side" (ibid., 4). They assume that both orientation areas were working as hard as ever, but in the left area the incoming flow of sensory information had somehow been blocked (6).

In a later chapter they highlight the right hemisphere orientation activity during what they call "the active approach" to meditation:

Active types of meditation begin not with the intention to clear the mind of thoughts, but instead, to focus it intensely upon some thought or object of attention. A Buddhist might chant a mantra, or focus upon a glowing candle or a small bowl of water, for example, while a Christian might pray with the mind trained upon God, or a saint, or the symbol of a cross. For the sake of discussion, let's imagine that the focus of attention is the mental image of Christ. [...] In this case, since the intention is to focus more intensely upon some specific object or thought, the attention facilitates rather than inhibits, neural flow. In our model, this increased neural flow causes the right orientation area, in conjunction with the visual association area, to fix the object of focus, real or imagined, in the mind (ibid., p. 120).

We consider these findings extremely valuable for interpreting the meditative experience. If the boundaries between self and not self are to be suspended in meditation, that is, if the self is to dissolve in infinite space, the boundaries of the self must be de-emphasized, and the perception of the surrounding space overemphasized. The process must begin, therefore, with activities having opposing effects in the two orientation areas: in the right area "the sense of spatial coordinates that provides the matrix in which the body can be oriented" must be reinforced; in the left area "the mental sensation of a limited, physically defined body" must be reduced. What is more, the diffuse information-processing mode originating in the right hemisphere may help to blur, as an initial step, the mental sensation of a well-defined physical boundary of the body—whatever the later stages of the cognitive and neurological processes. In imaginative processes, objects that have stable characteristic visual shapes enhance the feeling of their separateness and our separateness from them; abstractions as well as gestalt-free and thing-free qualities enhance a feeling of the suspended boundaries.

Figure 1: The top row of images shows the meditator's brain at rest and indicates an even distribution of activity throughout the brain. (The top of the image is the front of the brain and part of the attention association area, or AAA, while the bottom of the image is part of the orientation association area, or OAA.) The bottom row of images shows the brain during meditation, in which the left orientation area (on your right) is markedly decreased compared to the right side (from Newberg et al.).

This might account for certain verbal structures that are quite common in our corpus: these structures draw attention to the surrounding space, but focus on thing-free and gestalt-free entities (such as abstractions) rather than on stable characteristic visual shapes. Consider, for instance, the following phrase from a passage by the jesuit writer, Dawson: "to have noted well the distance from one place to another, the height of the hills, and the situation of the townes and villages", or Ignatius' "the length, breadth and depth of Hell". Here the focus of attention is shifted from spatio-temporally continuous objects to certain abstract relations: distance ... height ... situation, or length, breadth and depth, manipulated into the referring position. According to our interpretation, such abstractions and gestalt-free qualities are perceived differently by the two orientation association areas. In the left area they enhance a feeling of the blurring of boundaries; in the right area they are perceived as unstable, fluid information, comparable to the fast-integrated output of right-hemisphere orientation processes, that cannot settle as solid objects.

These findings suggest that the switch from "ordinary consciousness" to "meditative consciousness" involves the substitution of a holistic mode of operation for the analytic and sequential information-processing mode. Structurally, there is a drastic increase in the diffuseness of the brain's output. Hence, the "composition of place" is intended to evoke a right-hemisphere orientation process. The right-hemisphere process is responsible for the "diffusion" of compact inputs. The activation of the orientation mechanism arouses an information-processing mode that is diffuse, holistic, and simultaneous. This mode of functioning characterises the meditative process, and typically involves diffuse and intuitive impressions.

My position vis-à-vis Stockwell's work receives support in a wider perspective from David Miall. With reference to Stockwell's and his circle's work he comments: Cognitive poetics "has adopted a model of cognition that, surprisingly in the present stage of psychological research, is restricted almost entirely to information processing issues: in other words, the role of feeling has been neglected" (Miall, 2006: 41). Ironically enough, though I am usually credited with having coined the phrase "Cognitive Poetics", it came to designate, when not qualified, an approach to which I largely object. Two pages later, however, Miall writes: "Given that literary reading is so often imbued with feeling, it is surprising that feeling has still received so little attention from cognitive poetics. Of the major scholars in this field, only Reuven Tsur and Keith Oatley have made significant contributions" (Miall, 2006: 43).

As I have shown in my books Toward a Theory of Cognitive Poetics and On the Shore of Nothingness, such verbal constructions as the combination of emphatic deictic devices with abastract nouns in the referring position are very much in evidence in seventeenth century poetry of meditation, in Romantic meditative poems (as Wordsworth's Calais-beach sonnet) as well as in Whitman's meditative catalogue. Thanks to such constructions, poetry is well-suited not only to tell of, but also to show altered states of consiousness; to evoke not only the concept of these states of mind, but also their feel. Regarding deictic devices, I have argued and attempted to demonstrate that the task of cognitive poetics is to shift attention from labelling and classifying them to accounting for their effect.

Deixis and the Sublime

Finally, let us examine the relationship between deixis and the sublime as they occur in "Ozymandias". I will explore this issue in perspective of "labelling" and "meaning-making" as formulated by Quintilianus: "For it makes no difference by which name is either called, so long as its stylistic value is apparent, [...] since their values lie not in their names, but in their effect".

I have mentioned above how Stockwell classifies, labels and illustrates his deictic categories in "Ozymandias". Now that we know that when "the deictic centre that says 'I' in the first line" looks back on ancient times, it is temporal deixis, and when he looks at a faraway land it is spatial deixis—we are also entitled to know what is their "stylistic value", "their effect". The same could be said of the following: "All of the locating expressions follow the deictic centre in each case: 'near them' is spatially related to the traveller standing in the desert; 'those passions' and 'these lifeless things' are centred on the traveller looking at the shattered face; 'far away' is understood relative to the site". To be precise, however, "near them" is not spatially related to the traveller standing in the desert; the objects are spatially related to each other. Their proximity does not depend on where the traveller stands (cf. Langacker's examples in note 7). Likewise, "those passions" and "these lifeless things" can be construed, with some good will, as deictic; more likely, however, those demonstrative pronouns indicate here co-reference with earlier expressions rather than spatial relationships focused on the speaker as reference point.

I have already suggested that in some instances the shifting deictic centres serve to establish a pervasive ironic tone in the poem. In what follows I will argue that, at the same time, deixis serves to evoke a sublime quality. Let me mention only a few relevant aspects of the Kantian notion of the sublime. "We call that sublime which is absolutely great" (Kant, 1951: 86), "what is great beyond all comparison" (ibid.). We still need some definition that may attach a descriptive content to these critical terms. Absolutely great may be regarded as a positive description of the negative notion boundlessness or infinity. Kant suggests that the sublime be defined in psychological terms. "As this, however, is great beyond all standards of sense, it makes us judge as sublime, not so much the object, as our own state of mind in the estimation of it" (ibid., 94). [6] From the poetic point of view, this poses an enormous problem: How can words convey that which "is great beyond all standards of sense", without falling back on empty superlatives? I submit that this requires a verbal technique in which deixis plays a crucial part. In the following passage Beardsley briefly summarises those parts of the Kantian notion of the sublime from which the essentials of this technique can be inferred:

When we estimate magnitudes through numbers, that is, conceptually, the imagination selects a unit, which it can then repeat indefinitely. But there is a second kind of estimation of magnitudes, which Kant calls "aesthetic estimation", in which the imagination tries to comprehend or encompass the whole representation in one single intuition. There is an upper bound to its capacity. An object whose apparent or conceived size strains this capacity to the limit—threatens to exceed the imagination's power to take it all in at once—has, subjectively speaking, an absolute magnitude: it reaches the felt limit, and appears as if infinite. [...] imagination reaches its maximum capacity, shows its failure and inadequacy when compared to the demands of Reason, and makes us aware, by contrast, of the magnificence of Reason itself. The resulting feeling is the feeling of the sublime (Beardsley, 1966: 218–219).

Eighteenth Century theorists discussed at considerable length what kinds of things are sublime: among them, immensely large things, or things immensely remote in space (both horizontally and vertically) or in time (such as pre-history, ancient history, or the mythological past). Visually, then, the sublime is that which exceeds our ability to encompass it, that which transcends the limits of the visible horizon. The Kantian "aesthetic estimation" presupposes, then, self-perception, or imaginary self-perception, here and now, in the middle of the visual space encompassed by the horizon. As we have seen in excerpt 4, deixis is the means to evoke such a situation in a verbal context. I have insisted that critical terms, with their descriptive contents, have little significance unless they are understood in relation to a theoretical framework or model. Consider Stockwell's assertion: "The line 'The lone and level sands stretch far away' takes the scene spatially away from the deictic centre of the ruin". What Stockwell's theoretical framework imputes on the line is almost synonymous with its explicit contents: "The lone and level sands stretch far away" = "takes the scene spatially away from the [...] ruin". This is perfectly true, but trivial. The only thing it adds is that it specifies the point of origin as the ruin. This addition may be accurate, but shifts attention away from the deixis and its potential to evoke a sublime quality in the poem. First, as Langacker (1987: 127) put it, not all spatial relationships are deictic, [7] "the position of the speaker serves as a default-case reference point" [8] sanctioned by established convention. The line does not explicitly indicate the deictic centre; from the cognitive point of view, the perceiving consciousness (not the ruin) is the deictic centre, though the speaker may stand near the ruins. Secondly, the Kantian perspective emphasises here not the "taking away from the centre" aspect of the description, but its "faraway" aspect, that is, its "transcending the limits of perception" aspect, presenting the scene as absolutely great, as sublime. This is reinforced by the adjective "boundless". Thus, subcategorising the domain as perceptual, spatial, and temporal deixis does the poem a conspicuous disservice. As footnotes 6–7 suggest, for Langacker, for instance, "the ruin" as a reference point or a phrase like "'far away' is understood relative to the site" would be insufficient to warrant a deictic construal.

When we say "XIIIth Century B.C.", the imagination selects a unit (century), which it can then repeat indefinitely. This indefinitely repeatable unit allows us to ignore all the intervening perceptual information. Likewise, when we say "Giza is so and so many miles away from London" the imagination selects, again, a unit, which it can then repeat indefinitely. However, when we speak of a "faraway" or "antique land", the (spatial or temporal) distance becomes somehow vaguely perceptual, and "threatens to exceed the imagination's power to take it all in at once", it "has, subjectively speaking, an absolute magnitude: it reaches the felt limit, and appears as if infinite". This may illuminate the problematic usefulness of subcategorisation when speaking of poetic effects: it makes little difference whether the distance is spatial or temporal. The overwhelmingly important thing is what this distance does: that it "threatens to exceed the imagination's power to take it all in at once". [9]

This effect interacts with the versification structure. I have already mentioned one effect of blurred prosodic gestalts in this poem: they reinforce the elusiveness of the ironic quality. Another effect concerns the sublime quality. There is precedent for the supposition that qualities generated by the blurring of boundaries on one level of a poem may be obstructed by sharp outlines on another level (in synaesthesia, for instance; cf. Tsur, 1992: 245–255). So, the blurring of prosodic shapes may enhance the sublime effect generated by thematic elements and deixis.

Here a knotty problem arises. As Stockwell rightly observed, in "Ozymandias" there are three different points of view of three different persons, and two different places. Infinite space observed from the middle of the desert, infinite time observed from the present, and infinite space between the speaker and the desert are part of different deictic situations. Can the three be integrated into one cognitive experience "in which the imagination tries to comprehend or encompass the whole representation in one single intuition?" Let us consider such a possibility. First, the phrase "traveller from an antique land" integrates the latter two situations by suggesting both spatial and temporal distance in one. Secondly, Stockwell makes a rather sophisticated observation about "a time implicit in the present tense of 'met' and 'said'; the time in which the traveller was in the desert, chronologically in the past but deictically projected as a present tense 'stand' and 'these words appear'; and a deictic projection to the ancient time of the inscription when 'is', 'look' and 'despair' were written while Ozymandias was alive". But he does nothing with it. It would appear that the chronologically removed events "deictically projected as a present tense" may serve just such an integration.

Here, however, another knotty question arises, posed by David Miall, concerning the psychological reality of such integration of "deictic centers": "Does cognitive deixis position a reader in relation to the points of view on offer in a narrative [or poem]?" In the present case the problem is even more difficult: Does such a cognitive device "bounce" a reader into a position in which he can integrate infinite space observed from the middle of the desert, and infinite time observed from the present into a single intuition? I don't know the answer, and doubt whether anybody knows it. I suppose that some readers are capable of this, some are not. I strongly hope that David Miall will find a way experimentally to test how many readers are, and how many are not capable of this. For the time being I am handling such problems in a different way. I would put my answer in a hypothetical form. If the reader is able to perceive or experience the sublime quality of Ozymandias' desert, it strongly suggests that he is able to position himself in relation to the spatial point of view on offer in the poem, or—more rarely—even integrate the spatial and temporal points of view. Likewise, if in excerpt 4 a reader can perceive the "thick" emotional quality in "this width" and "this height", it strongly suggests that he can place himself in the centre of the situation and experience the (imagined) orientation process. As long as there is no controlled empirical data, this is the best we can do. And it's not so bad, after all.


David Miall criticised Peter Stockwell for being too much preoccupied with meaning, too little with feeling. I have argued against the way he handles his conceptual apparatus. More specifically, I argued that he had a predilaction for labelling rather than meaning-making; and that I disagreed with him as to what constitutes a proper cognitive explanation. I pointed out that in Stockwell's practice "cognitive analysis" sometimes consists in rechristening well-worn old terminology into new, "cognitive" terms. Everything that is language or literature goes through the cognitive system of authors, readers, and critics. However, a discussion becomes cognitive not when it resorts to a certain terminology, but when certain problems are addressed which cannot be properly handled without appealing to some cognitive process or mechanism. On this issue, I invoked Quintilianus who had claimed that the value of stylistic devices lies not in their names, but in their effects, in their actions.

In the last three sections I tried to demonstrate how stylistic devices may interact with other devices and perspectives to generate (sometimes conflicting) poetic effects. Following Langacker I argued that not all spatial reference points are deictic, only where the position of the speaker serves as a reference point. At the beginning of his chapter Stockwell too makes a statement to this effect; but in his critical practice he does not always observe this restriction. But deixis proper is an essential ingredient in the verbal evocation of the sublime and of the emotional qualities and altered states of consciousness related to orientation. These arise in situations in which the perceiving consciouness is the reference point.

I am fully aware that one cannot expect Stockwell to go in a textbook into such lengths as I have gone here. Enough has been said, however, to support my claim that he devotes the available space to discussions that have little to do with Cognitive Poetics; and that he devotes too much space to labelling and pigeonholing, and too little to poetic analysis.


1. David Miall quotes empirical evidence for some such underlying cognitive process, precisely as something that Stockwell's work fails to refer to. "Do readers interpret a text in terms of figure/ground relationships? Does cognitive deixis position a reader in relation to the points of view on offer in a narrative? In this context, we might consider the finding of Seilman and Larsen (1989) that during reading of a literary text compared with an expository text, the memories prompted by the literary text contained twice as many actor-perspective memories as the expository text, which mainly prompted observer memories. This suggests that the deictic indicators function differently in a literary text, inviting the reader to cast herself as an agent, as (in their words) 'a responsible subject interacting with one's environment' (p. 174). Deictic indicators, in other words, may be taken up differently according to the genre of the text being read" (Miall, 2006: 42–43). [back]

2. Even the computer, in the artificial intelligence mode, can make inferences that change with the changing context. Consider a story like "John was sitting in a hotel room in Paris. He was exhausted and hungry. From his bag he took out X". If you substitute "a sandwich" for X, the computer will infer that John was going to eat it. If you substitute "the Micheline Guide", the computer will not infer that John was going to eat it, but that John is planning to go to a restaurant (cf. Schank and Abelson, 1977). [back]

3. The etymological relationship between print and imprint, or press and impress is insufficient excuse for dragging in the printing process. However, the actual verb used by Shelley is "stamped", which would rather point in the direction of the postal services. Paraphrasing George Miller (1993: 392), our task is not to search for a unique paraphrase of the text, nor to find out how many meanings can be attributed to it, but to search for grounds that will constrain the basis of interpretations to a plausible set of alternatives. The printing process and the postal services are obviously no part of such a plausible set. [back]

4. There I compare a passage from Milton with a different alignment of verse and syntax conveyed by the same words, resulting in pentameter lines that have stronger gestalts than the original. So, other things are literally identical. When I asked students whether irony is equally subtle in both passages, they had no doubt that the original passage (with the weaker gestalts) "somehow" suggested subtler irony. [back]

5. The enormous effect of versification is, of course, lost in these literal translations. [back]

6. Eighteenth Century theorists analyse in detail this state of mind (see my book On the Shore of Nothingness, pp. 141–145). [back]

7. In the following examples, "Over and across are", says Langacker (1987: 127–128), "deictic in (c) and (d), by the definition provided above, but not in the other sentences":

(a) There is a picture over the fireplace.
(b) An elderly man walked across the field.
(c) An old church lies just over that hill.
(d) There is a mailbox across the street.
(e) There is a mailbox across the street from the drugstore. " [back]

8. In a discourse like Sharon asked the repairman to come immediately there are two speakers: the speaker of the whole utterance, and the speaker of a reported utterance. Here the latter is construed as the "deictic centre" of to come (cf. Langacker, 1987: 127), [back]

9. To be sure, space and time are of central importance in cognitive organisation. Cognitive poetics may flexibly and creatively apply these notions in a wide variety of contexts, whereas freezing them into rigid taxonomies impedes rather than facilitates such creative application. [back]


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Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1951) Biographia Literaria, in Donald A. Stauffer (ed.) Selected Poetry and Prose. New York: The Modern Library. 109–428.

Forster, E. M. (1962) Aspects of the Novel. Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Gavins, Joanna and Gerard Steen (eds.) (2003) Cognitive Poetics in Practice. London: Routledge.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1970) "Language Structure and Language Function", in John Lyons (ed,), New Horizons in Linguistics. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. 140-165.

Herrnstein-Smith, Barbara (1968) Poetic Closure. Chicago: Chicago UP.

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Langacker Ronald W. (1987) Foundations of Cognitive Grammar Volume I. Stanford, Ca.: Stanford University Press

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