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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
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.
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. 
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.
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. 
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".
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? 
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]). 
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. 
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
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.
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).
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"
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
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
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). 
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).
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, 
"the position of the speaker serves as a default-case
reference point" 
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
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". 
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
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]
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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