CogPoe: An Introduction by Peter Stockwell

Meaning is use.

–Peter Stockwell

Looks like I’ve found my introductory text in Cognitive Poetics, thanks to an anonymous benefactor (Hi, Mom) (not even kidding). I’ve gone ahead and read the first two chapters and I’m already kind of in love.

I’ll get into specifics in the next post in the series, but there are a few impressions I’d like to lay out.

The vaguest glimpses of the road that looms ahead already look promising. It’s like other writing books tell you how to read the panel and fiddle with knobs, and this gives me a look under the hood. Once you get past specific techniques and into the principles, you open up room for real innovation.

One of the insights that led me to this project was that reading is something that happens in time. There is an experience of reading, created by the interaction of the reader with the text. It occurred to me, then, that the focus of the writer should be on crafting that experience, rather than on crafting the text itself. It’s a subtle distinction, but I think it’s meaningful and might change my approach to writing for the better. Perhaps master writers already know how to effect this manipulation intuitively,but since I don’t think my intuition alone will get me from here to there, I’m enlisting the help of Cognitive Poetics as a guide.

Stockwell’s book is an academic text, and of a field of the study of literature. This does half the work for me, but the other half, how to apply it, still remains. My initial focus will probably lie on digesting the theory before getting to the bass tacks of application, but hopefully just basking in the theory will at least to some extent pique my awareness and direct my efforts in the moment of writing.

On the abbreviation: “Cognitive Poetics” is a mouthful, and a bit of an eyesore with which to begin every single post in this series. I felt an abbreviation was necessary. The simple initialism was considered and very quickly discarded. CogPo was already taken by something called Cognitive Paradigm Ontology, of the intriguingly opaque name, so I settled on CogPoe, which sounds like a character in a bad literary-steampunk mashup, but it’ll have to do.

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