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Introduction

  • Michael Booth
Chapter
Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)

Abstract

The research area of conceptual integration, originally delineated by the cognitive linguists Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, has been explored by scholars in a wide range of fields. As F. Elizabeth Hart says, conceptual integration theory, or blending theory, “outlines the mind’s apparently endless capacity to create spontaneous, discrete sets of associations…then to juggle deftly those sets of associations, folding them into one another but also—and equally important—keeping track of their boundaries.” This book uses conceptual blending theory to show how Shakespeare’s artistic excellence consists, across many domains of artistry, in occupying our minds very fully, for a span of time, with a rich intricacy of mental work. Hart is right to speak of an “apparently endless” human capacity. What is not endless, though, is the time we have for creating and juggling mental associations as we engage with any given matter. Blending theory is useful for appreciating Shakespeare because it illuminates the mind’s immense resourcefulness in dealing with the unforgiving constraints of finite human attention, memory and time. Against the forces of distraction and forgetting, the mind struggles toward an integrated understanding, marked ideally by global insight into a given subject and all its parts in their mutual interrelation. The mind tries to add new perceptions to all else it knows, to reach a more comprehensive view. Concomitant with this is compression necessitated by the limits of memory and attention. Blending becomes especially visible through frame clashes between incongruous mental objects. Examples abound in Shakespeare’s drama and poetry.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Booth
    • 1
  1. 1.CambridgeUSA

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