Devotion and Conceptual Blending

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


Laypeople used funerals, objects, and images to extend themselves physically into the devotional lives of those who survived them. By tracing themselves into the bodies of friends and family members, thereby promoting embodied remembrance, laypeople were able to retain a posthumous presence in York that operated well beyond visual representation. The cognitive theory of conceptual blending can enable us to better understand how elements of material culture helped laypeople achieve this goal. Conceptual blending is the cognitive process by which we transform various inputs into coherent structures of meaning. As we navigate in and interact with the world, we reconstruct it into “mental spaces,” what Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner describe as “small conceptual packets constructed as we think and talk, for purposes of local understanding and action.”1 Mental spaces are connected to schematic knowledge since they “become entrenched in long-term memory.”2 We build mental spaces from immediate experiences, as well as from what people tell us about the world, and once we organize a mental space’s elements and the relations between those elements into a “known” package, we have “framed” it.3 As Fauconnier and Turner explain, a space can have minimal abstract framing that offers little specification, but its organizing frame “specifies the nature of the relevant activity, events, and participants”; therefore, learning a mental space often involves learning its organizing frame.4


Fourteenth Century Mental Space Guild Structure Funeral Ritual Affective Engagement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Jill Stevenson 2010

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