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Devotion and Conceptual Blending

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

Abstract

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

Keywords

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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Notes

  1. 1.
    Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 102.Google Scholar
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    For instance, Rhetorica ad Herennium, by pseudo-Cicero, instructs readers to remember a man accused of murder in order to obtain an inheritance by imagining a man lying ill in bed with the defendant at his bedside “holding in his right hand a cup, and in his left tablets, and on the fourth finger a ram’s testicles” (III.xx). Rhetorica ad Herennium, ed. and trans. H. Caplan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954), 215.Google Scholar
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    For instance, in their analysis of the Bolton Hours, another Book of Hours from York dated to the same period as the Pavement Hours, Patricia Cullum and P. Jeremy P. Goldberg suggest that it was commissioned by a mother under the assumption that it would be passed down along her family’s female line. But the authors also propose that this manuscript may have simultaneously served as a family book. See “How Margaret Blackburn Taught her Daughters: Reading Devotional Instruction in a Book of Hours,” in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain, eds. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, et al. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 217–36.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of “ghosting” in the theatre, see Marvin Carlson, The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).Google Scholar
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    My conclusions are supported by David Freedberg and Vittorio Gallese’s research into aesthetic experiences with art that I discussed in chapter one. Freedberg and Gallese, “Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Esthetic Experience,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11, no. 5 (2007): 197–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Jill Stevenson 2010

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