UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Making sense of reality through fiction : approaching memes through the intersecting lenses of cognitive linguistics and narratology Colautti, Jesse Thomas


In this thesis project, I develop a new approach to examine how and why people use fictive narratives to cope with traumatic events. While this area of research has primarily been studied through the lenses of cognitive narratology and psychology, I adapt a cognitive linguistic methodology, centered on the theoretical framework of conceptual blending, frame metonymy, and viewpoint networks, to analyze multimodal online memes that blend popular fictive narratives with traumatic real-world events. This project differs from past analyses of memes by considering not just the visual and textual data of a meme, but also the contextual frames that shape the way we interact with memes in everyday online discourse—this includes the social media platforms memes they are shared through and the real-world events that prompt their creation. I focus my analysis on a set of multimodal memes created and shared in the twenty-four-hour period after the 2016 U.S. federal election that blend the shocking electoral victory of Donald Trump with images and dialogue taken from the popular The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I argue that the creation and sharing of these memes across social media platforms in the immediate aftermath of what many considered a traumatic event provides evidence of how people use specific narratives that are salient to their culture, values, and identity to cope with trauma. These narratives inform future behaviour, provide causal and sequential logic, project closure onto an uncertain future, and connect individual experiences and viewpoints to like-minded collectives.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International