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Cognitive poetics and Shakespeare : the role of dramatic anchors in "Hamlet" Jackson, Bradley J


This paper relies on the notion of dramatic anchors (Dancygier, 2016), alongside cognitive linguistic theories such as conceptual blending (Turner, 1997; Fauconnier and Turner, 2002), framing (Fillmore, 1982), compression (Fauconnier 2005; Turner 2006; Dancygier 2012), mental spaces (Fauconnier, 1994), narrative spaces (Dancygier, 2012), and representation blends (Dancygier, 2012) to propose a new way of reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet through the material aspects of the stage. Narrative anchors (and, by extension dramatic anchors) are aspects of a narrative (objects, images and linguistic forms) that compress information so that it remains dormant, but accessible, throughout the narrative. This allows for meaning comprehension to flow seamlessly during the process of reading or viewing a narrative (cf. Dancygier 2012). Amy Cook (2010) further explains the value of applying blending theory to a text or performance in Shakespearean Neuroplay, suggesting that Hamlet’s mirror-blend can inform us how meaning is constructed throughout the play. Elaborating upon these principles in Hamlet, I show how language, performance, and the material aspects of the stage converge in a process of multimodal blending (Forceville, 2009). My theory places the material objects at the center stage of theatrical performance, suggesting that abstract frames of knowledge are grounded in the material aspects of theatre and can be accessed by actors, and audiences, in the construction of narrative and conceptual meaning. The ghost, the play within a play, and Yorick’s skull give audiences access to conceptual and narrative spaces that are not in language alone. Shakespeare creatively weaves conceptual and narrative spaces through the material objects on stage to suggest his thematic insistence on the art/life blend. Futhermore, through the figurative use of language, performance, and the material aspects of the stage, Shakespeare shows us how art informs life.

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