Professor, Department of English, Los Angeles Valley College
Second speaker, Workshop on Conceptual Blending in Literary Representation
'Mak[ing] new stock from the salt':
Poetic Metaphor as Conceptual Blend in Sylvia Plath's "The Applicant"
When it comes to an admittedly complex poem like Sylvia Plath's "The
Applicant," it appears that literary tools of analysis such as discourse
situation, possible worlds theory, and schema theory can go only so far
in explicating the metaphors of the work (Semino 1997). Through a range
of examples from Plath's poetry, I seek to show how cognitive poetics,
in its inclusion of the theories of mental spaces, conceptual integration,
and blending, is a much more powerful tool for illuminating the reticular
logic of integrated poetic metaphors. While not all conceptual blends are
metaphors, poetic metaphors – the tropes around which a literary text is
structurally organized to give it coherence – are typically blends. The
dynamic of tropes in Plath, I suggest, provides us with access to a mode
of poetical construction that emphasizes the blend as a real-time simulation,
less a structure than the trapeze artist's fleeting linkage of hands.
Margaret H. Freeman is Professor of English at Los Angeles Valley College. She
holds a BA Honors degree in English and Philosophy from the University of Manchester,
and the MA and PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She
has published several articles on cognitive approaches to the poetry of Emily
Dickinson, and is currently (July 1998) working on a book length manuscript: Reading
Emily Dickinson: Studies in Cognitive Poetics.