Sharon Lattig, research support


Sharon Lattig received travel awards and research support for her work on

The Perception of Metaphor and the Metaphor of Perception

Within The Prelude’s “Book the First” is nested the epic’s celebrated “boat-stealing episode,” the story of the boy Wordsworth¹s clandestine launch of a shepherd’s skiff discovered on a twilight ramble. This salient passage, in what Wordsworth referred to as a “preparatory poem,” charts what is effectively an archeology of the pathetic fallacy, rooting it in a breach of intentionality, as the term is revised by Walter Freeman to mean the neurological process by which organisms generate goal-directed actions by, among other things, calculating the impact of a present action upon subsequent perceptual content. The occasion of the young William¹s failure to predict perceptual content thrusts the boy into a near-solipsistic state of isolation whose function, I argue, is to inspire its mitigation through the derivative event of poetic metaphor. Among literary devices, metaphor has long enjoyed a special cognitive status. Deemed alternatively, to reflect thought processes and to engender insight, the figure of speech may be more profitably understood, I propose, as a compressed linguistic version of, and prompt to, a dynamic that is aboriginally perceptual. The preponderance of metaphor, its centrality to our thought, and its robust career as a site of philosophical, linguistic and cognitive contest may be accounted for by adducing Freeman’s neurodynamic model of olfaction. The insights cultivated by his theory justify, among other things, the recuperation of the interactive theories of poetic metaphor developed by I.A. Richards and Max Black. Such a retrospective enlargement challenges the scope of the prevalent Lakoff-Johnson model, which can account neither for its own internal dynamic nor for the embeddedness of the organism, the maintenance of an integral relationship with an environment that is a precondition for originality. English Dept., City University New York, Graduate School. Co-organizer.