12. Attitude, style and context

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The use of productive imagination was traditionally identified as the cognitive attitude typifying the interpretation of art or poetry. From the point of view of cognitive linguistics however, all types of discourse are inherently metaphorically structured, and therefore require a productive use of imagination for their understanding. From this perspective, the traditional criterion for determining the poetic character of a given text, i.e. through the productive, cognitive response it elicits, then fails to delimit poetic text. However, the question of how we then recognize poetry as poetry remains unanswered within cognitive approaches. Although some literature exists on the distinction between poetic or literary and other metaphors, a systematic study of the recognition of genre and related strategies of interpretation seems to be lacking within the cognitive approach. In this chapter I discuss alternative aesthetic characterizations of art/poetry, based on style and context, and explore their relevance for a cognitive approach to poetic interpretation. After an initial theoretical discussion of such alternative criteria in the first part, the second part of the chapter pursues a more concrete analysis of how these aspects may function in interpretation. For this, I explore how a nowadays widely accepted interpretation of works from the historical avant-garde has come to be construed. I conclude with a brief discussion of the ways in which a cognitive approach may benefit from aesthetics in the investigation of poetic interpretation.


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