Discordia Concors and Bidirectionality: Embodied Cognition in John Donne's Songs and Sonnets
In the introduction to his 1912 edition of John Donne's poetry, Herbert J. C. Grierson writes of “the vein of sheer ugliness which runs through his work, presenting details that seem merely and wantonly repulsive.” What is more, Donne displays what Samuel Johnson argues is “a kind of discordia concors ; a combination of dissimilar images.” Through both a cognitive-literary and an empirical study of the metaphors in Donne's poems “The Bait” and “The Flea,” the authors discuss the grotesque nature of his poetic imagery as constituting “a clash of incompatibles, generated by the great distance between the two semantic fields.” The authors argue that it is this clash that sustains bidirectionality in a metaphor, by preserving the tension between its two subjects, while allowing each to alternatively become the focus of one's attention while reading. Donne's use of grotesque imagery thereby juxtaposes semantic fields and their worlds with frightening consequences, and this impacts upon the bidirectionality inherent in the process of metaphor comprehension. Furthermore, this essay will show how the poetic texts enable both embodied simulation and bodily feeling, both of which manifest embodied cognition in the reader; the authors therefore argue that Donne is, in fact, an early advocate of embodied cognition.
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