By M. Winkleman, Michael A. Winkelman
Investigations into how the mind truly works have ended in impressive discoveries and those findings hold profound implications for studying literature. This examine applies contemporary breakthroughs from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology which will deepen our figuring out of John Donne's Songs and Sonnets.
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Additional info for A Cognitive Approach to John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets
38) George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, worked as a surveyor in Virginia before the Revolutionary War, and surviving letters attest to his unrequited passion for the beautiful but married Sally Fairfax. That historical background renders Bishop’s conceit more witty and piquant; yet the poem would founder without its basis in such an effective, comprehensive underlying metaphor. Mnemotechnics To wander into the hypothetical, picture Donne and Bishop meeting and talking shop in a café on Parnassus.
In Il Cannocchiale Aristotelico (The Aristotelean Telescope), Conte Emanuele Tesauro, a leading seventeenth-century theorist of the subject, helped revive this branch of the trivium, and his encomium is worth careful attention: Metaphor [is] the most ingenious and acute, the most outlandish and wonderful, the most enjoyable and helpful, the most eloquent and fecund part of the human intellect. Most ingenious truly, because if ingenuity consists (as we say) in tying together remote and separate notions of proposed objects, this is precisely the function of metaphor, and not of any other figure: hence, drawing the mind, no less than the word, from one genus to another, metaphor expresses one concept [concetto] through the means of another much different from it, finding similarity in dissimilarities.
34 In other words, the central nervous system (“the sinewie thread my braine lets fall / Through every part”) has proportionally more afferent nerve cells dedicated to detecting and processing input from these three organs (Fun, 9–10; Penfield’s homunculus graphically shows this). Such sensitivity, which renders them capable of extreme precision, is a derived trait increasing fitness. Color stereoscopic vision, manual dexterity, and speech helped our forebears stay alive. Moreover, as Paul Ekman has demonstrated, the same emotions and facial expressions are shared across cultures, which makes people’s visage a solid guide to their deeper feelings.