Cognitive Tropes of Memory: Constructions of Hope and Trauma

In this guest lecture, Andrea Lešić-Thomas will talk about the cognitive tropes of memory.

Woman smiling, Andrea Lešić-Thomas.

Dr Andrea Lešić-Thomas teaches literary theory at the Comparative Literature and Librarianship Department at the Philosophy Faculty, University of Sarajevo.

This paper will explore the possibilities of using the insights of cognitive poetics in the study of literary memory texts, and, from there, in the study of cultural memory formation and regulation.

The basic idea to be examined is how the use of tropes (understood, following Lakoff & Johnson, Fauconnier and Turner, as tools for the cognitive organisation of the world represented in the literary text, and not just as its stylistic features) plays a part in the organisation of memories, both as methods for coding and decoding memories, and as conceptual tools for thinking about the processes of memory. 

Defining memory not as a reliable mental record of past events, but as a process of meaning-creation which is highly context-dependent, goal-oriented and, in many cases, and preferably, future-oriented, I shall argue that the problems of memory start when it falls prey to rigid patterns of cultural stereotype and cliché, which restrict its ability to produce new meanings and adapt to new contextual circumstances. 

My argument is that the conceptual tropes we use for imagining and regulating memory, both personal and cultural, significantly influence the levels of flexibility and inclusiveness of meaning and identity generated by memory processes, and can enable or disrupt the creation of stereotypes and clichés. 

In the case of traumatic memories, whether we end up with endless pain and impasse or with renewal and hope will be, at least in part, the result of the kind of trope that was used for working through those traumatic memories. The principal cognitive tropes I shall explore will be the metaphors TRADE and VOID, the metonymies PHOTOGRAPH and MUSEUM, and the synecdoche DOCUMENT. 

Literary texts and the cultural context used as illustration for my main points will be the contemporary literature and culture of Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Dr Andrea Lešić-Thomas has studied (Belgrade and London), taught (School of Slavonic and East European Studies and Queen Mary, both University of London, and currently Philosophy Faculty, University of Sarajevo) and written on comparative literature (Russian, French and South Slav literatures) and literary theory (in particular structuralism, narratology, and Bakhtin, as well as memory studies). She currently teaches literary theory at the Comparative Literature and Librarianship Department at the Philosophy Faculty, University of Sarajevo, and conducts research on memory studies, cognitive poetics, love stories, and vampires. She is the author of the book Bahtin, Bart, strukturalizam: Književnost kao spoznaja i mogućnost slobode, Beograd: Službeni glasnik, 2011.

Tags: Cognitive Poetics, Memory, Metaphors, Literature of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Published Oct. 4, 2017 9:55 AM - Last modified Oct. 3, 2019 9:20 AM