Cognitive Poetics: Figure & Ground

The first chapters of Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction by Peter Stockwell and Cognitive Poetics in Practice edited by Joanna Gavins and Gerard Steen introduce the notion of figure & ground to explore literary concepts. Foregrounding brings attention to certain aspects of the text using attractors: familiar techniques such as repetition, unusual naming, innovative descriptions, creative syntactic ordering, puns, rhyme, alliteration, metrical emphasis, the use of creative metaphor, and so on.  Attractors pull attention from one element of the text to another. In a sense, Stockwell explains, this is how reading operates: it is a continual process of pulling attention from one element to another. Inhibition of return and redundancy refer to aspects of the text that cause loss of attention, such as static elements and stereotypical elements.

A recurring preoccupation in my writing is race. I’m interested in new ways to figure the illusion of race. The notions of figure & ground are helpful in understanding how I might represent race (as noun and verb). For example, a short story I wrote while […]