Discourse Worlds: A Heuristic Response

Before responding directly to the chapters on discourse worlds and mental space theory in Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction and Cognitive Poetics in Practice, here is a short story I’m writing using the conceptualizations outlined in these books. In particular, I am making use of M. L. Ryan’s possible worlds theory summarized by both Stockwell and Semino. Stockwell prefers the name discourse worlds  when adapting Ryan’s theory to literary analysis. Semino cites Ryan’s Principle of Diversification  to describe the aesthetic potential of plot.

Keeping Ryan’s possible worlds theory in mind, I am rewriting an old story that I started in Jim Hall’s class at UK. Semino notes in her chapter in Cognitive Poetics in Practice that possible worlds theory is not a cognitive theory but a philosophical theory of logic. Consequently, the theory offers little insight into how specific linguistic stimuli interact with reader’s cognitive processing of the text. However, combining possible worlds theory with other cognitive theories, such as schema poetics, can fill in the gaps. I intend to revise […]