Cognitive Poetics: Scripts and Schemas

The topic of chapters six in Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction and Cognitive Poetics in Practice is schema theory, an abstract representation of the contextual knowledge used to process language. Stockwell proposes schema poetics as an alternative to strict formalism, reader-response theory, and historicism. These other critical theories question the extent to which context is important. Schema theory examines how context is used to make meaning by providing principles and mechanics of contextualizing.

The conceptual structure used to understand language utterances is called a script, a term borrowed from cognitive science to describe the general protocols one has to negotiate various situations. We use scripts to perform complex sets of actions that become routine.

Scripts have headers that tell us which script is relevant to the situation. Headers can be preconditions, locales, actions, or roles associated with the script. Other components of a script are props, participants, entry conditions, results, and sequences of events. Suggesting one or more of these in a text can cue a script for the reader. A schema is our general understanding […]