Cognitive Poetics: Conceptual Frame Theory

In my previous post on comprehension of literature, I summarized Stockwell’s overview of the construction-integration model of literary comprehension. In this post, I will focus on one specific tool developed within the construction-integration model: contextual frame theory. In Cognitive Poetics in Practice Catherine Emmott, who developed contextual frame theory, analyzes various “tails of the unexpected”. And in Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction, Peter Stockwell uses contextual frame theory to analyze The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

First, Emmott explains the basic principles of her contextual frame theory. The mental representations readers build and maintain while reading a text are called contextual frames. And the contextual frame that is most immediate to the reader, the one the reader feels she is actively witnessing, is called the primed frame. Within the primed frame are more mental representations called projected frames. The projected frames are less salient and less detailed than the primed frame but can be representations of such things are flashbacks, off-stage action, and plans.

Contextual frame theory is distinct from Stockwell’s “frame […]