From Philosophy of Fiction to Cognitive Poetics

by Piotr Stalmaszczyk (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 268 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Contributors
  • Introduction: From Philosophy of Fiction to Cognitive Poetics
  • Creation of Fictional Worlds – A Semiotic Game
  • Fiction, Truth and Reference. Minimalist Theory of Fiction
  • Authors Creating Fictional Characters, either Intentionally or Inadvertently
  • On the Way to Translation
  • Conceptual Metaphor Theory and Classical Theory: Affinities Rather than Divergences
  • Neo-Whorfianism and the So-called “Cognitive” Theory of Metaphor
  • The Work of the Poem As Figurative Field: Evolution of Figurativeness from Wallace Stevens to Rae Armantrout
  • Poetic Apprehending. Language (in) for Reality in Wallace Stevens’s “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven”
  • The Author and the Reader in Cognitive Poetic Theory. Adam Zagajewski’s Reading of Wisława Szymborska’s Poem about Kamil Baczyński
  • A Cognitive Poetic Analysis of Intertextuality: David Lodge’s The British Museum is Falling Down
  • Philosophy of Life in Ernest Hemingway’s Short Story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”: A View from Cognitive Poetics
  • The Predicaments of Abstraction in Visual and Verbal Art
  • The Same but Different. Similarity and Difference with Reference to Selected Cognitive Concepts
  • Index

← 6 | 7 →


Kacper Bartczak

University of Łódź, Poland


Antonio Blanco Salgueiro

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain


Elżbieta Chrzanowska-Kluczewska

Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland


Henryk Kardela

Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (UMCS), Lublin, Poland


Anna Kędra-Kardela

Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (UMCS), Lublin, Poland


Krzysztof Kosecki

University of Łódź, Poland


Alina Kwiatkowska

University of Łódź, Poland


Jakub Mácha

Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic


Aleksandra Majdzińska

University of Łódź, Poland


Crister Nyberg

University of Helsinki, Finland

crister.nyberg@helsinki.fi ← 7 | 8 →

Veronica O’Neill

National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), Ireland


Wit Pietrzak

University of Łódź, Poland


Piotr Stalmaszczyk

University of Łódź, Poland


Zsófia Zvolenszky

Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia and Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary


← 8 | 9 →

Piotr Stalmaszczyk

University of Łódź

Introduction: From Philosophy of Fiction to Cognitive Poetics

Studies collected in this volume investigate selected issues in contemporary philosophy of language and philosophy of literature, including philosophy of fiction, translation theory, metaphor theory (both classical and conceptual), figurativeness and poetic language, cognitive poetics, and cognitive approaches to abstraction in visual and verbal art, and the categories of similarity and difference in perception and language.

The first four chapters concentrate on philosophy of fiction and philosophical issues in translation theory. Elżbieta Chrzanowska-Kluczewska discusses creation of fictional worlds from a semiotic perspective. Following Stuart Brock and Anthony Everett (2015), she stresses that the issues of fictionality have played an important role in twentieth (and twenty-first)-century analytic philosophy to the extent that we can talk about the philosophy of fiction in its own right. Although the primary focus of fiction has always resided in literary creation, drawing the unfailing attention of literary critics and literary semanticists alike, we have every right to believe that fictional worlds are not limited to verbal artworks but can also be realized in the representational visual arts, not to mention the multimodal theatrical and filmic genres. Chrzanowska-Kluczewska brings together three methodological threads, namely: metaphysical ponderings on the nature of fictions (understood as stories about fictional worlds and objects); semiotic considerations on the creativity in verbal and non-verbal texts that constantly enlarge our semiosphere; and the game theory as applied to verbal artworks with a possible projection onto works produced in different media. These three general themes have been discussed in more or less detail each but usually in separation. The author’s idea is to show that although the vernaculars of these sub-disciplines might differ, the gap between them needs to be bridged since the philosophical discourse on the ontology of fiction and on the gamesome behaviour inherent in fiction-making actually overlaps with several claims made by semioticians about artistic languages.

Different aspects of philosophy of fiction are also examined by Crister Nyberg and Zsófia Zvolenszky. Nyberg concentrates on fiction, truth and reference, applying the minimalist theory of fiction. He observes that some, if not most, of the influential theories trying to solve the philosophical problems surrounding fiction consider reference and truth as relations between language and extra linguistic entities. Also, the idea of ‘make-believe’ as a central practice in understanding fiction is widespread. With such presuppositions, many apparently true statements appear as false or meaningless. The account offered by Nyberg, inspired by the work of ← 9 | 10 → Paul Horwich and Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, is based on the use theory of meaning and the deflationary theory of truth. This Minimalist theory of fiction takes fictional, scientific, and everyday use of language as language games and contexts, where ontological questions are not decisive. Mastering the uses of words, recognizing contexts and language games for successful participation are the crucial features. The difference between fiction and, e.g. scientific contexts, can be explained, but in reading and understanding fiction, these and other contexts are mixed in a way that makes most of the theories seriously limited. After giving a brief sketch on the use theory of meaning and the deflationary theory of truth, Nyberg introduces the basic features of the minimalist theory of fiction and shows how it works.

Brock and Everett (2015: 2–3) are careful to distinguish fictions from fictional objects, and the later from fictional characters. Zsófia Zvolenszky’s contribution is concerned with authors creating fictional characters. She defends a fictional artifactualist position according to which fictional characters (like Prince Bolkonsky and Natasha Rostova in Tolstoy’s War and Peace) are non-concrete, human created objects, which are commonly labeled abstract artifacts. In her paper, Zvolenszky brings together two lines of argument: that (for the fictional artifactualist) making room for two types of phenomena is a tenable, indeed an advantageous move. The phenomena at issue are: intentional authorial creation (when authors, in producing works of fiction, intentionally create fictional characters), and inadvertent authorial creation. The two lines of defending fictional artifactualism have a common theme: that instances of authorial creation (intentional or inadvertent) are what we expect if we accept Saul Kripke’s general view about what determines the reference of proper names, and generalize this view further, to encompass fictional names. The overall conclusion to be drawn is that fictional artifactualism is at an advantage compared to rival accounts if we want to admit fictional characters in our ontology and are sympathetic to a Kripkean view about proper name reference.

Veronica O’Neill is concerned in her chapter with some fundamental issues in translation theory. She observes that questions as to what translation is and what translation is for are both foundational and fundamental to translation theory. A problem arises, however, when these questions cease being questioned anew, when they become crystalized as preconceptions that come to be unquestioned over time. O’Neill’s paper identifies and examines the unquestioned preconceptions that have come to underlie translation theory, specifically preconceptions relating to what translation is and what translation is for, preconceptions that are instrumental to the way of translation. O’Neill questions their validity, both to set aside those that are no longer appropriate and to make way for what has been overlooked. In this way, the way to translate can be considered from a broadened perspective and in turn shed new light on the nature of translation and language as such. Drawing on Henri Bergson’s ideas on metaphysics to highlight the unquestioned preconceptions that exist, Walter Benjamin’s ideas on language and translation are considered by the author within the context of a wider ontology so as to shed light on what is more, not only to language and translation, but also to the translator in translating. ← 10 | 11 →

More than 60 years ago Max Black warned that “metaphors are dangerous – and perhaps especially so in philosophy” (Black 1955: 294). However, philosophy (and linguists and literary studies, of course) has witnessed considerable interest in metaphor and theories of metaphor; the next two chapters are concerned with different approaches to metaphor and metaphor theory. Jakub Mácha focuses on cognitive/conceptual metaphor theory in comparison with classical theory. He observes that conceptual metaphor theory makes some strong claims against so-called classical theory which spans the accounts of metaphors from Aristotle to Davidson. Most of these earlier theories, because of their traditional literal-metaphorical distinction, fail to take into account the phenomenon of conceptual metaphor. Mácha argues that the underlying mechanism for explaining metaphor bears some striking resemblances among all of these theories. A mapping between two structures is always expressed. Conceptual metaphor theory insists, however, that the literal-metaphorical distinction of classical theories is empirically wrong. Mácha claims that this criticism is based rather on terminological decisions than on empirical issues. Conceptual metaphor theory focusses primarily on conventional metaphors and struggles to extend its mechanism to novel metaphors, whereas classical theories focus on novel metaphors and struggle to extend their mechanisms to conventional metaphors. Since all of these theories study metaphors from the synchronic point of view, they are unable to take into account any semantic change. According to Mácha, a diachronic perspective is what is needed, one which would explain the role of metaphor in semantic change and the development of language in general. Antonio Blanco Salgueiro, on the other hand, compares in his contribution the cognitive theory of metaphor with neo-Whorfianism. He observes that the main proponents of the cognitive, or conceptual, theory of metaphor insist that metaphor is primarily a cognitive phenomenon and only secondarily a linguistic one. Blanco Salgueiro argues that their arguments for the absolute primacy of thought over language are misguided and that their approach is compatible with neo-Whorfianism. He also claims that both approaches seem to be allies rather than enemies, because they share important ideas and fight against the same opponents. In fact, Lakoff and Johnson’s theory can be seen as a variant of neo-Worfianism which puts metaphorical thought and metaphorical language in the centre of the debate about the possible impact of language on thought.

Kacper Bartczak and Wit Pietrzak investigate different aspects of figurative and poetic language. Bartczak studies the evolution of figurativeness employed by the poetic line that connects the modernist poet Wallace Stevens and a contemporary American poet Rae Armantrout. This poetic line is treated by Bartczak as representative of the evolution within the meta-poetic consciousness of the genre. Since modernism, the poetic force has been redefined as stemming from a particular positioning of the poem as a language game among other language games. Related to such repositioning is a shift in figurativeness: rather than associated with single utterances, the figurative force becomes a feature of the poem as a whole. Such poem is treated as a field of re-contextualization in which semantic value is imparted on linguistic items through their participation in the field, and Bartczak traces the ← 11 | 12 → formal evolution of this figurative model from Stevens to Armantrout. By recourse to the extended model of Donald Davidson’s metaphor, he further argues that such figurativeness regulates cognition beyond linguistic norm and provides the means by which ontology becomes historically accessible. He also contrasts the developed model with George Lakoff’s concept of the role of metaphor in poetry.

In the next paper, Wit Pietrzak analyses Wallace Stevens’s late long poem “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” with a view to showing that in it, the poet strives to delineate a path towards apprehending reality in the poetic language. Stevens’s quest for the real is shown to be part of his larger agenda of poetic investigation of the world by being referred to the poet’s critical writings. The central tenet the poem revolves around, that of a perpetual attempt to fuse the word with the world, is discussed against the backdrop of Martin Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art”, as in the essay the conceptual framework helps to place Stevens’s poem in the context of hermeneutic aesthetics and so better probe into its intricate structure. In the end, Pietrzak demonstrates that Stevens’s poem is a thorough exploration of an aspect of what Heidegger calls the essential strife that is treated only cursorily in the essay and the philosopher’s other writings on the nature of art and poetic language.

Cognitive Linguistics assumes that human concepts rather than truth-conditions form the essence of meaning and that much of human thought is figurative rather than literal, and Cognitive Poetics sees literature “not just as a matter for the happy few, but as a specific form of everyday human experience and especially cognition that is grounded in our general cognitive capacities for making sense of the world” (Steen and Gavins 2003: 1). The three following chapters apply the principles of cognitive poetics to analyses of different types of texts.

Henryk Kardela and Anna Kędra-Kardela investigate the role of the author and the reader in cognitive poetic theory. Their paper provides a cognitive poetic analysis of Adam Zagajewski’s interpretation of Wisława Szymborska’s poem about Kamil Baczyński, a famous Polish poet of young generation, who died in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Zagajewski’s interpretation of the poem, provided in his book Two Cities, is key in understanding his poetic creed as laid down in Two Cities. The paper discusses the cognitive mechanisms which underlie the structuring of the book’s message. Specifically, the authors of the chapter claim that during the reading process, the negotiation of meaning takes place between the reader and the author/literary work. The paper re-introduces the author’s perspective into literary analysis, combining the insights of cognitive poetics with Ronald Langacker’s theory of the Current Discourse Space. Next, Anna Kędra-Kardela offers a cognitive poetic re-analysis of intertextuality. All theories of intertextuality, which assumed many different forms and analytical guidelines, are founded on the assumption that a text is not a static and coherent self-contained unit of meaning, but rather a dynamic entity which enters into relations with other texts. As a result, the focus of enquiry in intertextual analysis is placed on the mutual relationship between and among texts. Kędra-Kardela explores the notion of intertextuality applying the theoretical apparatus of Ronald Langacker’s cognitive grammar to the analysis of literary references found in David Lodge’s The British Museum is Falling Down, a novel ← 12 | 13 → which abounds in allusions to a variety of literary texts, deliberately introduced by the author. The paper shows how the intertextual reading of The British Museum is Falling Down can be accounted for in terms Langacker’s theory of cognitive grammar incorporating the Current Discourse Space theory combined with the idea of recognition and the author-reader conceptual integration-based mind reading theory.

Krzysztof Kosecki observes that the methodological framework of Cognitive Poetics makes it possible to read Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (1933) as based on a set of conceptual frames of experience that involve places, participants, and their actions. The actions of the characters in those frames function as vehicles of metonymies that represent various prototype-based categories of people. The settings, in turn, function as vehicles of metonymies that represent contrastive views of human existence and as source domains of literary elaborations of conventional metaphors that express the axiological aspects of the narrative. Kosecki shows how the interactions of these metonymies and metaphors reflect Hemingway’s philosophy of life, which was based on existentialism, Stoicism, and the rejection of the Christian faith.

Alina Kwiatkowska discusses the predicaments of abstraction in visual and verbal art. She starts with observing that the terms “abstract” and “abstraction” can be (and have been) employed in different contexts, and have been understood in different ways. Her paper briefly recounts some approaches to abstraction, and focuses on so-called non-semantic abstraction in visual and verbal art. While the non-representational character of the works in question has prompted claims that they are devoid of meaning, Kwiatkowska argues that this suggestion is certainly too far-fetched. In the absence of the subject matter, the formal/material aspects of those works successfully take over the task of meaning-making. The paper shows how meaning is “read into” the abstract works either through metaphorical associations or through our tendency to perceive gestalts even where this is actively discouraged. The exploration of both visual and verbal attempts at non-semantic abstraction and the somewhat different reasons why it is difficult, if not impossible to actually attain it, may bring us closer to understanding some differences involved in the artful exploitation of the two media.

Finally, Aleksandra Majdzińska explores the category of similarity in perception and language. Her exploration has been triggered by the seemingly contradictory phrase “the same but different”, suggesting almost infinite possibility of variation. According to the cognitive linguistic theory, the same objective situation may be conceptualised in a number of ways by the perceivers/speakers, which is then reflected in different linguistic forms. The article takes a closer look at the background of such a conviction and provides some examples of variant realizations, analysed with the use of the apparatus of cognitive linguistics.

The range of topics discussed in the papers collected in this volume attests to the richness of the debates in contemporary philosophy of language and philosophy of literature, drawing on the insights of both the analytic and continental traditions. ← 13 | 14 →


Black, M. (1955). “Metaphor”. Proceedings of The Aristotelian Society, New Series, vol. 55, 273–294.

Brock, S. and Everett, A. (2015). “Introduction”. In: S. Brock and A. Everett (eds.), Fictional Objects. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1–23.

Davidson, D. (1984). Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Heidegger, M. (2002). “On the Origin of the Work of Art”. In: Off the Beaten Track. Edited and translated into English by J. Young and K. Haynes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–56.


Studies collected in this volume investigate selected issues in contemporary philosophy of language and philosophy of literature. Individual authors concentrate on philosophy of fiction and discuss fictional worlds and fictional characters. They also present different approaches to translation theory, and metaphor theory (both classical and conceptual). Other chapters address the issues of figurativeness and poetic language, apply the principles of cognitive poetics to analyse different types of texts, and provide cognitive approaches to abstraction in visual and verbal art, also to the categories of similarity and difference in perception and language. The analysed authors include Wallace Stevens, Rae Armantrout, Ernest Hemingway and David Lodge.

Biographical notes

Piotr Stalmaszczyk (Volume editor)

Piotr Stalmaszczyk is a Professor of English language and linguistics at the University of Lodz (Poland), where he holds the Chair of English and General Linguistics. His research is concerned predominantly with linguistic methodology and the philosophy of language and linguistics. He has edited several volumes on semantics, pragmatics, linguistic methodology, philosophy of language, and on the legacy of Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein.


Title: From Philosophy of Fiction to Cognitive Poetics