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Forms and Shadows: A Cognitive-Poetic Reading of Charles Williams’s Fiction


Edited By Andrzej Sławomir Kowalczyk

This book is a cognitive-poetic study of the seven novels of Charles Williams (1886–1945), a British author of spiritual fiction and non-fiction, a poet, playwright and a literary critic. It approaches his multidimensional narratives with reference to cognitive phenomena and mechanisms such as the figure-ground organization, conceptual metaphors, conceptual blending, image schemata, scripts, cognitive narrative frames, narrative spaces, cognitive deixis, and empathy. The methodology not only stresses the role of the reader’s conceptual and emotional involvement in the building of the story-worlds, but also reveals the novels’ polyphonic character.

"This book is a convincing and thought-provoking study of Charles Williams’s fiction, which uncovers the unique, ambiguous senses of his works."

Prof. Grzegorz Maziarczyk,

The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

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Chapter Three War in Heaven: Conceptual Metaphors and Conceptual Integration



This chapter proposes a cognitive-poetic reading of War in Heaven, Williams’s first printed novel,1 with reference to the so-called conceptual metaphors, as well as to the process of conceptual integration. Whereas the previous analyses of the novel focus on its structure, genre, and on Williams’s religious/philosophical beliefs as reflected in the text (Sibley 1982, Dunning 2000, Beach 2013, Higgins 2013b), here emphasis will be laid on the how. My point is to investigate the cognitive background of literary techniques Williams applies to convey his idiosyncratic spiritual message. I will show how conceptual metaphors, which organize human language, thinking, and action (Lakoff and Johnson 1980), help the reader to structure Williams’s story world. This is especially important as far as Williams’s persuasive depiction of the supernatural in the novel is concerned. In turn, my study of conceptual integration will demonstrate how the reader may “immerse” her/himself in Williams’s story world, thereby actively participating in the co-construction of meaning.

Theoretical Overview

Critical interest in the (literary) metaphor dates back at least to the oldest extant theoretical work, Aristotle’s Poetics. Understood most often as a figure of speech in which a word or phrase which denotes one kind of object or idea is used in place of another, metaphor has been linked with the non-standard/poetic use of language (cf. Abrams and Harpham 2009: 189–190; Okopień-Sławińska 2000: 300–301). Nevertheless, Lakoff and Turner (1989) argue that

great poets,...

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