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The nature and characteristics of poetic metaphor: Taking the poetic metaphors i

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Abstract: Poetic metaphor is a conceptual structure, a means of cognition and conceptualization. Poetic metaphor is the cognitive means, which the poets use to know about things and express emotions; and it is the external manifestation of poetic cognition of the poets. And this means of poetic cognition and conceptualization has the following characteristics: Romantic, obscurity, as well as personal touch.

Key words: nature; characteristics; poetic metaphor

1. Introduction

     To study anything, the first question should be answered is what is the nature of this thing. Therefore, in order to make a further study for poetic metaphor, firstly, we must know about the nature of poetic metaphor. For this reason, this paper will explore the nature and unique characteristics of poetic metaphor from cognitive perspective.

2. The nature of poetic metaphor

     The traditional rhetoric view of metaphor saw the metaphor just as a language expression skill. For most people, metaphor is a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish——a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980:4). But the fact is not the case. Essentially, metaphor is a conceptual structure, it is the people's means of cognition and conceptualization. Poetic metaphor as a category of metaphor, it is also a conceptual structure, a means of cognition and conceptualization. Poetic metaphor is the cognitive means, which the poets use to know about things and express emotions; and it is the external manifestation of poetic cognition of the poets. The poets’ poetic cognition achieves through the poetic metaphor. Therefore, the poetry creation cannot be separated from the poetic metaphor, which is an important means of poets’ cognition and conceptualization. The ordinary conventionalized metaphors are the basis of poetic metaphors, and they play an extremely important shaping role in the creation of poetic metaphors. General conceptual metaphor is thus not the unique creation of individual poets but is rather part of the way members of a culture have of conceptualizing their experience (Lakoff & Turner, 19899). Although the ordinary conventionalized metaphor plays an extremely important role in the creation of poetic metaphor; however, the poetic metaphor is not the same with ordinary conventionalized metaphor. Poetic uses are often conscious extensions of the ordinary conventionalized metaphors, poets may call upon our knowledge of basic conceptual metaphors in order to manipulate them in unusual ways (Lakoff & Turner, 198953-54). Typically, the poetic metaphor is composed of two or more ordinary conventionalized metaphors. Therefore, we can say that the ordinary conventionalized metaphor we live by is also the poetic metaphor lives by.

          Therefore, we can say that the essence of poetic metaphor is cognition; it is an important means, which the poets use to construct their poetic concepts and achieve the conceptualization. In addition, the poetic metaphors construct most of the poetic concept system. The reason that the poetic metaphors can construct most of the poetic concept system is that the poetic metaphors, whether external or internal, themselves are highly systematic. On one hand, a poetic metaphor can derive many metaphor expressions; on the other hand, different poetic metaphors can describe different aspects of the same entity, so as to construct a complete concept system.

3. The characteristics of poetic metaphor

     The poetic metaphor, as an independent category of metaphors, has many characteristics, which are different with other metaphors. The distinct characteristics of poetic metaphor include: Romantic, obscurity, as well as personal touch.

     The so-called romantic refers that the poetic metaphor is full of fantasy; many things, which are impossible in daily life, will become possible in poetic metaphors. When describe the real world, poetic metaphor focuses on the subjective inner world and uses magnificent imagination, exaggerated way, and passionate language to create typical image. Such as in the poem Chant white begonia in A Dream of Red Mansions, the poet uses a lot of poetic metaphors to praise the white begonia. The poet imagined that the white begonia should be grown in an environment, which uses the ice as the soil and uses the white jade basin as flowerpot. The poet uses the images of “ice” and “white jade basin” to metaphorize the pure white of the white begonia; and this is full of fantasy and exaggeration. In addition, the poet also uses the image of “white gown”, which is made by the goddess of the Moon Palace, to metaphorize the pure white of the white begonia; and this poetic metaphor let this poem be more romantic. All of the poetic metaphors, which are used to metaphorize the pure white of the white begonia in the poem Chant white begonia, are full of magnificent imagination. Many impossible things are described as if they were real in daily life, so as to make the poem very romantic.

          The so-called obscurity refers that the poetic metaphor will not write about things directly; in literally, it may refer this thing, but its real meaning may refer another thing. In other words, the poetic metaphor often makes readers feel that its real meaning is uncertain. In order to gain the real meaning of poetic metaphor, readers need to think and experience it carefully before interpreting its real meaning. And different readers often have different interpretations. For one poem, the reason of why different readers often have different interpretations is that the poem contains a certain number of poetic metaphors, which are obscurity. Such as in the poem Judgment of Jia Yuanchun in A Dream of Red Mansions, this poet uses several poetic metaphors, which are obscurity; and the most obscurity one is about “三春 (Shan Chun; three; spring)”. Since A Dream of Red Mansions was published, the readers have made a lot of interpretations for  三春”. So far, there are four interpretations, which are widely recognized. The first one is that 三春” refers to the three months of spring in China (In ancient China, in proper order, the three months of spring are called: Meng spring, Zhong spring, and Ji spring); the second one is that 三春” refers to three spring: the spring of the first year of Qianlong period, the spring of the second year of Qianlong period, and the spring of the third year of Qianlong period; the third one is that 三春” refers to three person: Jia Yingchun, Jia Tanchun, and Jia Xichun; the fourth one is that 三春” refers to the spring of any year. This precisely reflects the obscurity of the poetic metaphor. Countless possible interpretations increase the artistic conception of poetry, and leaving a broad imagination to the readers. Readers only read carefully and experience carefully so as to understand its real meaning.

     The so-called personal touch refers that the poetic metaphors are constructed by the poet based on the ordinary conventionalized metaphors; so, the poetic metaphor will be marked the poet's own strong personal touch. The poetry creation is done by particular person, and different poets will often contain their own unique characteristics. For a certain thing, different poets tend to create different poetic metaphors to identify different emotions and show a different personality. Such as the poems of chrysanthemum in A Dream of Red Mansions, in the poems, all of the poets use the chrysanthemum to metaphorize people. However, different poets have different interpretations for the chrysanthemum, so as to construct poetic metaphors with strong personal touch, as well as expressing different personal emotions. The poem Thinking of the chrysanthemum, which was written by Xue Baochai, expresses the emotion of melancholy of lonely Jour; the poem Planting chrysanthemum, which was written by Jia Baoyu, expresses the emotion of wanting to be far away from the world of mortals; and the poem Questioning the chrysanthemum, which was written by Lin Daiyu, expresses the emotion of gentleman feelings and hidden bitterness. All of the three poems use the chrysanthemum to construct poetic metaphors; however, different poets have different perspective, and constructed different poetic metaphors, as well as express different emotions. Thus, whether the poetry or the poetic metaphor contained in the poetry has a distinct personal touch.

4. Conclusion

          Poetic metaphor is a conceptual structure, a means of cognition and conceptualization. It is a means of poetic cognition, which the poets use to understand and conceptualize the real world. And this means of poetic cognition and conceptualization has the following characteristics: Romantic, obscurity, as well as personal touch.

Reference:

Cao, X. Q., & Gao, E. (1999). A dream of red mansions. Beijing: People's Literature Publishing House.

Geeraerts, A. (2010). Theories of lexical semantics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. & Turner, M. (1989). More than Cool Reason—A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. (2002). Moral politics: how liberals and conservatives think. Chicago: The University of  Chicago Press.

Xiao, J. Y. 2009. The study of English translation of metaphors in A Dream of Red Mansions. Beijing: China Social Sciences Press.

Yang, X. Y. & Gladys, Y. (trans.). (1999). A Dream of Red Mansions. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.



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