The Study of “The Daffodil” from Cognitive Perspective
作者 :  张远丽

  Abstract:Dreaming by the Book is one of Elaine Scarry’s most important cognitive literary works. She analyzes the differences between imagination in reality and imagination in literary works. This article mainly focuses on applying Elaine Scarry’s cognitive practices to analyzing the dynamic beauty of “The Daffodil”.
  Key Words: Dreaming by the Book; Cognitive Poetics; “The Daffodil”
  The Daffodils
  I wandered lonely as a cloud (1)
  That floats on high o’ver vales and hills, (2)
  When all at once I saw a crowd, (3)
  A host, of golden daffodils; (4)
  Beside the lake, beneath the trees, (5)
  Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (6)
  Continuous as the stars that shine (7)
  And twinkle on the Milky Way, (8)
  They stretched in never-ending line (9)
  Along the margin of a bay (10)
  Ten thousand saw I at a glance, (11)
  Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. (12)
  The waves beside them danced; but they (13)
  Out-did the sparkling waves in glee (14)
  A poet could not but be gay, (15)
  In such a jocund company (16)
  I gazed ― and gazed ― but little thought (17)
  What wealth the show to me had brought (18)
  For oft, when on my couch I lie (19)
  In vacant or in pensive mood, (20)
  They flash upon that inward eye (21)
  Which is the bliss of solitude; (22)
  And then my heart with pleasure fills, (23)
  And dances with the daffodils. (24)
  At the end of last century there was a relatively new discipline within literary criticism:cognitive poetics. Cognitive poetics, according to my analysis, is a supplement to traditional criticism rather than a replacement of traditional literary criticism. Cognitive poetics adds more meaning and understanding to literary interpretation. From the cognitive point of view, the context is defined as a psychological construct, a process of internalizing and cognizing different languages with our brain. Imagination is the most prominent characteristic of cognitive procedure. Although this trend is not the mainstream of literary criticism, its profound influence cannot be underestimated.
  In recent years, more and more scholars have been interested in cognitive poetics. A lot of these scholars have made outstanding achievements. Elaine Scarry was the winner of the 2000 Truman Capote Award for her work Dreaming by the Book. In her book, Elaine Scarry reveals a series of important principles with which writers, by synthesis of literary criticism, philosophy and cognitive psychology, vividly bring their works to life. This book explores the almost miraculous processes by which poets and writers teach us the works of imaginative creation. In this book, Elaine Scarry reveals the elements and categories from famous works that help readers overcome the limitations of imagination in order to dream effectively. She also explores the differences between imagination in reality and imagination in literature in Dreaming by the Book. She believes things created solely by imagination are cloudy and difficult to retain with clarity. According to Scarry writers use the technique of making objects move upon other objects to show the weight and density; as a result an image comes into focus. She posits that skillful writers use ways such as “radiant ignition”, “rarity”, “addition”, “subtraction, stretching, folding, and tilting” to move and thereby clarify the image. In her opinion, rare objects such as silk, mist, fog, paper, flower petals, together with their motions, can be easily and lively reproduced in imagination. In order to establish the solidity of substantive objects, writers or poets will firstly introduce a preclusive object named “material antecedent”, usually thin, sparse and easy to imagine. She also says if an image is present, and then disappears, it seems that the image has moved, which is the essential characteristic of addition and subtraction. She explains that the characteristics of a flower are very poignant for the workings of one’s; they are an excellent medium for depicting objects and their movement.   In this article I will try to study William Wordsworth from the perspective of cognitive poetics by utilizing and applying the principles Elaine Scarry enumerated in Dreaming by the Book. I will prove the viability and validity of the categories such as “rarity”, “radiant ignition”, “addition and subtraction”, “stretching, folding and tilting” etc. Last but not least, I will try to find the beauty of imagination in William Wordsworth’s romantic poems.
  “The Daffodil” is a poem full of moments in motion. It is absolutely a superb poem, which recollects emotion in tranquility, depicting poet’s love for nature. The poet never feels isolated in the company of nature and the poem is the poet’s response to the beauty of nature. This poem can be divided into two parts, the first twelve lines are the opening composition, and the thirteenth to the twenty-fourth lines are the gradual subsiding, then reigniting of the composition. In order to discuss how Scarry’s practices of cognitive theories in Dreaming by the Book are applied in analyzing “The Daffodil” to achieve the vivacity. I cite and analyze the most important and contributing lines of the poem in cognitive procedures and emphasize the moving picture part.
  In “The Daffodil”, there are three transformations from static to dynamic: the first one “I wandered lonely as a cloud/ That floats on high o’ver vales and hills”, the floating cloud and the still vales and hills; the second one “Continuous as the stars that shine/ And twinkle on the milky way,” the twinkle star and the silent dark night; the last one “Ten thousand saw I at a glance, / Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”, the swinging daffodil and the tranquil environment.
  William Wordsworth first creates the easy-to-imagine object “cloud” in the first line to construct and confirm the existence of lofty “I”. The poem begins with rarity, the cloud functions as the “material antecedent”, as a bridge of the hard-to-imagine “I”. The metaphor connects “I” and cloud so the properties of cloud transfer to “I”, then “I” can also easily move in the reader’s mind to float on high vales and hills. Next the golden daffodils come into sight while the lake and the trees appear in last. The sequence is arranged from easy to difficult. The poet gives us the easily imaginable flower first to bring to the surface less easily imaginable images. Then the poem positions the flowers dynamically, a first picture, namely a lake, at once vanishing to make way for other trees. Daffodil can be white, red or golden. The skillful poet here chose the color gold which is a bright color; it has the quality of radiant ignition so lends itself to movement.   The second stanza begins with radiant ignition. The stars come on to stage for these images are typical objects with radiant lights which are easy to move in mind. Then the word “twinkle” adds a dynamic motion to the daffodils. In the world of imagination daffodils can’t be stretched as simply as light. Wordsworth uses the prone-to-stretch light method to help reader imagine easily. Then comes the felt roll of the eye ― “glance”. The second stanza ends with the direct attribution of motion ― “tossing their heads in sprightly dance”.
  The third stanza just like the first one put “material antecedent” waves into sight at the very beginning because waves, which are rare, transparent, soft and without fixed shape, sport very actively. To be exact waves move in the mind dynamically: two pictures take place by turn, a wave crest and a valley. Then the second line enlists radiant ignition suddenly by using the word “sparkling”. We can sense the dyadic of the poem by recalling “the waves beside them danced” and then a moment later “sparkling waves”. At the same time the lines are doubly dyadic because daffodils, like sparkling wave, fold and unfold ceaselessly. The end of this stanza appears the motion of the eye again that is the repetition of “gaze”. Now comes a tripling of the dyad: the two pictures, swaying lake and swaying flowers, shift back and forth in the reader’s mind as the poem depicts.
  The last stanza a couch acts as prelude to make “me” horizontally comes into being. Although a couch is not typical “material antecedent”, which usually is thin and sparse, here it takes the role of “material antecedent” for it is easily constructed in mind compared with “I”. Then in the middle the radiant ignition “flash” come into being suddenly. At the end of this poem, the universal representative of imagination ― flowers emerge again and the happy feeling can danced with them for flowers are the qualified assistant in perceptual mimesis.
  All in all, the poem is full of motion. There are three transformations from static to dynamic: the first one “I wandered lonely as a cloud/ That floats on high o’ver vales and hills”, the floating cloud and the still vales and hills; the second one “Continuous as the stars that shine/ And twinkle on the milky way,” the twinkle star and the silent dark night; the last one “Ten thousand saw I at a glance, / Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”, the swinging daffodil and the tranquil environment. This poem composes a song for nature in which the poet endows the ordinary things with fantasy. The elegant and quiet nature creates a fresh and leisure mood for us, which inspire our feeling and imagination as we are under the instruction of the poet to sense the beauty and the lift of the body. In the end of my dissertation,   In the world, the immobility is relative and temporary while movement is absolute and eternal. And in that spirit human beings search for dynamic beauty. The arts, including poetry, describe Nature’s life rhythms, adding vitality and dimension to this landscape. It is the same to William Wordsworth, who also pursues dynamic beauty with rhythm, which is artfully expressed in his romantic poems. To readers, the dynamic imagination helps us to appreciate the beauty of poems.
  I have applied the practices to “The Daffodil” of William Wordsworth, whose rich feelings and imagination are precious treasures in world literature. I would like to say all the ways Elaine Scarry summarized in Dreaming by the Book, according to my analyses, are perfectly applied in studying dynamic beauty of “The Daffodil” from
  cognitive perspective. We still can find much more instances in other poems. Though the book has some limitations, it is still a wonderful book with high academic value.
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