ELEMENTS OF COGNITIVE LITERARY DESIGN Cognitive Design • Cognitive Design is defined as the crafted impact a piece of writing has on its audience. • Central to this design are the subject and the theme of the work. Subject & Theme • The subject is what the work is about. Ex. Love • The theme is the attitude the author has taken toward the subject or the perspective on that subject. Ex. Love hurts **This attitude or perspective controls the way a writer develops his/her work.** Literary Design Elements • Literary Design Elements are the ways of emphasizing the subject and the theme. • They include: 1. Structure 2. Character 3. Perspective 4. Location 5. Tone 6. Tropology 7. Rhetoric Design Elements • Design Elements are not entities in themselves. Rather, Literary Design Elements work together, often overlapping, to help develop the theme. • When writers write, they do think of the impact they have on readers. • Therefore, they employ these design elements as tools to create that thematic impact. • Yes, sometimes there are happy accidents, things of which a writer may not be conscious; however, for the most part, a writer works extremely hard to use the tools of writing to make a central impression on the reader. 1. STRUCTURE • Writers can be compared to real estate agents taking perspective buyers through a house. • Agents decide the order in which their clients see the house, emphasizing some aspects and not others. • Writers can take audiences into their writing through the front door, the back door, the basement entrance or even through the garage, depending on the initial impact they want their “house” to have. • How they lead their readers from “room” to “room” is a conscious decision. • They want their readers to see, hear, and experience their works in a specific way. **That’s structure – how the writer leads his/her reader through a work – visually, aurally, and developmentally. A. Visual Structure: the way a work looks on the page (verse & prose) • indentation of specific lines • specific types of poetry (sonnets – Petrarchan and Shakespearean; limericks) • stanza breaks and length • use of specific typefaces; italics; bold; uppercase letters; any change of typeface • line length • line placement Visual Structure Con’t • length of paragraphs (short paragraphs tend to make the work choppy; long paragraphs tend to make the work feel “dignified” or “academic” • sections within chapters (denoted by white or black space, ******, or other visual dividers) • chapter breaks • “books” within books • acts & scene Example #1 – Visual Structure • The following lines from Shakespeare's The Winter‘s Tale are heavily enjambed: I am not prone to weeping, as our sex Commonly are; the want of which vain dew Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have That honourable grief lodged here which burns Worse than tears drown. Question: What impact does the visual structure have on the reader? Example #1 - Answer • Answer: Meaning flows as the lines progress, and the reader’s eye is forced to go on to the next sentence. It can also make the reader feel uncomfortable or the poem feel like “flow-of-thought” with a sensation of urgency or disorder. Example #2 – Visual Structure • In contrast, the following lines from Romeo and Juliet are completely end-stopped: A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun for sorrow will not show his head. Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things. Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished. ** Each line is formally correspondent with a unit of thought — in this case, a clause of a sentence.** Questions you should ask yourself when reading. 1. Why did the writer choose to layout/divide as he/she did? 2. What impact does the visual structure have on the reader? 3. How does the visual structure complete the impact of the work (subject/theme)? B. Aural Structure: the way in which the work strikes the ear (specifically in poetry) i. Rhythm • the repeated pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables • The ‘foot’ is the basic meter of poetry; types of feet include; iambic • repetition, alliteration, assonance Ex. A line of iambic pentameter is five iambic feet in a row: da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM ˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ / To swell | the gourd, | and plump | the ha- | zel shells • Generally, the more feet per line, the more grave or somber the line becomes B. Aural Structure: the way in which the work strikes the ear (specifically in poetry) ii. Rhyme • acts as a mnemonic, a way for readers to remember the poem (e.g. nursery rhymes are simple examples of this) • a break in rhyme can signify some importance • creates direction for the poem • sets up expectation • creates an impression that the poem is an artistic construct Questions you should ask yourself when reading. 1. How do the choice and placement of words act as a way of emphasizing key concerns (theme) in the work? 2. How does the regularity or irregularity of rhyme and rhythm control the reader’s perception of the theme? C. Developmental Structure: the way in which the writer takes the reader through the work • order (chronological; argumentative; fragmented; starting somewhere other than the beginning and using techniques such as flashbacks to tell the narrative. • use of sub-plots • Ex. Batman Begins – flashbacks of falling in the well with bats creates understanding in the viewer. Questions you should ask yourself when reading. 1. How has the writer used developmental structure to stress theme at the core of the work? 2. How does the structure interact with the other design elements to enhance the theme? 3. What makes the structure hang together – what connects the different parts of the plot?
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