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Virginia Woolf’s to the Lighthouse: A Study from the Perspective of Cognitive Metaphor

Author LinYu
Tutor LuWeiZhong
School Qufu Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords To the Lighthouse conceptual metaphor symbolic metaphor conceptual meaning thematic meaning
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
Downloads 223
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Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) an English novelist, critic and essayist, is regarded as one of the foremost literary figures of the twentieth century, a pioneer of the modernist literature, one of the world’s top three stream-of-consciousness writers, and a pioneer of the feminist movement. She creates a number of famous works, among which the novel To the Lighthouse, which fully demonstrates her extraordinary skill by the way of perfect structure, is the most outstanding one. Since its publication in 1930s, the novel To the Lighthouse has been the favorite of the literary critics. Over the past years, this novel has been studied from various points of view such as literary criticism, narratology, aesthetics and so on, but rarely from the perspective of cognitive linguistics.With the rapid development of cognitive science and cognitive linguistics, there is an obvious "cognitive turn" in literature research and more and more scholars have begun to study and analyze the literary discourse using the cognitive linguistic theories since 1980s. Cognitive linguists, who from the cognitive effects of language choice or language patterns, are concerned not only about the cognitive processes of language analysis and language selection, but also about the basic relationships between literature reading and general cognition, tend to combine the traditional way of the detailed analysis of literary texts with the theoretical consideration about the cognitive structures underlying language production and reception in order to provide a more systematic and elaborate description of discourse interpretation. Among so many cognitive linguistic theories, the theory of cognitive metaphor is the most commonly used one. According to this theory, metaphor is an important and basic cognitive tool and thinking mode that is ubiquitous in everyday life, not just in language but in our thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.Base on the theory of cognitive metaphor, this thesis attempts to analyze the conceptual meaning construction and thematic meaning construction in the novel of To the Lighthouse so as to guide readers to reconstruct and interpret the deep meaning of this novel. Though the novel is complex and disordered in grammatical and discourse structure owing to the use of consciousness flow and leaping thought, there are certain fabricating patterns underlying the seemingly chaotic surface. It is maintained that the readers will be able to appreciate the deep and inner value of this novel well if the interpretation of this novel is established on the basis of cognitive mechanism.This thesis first introduces the cognitive metaphor theory, including its development history, cognitive essence, working mechanism and features. Then, on the basis of an analysis of the cognitive tendency of the novel To the Lighthouse, the thesis gives a detailed analysis of To the Lighthouse from the aspects of conceptual metaphors and symbolic metaphors. Conceptual metaphors and symbolic metaphors are two important cognitive means and working mechanisms. Through the analysis of conceptual metaphors such as "LIFE IS A VOYAGE", "LIFE IS A WAR" and so on and symbolic metaphors such as "tree", "lighthouse" and so on, the thematic meaning of this novel is reconstructed. And the thesis endeavors to show how the author of this novel applies metaphorical symbols to depict the consciousness of characters, reflect the features of characters, and express the relationships between characters besides using the conceptual metaphors to organize discourse structure and construct thematic significance. It is pointed out that in this novel, metaphors are not used merely to understand one thing in terms of another; more importantly, they are strong expressive mechanisms of emotions and consciousness which can not been expressed in ordinary language. It is the construction of conceptual meaning that enables readers to experience the miscellaneous consciousness of characters so as to deepen the understanding of underlying themes and thus to gain aesthetic experiences of this novel.This thesis proves the possibility and feasibility of applying cognitive metaphor theory to analyzing literary discourse and extending the application of cognitive metaphor to a wider scope and it also provides a new perspective for appreciating and analyzing stream-of-consciousness novels.

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