Volume 13, Issue 4 (2022)                   LRR 2022, 13(4): 283-316 | Back to browse issues page


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Qasemi Shandiz M, Taebi Noghondari Z, Farsi R. Identity, Character, and the Reader: A Cognitive Approach in Reading of Remainder by Tom McCarthy (2005). LRR 2022; 13 (4) :283-316
URL: http://lrr.modares.ac.ir/article-14-47460-en.html
1- .A. Student of English Literature, Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Ferdowsi University, Mashhad, Iran
2- Assistant Professor of English Literature, Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Ferdowsi University, Mashhad, Iran , taebi@um.ac.ir
3- Assistant Professor of English Literature, Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, University of Neyshabur, Neyshabur, Iran
Abstract:   (1058 Views)
The present article uses a cognitive approach to fiction and proposes a new and integrated model that examines the metaphorical concept of identity and shows how it is mapped and perceived by the character and reader in Tom McCarthy's novel Remainder (2005).  It draws on Lakoff and Johnson's theory of conceptual metaphor (1980) and the contextual frame theory developed by Peter Stockwell (2002). First, the mega-metaphor in the story is extracted; then its correspondence with the micro-metaphors in the text of the narrative, and the character's view from that point in different contexts of the story are examined.  It then goes on to point out how the reader gets to know this issue while reading the work, and experiencing its various parts.  The results show that the concept of identity consists of two different metaphorical mappings for the character and the reader, leading each one to a different understanding of it. It also emphasizes the effectiveness of this new cognitive tool in uncovering the hidden layers of literary works and the broad mental complexities at various levels, including narrator, character, and reader.
1. Introduction
The question of identity comprises a complexity which is shaped by various individual and social factors. Identity formation can be considered as a continuous process of "becoming" which arises from the interaction of the "ego" with the "other" in temporal, spatial and social conditions. Identity, while fragmented and multifaceted, is an attempt to achieve a unified and consistent concept that distinguishes the individual from the others and at the same time has the possibility to change and adapt to the environment. An individual’s linguistic and actual behavior is a mental representation of the concept in an interaction with environmental conditions. Thus, identity is an unresolved question or space in which various discourses are involved and take on a highly multifaceted nature.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the factors that can change this process of identity formation, affecting a person's speech and behavior directly. This study concerns the effects of crisis in identity on one's interactions with oneself and the environment. It is important to examine this through the analysis of the traumatized person's narrative of their life, in which they recount their mental and environmental experiences under the influence of the disease. The article examines the narrative process of identity formation in Tom McCarthy's novel Remainder (2005). The novel is about a first-person nameless narrator who tries to rebuild his lost and fragmented identity after experiencing a severe accident through strange and violent re-enactments of past events. The notions of heightened existential awareness and self-renewal in relation to the traumatized narrator are of the two features highlighted in the story.
Research Question(s)
The major question of this study is twofold. On the one hand, within a textual frame, it deals with the notion of identity as formed and recognized textually by the character; and on the other, within a contextual frame, it focuses on the reader’s process of identity formation while reading the novel. The answer to this question is based on the hypothesis that although the reader's apparent presence (in contextual frame) is based on the cognitive factors of the narrative text, the reader's own cognitive schemata are directly involved in shaping the narrator's identity during the reading process. The concept of identity, thus, becomes significant for the reader. To do so, the study borrows from the cognitive theories of conceptual metaphor and contextual frame theory as introduced by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), and Peter Stockwell (2002) respectively.

2. Literature Review
In Metaphors We Live By, Lakoffand Johnson consider “metaphor” as a means to contemplate and see the world, according to which cognition and understanding of concepts of the mind have metaphorical foundations, and the conceptual system is the direct result of the mechanism of metaphorical conceptualization (1980, p. 8). According to them, metaphorical expressions are generalized conceptual mappings that bridge between conceptual domains. This will make an abstract domain conceptually understandable based on the experiential concepts of a cognitive domain (Grady, 2007, p. 189). Manifestaion of these mental representaions can be found not only in language, but also in culture and art (Sadeghi, 2013; Afrashi and Moghimizadeh, 2014; Farshi and Afrashi, 2020; Ghaderi Najafabadi, 2016; Rezaei et al., 2017; Raisi et al., 2020).
What this background shows is the limited nature of Lakoff and Johnson's theory of conceptual metaphor. This theory  limits  the formation of conceptual metaphors to the mind, which ultimately manifests itself in the linguistic and textual dimensions. However, according to Kövecses’ definition, the mind is only one source of meaning construction and processing. Other influential factors such as temporal, spatial and social phenomena play an important role in using and understanding conceptual metaphors (Kövecses, 2015, p. X). These factors are the constituents of the context with which the mind is in the ongoing process of linguistic communication and metaphorical construction. The narrative space of a story shows the contexts with which the narrator's mind and other characters are in constant interaction. In fact, the concept of identity arises from such interactions, in addition to the linguistic nature of the story. Based on what is said, this analysis focuses on the narrative of the story, since the notion of identity is expressed both in mental and textual levels in both linguistic and narrative forms, interfering with the cognitive interactions in the text and context.
In his book Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction (2002), Peter Stockwell presents the theory of contextual frame theory. This approach, which has not been mentioned in Persian studies so far, seeks to "understand how readers track reference to characters and events through the process of reading." (Stockwell, 2002, p. 155). This approach also includes the mental representation of the circumstances (temporal, spatial and social) that make up the current context. This is achieved through the linguistic components and narrative of the text, and direct inferences from the work itself. (p. 155)

3. Methodology
The purpose of this study is to adopt a new method by combining these two cognitive approaches to achieve a specific cognitive understanding of the concept of identity formation in the novel Remainder (2005), both textually and contextually. It seeks to achieve two important things: a) the narrator's textual journey of recognising  his true lost identity formed through a process of mental schematization; B) The reader’s recognition of the concept of identity which is formed during the process of reading.
Through a descriptive-analytical approach, this study makes a connection between the two cognitive perspectives of Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) conceptual metaphors and Stockwell's (2002) contextual frame theory to examine the (con)textual frames of the story. It first discovers the mega-metaphor represented in the narrative, and the corresponding micro-metaphors in each part; and then, the subsequent role of the reader in shaping them as well as the narrator itself. Accordingly, the novel is divided into four main sections, each of which includes a mental representation of the narrator's re-enactments: 1. a London building apartment; 2. a tyre shop environment; 3. a shooting incident; 4. a bank robbery.

Table 1.
The Narrator’s Mental Re-enactments in the Story
1st Re-enactment 2nd Re-enactment 3rd Re-enactment 4th Re-enactment
London Building Apartment Tyre Shop Shooting Incident Bank Robbery

Each of these re-enactments, respectively, includes the metaphorical mappings of "perfect identity is permanent", "perfection ascends/rises up", "true perfection is united to the world", "perfect/true identity stands beyond the law". In addition, the mega-metaphor of the story is "identity is a circular cycle". On the other hand, each of these mental re-enactments has its own fundamental contextual frame, which alters from frame recall to frame switch, frame repair, and finally to frame replacement. This process is subject to a change in the metaphorical mapping of the narrator's mentality in each part of the novel. As a result, at each stage of his mental re-enactments, it is these conceptual mappings that conform to the mega-metaphor of the story, creating the process of the narrator’s mental representation more violent.

4. Discussion and Results
The proposition at the beginning of the story, which is based on the metaphorical mapping "identity is a circular cycle", takes on different (con)textual frames throughout the story and guides the reader toward the final frame. During each of these processes of bounding and unbounding the frames, the reader obtains or adds information about the narrator and his story. Accordingly, when the narrator prepares the shooting scene for his third re-enactment and gives his reason for doing so, the reader and the narrator's cognitive course almost diverge from one another. The reason is the frame switch that takes place in this part of the story, which unbounds the previous contextual frames and binds them to a new re-enactment. Up to this point in the story, the reader has gained schematic knowledge of the narrator, his insistence on applying his embodied metaphors to the context of each re-enactment, and the failure to do so due to the lack of support for conceptual metaphors presented by the context. The reader realizes that the narrator is in fact in control of his mentality, turning him into a real chancer who tries to reconstruct his identity with money. The important point here is that this cyclical process only leads to the reproduction of other representations, and the remainder that the narrator recalls only repeats itself, becoming increasingly involved in violent and brutal re-enactments.
In the fourth re-enactment, when the re-enactment of a bank heist turns into a real bank heist, the frame that is switched for the narrator brings with it the repairing and renewal of the frame for the reader. As a result, on the plane, the reader's belief frame of the narrator changes completely; they realize that this vain cycle of continuous repetitions is reproduced in the narrator's mind: "Identity is a circular / repetitive cycle." The difference between this conceptual metaphor created in the reader's mind and the narrator's mind is that this conceptual metaphor arises from the narrative and linguistic frames of the novel, while the narrator himself is involved in the incompatibility of his conceptual metaphors with the conditions of the frames in which he represents himself.
According to the studies and (con)textual inreferences, the narrator and the reader recognize their own specific concept of identity, which leads to a different understanding of the novel:
  • Narrator: "perfect identity is stable, permanent and high."
  • Reader: "identity is a recurring cycle."

6. Conclusion
The present article tries to reveal the limitations of Lakoff and Johnson's theory of conceptual metaphor by examining the concept of identity formation in Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder (2005). It considers the contextual frame of the narrative which includes a set of temporal, spatial and social relations and conditions, as another key factor in the formation of conceptual metaphors. This claim is made possible by the analysis of the story which is a collection of these contextual frames. The ups and downs that the narrator of McCarthy's novel experiences in the process of achieving and reviving the remainders of his identity, and the frustration and despair that he experiences in each contextual frame, are dominated by a lack of mental support for his conceptual metaphors by the context. Though Lakoff and Johnson's theory of conceptual metaphors rejects metaphor’s abstractness and gives it an embodied dimension, it does not concern its contextual roots in the process of narrative interaction (the narrator with his environment and the reader with the text). It somehow considers the metaphorical mind apart from these circumstances, which is an abstraction process itself.
On the other hand, the present study confirms the important role that the analysis of literary texts plays in the critical examination of linguistic findings and theories. Literary texts create frames in both textual and contextual dimensions, as they originate from the cognitive functions of the writer's mind and cognitive components that real-world people use in interaction with others. This similarity makes the story a good case for proving, denying, or correcting cognitive and linguistic findings. The findings of the present paper challenge Lakoff and Johnson's theory of conceptual metaphors and call for its revision.
 
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Article Type: مقالات علمی پژوهشی | Subject: Narrative Science
Published: 2022/10/2

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