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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Reading Images, Reading Words: Visual and Textual Conceptualization of Barriers and Containers


Cognitive poetics, a relatively new discipline, suggests that interpretation of various artifacts, primarily but not exclusively textual ones, relies on conceptualizations prompted by forms used – words, images, sounds, etc. This paper looks at examples of texts, image and film, to consider avenues of interpretation prompted by conceptual structures much less specific than words or visual artifacts. Such basic spatial structures, called image schemas, were proposed as skeletal concepts underlying a range of unrelated uses – for example, many expressions which imply an upward portion of a vertical scale (‘look up to someone, rise to the challenge’, etc.) are understood in a positive way, while the ‘down’ examples signify negative meanings. However, evidence of the underlying conceptual structures in meaning emergence is primarily linguistic, and thus requires some independent confirmation. Looking at textual artifacts alongside visual ones offers an opportunity to confirm the role of schemas through an additional modality – if images and text depend on the same schema to suggest similar meanings, this offers additional evidence of the role of such concepts. This paper investigates various instantiations of the schemas of BARRIER and CONTAINER, to show how they prompt interpretations of very similar nature, though additionally complicated by concepts such as viewpoint.

Insights Paper