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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Kathryn Banks

Banks, Kathryn (2018). "Look Again", "Listen, listen", "Keep looking": Emergent Properties and Sensorimotor Imagining in Mary Oliver's Poetry. In Reading Beyond the Code: Literature and Relevance Theory. Cave, Terence & Wilson, Deirdre Oxford: Oxford University Press. 129-148.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter offers a way of understanding the effects of poetic images (metaphorical or literal). It employs and extends the notion of ‘emergent properties’, as well as relevance theory’s account of how communicative acts can ‘show’ as much as they mean. The images examined are from poems by Mary Oliver (‘Wings’, ‘Wild Geese’, and ‘Mindful’). The chapter suggests that such poetry is particularly in need of a new theoretical approach capable of engaging with its focus on embodied experience and ‘merging’ with nature. It shows how ‘emergent properties’—for example, a complex sense of what continuity with nature might feel like—can result from engaging in a range of imaginary sensorimotor experiences. The final section of the chapter turns to an abstract painting by Natalia Wróbel which dialogues with Oliver’s poetry, and fleshes out the relevance theory account of communicative showing to articulate differences between artistic genres and media.