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GREMOMET: Cognitive patterns in Greek emotion metaphors

My project Cognitive Patterns in Greek Emotion Metaphors received a scholarship from the research group The Social and Cultural Construction of Emotions: The Greek Paradigm (funded by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant, awarded to Angelos Chaniotis, from the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton). This project continues the work initiated by my Marie Curie project NARLYR. I worked in collaboration with the Greek Emotions group from April 1 to September 30, 2013. Here is a summary of the project:

Cognitive Patterns in Greek Emotion Metaphors (GREMOMET)

Thinking and talking about emotion is one of the biggest challenges of the human mind. At the same time, human beings are prone to becoming emotionally involved in fictional mental simulations, often contradictory with our everyday experience. How do we integrate feelings with what is not affective per se—like love with an arrow hitting a target—to create new ways of experiencing our emotions? This project is part of a long-term initiative to investigate what combinations of conceptual materials are the most successful for communicating emotion in verbal art, to what extent these conceptual recipes are shared by non-poetic usages and by non-verbal representations, and what in these patterns is based on cognition, what on culture, and what on factors related to communication, such as rhetorical goals, relevance, styles, or genres.

Greek emotion metaphors constitute an inexhaustible source of case studies for this endeavour. The vast diachrony of Greek culture offers unique possibilities to study how these conceptual templates evolve through time, and how their cognitive recipes are instantiated in a variety of ways in distant cultural settings. So far, much of the research on emotion metaphors, a burgeoning field in cognitive linguistics, has been carried out through corpus studies and the theoretical examination of isolated expressions. While these methods can offer interesting insights, they can by no means replace the philological and historical analysis of culturally situated examples. 

GREMOMET's major activities are:


·         The book The Rays from Theoxenus’ Eyes: Imaging Emotion in Greek Love PoetryThe Rays from Theoxenus’ Eyes is a diachronic study of cognitive patterns underlying a variety of love metaphors in Greek poetry. The book compares texts from archaic Greek lyric, different poetic genres from the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods, oral folksongs of medieval tradition, and modern Greek poetry. The conceptual templates studied establish a set of mappings between a schematic spatial event and a typical scene, in which two or more people interact (glancing, talking, participating in ritual, etc.). The result is a mental simulation in which erotic passion is articulated as a skeletal spatial story. This fictional micro-world incorporates selected elements from both components, and creates emergent meanings of its own.

·         Elaborating an initial repository of emotion metaphors in ancient Greek culture. The criteria for elaborating this repository will be both cognitive and cultural. By identifying conceptual patterns related to universals of cognition, the results will be expandable to cross-cultural analyses, and will have an impact on other fields beyond classics, especially cognitive science, linguistics, emotion research and literary studies. By examining how these conceptualizations of emotion are fleshed out in emotion metaphors and symbols from different periods of Greek culture, we can study the interplay of cultural and cognitive factors, and make important observations on the diachronic processes at work in the construction of emotion concepts.