THE CATEGORY OF LITERARY CONCEPT IN SHAKESPEARE’S TRAGEDIES
The picture of the world as it appears in Shakespeare’s tragedies can be viewed from two major perspectives: poetic and cognitive. The former proceeds from some general assumptions as to Shakespearean poetics to the analysis of the language of his plays while the latter focuses first on linguistic units that give access to respective mental structures typical of Shakespeare’s worldview, thus making the aesthetic value of his works more transparent. As a result, the world picture in Shakespeare’s tragedies acquires a multilevel structure that encompasses four layers, those of genre properties, textual features, linguistic manifestations and conceptual patterns. The basic units of such patterns are literary concepts pertaining to Shakespeare’s vision of the world, which are brought together within wider domains, frames and conceptual fields, due to some cognitive mechanisms at work.
Thus, the central category of the world picture in tragedies is a literary concept. It is a mental image born to life by a poet’s or writer’s creative mind, further represented in a work of art or a set of literary works to convey the author’s individual vision of human virtues and evils, of natural phenomena etc. A literary concept, as compared to a conventional concept, conforms neither to the laws of reality nor to the laws of logic. In a literary concept, the author, and Shakespeare in particular, crystallizes his or her individual senses as distinct from accepted, customary views, thus making his personal standpoint salient. For example, when Hamlet, trying to understand death conceives of it in terms of dreaming: “To die, to sleep, – / To sleep? Perchance to dream! Ay, there’s the rub; / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…”, Shakespeare is using an extension of the very ordinary metaphorical conception of death as sleep.
As to its internal organization, a literary concept can be viewed as a system which consists of a number of microsystems that are both interconnected and relatively independent. Such microsystems can be constituted by either conceptual properties or other concepts. The interaction of microsystems can be represented as a field structure with its center, or nucleus, and periphery. The nucleus of a conceptual field is consolidated around a conceptual dominant as the most salient integral component of the respective concept, which displays its functional potential unequivocally and on a regular basis. Peripheral conceptual units are manifested through contextual meanings, charged with additional senses. Their functional range is hardly limited. Constituents of a conceptual field are connected by conceptual, semantic, associative and other links, among which literary associations that can often go against logic and real pragmatism. Configurations of literary concepts are characterized by the diffusion of their borders, as their elements can be included into several fields, depending on their meaning and their ability to evoke various associative links.
The literary concept can be viewed as a gestalt that tends to be replenished or changed with the evolution of human experience and culture. This does not exclude a possible evolution of its conceptual content from one literary work of the same author to another and from one period of his creative activity to another.
Conceptual semantic fields appear to be interconnected with numerous ties which unite them into more complex mental formations – frames and conceptual fields. The literary concept, the frame and the field as cognitive structures are regarded as basic units of the author’s individual conceptual sphere.
Recent Trends in Language and Literature Studies: Insights and Approaches: Abstracts of the 3rd Ukrainian Society for the Study of English Symposium, 6-8-October, 2005. – Kyiv: Vydavnychyy Tsentr Kyiv National Linguistic University, 2005. – P. 33–34.