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Title: From injury to silence : metaphors for language in the work of Herta Muller
Author: Shopin, Pavlo
ISNI:       0000 0004 6425 5555
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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Herta Müller represents physical suffering and repression in her works, often reflecting on the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, and her constant interest in language and reflexivity towards writing have led her to develop sophisticated metaphors that she uses to illuminate language and its functioning under such subjugation. With reference to her fiction and non-fiction, I demonstrate how she uses concrete ideas to understand linguistic phenomena. She evokes injury, destruction, force, life, space, touch, silence, and other bodily experiences to make sense of language in the condition of suffering from social oppression. Drawing on conceptual metaphor theory within the framework of cognitive literary studies, I argue that Müller both relies on and estranges the ways in which people speak and think about language. Language is imagined differently depending on the circumstances and in close relationship with various sensory experiences. The complexity of the relationship between language and thought problematises the process of metaphor building and makes it difficult to identify its key aspects across different contexts and sensory modalities. Müller’s tropes are easy to experience, but difficult to analyse. The idea of language does not exist as a stable concept and is regularly reimagined in her texts; but its meaning is not arbitrary and depends on bodily experience. While Müller evokes such experience to understand language in the condition of suffering, she can also use linguistic concepts to elucidate more abstract ideas. Language can be regarded as an abstract or concrete phenomenon depending on the relevant bodily, linguistic, and cultural contexts. This project contributes to the study of Müller’s poetics as well as to the literary critical interpretation of embodied cognition, and develops the use of conceptual metaphor theory for literary analysis. It also seeks to develop understanding of the role of bodily experience in the metaphorical conceptualisation of language.
Supervisor: Colvin, Sarah Sponsor: Cambridge Commonwealth ; European and International Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: metaphor ; language ; Herta Muller ; conceptual metaphor theory ; embodiment ; silence ; injury ; spatial language ; tactile metaphors ; defamiliarization ; multisensory perception ; destruction ; voice