chapter  2
Surreal figures
Editors’ preface
ByPeter Stockwell
Pages 14

Peter Stockwell opens the main body of this collection with his chapter on figure and ground. These notions are important as fundamental psychological patterns and form the basis of a great deal of work in cognitive science. Stockwell develops the cognitive understanding of figure and ground in order to examine stylistic foregrounding and how a literary work takes a reader’s attention. Using some challenging examples of surrealist poetic writing, he demonstrates the connections between stylistic patterns in texts and certain reader-centred effects of appreciation and interpretation. The chapter goes on to explore how the dynamic movement through a reading can be understood as a process of ‘figuring’ and ‘grounding’, producing striking images and persistent resonances in the mind of a reader. Stockwell closes by suggesting that literary texture, connotations and associations are built up in this dynamic process. Like all the other chapters in this book, the main topics of Stockwell’s analysis are linked with those in the corresponding chapter of Stockwell (2002a), our companion volume. You may also find it useful to read this particular chapter alongside Craig Hamilton’s cognitive-linguistic analysis of Wilfred Owen’s poetry, which follows later in Chapter 5.