A COGNITIVE METAPHOR APPROACH IN ANALYSING SYLVIA PLATH'S 'LADY LAZARUS'
In the present paper, I will examine the metaphors in Sylvia Plath's poem 'Lady Lazarus'. My attempt is to analyse the poems applying the Cognitive Metaphor theory as expounded by Lakoff and Turner in 'More Than Cool Reason' (1989) and by Semino in 'Language and World Creation in Poems and other Texts' (1997). I hope to reveal the potential schema-refreshing quality of the novel metaphors that enrich Plath's poems.
I hope to show how schema approach and metaphor analyses can give a fresh perspective to the reading of Plath's poetry.
Metaphors can be said to be only potentially schema-refreshing. Thus, what makes poetic metaphors potentially refreshing is:
1. The existing world knowledge the reader carries. Thus, how far the poetic metaphor is schema refreshing to the reader is a subjective issue.
2. The poet's linguistic metaphorical expression is so original that it reinforces the reader's existing schema and understanding of the world; or at a deeper level, the poet creates such a striking metaphor that bring diverse ideas and images together in the reader's mind and refresh his or her schemas of the world resulting in reconceptualization.
POTENTIAL SCHEMA REFRESHMENT
Plath's source domains in the construction of metaphors are conventional.
The metaphor of Lazarus and his miraculous resurrection activates a pre-existing, religion-specific schema. It also brings to the eye images of uncovering the shroud. Not only is the resurrection image carefully built in, it is then directed to an altogether different source domain of theatrical performance. The result would perhaps be the activation of a disconcerting schema regarding life, death, and human relationships in the mind of the reader. The metaphors have the potential to enable the reader to comprehend a different world-view.
The metaphors of the Holocaust, the 'Dying is an Art'metaphor and other powerful metaphors in the poem are indeed schema refreshing for the reader.
While interpreting Plath's poetry, I regard her highly original metaphors central to the assessment of her poetic skills. To regard the poem as merely confessional is to undermine its richness and overlook its striking impact on the reader. Lady Lazarus is forceful and unforgettable as a poem, and so is the persona created in poem.