Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Sonnet Phelps Humanities and Social Science

Conceiving of the Climate: Conceptual Metaphor in Ecopoetics

Research in conceptual metaphor has established that, far from being a decorative flourish, metaphor is integral to human reasoning: we extrapolate from our immediate experience to make sense of abstract objects and processes. Climate change is such a process, happening on spatial and temporal scales far beyond our perceptual horizons. While metaphor is indispensable in every genre of climate discourse think greenhouse gas, carbon footprint, and tipping points poetry is a particularly rich generator of innovative metaphoric framings. In this project, I will put insights from cognitive linguistics in conversation with traditions in literary and aesthetic theory to analyze a selection of poems dealing with climate change, from contemporary ecopoets including Juliana Spahr, Jane Hirshfield, Ed Roberson, and Cody-Rose Clevidence. Ill explicate the conceptual mappings that metaphors in these poems generate and consider their broader cognitive, affective, and imaginative effects to explore the question: how might ecopoetic metaphor influence our reasoning about the climate, and help us stretch our minds around the incomprehensible?

Message To Sponsor

I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to the Wishek fund for your support of my research this summer. This fellowship has been an opportunity to read deeply and widely across multiple fields, learning to navigate the challenges and affordances of interdisciplinary humanities research and deepening my sense of the kind of scholar I want to be. There were lots of moments that were scary and frustrating and intimidating, but with the time and space your generosity afforded me, I was able to develop practices that helped me generate the momentum and self-assurance I needed to overcomeor rather, withstand those inevitable periods of doubt. Gradually, I learned to trust my vision and my ability to carry it out, one days worth of progress at a time. When I submit my thesis in December, Ill have met one of the biggest goals Ive ever set for myself: to build something entirely of my own imagination, start to finish, and end with a product Im really proud of. Your support, and the unwavering encouragement of my advisors and the entire SURF staff, have helped bring that ambition into reality. And, maybe even more importantly than what its helped me produce, this program has let me think expansively about the power and limits of language, laying the foundations of an inquiry Id like to continue for the rest of my life. I cant thank you enough.
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Major: Linguistics, Conservation & Resource Studies
Mentor: Bree Rosenblum
Sponsor: Wishek Fund
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