This article draws together overlapping cognitive analyses of political thought, emotion, and language and shows how they can be supplemented with literary analyses of genre to illuminate the workings of the French Revolution debate of 1790s Britain. It focuses on enriching George Lakoff 's theory of the multiple levels of framing in discourse, concentrating on the interplay of argument and narrative frames. Studies of emotion and mood in narrative genres are adapted to refine Lakoff's account of narrative, making it more complex, systematic, and sensitive to historical context. Applying the revised theory, the essay characterizes contrasts between Edmund Burke's and Thomas Paine's thought at all levels of framing. It shows how their lexical frames for “revolution” diverge as their main arguments craft opposing issue-defining frames for the central moral issue of revolution versus reform. Those arguments highlight different key figures and events yet draw on similar narrative genres to frame them. Importantly, high genres of heroic romance inspire elevation toward one's own side by celebrating victories and lamenting tragedies, and low genres of satire inspire contempt toward opponents by ridiculing deserved failures and absurd successes. Thus narrative genre ties surface-frame phrases like “rights of man” and “swinish multitude” to deep-frame assumptions about more fundamental concepts (human nature, society, government).
Michael Sinding; From Words to Worldview: Framing Narrative Genres. Poetics Today 1 June 2017; 38 (2): 363–391. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-3869299
Download citation file: