The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Fri Mar 18, 2011
5101 Tolman, 11 AM–1 PM
Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Amy Cook (Indiana University)
Mathematical blending and the staging of nothing in Shakespeare¹s Henry V

In our marches through the country, there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language. (Henry V, 3.6)

“Nothing” does not exist. We have no material proof of it; we create it counterfactually in order to point to it. King Henry tells a story about the French who are upbraided and abused–a scenario that will be absent in his march through the country. This “none of the French” scenario is a combination of the physical characteristics of “gap” or “absence” and the “actual” input of “French.” Nothing here is an object that can be acted upon. The study of linguistic processing and the embodied and embedded thinking that it reflects and shapes offers a tremendous tool to those of us wanting to know how and why stories are told by bodies onstage. One of the consequences of understanding language and cognition as coming from an embodied experience of the world is that there is no transcendental truth that thinking and language attempt to capture and represent. As George Lakoff and Rafael Nunez have shown, for something we consider as objective and transcendental as mathematics, this could have extraordinary ramifications. An understanding of a conceptual blend within the poetry of the Chorus and hero of Henry V illuminates the story being told about who is nothing and who is something. Shakespeare creates a scaffolding out of mathematical metaphors that deconstructs and rebuilds ideas of ones and zeros throughout the play. I will parse the mathematical integration network of the Chorus’ first speech (“O for a muse of fire”) and discuss that in relationship to Shakespeare’s staging of the battle of Agincourt. Finally, I will look at the “band of brothers” speech in Kenneth Branagh¹s film to see how meaning is made through poetry in action.