Chi-Thinking: Chiasmus and Cognition

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The treatise proposes chiasmus is a dominant instrument that conducts processes and products of human thought. The proposition grows out of work in cognitive semantics and cognitive rhetoric. These disciplines establish that conceptualization traces to embodied image schematic knowledge. The Introduction sets out how this knowledge gathers from perceptions, experiences, and memories of the body's commonplace engagements in space. With these ideas as suppositional foundation, the treatise contends that chiastic instrumentation is a function of a corporeal mind steeped in elementary, nonverbal spatial forms or gestalts. It shows that chiasmus is a space shape that lends itself to cognition via its simple, but unique architecture and critically that architecture's particular meaning affordances. We profile some chiastic meanings over others based on local conditions. Chiastic iconicity ('lending') devolves from LINE CROSSING in 2-D and PATH CROSSING in 3-D space and from other image schemas (e.g., BALANCE, PART-TO-WHOLE) that naturally syndicate with CROSSING. Profiling and iconicity are cognitive activities. The spatio-physical and the visual aspects of cross diagonalization are discussed under the Chapter Two heading 'X-ness.' Prior to this technical discussion, Chapter One surveys the exceptional versatility and universality of chiasmus across verbal spectra, from radio and television advertisements to the literary arts. The purposes of this opening section are to establish that chiasticity merits more that its customary status as mere rhetorical figure or dispensable stylistic device and to give a foretaste of the complexity, yet automaticity of chi-thinking.

The treatise's first half describes the complexity, diversity, and structural inheritance of chiasmus. The second half treats individual chiasma, everything from the most mundane instantiations to the sublime and virtuosic. Chapter Three details the cognitive dimensions of the macro chiasm, which are appreciable in the micro. It builds on the argument that chiasmus secures two cognitive essentials: association and dissociation. Chapter Four, advantaged by Kenneth Burke's "psychology of form," elects chiasmus an instrument of inordinate form and then explores the issue of Betweenity, i.e., how chiasma, like crisscrosses, direct notice to an intermediate region. The study ends on the premise that chiasmus executes form-meaning pairings with which humans are highly fluent.