Blending and characters' mental functioning in Virginia Woolf's Lappin and Lapinova.

Semino, Elena (2006) Blending and characters' mental functioning in Virginia Woolf's Lappin and Lapinova. Language and Literature, 15 (1). pp. 55-72. ISSN 0963-9470

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In this article I apply Fauconnier and Turner's (2002) theory of conceptual integration, or blending, to the analysis of a central aspect of the main characters’ mental lives in Virginia Woolf's story ‘Lappin and Lapinova’. The female protagonist of the story, Rosalind, has difficulties adjusting to her role as the new wife of Ernest Thorburn, and therefore constructs an alternative fantasy world where Ernest is a rabbit king called Lappin. At the beginning of their married life, Rosalind and Ernest develop this fantasy world together, and add to it a counterpart for Rosalind herself – a hare called Queen Lapinova. With the passing of time, Ernest loses interest in the fantasy, but Rosalind becomes increasingly dependent on it, so that Ernest's announcement of Lapinova's death at the end of the story also results in the ‘end’ of their marriage. In my analysis, I show how the ‘rabbit’ fantasy world can be described in terms of what Fauconnier and Turner (2002) call a conceptual integration network: a dynamic construct resulting from the interaction of different mental spaces and involving the creation of a blended space with ‘emergent structure’ of its own. In order to account for the different roles that the blended space plays for Rosalind as opposed to Ernest, I adopt Palmer's (2004) distinction between ‘intramental’ and ‘intermental’ functioning. I therefore describe the fantasy world as a multiple blend that begins as an intramental construct, develops into an intermental construct, and ends as a largely intramental construct once again, with serious implications for Rosalind's sanity and the relationship between the two main characters in the story.

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Language and Literature
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05 Feb 2008 11:51
Last Modified:
09 Feb 2023 01:24