The metrics of cognition and the rhythm of the unconscious

Shirley Sharon-Zisser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article rethinks the links drawn by cognitive poetics between thought-representation and language in relation to the category of rhythm and metre as symptoms, in Plato’s Republic and in the psychoanalytic theory of Freud, Lacan, and in particular in Nicolas Abraham’s Rhythms. Utilizing Abraham’s idea of rhythmizing consciousness as a non-linear psychic unfolding coeval with the Freudian unconscious, an unfolding in constant tension and interaction with cognitive consciousness’s periodicity, linearity, and tendency to produce semblants of verifiability, I argue that cognitive poetics’ focus on conscious cognition involves a repression of unconscious processes imperative to the thinking of thought-representation. But in Jacques Lacan’s terms, repression is not foreclosure (erasure from the unconscious), but the preservative and protective putting into operation of what Lacan theorizes as the bar. Cognitive poetics’ functioning as bar with regard to metrics symptomatizing unconscious states hence creates just the comdition for the preservation (in terms of Michele Monterlay’s theorizing of repression) and hence mediation and circulation of unconscious material whereof it refuses to speak. I hence propose a “metronymic analysis” of sound, rhythm, and metre, not sense, as a way of reading which might enrich literary pragmatics, alowing it to hear, beyond patronymics, echoes of the matronymic archaic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-190
Number of pages20
JournalPragmatics and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Jul 2003


  • Archaic
  • Conitive poetics unconscious
  • Frued
  • Lacan
  • Metre
  • Mey
  • Michele
  • Monterlay
  • Rythm
  • Stepen


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