Critical Cognitive Interpretation of The Time Machine from the Perspective of Proximization Theory

Proximization Theory, The Time Machine, Critical Cognitive Analysis, Discourse Analysis


  • Xiaoqin Rao
    Postgraduate Student, College of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
  • Qian Yong Associate Professor, College of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
May 6, 2022


As a product of cognitive linguistics and critical discourse analysis, proximization theory is one of the emerging research directions in the field of linguistics. Most of the current research using this theory focuses on political conflict topics, and there are fewer studies using it for analysis of literary works. The present study examines The Time Machine from the perspective of proximization theory (PT) to unveil the legitimation strategies of science fiction qualitatively and quantitatively. The objectives are to enrich the explanation power of this theory and analyze how it can avail the expression and description of the implicit theme of science fiction. We apply CLAWS to annotate the whole novel, search and calculate the frequency of each lexico-grammatical item through AntConc 3.5.9, and then analyze the novella through proximization theory in spatial, temporal, and axiological dimensions. Findings show that: spatially, the author subsumes the most salient Time Traveler to the camp of IDC, and with the first-person narrator and sense verbs, the whole picture of decay can make the readers horribly feel on the spot in person toward a dim human destiny; temporally, Wells prefers the past-present concept shift than the future-present. The former is to legitimize his critique of over-reliance on science and severe class exploitation, and the latter is to make predictions of a future society that may face decay. The use of contrasting construal makes the novel's plot more mysterious, stimulates the reader's interest, and paves the way for the revelation of the theme; axiologically, considering that England put science and industrial development on the pedestal at that time and that prevailing evolution theory puts people in a period of blind optimism, Wells cautions against the trap of utopia and the swamp of materialism with emphasis on negative ideologies and values of ODC. The analysis of literary works from the perspective of PT is conducive to the visualization of the implicit themes expressed in the novel, full of absurdity and exaggeration with data support, highlighting the author's humanistic concern and broadening the research object of proximization theory.