Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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EDITORS: Marina Lambrou and Peter Stockwell TITLE: Contemporary Stylistics SERIES TITLE: Contemporary Studies in Linguistics PUBLISHER: Continuum YEAR: 2010
Nadia Nicoleta Morarasu, Department of Foreign Languages, ''Vasile Alecsandri'' University of Bacau
Marina Lambrou and Peter Stockwell present studies on the latest approaches and practices in stylistics in this three-part volume that comprises twenty contributions exploring ''the three traditional modes of writing'' (p. 2). The largest section entitled ''Part A - The Stylistics of Prose'' covers half of the prose-related contributions (10 chapters), ''Part B - Stylistics of Poetry'' contains 5 chapters, whereas drama-focused studies are reflected by the last 5 chapters in ''Part C - Stylistics of Dialogue and Drama''.
The cohesive structure of the twenty chapters distributed into the three sections of the collection is enhanced by the fact that they are individually introduced by twenty ''key figures in the field'' (p. 2) and collectively framed by the preliminary notes on the contributors, the editorial overview of the current state of stylistics, the final bibliographical list of more than 600 titles, and the useful index.
The forty scholars' academic profiles, which are alphabetically arranged into brief accounts of their current position, titles and affiliations, research interests and seminal works, are meant to confirm their specific expertise (p. 3). Lambrou and Stockwell's ''Introduction: the State of Contemporary Stylistics'' provides glimpses into the traditions and recent advances in stylistics and describes the evolution of their project from the original idea of establishing a genuine dialogue between more and less experienced literary scholars who share an interest in the stylistics of canonical or experimental texts. The editors also describe the research agenda as ''intersubjective analysis'' and the ''perspective-changing'' (p. 4) reading of literary texts using ''the analytical capacities of the present'' (p. 2) with a view to opening up further directions of study.
In the first chapter of ''Part A - The Stylistics of Prose'', Violeta Sotirova makes use of ''the descriptive apparatus of stylistics'' (p. 7) on Virginia Woolf's experimental writing of consciousness in order to provide a plausible explanation of how readers may relate to Woolfian characters. She presents a clear indication of the extent to which an analysis of the ''internal dialogic style'' (p. 7) and ''the interactive devices'' (p. 16) used in ''To the Lighthouse'' may draw on cognitive poetics, literary theory and conventional stylistics, and presents a final systematic examination of the reader's privileged position as an observer of the interplaying minds of the characters (p. 8).
Michaela Mahlberg's corpus-based analysis in Chapter 2 of ''local textual functions'' (p. 22) associated with specific lexical features focuses on systematically tracing sets of five-word clusters from Dickens' ''Great Expectations''.. She brings ample quantitative evidence that stylistic methods and descriptive categories are useful pointers to ''stylistically relevant features'' (p. 22).
Chapter 3 presents Christiana Gregoriou's newly coined concept of ''criminal mind style'' and explores the fictional representation of real crime. The portrayal of ''emerging criminal selves'' (p. 39) from the thematic sections of Berry Dee's ''Talking with Serial Killers'' is based on their linguistic conceptualization through metaphorical stereotypes and ironically-used psychological jargon, whereas the stylistic features of their fictionalized experiences (p. 34) are underlined through ''reinforced schematic expectations'' (p. 33) related to the justification of criminal acts.
Going along with the established tradition of applying the ''Possible Worlds Theory'' (p. 43) to literary texts, Alice Bell crosses the ontological boundaries between the real and fictional universes of discourse in Chapter 4 and draws our attention to the conceptual and analytical threads that link four hypertextual nodes of the intricate structure of Michael Joyce's ''afternoon, a story''. She examines its deeply intertwined concurrent narratives, the reader's interactive and exploratory roles, and the protagonist's confusingly split narratological functions.
Chapter 5 includes two intensely debated topical issues of stylistic and literary studies - free indirect discourse and empathy - in its bipartite structural framework, with a view to challenging our understanding of the relation of linguistic forms to effects on readers (p. 56). Subsequent to the ''preliminary investigation'' of the effects of free indirect discourse (FID) in evoking reader's empathy, the ''small-scale reading'' (p. 59) of some novel excerpts shows that the empathetic responses to literary texts are often triggered more by the degree of closeness established between readers and characters than by formal linguistic features.
The linguistic revaluation of ''Chick Lit'', a commonly-used label for women's fictional writings for female ''urban professionals'' (p. 69), under the new coinage of ''Cappuccino fiction'' proposed in Chapter 6, creates the premise for Rocio Montoro's sociocognitive analysis of fictional female characters as depicted in five novels. These are considered representative for the way in which patriarchal conservative values are paradoxically perpetuated through romance elements, whilst traditional values are ironically treated.
After the introduction of ''action'' and ''emotion'' as the key paradigms of Chapter 7, Elena Semino indicates some of the innovative aspects of Alan Palmer's study: his preference for the notion of ''fictional mind'', the interlinked presentation of emotions and thought presentation, and the attribution of mental states and activities to groups rather than individual characters. The main conceptual tool announced in the title, i.e. ''attribution theory'' (p. 82), is applied to Dickensian and Pynchonian texts for the purpose of emphasizing the implication of linguistic choices in describing actions and emotions.
Chapter 8 opens with the discrimination between the fields and levels of feminist narratology and feminist stylistics and brings into discussion multiple interpretations and gendered relations mediated through narrative form in a ''linguistically-oriented analysis'' (p. 93) of ''Bridget Jones's Diary''.
Clare Walsh's ''schema theory'' approach (Cook 1994) to crossover fiction in Chapter 9 yields considerable benefits for further studies on the multifaceted (adultist and childist) readerships of this modern ''hybrid genre'' (p. 107). Intertextuality, ''shared and unshared perceptions'', and ''embedded cultural references'' (p. 106) are all brought into question through the way in which the tools of schema poetics and alternative readings are applied to Mark Haddon's ''The Curious Incident'' in order to indicate the crossover potential of texts that reinforce, preserve or disrupt schemas.
The key notions discussed in Chapter 10 by Dan McIntyre, deixis, cognition, and viewpoint, illustrate viewpoint effects and the usefulness of the ''Deictic Shift Theory'' approach to both prose fiction and poetry. They facilitate our understanding of the importance of the cognitive perspective in forwarding a complex model of point of view meant to elucidate the way in which readers become involved in the world of the text.
The structural pillar of Chapter 11 that is placed at the opening of ''Part B - The Stylistics of Prose'' is represented by the ''split discourse-world model'' (p. 133), with the notions of ''familiarity'' and ''ambiguity'' firmly sustaining the conceptual architecture. In the ''context-sensitive'' (p. 136) exploration of the text-world of Frank O'Hara's poem, ''The day lady died'', informality and familiarity are accounted for by the presence of ''authorial enactors'' and ''world-building elements'' (Gavins 2007), whereas the ambiguity-raising ''world-switching'' (p. 143) is deemed ''impossible to disentangle'' (p. 143).
Through its blending of analytical tools available from the past (classical rhetorical checklists), the present (literary linguistic ''toolkits'') and the future (cognitive linguistic ''implements''), Chapter 12 demonstrates that e.e. cumming's extremely deviant style at all levels of language requires innovative methods that might explain why ''the path'' becomes the basic metaphor at the heart of the analysed poem and confirm to what extent ''progress is a comfortable disease'' (p. 155).
In Chapter 13, ''landscape'' is presented as one of the recurrent tropes in the ''Canadian literary canon'' (p. 167) and further explored through the poetics of landscape. Building upon Paul Werth's (1999) concept of ''megametaphor'', Ernestine Lahey identifies the basic metaphorical sequences of three twentieth-century Canadian poets that map the relationship between poetic landscape and cultural identity.
Chapter 14 invokes the notions of perception, cognition, subjectivity and obscurity that are essential to the interpretation of lyrical poetry as “a continuum embracing different degrees of conscious emergence” (p. 169) and the projection of ''the emergent mind of the poem'' as ''an embedded, embodied and evolved entity'' (p. 170). Sharon Latig invites us to use our distinctive traits of perception for the purpose of discovering the degree of relatedness between stylistics and other fields, such as literary criticism and cultural history, on the one hand, and the connection between neuroscience and poetry, on the other hand.
Chapter 15 identifies deviant structures in literary texts and shows the relevance of the analysis of lexical choices, in general, and of collocational deviations, in particular, to vocabulary acquisition. Moreover, Dany Badran indicates how the degree of interaction (at the thematic, linguistic, literary and critical levels) and the level of linguistic awareness may be enhanced through a pedagogic stylistic approach.
Chapter 16 opens new horizons for ''post-Labovian narrative analysis'' (p. 198) in Marina Lambrou's overview of the ''six schemas of the narrative model'' (p. 198) and of ''storytelling genres'' (p. 200), completed by her survey on personal narratives and oral recounts interpreted in the light of this theoretical framework.
In the first chapter from the ''Stylistics of Dialogue and Drama'' section, Derek Bousfield proposes a pragmastylistic approach to impoliteness in Shakespeare's ''Henry IV'', which aims at proving the extent to which the combined pragmatic analysis and stylistic models may contribute to the reception of the play's banter as a deliberate handling of an insincere form of impoliteness for purposes of solidarity.
In breaking off with the already outdated tradition of superficially describing fragmentary linguistic structures of literary texts, the study on Arthur Miller's ''The Crucible'' conducted in Chapter 18 focuses upon the cognitive processes through which literary meaning is built. Craig Hamilton sets cognitive rhetoric in the context of contemporary cognitive studies, in order to demonstrate how the findings of Malle (2004) offer new insights into the characters' unexpected explanations for the others' behavioural patterns and brings into discussion the play's ability to prompt different generations of audiences to infer new meanings from the Millerian language.
While most of the chapters propose a development of stylistic approaches or the relocation of investigative tools into subfields of stylistics, Beatrix Busse's essay ''The Stylistics of Drama: The Reign of King Edward III'' is based on a cognitive stylistic approach to drama. Her pioneering work involves investigating foregrounded elements (address terms, metaphors) and pragma-linguistic elements as signalers of ''multi-levelled communication'' (p. 234) in Shakespeare's play.
The last chapter of the collection, Chapter 20, ''Computer-assisted Literary Stylistics: the State of the Field,'' provides an overview of the position of this recently-developed sub-branch of stylistics, discriminates between the tools used by corpus-driven and computational stylistics (e.g. Wordsmith text analysis tools and USAS annotation tools) and highlights the advantages of the automatic analysis of linguistic features (p. 244). Along with other contributors, Dawn Archer does not simply show that stylisticians successfully employ both traditional and modern tools suited to the analysts'''interpretative endevour'' (p. 255), but promotes the dawning of a new era, ''lighting new roads into the field'' (p. 245).
This project is successful because of several qualities and strengths:
- The presentation of a collective work by contemporary literary scholars, ''chaperoned'' by influential stylisticians who legitimize these new voices in the field;
- The dialogic nature of the relationship among the participants to this enterprise. An example of the constant interdialogic exchange is found in Chapter 4, where Brian McHale's introduction places Alice Bell among the hypertext theorists, acknowledges her successful identification of the narratological and linguistic means of building ontological landscapes, while Bell's referencing McHale's earlier contributions in her theoretical corpus re-confirms the suitability of this theory for the stylistic analysis of the hyperfiction genre;
- The editors' scholarly expertise and proficient management (establishing a clear research agenda, giving the eminent writers a narrow brief for their introductory contributions and accepting only work that was compliant with the guidelines).
Far from simply following the prototypical design of critical texts, this seminal collection represents a valuable model for researchers and an indispensible tool for graduate students due to:
- The cohesive internal structure of the individually-authored chapters conferred by the high degree of embeddedness: in the discourse architecture of each chapter, there are several addressors (authorized writers and readers, interchangeably assuming the role of addressees, too) to a multiple readership;
- The combination of current research with prior and subsequent stylistics studies;
- The accessibility of ''the integrated study of language and literature'' (p. 1) conducted through both traditional and modern methods (computer-assisted, corpus-based);
- The development of stylistic tools and their combination with new ''cutting-edge'' ones that address the style of literary texts in a more effective and efficient way;
- The practicality and usefulness of different models of stylistic analysis provided in each chapter (e.g. ''intuition-based'', ''gender-conscious'', ''cognitive stylistic'', etc.);
- The broadness of genre range and the richness of texts analysed (especially for fiction: true crime, cappuccino fiction, crossover fiction, hyperfiction, etc.).
- The significant pedagogical implications of the enhanced awareness of the stylistic effects of linguistic choices made in literary texts.
Even the apparent ''weakness'' perceivable in the anticipatory projection of a positive image on most contributions through some evaluative labels of praise such as ''excellent example'' (pp. 92, 195), ''highly suggestive model'' (p. 133), ''especially productive'' (p. 196), ''impressive'' (p. 180), ''innovative contribution'' (pp. 81, 232) does not influence our critical taste, but trains us to search for what makes the more experienced practitioners authorize the new generation of stylisticians.
Cook, G. (1994) Discourse and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gavins, J. (2007) Text World Theory: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Malle, B. H. (2004) How the Mind Explains Behaviour: Folk Explanations, Meanings, and Social Interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Werth, P. (1999) Text Worlds: Representing Conceptual Space in Discourse. London: Longman.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Nadia Nicoleta Morarasu is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Foreign
Languages, 'Vasile Alecsandri' University of Bacau, Romania. Current
research areas: linguistic stylistics, discourse stylistics, literary