LINGUIST List 25.5022

Thu Dec 11 2014

Review: Ling & Literature: Burke (2014)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 17-Jul-2014
From: Kim Jensen <>
Subject: The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Michael Burke
TITLE: The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Handbooks in English Language Studies
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2014

REVIEWER: Kim Ebensgaard Jensen, Aalborg University

Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Edited by Michael Burke, “The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics” (henceforth, RHS) introduces key concepts within stylistics and is aimed at anyone with an interest in literature, language, or culture. The volume comprises 32 chapters, which are distributed over four thematic parts. Part I covers 'Historical perspectives in stylistics', and Part II is devoted to 'Core issues in stylistics'. Part III is called 'Contemporary topics in stylistics', while Part IV is entitled 'Emerging and future trends in stylistics'. Most contributions to this volume contain suggestions for practice, discussions of future directions, lists of suggested readings, and proper bibliographies. In addition, there is a short introduction by Burke.

In Chapter 1 'Rhetoric and poetics: the classical heritage of stylistics', Michael Burke discusses stylistics' roots in classical poetics and rhetoric, addressing important works by classical scholars such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. Buke traces rhetoric and style from the work of Roman Jakobson back to the teachings of Corax of Syracuse. The second chapter is entitled 'Formalist stylistics'. In this chapter, Michael Burke and Kristy Evers account for the contributions to stylistics of the Russian Formalists and the structuralists of the Prague School ; there is also a brief discussion of Chomsky's generative grammar and Culler's structuralist poetics. In Chapter 3 'Functionalist stylistics', Patricia Canning showcases Hallidayan stylistics at work, as she offers an analysis of a chapter from Haggard's “King Solomon's Mines” anchored in Systemic Functional Linguistics, or SFL (cf. Halliday 1994). In chapter 4 'Reader response criticism and stylistics', Jennifer Riddle Harding discusses reader response theories in literary criticism and the approaches within contemporary stylistics and literary criticism that are greatly influenced by it.

In Chapter 5 – which is the first chapter of Part II -- Christiana Gregoriou tackles 'The linguistic levels of foregrounding in stylistics'. Focusing on deviation and parallelism in a discussion rich in examples from movie taglines, Gregoriou also provides an analysis of foregrounding devices in Keyes' “Flowers for Algernon”. In Chapter 6 '(New) historical stylistics', Beatrix Busse addresses historical stylistic analysis and makes a case for a new version of historical stylistics which is anchored in the framework of mobility (Büscher and Urry 2009). Chapter 7 'Stylistics, speech acts and im/politeness theory', which is a contribution by Derek Bousfield, deals with characterization through characters' speech acts, introduces the reader to fundamental aspects of speech act theory (e.g. Austin 1962, Searle 1975, Grice 1975), and also briefly outlines Culpeper's (2001) control system model. Also dealing with characterization, Chapter 8 'Stylitics, conversation analysis and the cooperative principle' by Marina Lambrou shows how the conversational structure of character dialog may be analyzed as a means of characterization. In Chapter 9 'Stylistics and relevance theory', Billy Clark introduces the basics of relevance theory and discusses its applicability to literary text analysis. Clara Neary's contribution, Chapter 10 'Stylistics, point of view and modality', deals with narratorial point of view and its relation to modality, introducing the reader to Simpson's (1993) modal grammar of point of view. In Chapter 11 'Stylistics and narratology', Dan Shen discusses and compares similarities and differences between stylisticians' and narratologists' approaches to point of view, characterization, and tense. Addressing metaphor in Chapter 12 'Metaphor and stylistics', Szilvia Csábi provides a historical overview of treatments of metaphor from Aristotle to the present-day cognition-based multidisciplinary research, focusing on the latter. The final chapter of Part II is Chapter 13 'Speech and thought presentation in stylistics', in which Joe Bray introduces Leech and Short's (1981, 2007) typology of speech and thought representation and provides an analysis of speech and thought representation in David Foster Wallace's “The Pale King”.

In the first chapter of Part III -- namely,Chapter 14 'Pedagogical stylistics' -- Geoff Hall provides a historical survey of the interplay between stylistics and English language teaching. Andrea Macrae, in chapter 15 'Stylistics, drama and performance', discusses the significance of performance of play texts in stylistic analysis of drama and provides a socio-pragmatic multimodal analysis of a scene from “Private Lives”. Catherine Emmott, Marc Alexander, and Agnes Marszalek's Chapter 16 'Schema theory in stylistics' offers an introduction to schema theory and accounts for its roots in psychology and artificial intelligence. The reader is also presented with a wealth of examples of how schema theory may be applied in stylistic analysis. In Chapter 17 'Stylistics and text world theory', Ernestine Lahey addresses text world theory, providing a historical overview of its development, an introduction to its basic theoretical concepts, and a survey of current research. Chapter 18 deals with 'Stylistics and blending', and here Barbara Dancygier introduces the reader to conceptual integration/blending theory and illustrates its application in stylistics, as she offers an analysis of blends in Wilfred Owen's poem 'Parable of the Old Man and the Young'. Margaret H. Freeman's contribution, Chapter 19 'Cognitive poetics', offers an overview of definitions of cognitive poetics, which accounts for some differences between Tsur's (2008) version of cognitive poetics and the version adopted by most contemporary cognitive stylisticians. This chapter also outlines some basic aspects of cognitive poetics and illustrates their analytical application in an analysis of a short poem by Emily Dickinson. Olivia Fialho and Sonia Zyngier discuss 'Quantitative methodological approaches to stylistics' in Chapter 20. Fialho and Zyngier first offer a list of critical issues and topics treated quantitatively in stylistic research and provide references to actual studies addressing these. A discussion of descriptive and explanatory statistics in stylistics is also found in this chapter. In Chapter 21 'Feminist stylistics', Rocío Montoro accounts for the history of feminist stylistics and introduces the reader more generally to studies in language and gender as well as linguistic feminism. Montoro links up the evolution of feminist stylistics with the three-wave model typically applied to the history of feminism as such. Chantelle Warner's chapter, Chapter 22 'Literary pragmatics and stylistics', offers a survey of topics from pragmatics that have been applied in the analysis of literature; many of these are treated in more detail in other chapters in RHS. In Chapter 23 'Corpus stylistics', Michaela Mahlberg takes the perspective of the digital humanities and relates corpus stylistics to computing in the humanities more generally. More specifically, she shows how principles and methods from corpus linguistics can be applied in quantitative stylistic analysis and introduces the reader to a number of useful tools and resources. Jean Boase-Beier addresses 'Stylistics and translation' in Chapter 24 and discusses how stylistics can help one's understanding of translation, and how style can be understood through the lens of translation. The final chapter of Part III is Chapter 25 'Critical stylistics', in which Lesley Jeffries discusses stylistic analysis which draws on critical discourse analysis and, by inheritance, on Hallidayan linguistics and lists a number of issues in literary discourse to which critical stylistics may be applied.

The first chapter of Part IV is Chapter 26 'Creative writing and stylistics', in which Jeremy Scott lists and discusses a number of areas where practitioners of creative writing may benefit from stylistics. In Chapter 27 'Stylistics and real readers', David Peplow and Ronald Carter address literary language from the perspective of the reader, rather than the text or the author, and outline two fields of study: the empirical study of literature and the naturalistic study of reading. Peplow and Carter refer to several studies within either field and offer a critical evaluation of the methodological aspects of both, as well as of their applicability and relevance within stylistics. Michael Toolan discusses the possibility of a stylistics of film in Chapter 28 'Stylistics and film' and the applicability of elements from stylistic analysis in the study of film. Nina Nørgaard's contribution, Chapter 29 'Multimodality and stylistics', takes the reader through the basics of multimodal stylistics and lists three multimodal aspects of the novel which may be seen as semiotic modes – namely, layout, typography, and paper. In Chapter 30 'Stylistics and comics', Charles Forceville, Elisabeth El Refaie, and Gert Meesters address visual and linguistic aspects of style in comics. Paola Trimarco deals with 'Stylistics and hypertext fiction' in Chapter 31 and discusses hypertext features such as (non)linearity, multimodality, and coherence, applying different types of stylistic analysis to the hypertexts “afternoon, a story” and “These Waves of Girls”. The last chapter of the volume is Patrick Colm Hogan's Chapter 32 'Stylistics, emotion and neuroscience'. Hogan introduces some essential concepts in neuroscientific approaches to emotion and style and also reports current research in this respect.


Although all chapters in the volume are highly informative and well written, it is inevitable in handbooks such as RHS that some chapters are more interesting and relevant to some readers than others. Readers who are new to stylistics will probably find all chapters equally interesting and revelatory, while seasoned stylisticians are likely to find Parts III and IV more interesting than Parts I and II. For me, as a linguist with an interest in cognition and corpus linguistics, Chapters 5, 9, 12, 16, 17,18, 19, 20, and 23 are naturally the most relevant, but I would also like to highlight the following chapters for their contents and the way they convey their contents.

Together, Chapters 1 and 2 guide the reader from the ancient pre-history of stylistics to its incarnation in the frameworks of Russian Formalism and Prague Structuralism in a most elegant, informative and gripping fashion, and any novice reader with an interest in the history of stylistics would benefit from reading them. Likewise, Chapter 4, with its clear and succinct introduction of the central contributions of five important figures -- namely, Holland, Culler, Fetterley, Iser, and Fish -- in reader response theory conveys its content excellently. Gregoriou's Chapter 5 is also clear and succinct and rich in examples, and Chapter 7 is also to be highlighted due to its easy-to-understand descriptions of otherwise complex concepts from speech act theory. Chapter 15 deserves mention, because it deals with an aspect of verbal art which has been somewhat neglected in stylistics as a whole and successfully makes a case for the inclusion of drama as an object of stylistic research. In introducing feminist stylistics, Chapter 21 also outlines a number of general principles in studies of language and gender and provides a glimpse of the three-wave model of feminism, all of which is accompanied by a number of useful references. I think this chapter would serve as a perfect entry point into feminist linguistics and gender studies for undergraduate students with an interest in cultural representations of gender. Focusing on the interaction between texts and readers, Chapter 27 is arguably also a very important contribution to RHS, as it reminds stylisticians that stylistics is ultimately interested in the effect of literary language, and thus the interaction between the reader and the literary text should be included in the overall stylistic endeavor. Nørgaard's chapter on multimodal stylistics is, along with Canning's chapter, the most detailed introduction to Hallidayan stylistics in the volume. While Canning focuses on more traditional SFL and its application in literary analysis, Nørgaard accounts for the Hallidayan metafunctions in the SFL-derived social semiotics (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996, 2001) in such a clear fashion that her chapter would definitely serve as a useful introduction to essential concepts in both SFL and social semiotics. Canning's chapter on functionalist stylistics includes a very elegant and compelling Hallidayan analysis which successfully tackles the discourse of British colonialism and serves as an excellent example of Hallidayan stylistics at work.

It strikes me as slightly odd that Canning's chapter appears in Part I. While it is one of the best written contributions to RHS, it does not contain the same historical perspective as the other chapters in Part I. Moreover, having Canning's chapter in Part I might give some readers the impression that functionalist stylistics equals Hallidayan stylistics, which is not the case; Hallidayan stylistics is merely one type of functionalist stylistics. A historically oriented chapter on functionalist stylistics in general would be more appropriate in Part I, and Canning's contribution should have been placed in Parts II or III. Likewise, I think that Busse's chapter is misplaced in Part II, as the mobility turn in discourse analysis is still rather recent and is still very much going on; surely, it cannot be a core issue in stylistics yet. A chapter on “traditional” historical stylistics would have been more appropriate in Part II, and Busse's contribution would be more relevant in Part IV. Despite these, to me, odd organizational choices, the volume is generally very well structured and progresses seamlessly through its chapters. For instance, Chapters 7, 8, and 9 are nicely ordered, as each chapter focuses on an area of literary pragmatics, and they all relate to the work of Grice. Similarly, Chapters 10 and 11 are thematically related via their focus on narratology, with the latter also linking up thematically with Chapters 7 and 8. Likewise, Chapters 16, 17, 18, and 19 -- all of which deal with ways in which stylistics can be related to cognitive science -- are relevant to each other and thus constitute an appropriately organized portion of Part II. Of course, this results in some repetition across thematically related chapters, but I think that novice readers may benefit from seeing the same theoretical concepts applied differently in stylistic analysis.

The volume is targeted at readers who are new to stylistics, and most contributors do an effective job of introducing the central topics of their respective chapters. While the entire volume may be overwhelming to undergraduate students, several of its chapters would be excellent readings for a range of courses, including introductory courses in stylistics and literary criticism. In addition, a number of chapters could serve as readings in courses on discourse analysis (Chapters 6, 25, and 29), pragmatics (Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 22), cognitive linguistics (Chapters 12, 16, 18, 19, and 32), rhetoric Chapter 1), SFL (Chapters 3, 25 and 29), and quantitative linguistics (Chapters 20 and 23). The volume would also come in handy for more advanced students working on student projects in stylistics, discourse analysis, or literary criticism, and such readers would be likely to find inspiration for theoretical and methodological frameworks for their projects. With this in mind, it is recommended that university libraries acquire a least one copy of this volume. It should be noted that, since the examples given throughout the book are primarily from English language data, RHS is probably of most interest to students of English. Moreover, researchers and teachers within frameworks outside of language and literature studies might find some chapters interesting. I can imagine that researchers within the fields of gender studies, history, cognitive science, media studies, and digital humanities would find this volume particularly attractive.


Austin, J.L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Büscher, M. and J. Urry (2009). Mobile methods and the empirical. European Journal of Social Theoty, 12(1): 99-116.

Culpeper, J. (2001). Language and Characterisation: People in Plays and Other Texts. London: Longman.

Grice, P.H. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole and J. Morgan, eds. Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press. 41-58.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1994). Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd ed.). London: Edward Arnold.

Kress, G. and T van Leeuwen (1996). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.

Kress, G. and T. van Leeuwen (2001). Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. London: Arnold.

Leech, G.N. and M. Short (1981). Style in Fiction: A linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose. London: Longman.

Leech, G.N. and M. Short (2007). Style in Fiction: A linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose (2nd ed.). London: Logman.

Tsur, R. (2008). Toward a Theory of Cognitive Poetics (2nd ed.). Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.

Searle, J.R. (1975). A taxonomy of illocutionary acts. In K. Günderson, ed. Language, Mind, and Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. 344-369.

Simpson, P. (1993). Language, Ideology and Point of View. London: Routledge.


An associate professor of English linguistics at Aalborg University, Kim Ebensgaard Jensen is interested in the intersection of language, cognition, and discourse (including literary discourse). He operates within the frameworks of cognitive linguistics, construction grammar, and corpus linguistics. His research interests include grammatical constructions, construal operations, and usage-based descriptions of linguistic phenomena.

Page Updated: 11-Dec-2014