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Review of  Contemporary Stylistics

Reviewer: Nadia Nicoleta Morarasu
Book Title: Contemporary Stylistics
Book Author: Marina Lambrou Peter Stockwell
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Ling & Literature
Issue Number: 22.3302

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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

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

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

- 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

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,

- 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,

- 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.

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 onomastics.

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