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Contemporary Stylistics

Language, Cognition, Interpretation

Alison Gibbons, Sara Whiteley

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Provides a clear introduction to the key terms and frameworks in cognitive poetics and stylistics

How do texts create meaning? How do we arrive at our textual interpretations? Why do we become ‘lost in a book’ or feel deep emotion in response to a literary character? Through close attention to the way texts are written and the language they use, as well as what we know about the human mind, Contemporary Stylistics provides readers with the tools to begin answering these questions. In doing so, it introduces the theoretical principles and practical frameworks of stylistics and cognitive poetics, supplying the practical skills to analyse your own responses to literary texts. Including innovative activities for students and with case studies of work by writers like Dylan Thomas, EL James and Kazuo Ishiguro, this is a detailed analysis of contemporary stylistics that offers both historical contextualization of the discipline and points towards its possible future direction.

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Part I. Introducing Contemporary Stylistics

  1. Contemporary Stylistics
  2. Part II. Literature as Language

  3. Foregrounding
  4. Phonemes to Sound Patterning
  5. Morphemes to Words
  6. Phrase to Sentence
  7. Register, Lexical Semantics, and Cohesion
  8. Part III. Literature as Discourse

  9. Dialogue and Spoken Discourse
  10. Speech, Thought, and Narration
  11. Modality and Point of View
  12. Transitivity and Ideology
  13. Varieties and Invented Languages
  14. Part IV. Text as Cognition

  15. Figure and Ground
  16. Cognitive Deixis
  17. Schemas, Scripts, and Prototypes
  18. Cognitive Grammar
  19. Part V. Reading as Mental Spaces

  20. Conceptual Metaphor and Conceptual Integration
  21. Text-Worlds
  22. Negation and Lacuna
  23. Part VI. Reading as Experience

  24. Analysing the Multimodal Text
  25. Understanding Emotions
  26. Part VII. Reading as Data

  27. Corpus Stylistics
  28. Investigating Readers
  29. Part VIII. Conclusion

  30. Future Stylistics

Literary Works



Other Media

Critical Works

Corpus Programs


About the Author

Alison Gibbons is Reader in Contemporary Stylistics at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. She is the author of Multimodality, Cognition, and Experimental Literature (Routledge 2012) and editor of Mark Z. Danielewski (Manchester University Press 2011), the Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature (Routledge 2012), Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism (Rowman & Littlefield International 2017) and Pronouns in Literature: Perspectives and Positions in Language (Palgrave 2018).

Sara Whiteley is Senior Lecturer in Language and Literature at the University of Sheffield, UK. She is a cognitive stylistician with a particular interest in the way readers experience contemporary literature. She is co-author of The Discourse of Reading Groups: Integrating Cognitive and Sociocultural Perspectives (Routledge, 2016) and co-editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics (Cambridge University Press, 2014).


Gibbons and Whiteley present an elegant and usable guide to current stylistics in all its disciplinary richness. They demonstrate the appeal of the field with brilliantly creative analyses of a wide range of literature. Any literary criticsm of any literary text will be richer with this book to hand.

- Professor Peter Stockwell, University of Nottingham

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