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Reading the Absurd

Joanna Gavins

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Challenges traditional scholarship on absurdist literature, privileging the reader and the genre’s stylistic achievements

What is the literary absurd? What are its key textual features? How can it be analysed? How do different readers respond to absurdist literature? Taking the theories and methodologies of stylistics as its underlying analytical framework, Reading the Absurd tackles each of these questions. Selected key works in English literature are examined in depth to reveal significant aspects of absurd style. Its analytical approach combines stylistic inquiry with a cognitive perspective on language, literature and reading which sheds new light on the human experience of literary reading. By exploring the literary absurd as a linguistic and experiential phenomena, while at the same time reflecting upon its essential historical and cultural situation, Joanna Gavins brings a new perspective to the absurd aesthetic.

Contents

List of Figures
Acknowledgements
1 The Literary Absurd, THE ABSURD IN PHILOSOPHY, THE ABSURD IN LITERARY CRITICISM
A NEW APPROACH, READERS OF THE ABSURD
2 IDENTIFYING THE ABSURD, CATEGORIES AND CATEGORISATION,
CONTEXT, COMMUNITY AND SITUATED CONCEPTS, A CLINE OF EXPERIMENTALISM, WRITING ON THE BOUNDARIES OF THE ABSURD,
READING ON THE BOUNDARIES OF THE ABSURD, BUILDING ABSURD WORLDS, EXPERIMENTING WITH ABSURD WORLDS,
HUMOUR AND THE ABSURD, THE LITERARY ABSURD, SO FAR
3 ABSURD MINDS, A SINGULARLY MASCULINE PHENOMENON?,
CHARACTER-BUILDING, READING OTHER PEOPLE’S MINDS, VERSIONS OF UNRELIABILITY, ESTRANGING MINDS, THE LITERARY ABSURD, SO FAR
4 ABSURD FICTIONS, ABSURD WORLD-BUILDING REVISITED, ABSURD LANDSCAPES AND EMOTIONAL RESONANCE, TIME, SPACE, AND FICTIONALITY, MIXING GENRES, MIXING MODES, THE LITERARY ABSURD, SO FAR

5 ABSURD VERSES, THE STYLISTICS OF ABSURD PROSE FICTION, READING THE ABSURD IN PROSE FICTION,
READING THE ABSURD IN POETRY, STYLISTIC FAMILY RESEMBLANCES ACROSS POETIC TEXTS,
TOWARDS A STYLISTICS OF ABSURD POETRY, THE LITERARY ABSURD, SO FAR
REFERENCES

About the Author

Joanna Gavins is a lecturer in English language and literature at the University of Sheffield, UK, where she teaches courses in stylistics, cognitive poetics, linguistics and contemporary literature. Her innovative work in Text World Theory continues to advance the evolution of this powerful and exciting approach to human language and cognition.

Reviews

Reading the Absurd is an elegant and eclectic exploration of the concept of the absurd in a range of literary genres. Productively enriched by reader response theories, Gavins’s model of the absurd is built solidly on the analytic techniques of contemporary stylistics and cognitive-poetics. In all, this is a compelling and groundbreaking study of a concept that has hitherto been largely the preserve of drama and theatre studies.

- Paul Simpson, Professor of English Language, Queen's University

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