Theory, Principles, Methods, and the Objectives of Stylistics


22 Seiten



1. Theory of Stylistics
1.1. Affective stylistics
1.2. Schema theory
1.3. Text world theory (TWT)
1.4. Conceptual metaphor theory (CMT)
1.5. Functional Stylistics Theory

2. Principles of Stylistics
2.1. Stylistics as text based
2.2. Objectivity and Empiricism
2.3. Stylistics as Eclectic and Open
2.4. Choice, Analysis and Interpretation

3. Methods of stylistics
3.1. The method of semantico-stylistic analysis (stylistic analysis)
3.2. The comparative method
3.3. The method of stylistic experiment
3.4. The quantitative method
3.5. The qualitative method

4. The objectives of stylistics

5. Branches of stylistics
5.1. Comparative stylistics
5.2. The objective of comparative stylistics
5.3. Nature of comparative stylistics
5.4. Some criticism of comparative stylistics

1. Theory of Stylistics

Stylistics is eclectic in its use of theory, though it originated in literary theories of formalism and took on the theory of structuralism in early twentieth century ,these theories provided was descriptive apparatus such as grammatical and lexical terminology and categories which enable writer and scholars to present the techniques of construction that writer uses in his work .

In time, Stylistics countered to the developing of new theories of language ,based more on contextual factors in the case of pragmatics and discourse analysis and on cognitive factors in case of generative grammar and cognitive linguistics .It is able to use insight provided by all these theories to support new analytical processes and provide new insight into the style of texts and their reception by range of potential audience .

A recent set of developments in cognitive stylistics have drawn on theories that are seen by some as beyond the scope of linguistics as psychology and philosophy that they aid in providing insight and models for analyzing what is going on in the processing of texts by readers.(Mcintyre and Jeffries,2010 ,10)

1.1. Affective stylistics

is derived from analyzing further the notion that a literary text is an event that occurs in time—that comes into being as it is read—rather than an object that exists in space. The text is examined closely, often line by line or even word by word, in order to understand how (stylistics) it affects (affective) the reader in the process of reading. Although there is a great deal of focus on the text, which is why some theorists consider this approach transactional in nature, many practitioners of affective stylistics do not consider the text an objective, autonomous entity—it does not have a fixed meaning independent of readers—because the text consists of the results it produces, and those results occur within the reader. For example, when it is described how a text is structured, the structure that is described is the structure of the reader’s response as it occurs from moment to moment, not the structure of the text as one might assemble it after one has finished reading.Affective stylistics is not a description of the reader’s impressionistic responses but a cognitive analysis of the mental processes produced by specific elements in the text. Indeed, it is the “slow-motion,” phrase-by-phrase analysis of how the text structures the reader’s response for which affective stylistics is perhaps best known. To see how this approach works, let’s take a look at the following sentences.

That Judas perished by hanging himself, there is no certainty in Scripture: though in one place it seems to affirm it, and by a doubtful word hath given occasion to translate it; yet in another place, in a more punctual description, it makes it improbable, and seems to overthrow it.

the question “What does this sentence mean?” or “What does this sentence say?” yields little because the sentence provides with no facts with which one could answer the question. Even one notice that the sentence does say something—it says that Scripture gives us no clear indication of whether or not Judas hanged himself—his point is that the sentence tells only that it is unable to tell anything. In contrast, he notes, the question “What does the sentence do to the reader?” or “How does the reader of this sentence make meaning?” yields something quite useful.

What this passage about Judas does, is move the reader from certainty to uncertainty. The first clause, “that Judas perished by hanging himself” is an assertion we accept as a statement of fact. SO, readers thus begin with a feeling of certainty that leads us, without our being quite conscious of it, to anticipate a number of possible ways the sentence might end, all of which would confirm our certainty that Judas hanged himself. The writer offers these three examples of the kinds of endings the first clause leads us to expect.

1.That Judas perished by hanging himself is (an example for us all).
2.That Judas perished by hanging himself shows (how conscious he was of the enormity of his sin).
3.That Judas perished by hanging himself should (give us pause)

These expectations narrow the possible meanings of the next three words in the passage: “there is no.” At this point, the reader expects to see “there is no doubt,” but is given instead “there is no certainty.” Now the fact of Judas’ hanging himself, upon which our understanding of the sentence has rested, becomes uncertain. Now the reader is involved in a completely different kind of activity. “Rather than following an argument along a well-lighted path (a light, after all, has gone out), [the reader] is now looking for one”. In such a situation, the reader will tend to read on in hopes of finding clarification. But as one continues to read the passage, our uncertainty only increases as we move back and forth between words that seem to promise clarity—“place,” “affirm,” “place,” “punctual,” “overthrow”—and words that seem to withdraw that promise: “though,” “doubtful,” “yet,” “improbable,” “seems.” Uncertainty is further increased by the excessive use of the pronoun it because, as the sentence progresses, the reader has more and more difficulty figuring out what it refers to.

Such analyses are performed by reader-response critics in order to map the pattern by which a text structures the reader’s response while reading. This response is then used to show that the meaning of the text does not consist of the final conclusion one draws about what the text says; rather, the meaning of the text consists of our experience of what the text does to the reader as he read it. For a text is an event that occurs in time: it acts on the reader as he reads each word and phrase. , The passage first reinforces a belief about Judas the reader probably already holds and then takes that reinforcement away, leading the reader on in hopes of finding an answer that is never provided. If the kind of experience created in this passage is repeated throughout the text from which the passage is taken, then a reader-response critic might say that the text teaches us, through a pattern of raised expectations disappointed, how to read that text and, perhaps, how to read the world: it must be expected to have expectation of acquiring sure knowledge raised and disappoint .If you desire sure knowledge. It can pursue it, and it is expected to get it. But this text teaches us that it cannot be certain of anything. In other words, for a reader-response critic, this text isn’t primarily about Judas or Scripture but about the experience of reading.

In addition to an analysis of the reading activities that structure the reader’s response, other kinds of evidence are usually gathered to further support the claim that the text is about the experience of reading. For example, most practitioners of affective stylistics will cite the responses of other readers—of other literary critics, for example—to show that their own analyses of the reading activities provided by a particular text are valid for readers other than just themselves. A critic might even cite an extreme divergence of critical opinion about the text to support, for example, the contention that the text provides an unsettling, decentering, or confusing reading experience. This wouldn’t mean that the text is flawed but that by unsettling the reader it demonstrates, say, the fact that interpretation of written texts, and perhaps of the world, is a problematic endeavor from which we should not expect to achieve certainty.

Thematic evidence from the text itself is also usually provided to show that the text is about the experience of reading. For example, the reader-response critic shows how the experiences of characters and descriptions of settings mirror the reader’s experience reading the text.

As noted above, the textual evidence at this point is thematic: the critic shows that the theme of the text is a particular kind of reading experience, such as the difficulties involved in reading, the processes involved in making sense of the text, or the inevitability of misreading. Although many practitioners of affective stylistics believe that the text, as an independent object, disappears in their analysis and becomes what it really is—an experience that occurs within the reader—their use of thematic evidence, as we’ve just seen, underscores the important role played by the text in establishing what the reader’s experience is.(Mambrol,2016)

1.2. Schema theory

is regarded as a key idea within cognitive stylistics which that derives primarily from psychology and artificial intelligence A schema contains common default information which helps comprehension by allowing to deduce details which are either not mention or not fully specified. This theory is important because it explains a central mechanism by which all reading takes place and the special effects can be created by an author through the subversion ,exploitation ,alternation or variation of a reader schema knowledge .the term ‘schema’ was introduced into general psychology by Bartlett (1932) to describe a speaker’s unknowing gap-filling in process of telling stories.

This term is supplemented with more specific terminology by Schank and Abelson’s key book scripts, Plans ,Goals and Understanding which is seen as the foundational text of modern schema theory. In their model ,a general restaurant schema would contain information about entities present their ,but also contain temporarily ordered information in the form of script . A script for a restaurant can be paying a bill ,ordering food and drink and so on.In addition to an event sequences. Scripts has different tracks through which an event can pass such as fine –dinning track with different slots to a greasy –spoon track (as clothing and appearance of staff in the roles slot ,cost of item in the menu)

- Uses of schema theory and related areas

1- schemata in relation to narratives ,text structures ,genres and intertextuality, Narrative are usually seen as consisting of string of events.,thus, schema theory shows how inferences can be made to link providing extra information about what is unstated and allowing further interpretation of what is stated.

In the case of text structures ,Herman makes a distinction between narrative and non-narrative by his use of scripts .He argues that it is gaps in the text which cannot be filled by standard inferences that prompt interest and thereby lead to storytelling .Sometime the relevant schema knowledge isn’t of stories in general but specific well known story ,hence, texts as a myths and fairy stories become part of a culture’s repertoire. Intertextual schema provides readers with the knowledge to make links with well-known texts when reading.

2-incongruity :Humor studies

The stylistic application of this theory has been prominent in the study of incongruous scripts. Within stylistics Semino discusses the ways in which switches between schemata can lead to amusement in the comprehension of jokes and sketches.

3-other minds which mean examining the style of thought representation of characters who perceive the world differently from ordinary modern –day adults humans,for example, children ,animals , insane people. The term ‘mind style’ may be used for deviant thinking styles rather than thinking styles in general .Palmer suggests that readers need continuing-consciousness frames that enable them to construct a sense of continuity of mental processing from the diverse mentions of a character’s thought throughout story.

4-Socio-cultural schemata and reader variability

Socio-cultural schemata takes into their consideration factors as gender, race ,class, age and social roles especially in the second language teaching ,where reading is viewed as the interaction between top-down socio-cultural schemata guiding reading and bottm-up signals from the text ,and where varying schemata can explain misunderstanding by readers of different culture.

5-Sensory and motor schemata ,and the role of emotions

Readers need to relate to the text as embodied beings through feeling a real sense of experiencing the world of a text .There is an evidence that states while reading ,the brain areas would be activated for real physical and emotional responses in the real world are activated for their imaginary equivalents in stories ,sensory schemata is the experiencing of the awareness of what is involved in basic sensory perception such as vision ,hearing whereas motor schemata explain physical movements such as how one can move his body , grasp object in his environment.

There is a need to an affective component to schema theory to explain how we interpret emotions in characters and how readers emotions are activated by the texts that they read.

-6-Literness :schema refreshment

Literary discourse is schema refreshing ,where the reading experience causes reading to update ,change ,or transform their existing schemata,whereas nonliterary discourse is schema reinforcing or schema preserving which aim to inform or argue,will necessary bring about changes to schema .

*Practical examples of the use of the use of schema theory in stylistics

a-Filling gaps:schema knowledge and standard inferences as in the following example illustrates ; .“The waitress took their orders” . In this example the definite article is used for the first mention of a waitress because the presence of serving staff is assumed by the restaurant script.
b-Jumping to conclusion –characters which is based on readers to make inferences ,writers can reveal the assumption –making processes by which characters come to recognize state of affairs ,hence mimicking their thought processes.
c-Creating an alien mind style :under-specification to reflect a character’s lack of understanding .Fowler’s term mind style is used to indicate the presentation of thoughts ,it tend to be for unusual thinking style such as representation of the alien (Burk,2014)

1.3. Text world theory (TWT)

Text world theory is a cognitive linguistic theory of discourse processing proposed in its initial form by Paul Werth. TWT develops by many scholars later on and has become a canonical stylistic-analytical frame work especially under the rubrics of cognitive stylistic.Werth dissatisfaction with mainstream generative linguistics which neglect of the subjective and experimental aspects of language use since the ultimate aim of generative linguistic is to establish rules which generates well- formed sentences.This focus on the abstract sentence level is stands for complete rejection of context. For Werth the starting points for linguistic analysis should not be sentence or the text but the discourse.

The basic premise TWT is that whenever somebody participates in a discourse he builds up a network configuration of conceptual spaces or worlds which corresponds to distinct ontological layers of the discourse. The discourse worlds necessarily contains at least two discourse participant and temporal context in which discourse takes place.For Werth the prototypical languge event –type is face to face conversation, his treatment of face to face conversation leads him to borrow two notions from pragmatics which are negotiation, that manifested in face to face communication , and meta-principle which is similar to the well known maxims proposed by Grice . Therefore , negotiation in TWT concerns text- driven through knowledge promoted and retrieved.


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Theory, Principles, Methods, and the Objectives of Stylistics
University of Babylon
ISBN (Buch)
theory, principles, methods, objectives, stylistics
Arbeit zitieren
Safa Naji Abd (Autor:in), Theory, Principles, Methods, and the Objectives of Stylistics, München, GRIN Verlag,


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