Re-reading in Stylistics

Chloe Harrison, Louise Nuttall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cognitive stylistics is primarily concerned with the cognitive processes – mental simulations – experienced by readers. Most cognitive stylisticians agree that experiences of reading texts are dynamic and flexible. Changes in the context of reading, our attentional focus on a given day, our extra background knowledge about the text, and so on, are all factors that contribute to our experience
of a fictional world. A second reading of a text is a different experience to a first reading.

As researchers begin to systematically distinguish between the ‘solitary’ and ‘social’ readings that constitute reading as a phenomenon (Peplow et al., 2016), the relationship between multiple readings and the nature of their processing become increasingly pertinent. In order to explore this relationship, firstly we examine the different ways in which re-reading has previously been discussed in stylistics, grounding our claims in an empirical analysis of articles published in key stylistics journals over the past two decades. Next, we draw on reader response data from an online questionnaire in order to assess the role of re-reading and the motivations that underpin it. Finally, we describe an exercise for the teaching of cognitive stylistics, specifically applying schema theory in literary linguistic analysis (Cook, 1994), which illustrates the need to distinguish between readings as part of an analysis. Through these three sections we argue that our experiences of texts should be considered diachronically, and propose that the different readings that make up an analysis of a text should be given greater attention in stylistic research and teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-195
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

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  • Re-reading
  • schema theory
  • pedagogical stylistics
  • The Girl With All The Gifts
  • reader response


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