Humor and Stylistics

Authored by: Paul Simpson , Derek Bousfield

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Humor

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138843066
eBook ISBN: 9781315731162
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315731162.ch12

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Abstract

Stylistics is a tradition of research that explores literature using the models, methods, and techniques of contemporary linguistics. The underpinning postulate of all stylistic research is that literature is creative expression in discourse, and, by imputation, that frameworks in language and linguistics are pre-eminently well suited to the exploration of both the compositional aspects of literature and the intersection between patterns of style and the ways in which readers interact with, and respond to, these patterns. Enabled by the whole panoply of methods in linguistics, a stylistic analysis can stretch from detailed investigation of, say, phonetic patterning in a single poem to a large scale, corpus-assisted exploration of an entire movement in literary history. There has of course been, since antiquity, much scholarly and philosophical interest in the latent power of patterns in style and language, from the classical Rhetoricians (Cockcroft & Cockcroft, 2005), through the Russian Formalist movement and thence to the Prague School Structuralists (Cook, 1994). Yet it was largely in the last three decades of the 20th century, under the stimulus of new and ever more refined developments in linguistic theory and analysis, that the recognizably contemporary discipline of stylistics took shape. In these years, numerous academic publications appeared where the unifying principle was that primacy of place be assigned to the language of literature. Among these early outputs were general book-length treatments by Widdowson (1975), Cluysenaar (1976), Traugott and Pratt (1980), Carter (1982) and Fowler (1986). This body of work was ably supplemented by more specific studies on, for example, poetry (Leech, 1969; Verdonk, 1993), prose (Leech & Short, 1981; Toolan, 1988) and drama (Burton, 1980; Culpeper et al., 1998).

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