“Lazy reading” and “half-formed things”: indeterminacy and responses to Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing

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Abstract

This chapter considers how ideas developed within relevance theory can be applied in accounting for different kinds of responses to Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. The discussion here focuses on the opening of the novel, using this to illustrate difficulties posed for readers by the novel as a whole and to consider how different ways of responding to these difficulties can lead to different kinds of responses.
McBride’s novel is a challenging text which raises issues for pragmatic theories as well as for readers, since it is hard to establish what it explicitly and implicitly communicates. Some readers (including, significantly, some critics and judges for literary awards) have responded positively to the novel. Others (including many literary agents and publishers) have responded negatively. Some readers report beginning with a negative reaction and then becoming more positive. This chapter suggests that ideas developed within relevance theory (Sperber and Wilson, 1986; 2015) can help us to understand how texts differ as well as how readers respond differently to specific texts, including McBride’s novel.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPragmatics and Literature
EditorsSiobhan Chapman, Billy Clark
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins
Chapter7
Pages139-164
ISBN (Electronic)9789027261922
ISBN (Print)9789027204448
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2019

Publication series

NameLinguistic Approaches to Literature
Volume35
ISSN (Print)1569-3112

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