Stylistics and Relevance Theory

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Relevance theory is arguably the most influential approach to pragmatics to have developed from the work of Grice (1989). It has been applied in a wide range of areas, including accounts of reasoning in general, developmental psychology and the understanding of various kinds of neurodiversity. The majority of relevance-theoretic work has been concerned with developing accounts of linguistically encoded meanings (linguistic semantics) and how these interact with contextual assumptions in understanding utterances (pragmatics). It has also been applied in developing accounts of nonverbal and multimodal communication, nonpropositional meanings and the communication of emotion. Accounting for interpretations is a key focus of work in stylistics, so it is natural that relevance-theoretic ideas have been applied to stylistics, providing accounts of particular texts and of particular phenomena involved in the production and comprehension of texts. It has also contributed to more general theoretical debates, for example about the nature of ‘literariness’ and authorial intention, and to accounts of formal literary interpretation and formal and informal evaluation. As has often been pointed out (e.g. by Pilkington et al. 1997 and Wilson 2011, 2018), the aim here is not to provide particular interpretations or evaluations, but to explain the processes involved in arriving at these. Relevance theory can also contribute to accounts of textual production and editorial processes, and to pedagogical work of various kinds. This chapter says something about previous, ongoing and possible future work in each of these areas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Stylistics
EditorsMichael Burke
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780367568887
ISBN (Print)9780367567491, 9781032420141
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks in English Language Studies

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