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Literary stylistics, authorial intention and the scientific study of literature: a critical overview

Guy, Josephine M.; Conklin, Kathy; Sanchez-Davies, Jennifer


Professor of Modern English Literature

Jennifer Sanchez-Davies


A tendency by literary stylisticians to overlook the role of the author in the generation of literary meaning has been a significant source of tension between linguistic approaches to literariness and other practices in the discipline, such as text-editing and literary biography. Recently, however, efforts have been made to close this gap, with the branch of stylistics, cognitive poetics, claiming to have developed a new and empirical method of integrating an appreciation of authorial imagination and creativity into the study of readers' responses to the language of literary texts. We examine these claims critically, testing the grounds of assertions about scientific rigour in relation to demands about model testing and falsifiability associated with the scientific study of literature more generally. We then explore how some other methodologies, technologies and insights associated with this last branch of the discipline might be brought to bear on the topic of authorial intention, with the aim of determining whether, and in what ways, our understanding of an authorial intention, and its role in literary processing, might be furthered through empirical enquiry.


Guy, J. M., Conklin, K., & Sanchez-Davies, J. (2018). Literary stylistics, authorial intention and the scientific study of literature: a critical overview. Language and Literature, 27(3), 196-217.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 3, 2018
Online Publication Date Aug 7, 2018
Publication Date Aug 7, 2018
Deposit Date May 21, 2018
Publicly Available Date Aug 7, 2018
Journal Language and LIterature
Print ISSN 0963-9470
Electronic ISSN 0963-9470
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 196-217
Public URL
Publisher URL


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