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Mind-modelling with corpus stylistics in David Copperfield

Stockwell, Peter; Mahlberg, Michaela


Michaela Mahlberg


We suggest an innovative approach to literary discourse by using corpus linguistic methods to address research questions from cognitive poetics. In this article, we focus on the way that readers engage in mind-modelling in the process of characterisation. The article sets out our cognitive poetic model of characterisation that emphasises the continuity between literary characterisation and real-life human relationships. The model also aims to deal with the modelling of the author’s mind in line with the modelling of the minds of fictional characters. Crucially, our approach to mind-modelling is text-driven. Therefore we are able to employ corpus linguistic techniques systematically to identify textual patterns that function as cues triggering character information. In this article, we explore our understanding of mind-modelling through the characterisation of Mr. Dick from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Using the CLiC tool (Corpus Linguistics in Cheshire) developed for the exploration of 19th-century fiction, we investigate the textual traces in non-quotations around this character, in order to draw out the techniques of characterisation other than speech presentation. We show that Mr. Dick is a thematically and authorially significant character in the novel, and we move towards a rigorous account of the reader’s modelling of authorial intention.


Stockwell, P., & Mahlberg, M. (2015). Mind-modelling with corpus stylistics in David Copperfield. Language and Literature, 24(2),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 1, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 30, 2016
Publicly Available Date Mar 30, 2016
Journal Language and Literature
Print ISSN 0963-9470
Electronic ISSN 1461-7293
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 2
Keywords Character, CLiC, cognitive poetics, corpus stylistics, David Copperfield, Dickens, mind-modelling, Mr. Dick, Suspensions, Theory of mind
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