Poetic effects and visuospatial form: a relevance-theoretic perspective

PINDER, Daniel William (2019). Poetic effects and visuospatial form: a relevance-theoretic perspective. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00326
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    Sperber and Wilson (1995:222) posit the term poetic effect for the peculiar effect of an utterance which achieves most of its relevance through a wide array of weak implicatures. Crucially, the input to pragmatic processing, which prompts the derivation of a poetic effect, is achieved via some stylistically pronounced linguistic feature: for example, a repeated lexical item, a peculiar syntactic form, a piece of alliteration, and so on. However, what has never been considered to any great depth from a relevancetheoretic perspective is how unusual elements of visuospatial form might also impact upon the reader’s basic understanding and wider interpretation of a given poetic text in ways that result in the derivation of specialised poetic effects. Therefore, the thesis posits a relevance-theoretic account of the cognitive-pragmatic effects of short linelength and line divisions, when employed and interpreted within complex forms of poetry. The account is split into two hypotheses relating to short line-length and line divisions respectively. Hypothesis 1 states that the use of short line-length leads to the majority of the text’s lexical material being perceived in a much slower, and therefore intense fashion, which consequently causes the lexical and encyclopaedic entries that such material links to within the mind to remain active for relatively longer periods of time. During such extended periods of lexical and encyclopaedic activation, literary readers are encouraged to inferentially process the text’s explicit-propositional content in relation to a range of further items of encyclopaedic-contextual material, which can give rise to arrays of additional contextual effects of a weakly implicit and therefore poetic nature. Hypothesis 2 states that line divisions are often intentionally utilised in poetic texts by writers in order to visuospatially separate integral syntactic units upon the page. This can encourage readers to pause and briefly consider, upon an anticipatoryhypothetical basis, the various possible pragmatic extensions of the text’s momentarily incomplete logical and propositional status, pre-line division as it were. The various pragmatic extensions may be formulated as arrays of weak explicatures, which for some readers may achieve poetic effects (in the specialised relevance-theoretic sense of the term). The process effectively constitutes the visuospatial equivalent of a deliberate ‘pause for effect’, which triggers a considerable degree of further inferential processing, and provides a distinct communicational ‘reward’ primarily at an explicit-propositional level.

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr. David Peplow
    Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
    Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00326
    Depositing User: Colin Knott
    Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2020 17:27
    Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 13:57
    URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/27677

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