Do worlds have (fourth) walls? A Text World Theory approach to direct address in Fleabag

GIBBONS, Alison and WHITELEY, Sara (2021). Do worlds have (fourth) walls? A Text World Theory approach to direct address in Fleabag. Language and Literature, 30 (2), 105-126.

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This article examines direct address, or ‘breaking the fourth wall’, in the BBC TV series Fleabag. It applies Text World Theory to telecinematic discourse for the first time and, in doing so, contributes to developing cognitive approaches in the field of telecinematic stylistics. Text World Theory, originally a cognitive linguistic discourse processing framework, is used to examine how multimodal cues contribute to the creation of imagined worlds. We examine three examples of direct address in Fleabag, featuring actor gaze alongside use of the second-person you or actor gaze alone. Our analysis highlights the need to account for the different deictic referents of you, with the pronoun able to refer intra- and extradiegetically. We also explore viewers’ ontological positioning because ‘breaking the fourth wall’ in telecinematic discourse evokes an addressee who is not spatiotemporally co-present with the text-world character. We therefore propose the concept of the split text-world, which assists in accounting for the deictic pull that viewers may feel during direct address and its experiential impact. Our analysis suggests that telecinematic direct address is necessarily world-forming but can ontologically position the viewer differently in different narrative contexts. While some instances of direct address in Fleabag position the viewer as Fleabag’s narratee and confidant, there is increasing play with direct address in the show’s second series and a destabilisation of this narratee role, achieved through the suggestion that Fleabag’s addressee may be more psychologically interior than they first appear.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Languages & Linguistics; 2004 Linguistics; 2005 Literary Studies
Identification Number:
Page Range: 105-126
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2021 12:07
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2021 14:30

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