Cognitive Grammar and reconstrual: Re-experiencing Margaret Atwood’s “The Freeze-Dried Groom”

Chloe Harrison, Louise Nuttall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines the cognitive and experiential processes of re-reading, and their contribution to the conceptualisation of a fictional world. Fictional worlds are experienced dynamically, and often in multiple sittings, separated by varying lengths of time. While the myriad of contextual factors which distinguish sittings makes re-reading a difficult object of study, this aspect of our natural, everyday encounters with texts is worthy of consideration in stylistic discussion. As a first step in this direction, this chapter demonstrates an awareness of multiple readings, and the distinct experiences they represent, as part of a cognitive stylistic account of textual interpretation.

Firstly, a theoretical account of re-reading is outlined in terms of Cognitive Grammar and, in particular, its concept of construal. This account is demonstrated through analysis of the short story ‘The Freeze-Dried Groom’ from Margaret Atwood’s 2014 collection Stone Mattress. Applying Cognitive Grammar's multidimensional model of construal, and a further process of reconstrual, we make specific predictions concerning readers’ experiences of this story’s fictional world on a first- and second-reading, looking in particular at changing conceptualisations of tone, atmosphere and narrative perspective, and the linguistic processing responsible. Based on this analytical case study, we propose a need for further investigation of texts which surprise readers, or which feature a twist or reveal, and the ways in which information is attended to across multiple readings.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExperiencing Fictional Worlds
EditorsBenedict Neurohr, Lizzie Stewart-Shaw
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789027263032
ISBN (Print)9789027202017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Publication series

NameLinguistic Approaches to Literature
PublisherJohn Benjamins
ISSN (Electronic)1569-3112


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