Critical Stylistics

Lesley Jeffries

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


This chapter is an overview of an approach that I have been calling ‘critical stylistics’ in order to distinguish it from mainstream critical discourse analysis (CDA) on the one hand and from literary stylistics on the other. In order to show how it works, I will need to introduce a broader framework to demonstrate how it fits into a general theory of language.

The first thing to say is that stylistics puts text (understood broadly to include all language use) at the centre of its activity (Jeffries and McIntyre 2010). This is true of critical stylistics too (Jeffries 2010a, 2014). I do not wish to criticise those linguists who put context at the heart of what they do (though that makes it less clearly linguistic in nature). Nor would I want to dismiss the work of linguists who work mainly on de-contextual and de-textual understandings of how language (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics) works. It will be seen below that these systematic aspects of language are vital to understanding how we interpret text, and this work is therefore one of the underpinnings needed to progress with stylistics, critical or otherwise. It is also, of course, important to understand how various aspects of context can and do affect the reception of texts. All I would add here is that, in my opinion, more progress is made by investigating natural phenomena (such as human language) systematically by focusing on specific parts of the object of scrutiny than by trying to explain everything at once.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Bloomsbury Companion to Stylistics
EditorsVioleta Sotirova
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781441143204, 9781441143259, 9781472593603
ISBN (Print)9781441160058
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2015

Publication series

NameBloomsbury Companions
PublisherBloomsbury Academic


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