Wolfing down the Twilight series: Metaphors for reading in online reviews

Louise Nuttall, Chloe Harrison

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


The development of social media platforms devoted to the discussion of books provides a source of insights into how readers interact with texts in their daily lives and, as such, offers a growing source of data for stylistics. Popular fiction such as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series (2005-2008) attracts thousands (in some cases millions) of ratings and reviews by readers, which are often highly polarised. Recent work in stylistics has used such data as a source of insights into felt, experiential aspects of reading, applying the same stylistic frameworks to the reviews as those applied to the texts themselves (e.g. Harrison, 2017; Nuttall, 2017). In this chapter, we analyse the range of metaphors used by readers to describe contrasting experiences of Twilight (Book One), and the embodied experiences which contribute to both its popularity and rejection among readers. Drawing on Cognitive Metaphor Theory (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, 1999), previous research has identified three main conceptual metaphors as reflecting readers’ engagement with texts: READING IS TRANSPORTATION, READING IS CONTROL and READING IS INVESTMENT (Stockwell, 2009). Here, we test and develop these observations by examining a sample of 200 reader reviews collected from the online forum, Goodreads. Comprising 100 of the most positive (5-star) and most negative (1-star) reviews of Twilight, these responses to the text are submitted to qualitative analysis using NVivo software, and metaphors for reading are grouped and analysed using concepts from cognitive linguistics. Applying Cognitive Grammar (Langacker, 2008), we explore the creativity with which readers extend, combine and elaborate conventional metaphors for reading in this discourse context, and identify further recurring metaphors such as READING IS EATING for this text. Comparison of our positive and negative reviews reveals differences in the mappings of these metaphors, specifically the framing of the reader, which reflects the varying quality of the embodied experiences being described. We argue that, when contextualised in relation to a particular work of fiction and a particular online discourse context, the language produced by readers can offer insights into polarised reading experiences such as immersion and resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Media Stylistics
EditorsHelen Ringrow, Stephen Pihlaja
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781350064096, 9781350064102
ISBN (Print)9781350064089, 1350064084
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2020

Publication series

NameContemporary Studies in Linguistics
PublisherBloomsbury Academic


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