Sunday, February 5, 2012

What is Stylistics?

What is Stylistics?
A. Modern stylistics

Stylistics is a method of textual interpretation in which primacy of place is assigned to language.

  • The reason why language is so important to stylisticians is because the various forms, patterns and levels that constitute linguistic structure are an important index of the function of the text which in turn acts as a gateway to its interpretation .
  • The preferred object of study in stylistics is literature, whether high art or more popular ‘noncanonical’ forms of writing.

The traditional connection between stylistics and literature brings with it two important caveats (cautions), though.
  • Creativity in language use should not be seen as the exclusive preserve of literary writing. Many forms of discourse (advertising, journalism, popular music – even casual conversation) often display a high degree of stylistic skill .
  • The techniques of stylistic analysis are as much about deriving insights about linguistic structure and function as they are about understanding literary texts. Thus, the question ‘What can stylistics tell us about literature?’ is always paralleled by an equally important question ‘What can stylistics tell us about language?’.

A number of myths about contemporary stylistics:
  • Confusion about the scope of stylistics is a result of confusion about the compass of language. For instance, there is a belief that a stylistician is a dull old grammarian who spends too much time on such trivial pursuits as counting the nouns and verbs in literary texts.
  • This is an erroneous perception of the stylistic method and it is one which stems from a limited understanding of how language analysis works. True, nouns and verbs should not be overlooked . Yet , it is the full range of the system of language that makes all aspects of a writer’s craft relevant in stylistic analysis . The more complete and context-sensitive the description of language, then the fuller the stylistic analysis that accrues.

B. The purpose of stylistics

Why should we do stylistics?
  • To do stylistics is to explore language, and, more specifically, to explore creativity in language use.
  • This method of inquiry sheds light on the ‘rules’ of language because stylistics shows us how these rules are broken in certain texts .

The practice of stylistics conform to the following three basic Principles (Rs) :
  • stylistic analysis should be rigorous.
  • the stylistic method should be based on an explicit framework of analysis , derived from models of language and discourse .
  • stylistic analysis should be retrievable.
  • the stylistic method should be organized through explicit terms and criteria , since there is a wide agreement on the meaning of terms .
  • stylistic analysis should be replicable.
  • the methods of stylistics should be sufficiently transparent as to allow other stylisticians to verify them, either by testing them on the same text or by applying them beyond that text.