Making sense of narrative text: situation, repetition, and picturing in the reading of short stories

Michael Toolan

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book takes the following question as its starting point: What are some of the crucial things the reader must do in order to make sense of a literary narrative? The book is a study of the texture of narrative fiction, using stylistics, corpus linguistic principles (especially Hoey’s work on lexical patterning), narratological ideas, and cognitive stylistic work by Werth, Emmott, and others. Michael Toolan explores the textual/grammatical nature of fictional narratives, critically re-examining foundational ideas about the role of lexical patterning in narrative texts, and also engages the cognitive or psychological processes at play in literary reading. The study grows out of the theoretical questions that stylistic analyses of extended fictional texts raise, concerning the nature of narrative comprehension and the reader’s experience in the course of reading narratives, and particularly concerning the role of language in that comprehension and experience. The ideas of situation, repetition and picturing are all central to the book’s argument about how readers process story, and Toolan also considers the ethical and emotional involvement of the reader, developing hypotheses about the text-linguistic characteristics of the most ethically and emotionally involving portions of the stories examined. This book makes an important contribution to the study of narrative text and is in dialogue with recent work in corpus stylistics, cognitive stylistics, and literary text and texture.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon and New York
Number of pages280
ISBN (Electronic)9781315622965
ISBN (Print)9781138654846, 9780367023522
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2016


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