Ingham, Sara (2020) Constructing characters: a revised cognitive stylistic approach to characterisation. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

This thesis focuses on characterisation and how text and reader knowledge combine during this process. Specifically, I am interested in exploring the unusual and engaging uses of characterisation in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Both narratives allow the author to alter and subvert traditional character roles within the text and question the processes by which characters are modelled. In order to do this, I extend and apply Culpeper’s (2001) and Schneider’s (2001) models of characterisation, which currently lack detail regarding the specifics of text-driven processing. Although Culpeper gives much detail about the features of text responsible for characterisation in his wider discussion of the model, these features are not adequately represented in the model itself. In other words, the existing model needs adapting in order to better represent how reader knowledge is triggered by texts and how this affects the application of this knowledge during the characterisation process. Like Culpeper, I am interested in the textual cues for characterisation and the process by which readers assimilate these to form an overall idea of character. By expanding on and reworking these elements of the comprehension model, I am able to apply it more systematically to text analysis. In addition, focussing on the surface text and its links to reader knowledge allows me to explore the ways in which characterisation in these novels relies heavily on intertextual knowledge and how these links are made linguistically.

Once the relationship between prior knowledge and text is adequately explored, I apply my findings first to an extended analysis of Pratchett’s witch characters, focussing especially on the way in which play with the norms of characterisation creates a unique mind style for these characters. I then expand the application of my model further by applying it to a very different example of characterisation using Atwood’s Handmaids. My approach addresses two significant areas for further investigation noted by influential theorists in cognitive linguistics: Culpeper himself suggests mind style as a further application of his model, while Emmott & Alexander (2014) point out the need for further study of schemata (or frames, to use Emmott’s more specific terminology) which are based on intertextual knowledge.

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