Pragmatics and Literary Fiction
Billy Clark (Northumbria University)
Wednesday 27th March 2019
This talk will consider some of the ways in which ideas from relevance theory can be applied in accounting for the production, interpretation and evaluation of prose fiction. It will focus in particular on novels by Elif Batuman (The Idiot), Rachel Cusk (Outline) and Eimear McBride (A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing), which raise different kinds of interpretative issues for readers. I will argue that ideas from relevance theory can help us to understand the texts and the different kinds of reader responses they give rise to. The key relevance-theoretic ideas applied here concern the nature of explicit and implicit communication (explicatures and implicatures), the distinction between communicated and non-communicated assumptions, and the ways in which interpretations can carry on beyond initial spontaneous comprehension.