Close examination of text

English Literary linguistics

Literary linguistics is the study of literary texts using tools drawn from linguistics and from cognitive science.

We've had a strong focus on literary linguistics at Strathclyde since the 1980s, and the field itself was founded and shaped by a series of teachers and researchers who've worked at the University, in particular in the Programme in Literary Linguistics.

Famous conference

In 1986, the Programme in Literary Linguistics hosted a now famous conference, The Linguistics of Writing, which brought together a host of significant, and sometimes fractious, literary and linguistic scholars (including Jaques Derrida, Raymond Williams, Ruqaiya Hasan, Mary Louise Pratt, M.A.K. Halliday, and Stanley Fish). The conference was filmed for a Channel 4 documentary.

Our research team

We currently have three literary linguistics staff at Strathclyde:

Professor Nigel Fabb specialises in the application of linguistics and psychology to literature, with a particular interest in world poetry. His 2015 book 'What is Poetry?' examines the relation between metre, rhyme, and working memory. He is currently researching epiphanies in literature.

Dr Elspeth Jajdelska works on the history of reading, and the cognitive processes involved. Her Silent Reading and the Birth of the Narrator (Toronto 2007) argues that the 1700s saw a fundamental shift in the nature of reading. Dr Jajdelska's most recent book is 'Speech, Print and Decorum in Britain, 1600-1750', a study of speech, social rank and writing.

Professor Jonathan Hope has published extensively on the history of English and Shakespeare's language (Shakespeare and Language: Reason, Eloquence and Artifice in the Renaissance 2010). He specialises in using computers to analyse the language of texts.

Reading group

All our staff and postgraduate students are members of the Literary Linguistics Advanced Reading Group, which meets regularly to discuss published articles, and research in progress by members of the group.

PhD study

We have been supervising literary linguistics PhDs for thirty years, and are interested in supervising PhD topics in any of these areas. Please contact any of the above members of staff if you have an enquiry about a possible topic.