A cognitive stylistic analysis of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-earth

Bragina, Jekaterina (2012) A cognitive stylistic analysis of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-earth. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study provides an extensive cognitive stylistic analysis of one of the most intricate
and vast high fantasy worlds created in modern literature – J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
The two most popular works that describe this single world are The Hobbit and The Lord
of the Rings. The analysis of these texts is conducted using modern cognitive stylistic and
linguistic theories (Text World Theory, Schema Theory, Possible Worlds Theory and
Cognitive Metaphor Theory), as well as tools from narratology (point of view and
focalisation) and discourse stylistics (phraseology and reference studies). The study
explores how Tolkien’s skilful stylistic usage of language enables the readers to construct a
vast and detailed alternative world in their minds, making use of the combination of
general knowledge and the information provided by the texts.
In order to investigate and describe from a cognitive perspective some possible ways in
which readers construct the fantasy world of Middle-earth, the following specific questions
are addressed: 1) How does cognitive research explain how readers go beyond the words
on the page to set up rich mental representations of alternative worlds? 2) How do
narrative and linguistic features such as focalisation, metaphor, phraseology and reference
contribute to the representation of locations, situations and characters? 3) What particular
functions are performed by these linguistic features in terms of fantasy world-building?
After the introduction (chapter one), the six subsequent chapters are divided into three
parts analysing the texts from three different perspectives. Part I (containing chapter two)
deals with the narratological aspect, analysing narrative (non-dialogue) text in terms of
character focalisations, narratorial omniscience and the narrator’s identity. In part II
(containing chapters three and four) world theories are used to analyse the texts. In chapter
three, Text World Theory and Schema Theory are applied to The Hobbit, examining the
construction of the initial text-world in the first chapter of the story, the ways the world’s
inhabitants are introduced into the world, as well as the construction of the intermediate
world linking the fantasy world with the empirical one. In chapter four, Possible Worlds
Theory is applied to both texts, analysing the world of Middle-earth in terms of its truth-value, its distance from the empirical world as perceived by the reader and its saturation
with lifelike details. Part III (chapters five, six and seven) deals with specific stylistic
devices that serve as world-building tools in both texts. Chapter five draws on Cognitive
Metaphor Theory to analyse personified nature, which accounts for the philosophical
aspect of the world of Middle-earth. Chapter six is devoted to the analysis of stylistic
modifications of idiomatic expressions (phraseological units), which are influenced by the
high fantasy genre of the texts. In chapter seven, the stylistic device of underspecification
(the use of indefinite referential expressions) is analysed, exposing its paradoxical
expanding effect on the fantasy world. In the concluding chapter (chapter eight), the
findings of the analyses are consolidated into a set of world-building functions that are
performed by the linguistic features analysed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Emmott, Dr. Catherine
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3873
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2013 12:34
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2016 14:09
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3873

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