Rhetorical effects in illness writing: a coherence-based approach

Kristensen-McLachlan, Ross Deans (2020) Rhetorical effects in illness writing: a coherence-based approach. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This thesis uses cognitive-stylistic techniques to analyse rhetorical effects in a collection of non-fiction writing about illness. It draws on a broad range of related disciplines, including discourse analysis and cognitive psychology, and uses these approaches to conduct a close linguistic analysis of the texts analysed. The results of this analysis are linked to existing research in the medical humanities, specifically in relation to illness and narrative. In particular, this thesis describes how readers utilise certain linguistic features in order to construct a coherent mental representation of a text. It argues that certain strategies employed by readers to create these interpretations have rhetorical effects which go beyond coherence building.

To begin, I provide explicit definitions for some of the key terms which feature prominently in this thesis: illness writing; coherence; and rhetoric. Following this, I introduce the corpus of texts which from which are drawn the examples used throughout this thesis. Alongside this, I introduce the specific linguistic features which will be studied in the subsequent analysis chapters. These features are introduced and analysed at increasing levels of linguistic abstraction, from more concrete to less. The analysis begins with a subset of English personal pronouns, before moving on to describe discourse structure in the form of repeating patterns of textual organisation. I then consider the role of external, ‘real-world’ knowledge in the construction of discourse coherence, before demonstrating how this knowledge can be blended to create new, creative ways of thinking about illness. The thesis closes with a summary of these results, along with some suggestions for potential future research. Finally, I conclude with a reflection on the methods and results found in the thesis and point towards their wider applicability in the field of medical humanities more generally.

The original contribution of this thesis is therefore twofold. From a cognitive-stylistic perspective, it contributes to the understanding of the relationship between coherence-building strategies and their rhetorical effects. However, it also aims to contribute to the ongoing work in medical humanities, which seeks to advance our understanding of the lived experience of illness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text is not available.
Keywords: Illness narratives, medical humanities, cognitive stylistics, rhetoric, discourse processing, coherence.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Alexander, Professor Marc Gabriel and Emmott, Dr. Catherine
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 23 March 2023
Depositing User: Ross Deans Kristensen-McLachlan
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-80291
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2020 14:51
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2020 14:04
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.80291
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/80291

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