Features of Stylistics

Stylistics is the use of traditional literary theory and techniques of textual analysis to analyze how texts are represented or used in various ways.

It involves looking at how language is used in different forms including literary texts, advertising, film, etc. A focus on this area often leads to more consideration of issues such as representation and identity. For example, people may consider the meaning associated with certain images or how authors create characters through their body language or dialecting. The ways in which aspects of texts (such as words, sentences, images) are arranged and how they affect meaning. Styles may be written or spoken. A style is often categorized as either formal or informal.

Stylistics is often noted for its focus on the particulars of texts and language and in this respect, it can be considered an object of study in its own right at the expense of other areas in literary theory such as critical approaches (for example deconstructionism) or practical criticism (for example teaching approaches). It is sometimes confused with genre studies and linguistics and in fact, has strong connections and similarities with them.

Stylistics is itself a theory of discourse, i.e., a subset of linguistics concerned with how texts represent meanings, and thus where the linguistic analysis of literature overlaps with stylistics it justifies stylistic approaches to literature. In this sense, its subject matter ranges from grammar to discourse to rhetoric. There are two main approaches to style: linguistic and literary. Literary style, or “allusive style” to use Roman Jakobson’s term, is the analysis of particular passages from a purely literary point of view rather than from a linguistic one.

Linguistic style, on the other hand, treats literature as a text which must be analyzed according to the traditional categories of language study – grammar, phonology, semantics – to determine its underlying patterns and structures. This approach is sometimes referred to as ‘language analysis’ or ‘language-centered stylistics’. An example of a linguist attempting a strictly linguistic approach would be Roman Jakobson’s work on Shakespeare’s sonnets.

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