First steps towards a rhetorical psychology of literary interpretation

Bibliographic details

Allington, D. (2006) ‘First steps towards a rhetorical psychology of literary interpretation’. Journal of Literary Semantics 35 (2): 123-144.


This paper asks what the familiar conception of literary interpretation as socially situated and rhetorical might mean on the cognitive level. Rejecting the prescriptiveness, individualism, and use of invented examples that theorisations of reading based on so-called ‘cognitive linguistics’ have involved, it attempts to develop Michael Billig’s model of thought as argument into a theory of interpretation adequate to the complexities of actual reader discourse within one particular social context (academia). A detailed intertextual analysis is carried out to provide qualitative empirical support for this theory, showing how four critics read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness by debating its correct interpretation.


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