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Reading the Dystopian Short Story

Norledge, Jessica (2016) Reading the Dystopian Short Story. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This thesis presents the first cognitive-poetic account of the dystopian short story and investigates the experience of dystopian reading. In doing so, it takes a mixed-methods approach that draws upon various types of experimental and naturalistic reader response data in support of my own rigorous stylistic analysis. The study focuses upon four contemporary short stories published within the last ten years: George Saunders’ ([2012] 2014g) ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’; Paolo Bacigalupi’s ([2008] 2010a) ‘Pump Six’; Genevieve Valentine’s ([2009] 2012) ‘Is this your day to join the Revolution?’; and Adam Marek’s ([2009] 2012b) ‘Dead Fish’. These texts were selected for their focus upon socially relevant thematic concerns, their cultural resonance and their inherent didacticism – attributes which I argue determine the dystopian reading experience. In moving beyond the periodic demarcations imposed on dystopian narrative by traditional literary criticism, this study argues for a reader-led discussion of genre that takes into account reader subjectivity and personal conceptualisations of prototypicality. My research therefore offers a new contribution to the area of dystopian literary criticism, as well as advancing research in cognitive poetics and empirical stylistics more broadly. Framed within Text World Theory (Gavins, 2007; Werth, 1999), my thesis builds upon existing research and advances text-world-theoretical discussions of world-building, characterisation and reading experience. In particular, I argue for a more nuanced discussion of paratextual text-worlds and propose a systematic account of social cognition that can be applied in Text-World-Theory terms. As an original piece of stylistic analysis, this thesis challenges traditional conceptions of genre and aims to extend existing discussions of the emotional experience of literary reading. As a result, several contributions are also made to the field of empirical stylistics, as I test multiple reader response methods and combine key findings from each case study to present a multifaceted account of dystopian reading.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Text World Theory, Cognitive Poetics, reader response, dystopian literature, short story, reading experience
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Jessica/ M Norledge
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2017 12:05
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2017 12:05
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17537

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