Applied mind styles: Readers’ engagement with dementia in fictional characters

Carolina Fernandez-Quintanilla, Jane Lugea, Gemma Carney, Paula Devine, Jan Carson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


When patterned stylistic choices are indicative of a particular way of thinking, the effect is ‘mind style’ (Fowler 1977). A classic concept in stylistics, mind style is an effect – one that has been identified and interpreted by stylisticians (e.g. Leech and Short 2007; Semino 2007, 2014; Nuttall 2018) but not investigated empirically in real readers. In an extensive qualitative and quantitative analysis of a range of contemporary fiction, Lugea (forthcoming) identifies a wide range of features that work to construct dementia mind styles. The next step in this research was to investigate if real readers’ interpretations of these features tallies with the mind style analyses.

Reporting on preliminary findings, this paper describes real readers’ engagement with dementia mind styles, as found in a series of reading groups conducted with four different kinds of participants: people living with dementia, carers, trainee social workers and the general public. We outline the methodological considerations and challenges involved in the empirical study of mind style, including the use of fictional extracts in a naturalistic setting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project applies stylistics by investigating the real-world effects of literary mind styles and their capacity to facilitate personal and societal understandings of dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 06 May 2021
EventApplied Stylistics Symposium - Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 06 May 202107 May 2021


ConferenceApplied Stylistics Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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