Just what is narrative urgency?

Paul Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
400 Downloads (Pure)


This article takes as its main point of departure a body of empirical research on reading and text processing, and makes particular reference to the type of experiments conducted in Egidi and Gerrig (2006) and Rapp and Gerrig (2006). Broadly put, these experiments (i) explore the psychology of readers’ preferences for narrative outcomes, (ii) examine the way readers react to characters’ goals and actions, and (iii) investigate how readers tend to identify with characters’ goals the more ‘urgently’ those goals are narrated. The present article signals how stylistics can productively enrich such experimental work. Stylistics, it is argued, is well equipped to deal with subtle and nuanced variations in textual patterns without losing sight of the broader cognitive and discoursal positioning of readers in relation to these patterns. Making particular reference to what might constitute narrative ‘urgency’, the article develops a model which amalgamates different strands of contemporary research in narrative stylistics. This model advances and elaborates three key components: a Stylistic Profile, a Burlesque Block and a Kuleshov Monitor. Developing analyses of, and informal informant tests on, examples of both fiction and film, the article calls for a more rounded and sophisticated understanding of style in empirical research on subjects’ responses to patterns in narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-22
Number of pages20
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Linguistics and Language


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