Multimodal Stylistics: The Happy Marriage of Stylistics and Semiotics
Authors: (Nina Nørgaard, Institute of Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark)
Abstract: Stylistics is the systematic study of the ways in which meaning is created by linguistic means in literature and other types of text. It arose from a wish to make literary criticism more ―scientific‖ by anchoring the analysis of literature more solidly in the actual grammar and lexis of the texts put up for analysis. Since the first major flourishing of stylistics in the 1960s, different linguistic paradigms and other academic trends of the times have caused the field to branch off into a great variety of sub-fields such as formalist stylistics, functionalist stylistics, cognitive stylistics, corpus stylistics, feminist stylistics and others, which all from each their perspective pivot around linguistic aspects of meaning-making. Gradually, the range of text types that stylisticians engage with have furthermore expanded to also comprise non-fictional texts such as news reports, advertising, doctor-patient discourse, academic writing, etc. While forceful in its rigour and systematism, the traditional stylistic approach (whether of a formalist, functionalist, cognitive or other orientation) has until recently largely failed to embrace meanings which are created by semiotic systems other than the verbal. By fusing the theories, methodologies and practices of stylistics and multimodal semiotics, multimodal stylistics is a new direction in the field which aims to develop analytical frameworks that will allow systematic analysis of literature and other types of text which, in addition to wording, employ semiotic modes such as e.g. typography, layout, visual images and colour for their meaning-making. It is the aim of this article to provide a brief introduction to this new semiotic trend in stylistics, its promises, problems and areas which need to be explored.