2015 Student Research Conference:
28th Annual Student Research Conference

Milton Foster Wallace: How Cognitive Stylistics Bridges the Gap Between Poetry and Prose Analysis
Alan J. Smith
Dr. Royce Kallerud, Faculty Mentor

The ability to create ambiguity and give multiple possible readings is afforded by the manipulation of poetic form, especially in the breaking of lines at strategic points (or enjambment). In an article on John Milton, literary theorist Stanley Fish calls this technique "syntactic slide," referring to the way a particular sentence or thought can "slide" across line breaks at key sections where meaning is being determined. This study examines the maximalist prose of David Foster Wallace (specifically Wallace's lengthy, complex sentences) to highlight the efficacy of this technique from a cognitive standpoint while demonstrating the usefulness of the technique outside of poetry. The effect achieved in Wallace's work is similar to that of a "garden-path" sentence, with various types of ambiguity causing confusion and conflicting with reader expectation. Above all, this study aims to demonstrate the universality of a stylistic analysis, broadened in scope and enriched by cognitive poetics.

Keywords: poetry, poetics, cognitive, literary theory, stylistics, poetic analysis, David Foster Wallace, John Milton


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 405-3
Location: OP 2210
Time: 3:00

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