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Master Thesis

Dialogic Strategies and Outcomes in and Around Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending (2011) : A Linguistic-Stylistic Analysis

Abstract : Theoretically influenced by Bakhtin’s (1986) concept of dialogism – according to which any discourse is both permeated by and directed towards other discourses (i.e., backward and forward orientation) –, this thesis seeks to investigate the interweaving of voices surrounding Julian Barnes’s Booker-prize winning The Sense of an Ending (2011). In keeping with the double orientation of discourse, chapter I explores Barnes’s novel and Chapter II focuses on readers’ responses to it. Two questions drive the research: (i) What is the nature of dialogism in the novel versus in readers’ responses to the novel? (ii) What is the effect of dialogism in the novel versus in readers’ responses to the novel? Chapter I entitled “A Text-driven, Reader-oriented Study of Dialogism” (pp. 11-47) is divided into two parts. First, it qualitatively considers the entanglement between Barnes’s novel and past discourses through a literary study of intertextuality. Then, it analyses the entanglement between Barnes’s novel and the target ‘implied reader’ through a stylistic study of the homodiegetic narrator’s – overt and covert – addresses to the reader. The study distinguishes two types of intertextual references: cultural and literary. Using insights from Ancient Philosophy and stylistic tools, the analysis reveals that cultural intertextuality works toward spatio-temporal anchoring. References to literary texts and figures – here, the 20th-century English poets Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin – work toward characterisation. Thus, intertextual patterns fix the meaning of the novel. The second part of chapter I uses a mixed-method methodology, integrating narratological, cognitive stylistic and corpus linguistic tools to investigate the ways in which the ‘para-diegetic’ and ‘diegetic’ narrators both attract readers in the story-world and entice them into empathising with the homodiegetic narrator. Research findings reveal that several stylistic features manipulate real-world readers into inhabiting the fictional world (i.e., to perform ‘ontological metalepsis’): you-narrations embedding the progressive aspect, foregrounded negation, and the prevalence of mental processes. Thus, chapter I finds that supposedly dialogic devices (i.e., cultural and literary intertextuality combined with addresses to the reader) have for effect to decrease the dialogic scope of the novel. The novel’s to-and-fro movement between past and future discourses enables the author to manipulate readers’ interpretations. Chapter II entitled “A SFL-based Analysis of Online Book Reviews” (pp. 50-89) qualitatively analyse three customers’ reviews of The Sense of an Ending posted on Amazon.co.uk. These reviews – here used as reader-response data – respectively feature a ‘high’, ‘medium’, and ‘low’ star rating. In the same vein as chapter I, this study maps out the ways in which online readers engage with past discourses (i.e., The Sense of an Ending) and future discourses (i.e., readers reading the reviews on Amazon). At an analytical level, the research uses the Engagement sub-system within attitudinal APPRAISAL (Martin and White, 2005; Martin and Rose, 2007). The Engagement framework – which is directly influenced by Bakhtin’s dialogism – deals with the inclusion and exclusion of other voices and sources of attitudes in a text. It comprises three main linguistic resources: projections, modality, and concessions. Research findings suggest that there is a correlation between the dialogic scope of the reviews and their perceived legitimacy in the online community. Combined with the use of low epistemic modality, projections increase the dialogic scope of the review by encouraging interactions among ‘peer-to-peer’ Amazon readers. In contrast, combined with the use of high epistemic modality and/or polarity and intertextual references, projections decrease the dialogic scope of the review by discouraging potentially dissenting interpretations. In the former case, the reviewer appears as a source of opinion among others. In the latter case, the reviewer is construed as a literary expert and as a source of knowledge in the online community. Thus, chapter II also finds that supposedly dialogic devices (i.e., projections) can have for effect to decrease the dialogic scope of the review. To conclude, the intertextual references present in The Sense of an Ending target a very specific audience: Western, educated, and familiar with Britain’s literary heritage. This intertextual pattern hinders the readerly creation of plural interpretations. Moreover, addresses to the reader pretend to subvert the monoglossic tendency of the narrator’s discourse while in fact subtly reinforcing it. Readers’ reviews reveal that the reviewers’ different use of projections and modality construe different dialogic scopes: narrow and wide. Reviews with a narrow dialogic scope are linguistically closer to professional book reviews, which leads the reviewer to be construed as an ‘expert’. Reviews with a wide dialogic scope are linguistically closer to dialogic social media communication, which leads the reviewer to be construed as a ‘peer’.
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Master Thesis
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 1, 2021 - 11:42:15 AM
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Amélie Doche. Dialogic Strategies and Outcomes in and Around Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending (2011) : A Linguistic-Stylistic Analysis. Linguistics. 2020. ⟨dumas-03329136⟩

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