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Prose Fiction

Ignasi Ribó

6. Language

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  • 1 Geoffrey N. Leech, Language in Literature: Style and Foregrounding (Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman, 20 (...)

1If we are speaking about literature, there is no doubt that narrative discourse is made up of language. In fact, the closest we can get to a definition of literature might be to say that it is ‘the creative use of language.’1 Of course, not all stories are told using language. We have already seen (in Chapter 1) that stories can be expressed in many different media, such as comics, dance, or movies. By definition, however, prose fiction narratives are precisely those where a narrator tells a story using words arranged into sentences (see Fig. 6.1).

Fig. 6.1 First page of the Book of Genesis in the Gutenberg Bible.

Public Domain,​wiki/​Gutenberg-Bibel#/​media/​File:Gutenberg_Bible_B42_Genesis.JPG

2The language employed in prose fiction varies widely. Some stories are told in a language that seems common or ordinary, with little use of adjectives and figurative devices, as in Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’ and other minimalist short stories. At the other extreme, some stories are written in a style that is so far removed from everyday language that most readers have a hard time understanding it, as in James Joyce’s experimental novel Finnegans Wake. This diversity of styles and techniques makes it difficult to describe the language of narrative in any systematic way, short of saying that it is a reflection of the variability of language itself.

3The study of language in literature and other forms of discourse has traditionally been the task of rhetoric, an ancient discipline that attempted to understand and teach the art of crafting effective and persuasive discourse. The tradition of rhetoric still influences the analysis and classification of figures of speech and other linguistic devices employed in contemporary prose fiction. In recent times, the application of modern linguistics to the study of literary texts has given rise to stylistics, a discipline that maintains some of the interests and terminology of traditional rhetoric, while incorporating new concerns, concepts, and methodologies.

4In this chapter, we will present some key insights about the language of short stories and novels, mostly derived from rhetoric and stylistics, without fleshing out all the linguistic details. To begin with, we need to explain what we mean by style, a characteristic set of linguistic features that is sometimes attributed to the implied author of a story, but also to the real author, or even to a group of authors or to a whole culture. Then, we will discuss the notion of foregrounding, which can help us to identify with more precision the features that distinguish literary from everyday language. Foregrounding in prose fiction can involve different aspects of language, such as the use of figurative devices or figures of speech. After reviewing the most significant of these devices for narrative prose, we will examine the use of symbols and allegory in short stories and novels, an aspect of discourse that brings together language and theme. We will end the chapter by briefly pointing out the importance of literary translation in giving readers access to the rich variety of prose fiction stories written all over the world.

6.1 The Style of Narrative

5According to our semiotic model of narrative, discourse is the message that the implied author communicates to the implied reader. This message not only has a content, which is the story, but also a form. The form of discourse is what we generally call its style. In general, the style is a characteristic set of linguistic features associated with a text or group of texts. Thus, the style of a short story or novel is the sum of linguistic features that characterise its narrative discourse.

6Narrative style may be attributed to the implied author, which is the virtual entity that enounces the discourse. In this sense, it is generally possible to analyse the linguistic features of style based on the text itself, without any need to know the identity of its real author. In some cases, as in anonymous works or publications under a pseudonym, we might not even have this information. However, we can still identify the specific linguistic features of the text that define its style, or more precisely the style of its implied author. It is in this way that we speak, for example, of the style of One Thousand and One Nights, even though it is probably the work of several anonymous compilers.

7When we know the identity of the real author of several narratives, we might compare the linguistic features of these works and identify a common style that can be attributed to that author. For example, we speak of the writing style of Jack Kerouac, by comparing the style of novels like On the Road or The Dharma Bums. Sometimes, we can also identify linguistic features that are shared by texts written in the same genre, or around the same time, or in the same geographic or cultural area, even when the authors are different. In these cases, we may attribute a certain style to a genre (e.g. the style of thrillers), a period (e.g. the style of Romantic novels), or a whole culture (e.g. the style of Korean literature).

8Given that short stories and novels are products of modern culture, which is highly individualistic and gives considerable importance to originality and to the creative genius of authors, it is not surprising that style should be associated most of the time with the identity and reputation of a given writer. In such a context, writers themselves often strive to shape (or ‘find, ’ as they sometimes say) their own style, a unique and identifiable set of linguistic features that can raise the literary value of their work.

  • 2 Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary: Provincial Manners, trans. by Margaret Mauldon and Mark Overstall (...)

9But style is not just the result of a vain search for literary glory. Authors can be extremely conscious of their use of language, being aware of the crucial importance of choosing the right word, the right turn of phrase, in order to engage the interest and imagination of their readers. Gustave Flaubert, for example, was famously determined to write in the most perfect style, working tirelessly to craft every sentence, every paragraph, sometimes during weeks or months. And although he published some of the most elegant and evocative short stories and novels in the history of literature, with a prose style that has been admired ever since, he always laboured under the impression that his daily battle for perfection could not be won (Fig. 6.2). ‘Human language, ’ says the narrator of Madame Bovary, ‘is like a cracked pot on which we tap crude melodies to make bears dance, while we long to melt the stars.’2

Fig. 6.2 Facsimile of the first draft of Gustave Flaubert’s short story ‘A Simple Heart’ (Paris: Edition Conard des Oeuvres Complètes, 1910).

Public Domain,​wiki/​File:Gustave_Flaubert_-_Trois_Contes,_page_66.jpg

6.2 Foregrounding

10As mentioned above, style is the set of linguistic features that characterise a text. Thus, style generally results from multiple and complex decisions about rhythm, phonological patterns, syntactic structure, lexical choice, collocation, paragraph organisation, etc. These decisions are often guided by habit and convention. But they can also involve a variable degree of deviance from established norms and standards. In literature, these deviations are generally more frequent and significant than in other forms of discourse.

11A key aspect of literary style is thus the notion of foregrounding. If the language that we use to communicate in everyday situations is taken as the ‘norm, ’ there are many literary texts, including short stories and novels, which tend to deviate from that norm in various ways. Of the specific linguistic features in those texts that diverge from the normal use of language, or from the background, we say that they are foregrounded.

  • 3 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, ed. by Robert Mighall (London, UK: Penguin, 2003), p. 5.
  • 4 See also Roman Jakobson, ‘Linguistics and Poetics’, in Style in Language (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, (...)

12For example, if we wanted to describe the presence of bees in a garden where two people are sitting in silence, we could say something like: ‘The silence was interrupted by the buzzing of bees around the plants.’ There is nothing extraordinary in this sentence, which simply tries to convey the intended meaning as economically and effectively as possible. The narrator of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, however, expresses the same idea very differently: ‘The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive.’3 In this long and resonant sentence, which uses many adjectives and figures of speech, the language is foregrounded and brought to the attention of the reader.4

13The degree of foregrounding in literary texts varies quite considerably. In lyrical poetry, for example, language is usually much more foregrounded than in prose narrative. Short stories and novels, especially the most popular ones, are often written in a style that exhibits few or no perceptible differences from everyday language. But there are also many prose fictions whose language deviates as much as any poem from a supposed norm. Short stories and novels written in prose that uses a highly foregrounded language, reminiscent of lyrical poetry, are sometimes classified as poetic or lyrical prose. Consider, for example, this paragraph from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse:

  • 5 Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, ed. by Max Bollinger (London, UK: Urban Romantics, 2012), p. 135

To want and not to have, sent all up her body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have — to want and want — how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again !5

  • 6 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 201 (...)

14While foregrounding can be a useful notion to analyse the style of literary texts, it is increasingly difficult to sustain the idea that there is a stylefree norm that could serve as background or as a reference to identify the features of literary style. Even when we communicate with each other in everyday situations, our language is not devoid of figures of speech and other linguistic devices that we normally associate with literary language (note, for example, the alliteration in the ‘buzzing of bees’ of the sentence above). This is particularly the case for metaphors, which are the most significant and widely used figures of speech. Metaphors are commonly employed in prose fiction, but they are also found in ordinary conversation and constitute the most important source of new words and expressions in any language.6

15Moreover, we should not forget that foregrounding is not just a way of calling attention to language itself, but can serve important functions in narrative and other forms of discourse. In prose fiction, foregrounded language is commonly used in descriptions, when representing characters or environments, and when summarising events. In most ordinary communicative interactions, both the speaker and the listener share a context to which they can refer explicitly or implicitly. In principle, the narrator could also rely on a shared context when telling the story to the narratee. But then many of the details and meanings of the story would be lost to the implied reader, who has no presence at the level of discourse and no direct access to the storyworld. In fact, the existents of the storyworld (events, environments, and characters) only exist insofar as narrative discourse succeeds in representing them in the imagination of the reader. And this can only be done by means of language. In narrative communication, therefore, language is burdened, not only with conveying meaning, but also with recreating the whole context where meaning can emerge in the reader’s mind.

16In order to succeed in this difficult task, literary discourse needs to use the features of language in slightly different ways than normal discourse tends to do. For example, descriptions in prose fiction often include nouns, adjectives, and phrases that evoke sensory experiences and convey significant details to readers. In summaries and scenes, verbs and adverbs are often carefully selected to recount as precisely and meaningfully as possible the actions of characters and other events in the plot. Moreover, sentences are crafted, not just to communicate events and ideas, but also to affect the rhythm and flow of the narrative. But perhaps the most noticeable rhetorical aspect of literary discourse, common to both short stories and novels, is the widespread use of figurative language to stimulate and engage the reader’s imagination.

6.3 Figures of Speech

17Figurative language, which includes so-called rhetorical figures, tropes, or figures of speech, is the use of language in ways that deviate from the literal meaning of words and sentences. Literal meaning refers to the precise definition or denotation of words. Figurative meaning, on the other hand, exploits the connotations and associations of words with other words or sounds.

18This definition covers a wide array of linguistic features, most of which are part of everyday language, given that we seldom rely exclusively on literal or precise definitions when we communicate with each other. The difference between literary and ordinary language is not that one uses figures of speech while the other one does not. Both literary and ordinary discourse use figurative language, but in literature its use tends to be more intensive and creative than in most other communicative situations, including everyday speech or conversation.

  • 7 For example, Ward Farnsworth, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric (Jaffrey, NH: David R Godine, (...)

19Throughout history, there have been many classifications of figurative devices, which can be found in treatises and textbooks on rhetoric.7 Here, we will only introduce briefly the most common figures of speech found in narrative discourse, giving some examples drawn from short stories and novels:

  1. Metaphor: A metaphor establishes a relationship of resemblance between two ideas or things by equating or replacing one (the ‘tenor’) by the other (the ‘vehicle’). Metaphors are usually not created from similarity in denotation (literal meaning), but from some similarity in the connotation of words (their associated or secondary meanings). In Kate Chopin’s short story ‘The Storm, ’ for example, the narrator describes the sexual encounter between Alcée and Calixta by saying: ‘Her mouth was a fountain of delight.’ Of course, she does not mean that there was delight, much less any kind of liquid, gushing out from Calixta’s mouth. But the image created by the narrator’s metaphor, equating the woman’s mouth (tenor) to a fountain (vehicle), allows the reader to understand more vividly the cascade of emotions experienced by Alcée as he kisses his lover. Metaphor is perhaps the most important figure of speech, and many other forms of figurative language can be considered, in a broad sense, metaphorical.

  2. Simile: Like metaphor, a simile establishes a relationship of resemblance between two ideas or things (tenor and vehicle), but it makes the comparison explicit with a connector (usually, ‘like’ or ‘as’). This connector is not a mere linguistic conjunction, but it allows the simile to specify more clearly the quality or attribute that underlies the comparison between tenor and vehicle. In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, for example, the narrator describes the landscape with the following words: ‘The full green hills are round and soft as breasts.’ Here, the hills (tenor) and the breasts (vehicle) are explicitly compared in terms of certain connotative qualities (roundness and softness), but not others (e.g. greenness).

  3. Personification: A personification attributes personal or human characteristics to a nonhuman entity, object, or idea. In this case, the tenor is not human while the implicit or explicit vehicle is a human-specific quality or attribute. A variant of personification is the attribution of characteristics of animate entities, such as nonhuman animals, to inanimate objects or ideas. In Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, for example, the narrator describes a house (tenor) as if it was an awkwardly dressed person (vehicle): ‘The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat.’

  4. Metonymy: A metonymy replaces an idea or thing by another idea or thing with which it is somehow connected or related in meaning. Unlike metaphor, metonymy does not transfer qualities or attributes from the vehicle to the tenor. In a metonymy, ideas or things are associated because of their contiguity, not their resemblance. The narrator of Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night, for example, says: ‘When you write, you should put your skin on the table.’ Here, the skin is not replacing the writer’s self or consciousness based on any resemblance, but because it is contiguous or envelops his body.

  5. Synecdoche: A synecdoche is a form of metonymy (or at least, closely related with it) where a term for a part refers to the whole of something, or vice versa. In Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, one of the characters says: ‘I’m mighty glad Georgia waited till after Christmas before it secedes or it would have ruined the Christmas parties.’ The whole state of Georgia is used to refer to its constituents, or rather to its government and legislators. This synecdoche is very common, as we often speak of the actions of a country’s government as if they were taken by the whole country.

  6. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is an exaggeration aimed at emphasising a certain point or creating a strong impression. In Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, for example, the narrator introduces the imaginary and primeval world of Macondo with this hyperbolic description: ‘The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.’

  7. Oxymoron: An oxymoron connects or combines elements that appear to be contradictory, but in fact contain a concealed point or a paradox. The narrator of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, for example, makes this paradoxical statement: ‘That everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.’

20All these tropes are routinely used in everyday language, even if they often are not perceived as being figures of speech by speakers or listeners. When a figure of speech has been incorporated into normal language and is no longer recognised as such, we say that it is dead. For example, to say that one has ‘fallen in love’ (dead metaphor) or that ‘time is running out’ (dead personification) no longer elicits the kind of surprise, sensory experience, or revelation that literary tropes are supposed to elicit. However, these dead tropes still convey some of their figurative meanings and associations. In general, dead tropes tend to be very good tropes, and this is the reason why they have become so much a part of common language that we do not even notice them anymore.

21Other tropes that are also used quite often, both in everyday language and in literary discourse, are clichés. Unlike dead figures of speech, clichés often fail to convey a figurative meaning or create any sensory effect in the reader. Instead, they tend to call attention to themselves, coming across as commonplace and somewhat annoying. Examples of clichés are similes such as ‘eyes like stars’ or ‘teeth like pearls, ’ which have been so overused in the Western literary tradition that they have lost much of their original force. It is usual, therefore, for critics and rhetoricians to recommend aspiring writers to avoid clichés as much as possible.

22In other cases, writers go too far in their efforts to coin new and original tropes and fall into the opposite stylistic blunder. Farfetched tropes or conceits are figures of speech that are too strange, complex, awkward, or extreme to be effective. Like clichés, they tend to call attention to themselves in a negative way. Comparing eyes to ‘pearly teeth, ’ for example, seems like a farfetched image, a conceit that would probably leave the reader baffled and scratching his head.

23In figurative language, however, as in all matters of style, there are no hard rules or universally valid prescriptions. At the end of the day, it depends on the readers and the critics to decide whether a trope, no matter how trite or farfetched it may seem, is effective and worthy of praise in the context of a particular narrative discourse.

6.4 Symbolism

  • 8 Charles Sanders Peirce, Philosophical Writing of Peirce, ed. by Justus Buchler (New York, NY: Dover (...)

24In general, a symbol is anything that represents something else by virtue of an arbitrary association.8 Symbols commonly used by modern humans are traffic signs, words, and flags, amongst many others. Symbols might represent other objects or things, but they can also represent individuals or groups of people, cultures, ideas, beliefs, values, etc. Insofar as human language is a symbolic system, and we also routinely use non-linguistic symbolic systems, there is no doubt that symbols play a crucial role in our understanding of the world and allow us to communicate effectively with each other.

25In narrative discourse, any existent of the story (event, environment, or character) can become a symbol. Sometimes, symbolic associations are expressed by the narrator or by characters in the story, but they can also be left implicit. Some symbols are unequivocally associated with a certain meaning, like the letter ‘A’ that adulterous women are forced to wear to symbolise their crime in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. But there are other symbols whose meaning is open to different interpretations, like the ‘night’ in Elie Wiesel’s novel Night, which could be understood to represent, amongst other things, death, Nazism, despair, the loss of faith, or the Holocaust.

26Some symbols used in narrative carry their meaning directly from the lifeworld of writers and readers, such as the Christian symbol of the cross. But narratives can also create new symbols, by associating existents of the story with any arbitrary meaning, or give new meanings to symbols that are also used in the lifeworld of readers. For example, the father and son in Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road speak about having or carrying ‘the fire, ’ which they conceive as a symbol of goodness and hope as they try to survive in the throes of worldwide annihilation.

27Narrative symbols can be internal, when they are associated with other existents of the story. In the Harry Potter series, for example, the scar on Harry’s forehead symbolises the connection with his mortal enemy Lord Voldemort, but also marks him as the hero chosen to defeat the evil forces. Symbols can also be external, when the referent is not part of the storyworld, but belongs to the level of discourse or the lifeworld of readers. Again, in Harry Potter, the names of some characters, like Albus Dumbledore, are symbolic to the extent that they refer to meanings in Latin (‘albus’ means white) or Old English (‘dumbledore’ means bumblebee) which are only relevant for the implied (or real) reader.

28In certain narratives, symbolism becomes the structuring framework of the whole story, turning the events, environments, and characters of the storyworld into representations of something other than themselves, generally moral or abstract ideas. This is what we call an allegory, from the Ancient Greek ‘to speak of something else.’ Religious myths, like the story of Christ’s crucifixion or the life of Buddha, are often constructed as allegories. Beyond their literal meaning, they have a moral and metaphysical significance.

29Sometimes, readers will interpret a story as an allegory even if the author did not intend to write it as such. This is called allegoresis, the act of reading any story as allegory. But there are also short stories and novels that are meant to be read as allegories. Narrative discourse is then constructed in such a way that invites readers to find hidden or transcendent meanings in the events, characters, or environments of the storyworld. This kind of sustained symbolism is quite common in fables, parables, and other literary stories that attempt to convey a lesson or illustrate a complex or abstract idea in narrative form.

30An example of modern political allegory is George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a novel about farm animals rebelling against their human owners (Fig. 6.3). While the story can be read literally as a sort of fairytale, it is obvious that the events, characters, and environments of Orwell’s imaginary storyworld stand in for the real events, characters, and environments of the Russian Revolution, in order to extract a moral and political lesson about the degeneration of Communist ideals into outright tyranny.

Fig. 6.3 A depiction of a pig dressed as a human capitalist to illustrate George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

By Carl Glover, CC BY 2.0,​photos/​34239598@N00/​16143409811

6.5 Translation

31Prose fiction is written in hundreds of different languages throughout the world. Languages that have the largest share of total speakers (and therefore, writers and readers) tend to be also the languages in which most books are published, although the correlation is far from being exact. At the top of the list, we find languages like English, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, or Russian. But there are many other languages with a relatively small number of speakers and yet a considerable number of readers and writers, such as Norwegian, Catalan, or Czech. And there are also widely spoken languages like Malay, Swahili, or Punjabi, whose proportion of writers and publications is comparatively small, but still adds up to a large number in absolute terms.

  • 9 Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere, Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation (Clevedon, (...)

32In such a diverse and globalised world, there is no reader who could possibly be able to read every story in its original language. Even someone with enough proficiency in all major languages of the planet would require at some point or another to rely on translation in order to read prose fiction written in relatively minor or distant languages. Thus, translations play a crucial role in allowing the flow of ideas and stories across different cultures.9 How many people in China or Japan, for example, have read the original of Pride and Prejudice or Don Quixote? And how many Europeans have read, or would be able to read, the original of Romance of the Three Kingdoms or the Tale of Genji? In fact, how many practising Christians around the world have read the Old Testament of the Bible in its original Hebrew version?

33But a translation is far from being an exact reproduction of the original text into the target language. Like adaptations, literary translations are always interpretations or rewritings of the original. Even if the translator is successful in faithfully preserving the existents of the story, its narrative discourse is going to be different because it is written in another language. When translating prose fiction, translators need to make difficult linguistic and interpretative choices, balancing their fidelity to the original content and form with the specific requirements and possibilities of the target language. They also need to take into account the expectations of readers in a different language, as well as the rules and conventions prevalent in that culture.

34Perhaps the most formidable challenge of literary translation is how to reproduce the style of the original text in the target language. This difficulty tends to increase with the degree of foregrounding of the linguistic features of the text. Thus, translating a popular thriller, such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, into hundreds of languages is a simple operation, which does not require difficult decisions on the part of the various translators involved. On the other hand, translating a lyrical and highly elliptical short story like Yasunari Kawabata’s ‘The Dancing Girl of Izu, ’ or a polyphonic modernist novel like Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, with its heavy use of slang and local dialect, can be a daunting task for any translator. This is also the reason why, in general, the translation of poetry tends to be more difficult, and its results more uncertain, than the translation of prose fiction.

  • 10 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann, trans. by John Oxenford (New York, NY: No (...)

35In short, literary translation is a creative endeavour, and one that is often unrecognised and undervalued, despite its obvious cultural benefits. While reading a translation is never the same as reading the original, it is the only means for most readers to access the rich and boundless variety of stories that make up ‘world literature.’10


36• Style is the characteristic set of linguistic features (rhythm, phonology, syntactic structure, lexical choice, etc.) associated with a text. Style can be attributed to the implied author, but also to the real author, and even to a specific cultural group.

37• A key aspect of literary style is foregrounding. In order to effectively communicate the content and meaning of the story and engage the imagination of readers, narrative discourse often relies on foregrounded language, deploying features and devices that diverge from normal or everyday language.

38• Figurative language, or the use of figures of speech, including metaphor, simile, personification, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, oxymoron, and others, is a common form of foregrounding in prose fiction.

39• Events, environments, and characters in prose fiction become symbols when they represent something other than themselves by virtue of an arbitrary association. When symbolism is sustained throughout the narrative, the story becomes an allegory.

40• Despite its complications and limitations, translation is the only means by which most readers can access the rich diversity of short stories and novels published throughout the world.



Bassnett, Susan, and André Lefevere, Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 1998).

Farnsworth, Ward, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric (Jaffrey, NH: David R Godine, 2016).

Flaubert, Gustave, Madame Bovary: Provincial Manners, trans. by Margaret Mauldon and Mark Overstall (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Conversations with Eckermann, trans. by John Oxenford (New York, NY: North Point Press, 1994).

Jakobson, Roman, ‘Linguistics and Poetics, ’ in Style in Language (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960), pp. 350–77.

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017).

Leech, Geoffrey N., Language in Literature: Style and Foregrounding (Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman, 2008).

Peirce, Charles Sanders, Philosophical Writing of Peirce, ed. by Justus Buchler (New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1955).

Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray, ed. by Robert Mighall (London, UK: Penguin, 2003).

Woolf, Virginia, To the Lighthouse, ed. by Max Bollinger (London, UK: Urban Romantics, 2012).


1 Geoffrey N. Leech, Language in Literature: Style and Foregrounding (Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman, 2008), p. 12,

2 Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary: Provincial Manners, trans. by Margaret Mauldon and Mark Overstall (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 170, my translation.

3 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, ed. by Robert Mighall (London, UK: Penguin, 2003), p. 5.

4 See also Roman Jakobson, ‘Linguistics and Poetics’, in Style in Language (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960), pp. 350–77, where foregrounding is described in terms of the ‘poetic function’ of linguistic communication.

5 Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, ed. by Max Bollinger (London, UK: Urban Romantics, 2012), p. 135.

6 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017).

7 For example, Ward Farnsworth, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric (Jaffrey, NH: David R Godine, 2016).

8 Charles Sanders Peirce, Philosophical Writing of Peirce, ed. by Justus Buchler (New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1955), pp. 102–3.

9 Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere, Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 1998), pp. 9–10.

10 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann, trans. by John Oxenford (New York, NY: North Point Press, 1994), p. 132.

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