MLA 2000: The Literary Imagination
Cognitive Approaches to Literature
Second speaker: Neil Schmid

Vimala Herman
Reader in Linguistics and Literary Studies
School of English
University of Nottingham

Presentation Abstract

Mental Spaces, Blending and Free Indirect Discourse

Since Bally's 1912 discussion of `style indirect libre', the novelistic technique of Free Indirect Discourse has had considerable attention in both literary and linguistic studies. Roy Pascal attributed a `dual voice' to the form  - a merging of character and narrator `voices' with markers of subjectivity transferred to the character `voice'.  Linguistic changes that mark the form in its difference from other speech and thought presentation modes include changes of tense and person to distinguish it from direct discourse, and the retaining of deixis and interpersonal and discourse features of speech which separates it from indirect report.  The form also raises issues related to point of view and focalization.

Free indirect Discourse has generated some controversy since the publication of Ann Banfield's Unspeakable Sentences, and her questioning of the `dual voice'  description of the form.  Current thinking in turn questions the overtly grammatical emphasis of Banfield's study and analysts like Monika Fludernik in The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction propose a more pragmatic-cognitive model instead.  Some headway has been made in this direction, for instance, by the SUNY group as well as by others like Kathy Emmott in her  book Narrative Comprehension.  Such work generally relies on narrative processing models derived from fields like Psycholinguistics and AI.

This paper by contrast would like to explore a cognitive-semantic  model drawn from the work of Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner on Mental Spaces and Conceptual Blending. It will focuse on deixis and deictic functioning in selected examples of FID and will explore the kind of insights offered for understanding notions like `dual voice' and `subjectivity' in the FID when projected mental spaces and the `origo' centers of deixis are blending occurs in the transferred spaces.  Aspects like `point of view ', `focalization' and `time' will merit special attention.

Works Cited

Bally, Charles. Le langage et la vie. Geneve, Switzerland: Edition Atar; 1913.

Banfield, Ann. Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and Representation in the Language of Fiction. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.

Emmott, Catherine. Narrative Comprehension: A Discourse Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Fludernik, Monika. The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction: The Linguistic Representation of Speech and Consciousness. New York, NY: Routledge, 1993.

Turner, Mark and Gilles Fauconnier. Conceptual Integration and Formal Expression. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity 10  (1995): 183-203. Abstract.


Vimala Herman is Senior Lecturer at the Department of English Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her book Dramatic Discourse: Dialogue as Interaction in Plays was reissued in paperback in 1998 by Routledge. She is at present completing a book on poetic language for Oxford University Press. Her current research is in the area of Cognitive Poetics, especially deixis and blending.


Dramatic Discourse: Dialogue as Interaction in Plays. New York: Routledge, 1998 [1995].

Deixis and Space in Drama. Social Semiotics 7. 3 (Dec. 1997): 269-83.

Misunderstanding and Power: Contests of Understandings. In Voices of Power: Co-Operation and Conflict in English Language and Literatures. Liege, Belgium: n.p., 1997. 33-43.

Grammar, Discourse, and Gendered Subjectivity. Language and Discourse 3 (1995): 35-51.

Negativity and Language in the Religious Poetry of R. S. Thomas. Miraculous Simplicity: Essays on R. S. Thomas. Fayetteville. 1993. 140-61.

How To See Things with Words: Language Use and Descriptive Art in John Clare's 'Signs of Winter'. Language and Style: An International Journal 20 (1987 Spring): 91-109.

Subject Construction as Stylistic Strategy in Gerard Manley Hopkins' 'Thou Art Indeed Just Lord...'. Lingua e Stile: Trimestrale di Filosofia del Linguaggio, Linguistica e Analisi Letteraria 22 (1987 Sept): 449-468.

Contexts and Acts in Gerard Manley Hopkins' 'I Wake and Feel the Fell...'. Linguistics and the Study of Literature. Amsterdam, 1986. 89-111.

Editor and introduction. Special Issue on Literariness and Linguistics. Prose Studies. 6 (2) (1983 Sept.)

Negativity and Language in the Religious Poetry of R.S. Thomas. ELH 45 (1978): 710-31.

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MLA 2000: The Literary Imagination

MLA 2000: The Literary Imagination
Cognitive Approaches to Literature
Second speaker: Neil Schmid