The role of the reader

Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy in the 1939 film of ‘Wuthering Heights’

i) Introductory

In this final chapter I wish to focus entirely on the reader and the reader’s role in relation to the various levels of discourse existing in a text.  The factors affecting the reader’s understanding of the text can be roughly organised into three categories as follows.  Firstly, the organisation of the text or its physical form, that is, the words and sentences on the page and the way in which these sentences are punctuated and arranged.  I took a brief look at punctuation in chapter two and syntactic arrangement in chapter three; in this chapter I take a closer look at lexical choice.  The second factor affecting a reader’s understanding is that of her empirical knowledge of the world.  The reader brings to the text a vast store of background knowledge which enables her to give shape and meaning to the words on the page.  The final factor is that of education: readers are distinguished by their varying levels of literary competence.  In order to answer the question of how a reader makes sense of a text, I shall be exploring the following four areas in turn: a) individual word meaning, in which I hope to demonstrate that a reader’s understanding of lexical items constitutes far more than a simple dictionary definition; b) schemata, frames and scripts show how a reader applies her knowledge of the world to the texts she reads; c) literary competence adds the more specific dimension of the reader’s knowledge of other texts, of which d) literary allusion is an even more specialised instance.  Categories c) and d) carry important implications for the questions proposed in this thesis.  The extent to which linguistics can be of service to the literary critic is compromised by the necessity of a high degree of literary competence in order to fully appreciate and understand a literary text; but it was never my intention to assert that linguistics alone is sufficient to achieve such an understanding.  The specialised knowledge of the critic comes into play where it is vital, for instance, to be able to accurately identify a literary allusion or to be able to situate a text within a particular genre; I will be investigating these questions in more detail, pertaining to problematic allusions in Brontë’s Wuthering Heights – allusions which arguably contain the key to a fuller understanding of the text.  As for the question of form and content, I stand by my conviction that they are inseparable but I concede that once the reader is taken into account the definition of ‘content’ becomes more complicated; however, I feel that the arguments presented here add weight to the assertion that literary language functions differently rather than detracting from the proposition that form and content are one and the same.

Before addressing the question of how a reader makes sense of a text, I intend to take a brief overview of the development of reader-response criticism and to comment further on the roles of author and reader as respective producer and consumer of texts.

In 1959 Michael Riffaterre wrote a paper entitled ‘Criteria for Style Analysis’ in which he suggests that since we cannot know the author’s intentions, it is better to focus on the response of the reader.[1]  Riffaterre recognised early on the displaced interaction that distinguishes the literary text from other types of text, and he writes that the author has a more difficult task than the speaker due to the absence of extra-linguistic means of expression: the author has limited graphological means at his disposal – for instance, the examples from Pratchett’s work in chapter two – but these means are a poor substitute for the expressive capabilities of tone, gesture, volume, pitch, et cetera.  The author, writes Riffaterre, is therefore more conscious of the message, and he introduces unpredictable elements, or stylistic devices, into his work in order to ensure that the message is decoded as he intended.  These stylistic devices, according to Riffaterre, can be identified by the average reader (AR); however, Riffaterre reserves the right to correct that which the AR finds and he classifies typical AR errors as faults of omission or addition.

Stanley Fish also deplores the exclusion of the reader in literary history, but he parts company with Riffaterre in that he does not believe it possible to divide a text up into utterances that may or may not have a literary effect.  Fish has made several important contributions to reader-response criticism through the formulation of his ‘affective stylistics’.  He argues that meaning cannot be extracted from a literary work, but is to be found in the reader’s experience of reading it: he writes that the experience of an utterance is its meaning.[2]  Fish’s method involves ‘an analysis of the developing responses of the reader in relation to the words as they succeed one another in time’,[3] and this basic premise means that at times his arguments come dangerously close to the idea of form enacting content; nevertheless, the value of Fish’s work should not be underestimated.  Fish’s method compels the critic to ask what a certain text or part of a text does, rather than what it means, a question that reflects Fish’s focus on experience rather than extraction; in addition, Fish draws attention to the temporality of the reading experience, in that the reader responds to a temporal flow in a left to right direction, at least in texts written in English.[4]  The effect of this reading experience is lost in the activity of criticism, writes Fish, and he states that it is criticism, not reading, that loses sight of the text.  The temporal model posited by Fish among others has at least one ramification for the form/content argument: if content is produced by the reader’s experience of reading in a temporal framework, then some content is inevitably lost if the reader does decide what the text ‘is about’; the clues, false trails and red herrings, are, for Fish, part of the meaning of the text in that they constitute part of the reading experience.  Carole Berger writes in support of this argument in her paper on Jane Austen’s villains:

although the spatial metaphor of recent decades has produced much useful criticism, it has obscured the fact that form also has a temporal dimension, manifest in the reader’s sequential experience of a work.  My analysis depends on the assumption that meaning is generated not only by the interpretation of a character’s qualities and development in relation to the work as a whole, but also through the process of apprehending a character as we read.[5]

Berger adds a useful footnote: ‘to the extent that the effects described depend on the reader’s ignorance of future developments, they obviously apply only to a first reading.  Subsequent readings yield different pleasures’.[6]  One is only fooled by Willoughby and Frank Churchill once!

Another critic interested in reader response is Steven Mailloux, who provides a useful overview of reader-response criticism in his paper ‘Learning to Read: Interpretation and Reader-Response Criticism’.  Mailloux summarises the work of various critics including Wolfgang Iser and Stephen Booth, and he adds to their arguments his own premise that

every critical approach embodies a set of interpretive conventions used to make sense of literary texts.  Such interpretive conventions are shared procedures for creating meaning, and they consist of interpretive assumptions manifested in specific critical moves.[7]

Indeed, in a separate paper Mailloux demonstrates how critics have made sense of a ‘maimed’ text; the fact that they were able to do so at all indicates how powerful these interpretive conventions can be.[8]  According to Mailloux’s reasoning, the reader/critic is a member of an interpretive community, and the ‘history of literary criticism is a chronicle of the changes in…shared interpretive strategies’.[9]  Furthermore, Mailloux neatly summarises the different roles assigned to the reader: she is in the text as narratee, or she dominates over the text as the creator of meaning, or she produces meaning by interacting with the text.  The reader has also collected an assortment of epithets: she is implied, educated, ideal, informed, et cetera.  The implied reader is a product of the displaced interaction between addresser and addressee, and she is defined by Leech and Short as follows:

because the author can assume knowledge which any particular reader might not necessarily have, we have to conclude that the addressee in literary communication is not the reader, but…the IMPLIED READER; a hypothetical personage who shares with the author not just background knowledge but also a set of presuppositions, sympathies and standards of what is pleasant and unpleasant, good and bad, right and wrong.[10]

Authorial correspondence, drafts, and so on, reveal some authors’ concern that the reader should resemble the implied reader as closely as possible.  One authorial strategy with this aim in mind is to refer directly to the reader – Fielding’s guiding hand in Tom Jones is an oft-quoted example.  The reader shares a relationship not only with the author, but also with the narrator and/or the characters; often the reader is called upon to judge the characters, and by extension, herself.  The technique of encouraging self-judgment is an authorial means for educating the reader, assuming that the role of literature is to edify.  Mailloux’s reader is an active participant, not a passive observer, and Mailloux parts company from Fish and Riffaterre in his refusal to separate reader from critic:

it is true that reader-response criticism claims to approximate closely the content of reading experiences that are always assumed to pre-exist the critical performance.  But what in fact takes place is quite different: the critical performance fills those reading experiences with its own interpretive moves.[11]

Mailloux asserts that it is impossible to separate the two activities of reading and criticism and that one activity necessarily entails the other.

Meaning is created from an elaborate network of integration and cooperation between author, reader, and text.  To ignore the reader would be to place the creation of meaning squarely at the point of production, that is, at the feet of the author.  Alternatively, one could remove both author and reader from the equation as the American New Critics did,[12] and argue instead that meaning is inherent in the text itself.  But to treat the text as aesthetic object instead of discourse is a viewpoint that is currently unfashionable amongst practitioners of stylistics.  Fowler notes that if a text is treated as discourse, this represents a ‘corrective to the…traditional claim in literary criticism that texts are objects rather than interactions…. But ‘literary’ texts…do speak: they participate in society’s world-view and social structure’.[13]  In stylistic analysis, the text has come to be regarded as a message, a communication which passes between author and reader, and bearing in mind the emphasis this kind of analysis places on the text as discourse in both its production and reception, it would seem to be an unpardonable omission to ignore the recipient of the ‘text as message’, the reader himself.  As Wimsatt and Beardsley have noted, the production of a literary work may be private, but its consumption is public: ‘the poem belongs to the public.  It is embodied in language, the peculiar possession of the public’.[14]

The history of the author has been a chequered one: she has been put on a pedestal, only to be later declared irrelevant and finally proclaimed dead.  In a paper entitled ‘Against Theory’, Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels have reinstated –or resuscitated! – the author, but only by simultaneously removing the need to consider authorial intention: ‘once it is seen that the meaning of a text is simply identical to the author’s intended meaning, the project of grounding meaning in intention becomes incoherent’.[15]  Knapp and Michaels suggest that we should believe that the author meant what she wrote – a reasonable enough approach that brings us back to the guiding or manipulative author who steers the reader towards an intended meaning.  Iser bases his theory of reader-response criticism on the premise that the reader fills in the textual gaps left deliberately by this author-guide: the text (or the author through the text) provides instructions for the production of meaning but these instructions are not exhaustively explicit, thus allowing the reader some interpretive freedom – indeed, the plurality of a text, its openness to a number of readings, is one of the possible hallmarks of a literary text – but the reader is not given carte blanche to create meaning at will.  According to Iser, what the text contains is not meaning, but a set of directions for assembling that meaning;[16] my contention in proposing that form and content are inseparable is that a different set of directions leads to a different meaning.

ii) How Does a Reader Make Sense of a Text?

a) Individual Word Meaning: an investigation into the perceived meaning of the words tourist and traveller.

touristn. a person making a visit or tour as a holiday; a traveller, esp. abroad…

travellern. 1 a person who travels or is travelling. 2 a travelling salesman. 3 a Gypsy…[17]

Leech and Short invite their reader to compare two alternative translations of the opening passages of Franz Kafka’s The Trial.[18]  In the first translation by Willa and Edwin Muir, the man who has come to inform Joseph K. of his arrest is likened to, or linked with, a tourist, and in the second translation by Douglas Scott and Chris Waller, he has become a traveller.  A small difference, perhaps, but I decided to conduct a small-scale survey, in order to discover for myself the possible associations of each of these words in the minds of various readers.  The results were quite surprising, and from the data collected I was able to conclude that word meaning is exceptionally fragile, and can alter considerably according to factors such as the age of the respondent, or even the time of year.[19]

A total of 37 people were surveyed from two different age groups, as follows:

Age group of respondents (in years): Number of responses:
13 – 19 24
20 – 60 13


Each respondent was asked to write down the first words or phrases which came to mind on hearing the word tourist; the same exercise was performed with the word traveller.  The responses were anonymous.  To begin with I have summarised the most frequent responses to each word in turn before adding a few words of caution with regard to the overall interpretation of the survey’s results; finally, I have written a general overview of the similarities and differences between the two words as recorded by the respondents surveyed.  Words appearing in italics are those written by the respondents.

The word tourist produced surprisingly few references to holiday: only four were found.  By far the greatest number of references – a total of 16 – were to vehicles in which a tourist might travel, and the increased volume of traffic as a result.  Thirteen references were made to items a tourist might wear or carry, including five references to camera.  Twelve references, 11 of which came from the 13 – 19 age group, were to people of Asian descent; 11 references were made to activities a tourist might undertake, such as bungee jumping; eight references were made to geographical features (for example, waterfall); six references were made to travel or travelling and six references were made to specific places tourists might visit (for example, Germany, Amsterdam, Rotorua); finally, there were four references apiece for holiday and Barmy Army.

The most frequent responses to the word traveller were as follows: a total of 21 respondents wrote the words hitch-hiker, biker or backpacker; 19 references were made to vehicles in which a traveller might travel; 12 references were made to journeys and eight references, seven of which came from the older age group, made mention of the traveller’s occupation, for example salesperson or business suit.

In analysing these results, I found it important to bear in mind the following points.

1)  The respondents were all either staff members or students at Cheviot Area School and they were all native speakers of English with the exception of two, one from each age group: one student from year 12 was bilingual and his first language was Maori; one staff member was a fluent English speaker but her first language was German.

2)  An English woman – myself – asking a group of mostly New Zealanders for a response to these two words in particular inevitably drew some references to Poms!

3)  The survey took place during the Lions’ tour of New Zealand, hence the proliferation of references to the Barmy Army, campervans, slow traffic, et cetera; in addition to this, a recent news report had detailed the death of one woman in a road accident caused by a Lions supporter, which perhaps explains the references to death and accidents.

4)  Some of those surveyed wrote paragraphs instead of individual words and phrases – possibly I had not issued clear instructions – and I may have misrepresented these responses.

5)  I cannot judge the effect of asking for a response to these words in succession; possibly the results would have differed if I had left more time in between each request for a response.  Having been asked for a response to the word tourist, the respondent would already be thinking within and around this particular topic, and the response to traveller may therefore be coloured by the previous response.[20]  The respondents were always given the word tourist first, and there was some overlap of ideas with traveller, particularly among the 13 – 19 age group, who seemed to experience some difficulty in distinguishing between the two.  There were frequent instances of repetition, which were duly noted.

6)  Of particular note was the frequent number of references to the word Asian among the 13 – 19 age group in response to tourist; one respondent even wrote lousy Asians.  Such unabashed racism is difficult to account for, especially in a community with very few Asian residents.  A similar attitude was not in evidence from the responses assembled from the staff of the school.

7)  In collating the results, I was aware that the responses would have been different had I surveyed a group of people from the UK, like myself, instead of from New Zealand.  There would perhaps have been references to ‘Germans’ and ‘towels’ in response to tourist, and the response to traveller would almost certainly have included some very negative comments about nomadic groups previously referred to as gypsies, but now more commonly referred to as travellers.

I would like to begin this overview of perceived similarities and differences by noting those references which appeared in response to both words.  Both lists contained many references to vehicles, so clearly the idea of travelling, or of making a journey (travelling in other countries, overseas or travelling the world), is connected to both words, although as we shall see later on, there were differences perceived in the type of travel undertaken and the method of journeying.  Responses to tourist and traveller both incorporated ideas of equipment needed, notably camera for tourist and water bottle for traveller.  Tourists and travellers alike were referred to as visitors, but only the responses to traveller allowed of visitors being either foreign or fellow countrymen.  Both sets of responses made reference to lots of people and lots of money; references to fun and excitement, Poms and the Barmy Army, carrying a backpack and accidents also appeared frequently in response to both words.  The words tourist and traveller themselves cropped up in definition of each other, as did the idea of holidays, but travellers were seen to travel for reasons other than being on holiday, an idea which was absent from the responses to tourist.

The differences between the responses to these two words can be briefly summarised as follows.  Those surveyed did not consider themselves to be tourists if they were in New Zealand; the prevalent idea was that a traveller can travel abroad or at home, but a New Zealander is not a tourist in New Zealand (and perhaps we can assume that people from other nations would think similarly; I would find it difficult to think of myself as a tourist in England, even if I were doing the things tourists do, such as visiting the Tower of London, and so on).  A tourist, therefore, is someone who has come to your country from abroad; a traveller is usually someone who ventures forth to foreign parts.  The overwhelming feeling gained from reading the resulting lists was that tourists invade, but travellers explore.  The idea of long-distance travel was more prevalent in those responses to traveller than to tourist, and it was interesting to note that while both lists contained references to geographical features, there was a distinct difference between the kinds of features mentioned: tourist elicited the words waterfall and countryside, but traveller elicited desert: the traveller therefore, is connected with a harsh and adventurous terrain, whereas the tourist is placed in comfortable, easy surroundings.  One response worth mentioning – although it is perhaps of limited significance, being only one response – is that the traveller seeks, while the tourist just sees.  It was interesting to discover also that the traveller is defined by age where the tourist is defined by race; there were numerous references to young person for traveller, but nothing similar for tourist; the tourist was identified by where he had come from, for example, Chinese, Pom, Asian and American.  It would not be misleading to say that respondents seemed to have a much clearer idea of what a tourist should look like – race, costume, objects carried, et cetera – but the traveller was not so clearly identifiable.  Where the tourists were seen to come from specific places, the travellers were more generic – anybody could be a traveller.  Travellers were seen to go camping, or to do it on the cheap; in comparison, tourists spent a lot of money.  As previously mentioned, the traveller often had an occupation, such as salesperson, gypsy, or fruit-picker, but the tourist did not.  The tourists undertook many activities (sightseeing, bungee jumping) but the travellers just travelled.  The travellers got to know the country at grass-roots level, compared to the tourists who were just passing through.  Finally, although this summary is by no means exhaustive, the idea of tourist incorporated the idea of planning – the tourist was an idiot with a map who carried a suitcase instead of a rucksack – and the traveller was linked with notions of spontaneity and exploration.  The tourist had an agenda, a plan, whereas the travellers just upped and went whenever the urge took them.

It is quite clear then, even from this very inconclusive survey, that these two words are not interchangeable, and that they each carry a certain set of associations in the mind of the reader.  To link Kafka’s warder with a tourist is to set up a comparison which differs from linking him with a traveller.  To cite a different example, one might respond to Shelley’s famous poem very differently if the first line read ‘I met a tourist from an antique land…’![21]

In conclusion, what has become clear is that readers do not store words in isolation, and that in discussing the meaning of a word it is probably more useful to take the holistic over the localist view.[22]  Words are not stored in the mind in the same way they are stored in a dictionary: words are mentally linked to other words, and one word is capable of invoking a whole host of associations.  Jean Aitchison discusses the importance of the quality of the links that form between words in Words in the Mind.  She notes that ‘the quality of the links in each case is probably more important than the exact location of the various pieces of information’.[23]  Indeed, one of the words currently under discussion provides a very neat example of this point: the word backpack has become so closely linked with the word traveller that when the suffix –er is added to the word backpack, the new word formed – backpacker – is a synonym of traveller.

To all of the above must be added the important factor of context.  It is quite probable that a reader will respond differently to the same word in different contexts, and of course, literary writing is arguably a context in itself.  A word appearing in a poem derives its meaning from many sources other than its dictionary definition: it will gather associations from those words with which it is linked phonologically and syntactically within the poem itself; it will perhaps spark recollections in the reader’s mind of its appearance in other poems which will add yet another meaning dimension.[24]  Within the confines of a single text, a word can gather associations and resonances that do not apply when that word appears elsewhere: for example, in Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat, we learn at the beginning of chapter three that Lise ‘will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the grounds of an empty villa’.[25]  From this point onwards, the reader is exceptionally sensitive to the words ‘silk scarf’ and ‘necktie’ since these items have been implicated in Lise’s murder, and the word ‘villa’ now takes on the additional meaning of ‘scene of the crime’.  The word ‘villa’ appearing in a holiday brochure is unlikely to have the same resonance: it would simply indicate a form of available accommodation.

b) Schemata: Frames and Scripts

Leech and Short provide a clear statement about the shared knowledge between author and reader:

although the author of a novel is in the dark about his reader from many points of view, he can of course assume that he shares with his readers a common fund of knowledge and experience…quite a lot of general background knowledge of the world about us is needed to interpret even the simplest of sentences in a novel.[26]

Every day people are bombarded with vast quantities of information, and the way in which we cope with our experience of the world about us is to organise our observations into little packages, referred to as schemata.  Fowler notes that schemata are mechanisms by which memory is facilitated and ordered: ‘we store our ideas and experiences in terms of what is typical, what we take to be the usual attributes of an event or an idea’.[27]  Schemata are organised into frames and scripts.  Frames are clusters of typical features.  Fowler gives the example of a child’s birthday party: the features of this particular frame include jelly and ice cream, and blowing out the candles on a cake.  Scripts are stories: they have a sequential ordering, either temporal or logical.  When at a wedding, the groom should be in the church before the bride arrives, and the best man has to make an embarrassing speech at the reception that follows, and so on.  Schemata are packages of knowledge shared by members of a community, and this knowledge is acquired through a process of socialisation that begins at birth.  Schemata help us to organise mentally our experience of living in the world, and they also help us to make sense of written texts.  When faced with a text, ‘readers will recognize, through cues, what kind of text it is, and deploy appropriate conventional schemata’.[28]  In the case of literary texts, schemata consist of knowledge of typical story-lines, frames for typical narrative situations and settings, and so on.  Jean Aitchison provides a very nice example from literature:

consider the conversation between Ackroyd and Boothroyd, two characters who visit a ruined abbey in Alan Bennett’s play A Day Out:

Ackroyd:          They were Cistercian monks here…

Boothroyd:      It’s an unnatural life, separating yourself off like that…There wouldn’t be any kids, would there?  And allus getting down on their knees.  It’s no sort of life…

Here, the word monk…has triggered a whole situation, in which Boothroyd imagines silent corridors and monks praying.[29]

It is easy to see how a reader can apply her world knowledge to fictional texts in such instances, but how does the reader cope when the fictional world bears little or no resemblance to the world she inhabits?  Distance between reader and text can manifest itself in various forms: texts can be difficult for the reader to access because they were written hundreds of years ago, or because they depict an alien culture.  Stories written within the fantasy and science fiction genres are often set in a world other than the reader’s own:

most fictional texts create their fictional worlds through a relatively standard use of presupposition, schematic assumption and the like.  But some texts…create special effects by assuming ‘facts’ that are so at odds with our normal assumptions that we cannot ‘take them on’, in the normal way.[30]

Leech and Short make the observation that readers can and do cope with such texts, provided they are consistent: ‘CONSISTENCY is an important aid to credibility: an unfamiliar reality which obeys its own set of laws is more credible than one which does not’.[31]  The world of Peake’s Gormenghast is at first glance bewildering and disorientating, but the reader soon learns how to construct a version of this alternate reality.  Our first glimpse into this strange world lights upon the curator Rottcodd in the Hall of the Bright Carvings, endlessly dusting the beautiful carvings that no one ever sees.  We learn that while he knows it is ‘the eighth day of the eighth month’, he is ‘uncertain about the year’.[32]  The apparent futility of Rottcodd’s existence and his peculiar indifference to the passage of time soon make perfect sense to us once we have immersed ourselves more fully in the eccentric world of Peake’s enormous castle and the lives of its curious inhabitants.

But what of those other texts mentioned previously, those that are distanced from the reader temporally?  Riffaterre argues for an analytical approach that combines synchrony and diachrony: he notes that the message survives as the author –or encoder – intended, but ‘the decoders’ linguistic frame of reference changes with the passing of time; the moment may even come when there is nothing left in common between the code to which the message refers and the code used by its readers’.[33]  Before the reader can decode the message distant from him in time, it is necessary for him to acquire some specialised knowledge.  Short writes that ‘one important aspect of the work of English departments revolves around giving students the requisite schematic knowledge-base for responding sensitively to texts distant from them historically and/or culturally’.[34]  It goes without saying that departments of linguistics can also offer a great deal of knowledge concerning the historical development of languages.

c) Literary Competence

Linguistic competence is what enables the language user both to construct and to understand an infinite number of sentences in his native language, and it is this ability that generative grammar attempts to document.  By contrast, literary competence ‘is schematized knowledge possessed by those people who have had a literary education’.[35]  Linguistic competence will undoubtedly vary from individual to individual, but the variation in literary competence will be much greater.  Those who read English at university will probably attain a far higher level of literary competence than those who leave school at sixteen, for example.  The extent of an individual’s literary competence has a great deal of bearing on what sort of reader he is.  To give a very simple example, the word raven may mean many different things to different readers.  At one end of the scale, the reader may not recognise the word at all and for him, the marks on the page will have no significance – or signified – whatsoever.  A reader a little further up the scale may know that the raven is a big, black bird; another reader may connect the word raven with stories about the Tower of London.  Further still up the scale, the reader may make the connection with Edgar Allan Poe (or at least with that episode of The Simpsons!).  The next reader might recognise the raven as a symbol or omen of death, which will colour his reading of the text.  It is a simple example, but it is plain nevertheless that the reader who recognises the raven in the text as an ill omen will continue reading in a different frame of mind to the reader who thinks of the raven as just a type of crow.

Knowledge related to genre and other texts within that genre is also a feature of literary competence.  It has already been noted that the reader of The Yellow Wall-Paper will, having read the opening paragraphs, be expecting to read a ghost story, once she has been informed of the house’s cheap rent and lack of recent tenants.  Readers of Wuthering Heights who are familiar with the novels of Sir Walter Scott will be expecting that Lockwood, a young man plunged into strange and sinister surroundings, should encounter a ghost during his enforced stay at the Heights, as indeed he does.[36]

To possess literary competence is to be familiar with literary schemata.  The reader with literary competence is knowledgeable about various literary genres, which are stored in the head as frames: ghost stories should have creaking doors, guttering candles, strange noises, and a fatally curious protagonist; westerns should have swinging saloon doors, pistol-duels at dawn, whisky and sawdust, and a drunken or dastardly sheriff.  The reader with literary competence knows what the story should have in it, and roughly how the storyline should run.  A more specialised form of literary competence is the ability in the reader to recognise literary allusion.

d) Literary Allusion

To refer in the wording of one text to the wording or storyline of another text, either directly or indirectly, is to bring to the original text all the associations connected with the other.  Thus when Lockwood refers to the brindled cat Grimalkin[37] on the morning after his tortured night spent at the Heights, the reader familiar with Macbeth will no doubt recall the witches’ chants of Act I scene (i), ‘I come, Graymalkin!’, and Act IV scene (i), ‘Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d’.[38]  Macbeth is a play with more than its fair share of murder, ghosts, witchcraft and death, and the reader alert to these references will continue her reading of Wuthering Heights with all these associations in mind.  The young Catherine has already taunted Joseph with her supposed dabbling in witchcraft; Cathy’s ghost replaces that of Banquo’s, and Heathcliff, like Macbeth, is arguably a murderer.[39]  The notion of ‘content’ is complicated by the authorial use of allusion in that the borrowed phrases carry with them the baggage of the text alluded to – provided, of course, that the reader is able to detect and identify the reference in the first place.  F. W. Bateson and B. Shakevitch write in their essay on Katherine Mansfield’s The Fly:

as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.  If the victim did not show some spirit, the gods would lose their sport.  (A half-consciousness of Gloucester’s dictum is no doubt expected in the reader.) [40]

The reader who does not pick up on this allusion will perhaps not form as complete a picture of the boss’ character as will a reader who does recognise this reference from Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Allusion, literary or otherwise, has an even greater role to play in allegorical texts such as Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and in this particular case the reader who misses the allusion will often miss the joke.  A reader who is also a banker explained via the monthly electronic Discworld newsletter the reference, already mentioned in chapter two, to the repeated phrase twelve and a half per cent uttered by Reacher Gilt’s parrot.  Other readers wrote in to shed light on the Discworld’s clacks system:

the Discworld’s clacks system has…origins in a system devised by Claude Chappe which spanned 17th century France.  It encountered opposition from peasants who thought that the ‘clacking’ noises were demonic and burned down the towers (think Borogravians in Monstrous Regiment).

the clacks towers were actually based on…well, clacks towers!…  From 1808-1814 during the Napoleonic war, it was used by the Admiralty as a semaphore station.  This was operated by a shutter system and could help relay a message to or from Yarmouth in five minutes.[41]

Another reader was sagacious enough to recognise the following literary reference:

I was re-reading Sourcery recently and I noticed a remarkable similarity between the poetry by Creosote and several verses from Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam….  For example, the first verse of the Rubaiyat begins, ‘Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight.’ and one of Creosote’s poems begins, ‘Get up! For morning in the cup of day, has dropped the spoon that scares the stars away.’[42]

Not being familiar with the Rubaiyat myself, this pleasant joke was completely lost on me until I read the above letter.

Much depends on the reader’s ability in the first instance to accurately identify an allusion: the danger is that an incorrectly identified allusion may lead to a redundant reading of the text.  In order to reach a full understanding of the significance of Lockwood’s first dream in Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, one has to recognise the biblical allusion in Branderham’s sermon.  In 1958, Ruth Adams published an article entitled ‘Wuthering Heights: the Land East of Eden’,[43] in which she identifies the source of the sermon as that of Genesis IV:24: ‘If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.’  The biblical text Adams supplies refers the reader to the story of Cain, who, following the murder of his brother, moves to a land east of Eden, and whose mark serves as a warning to other men not to kill the slayer of Abel.  Adams notes that the ‘mark of Cain does not identify the condemned murderer.  Rather it is protective’.[44]  Cain’s descendants likewise are not subject to retribution for their crimes and therefore, writes Adams, ‘the race dwelling east of Eden can work its evils in the assurance that no conventional consequence of punishment will follow’.[45]  This, Adams argues, is the world of Wuthering Heights and its inhabitants, and the function of Lockwood’s first dream is to introduce the reader to this world:

Wuthering Heights…is a book without conventional ethics or morality.  Emily Brontë, aware of the adjustment such a pattern demanded of her readers, undertook to assist them from the very beginning.  Thus, with Lockwood’s dream of Banderham’s [sic] sermon, she indicated that readers were to travel east of Eden, in the company of those alienated from God and paradoxically protected by him against the punishing consequences of their deeds.[46]

There is much that is enticing in this reading: Adams’ explanation of the dream’s function is coherent and persuasive.  I noted in chapter one that the two worlds of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange represent, for the reader, the entire reality of the text.  Characters come and go – Heathcliff and Hindley both enjoy an absence of three years – but the reader never leaves the moors.  The inhabitants of these two residences therefore appear to be a law unto themselves, distinct and separate from the world of law, justice and punishment which exists beyond, just as Cain lives free from retribution in the land of Nod.[47]

There are at least two problems with Adams’ reading, leaving aside the claim that Wuthering Heights is ‘a book without conventional ethics or morality’.  Firstly, Edgar Shannon argues that the allusion has been incorrectly identified, and secondly, Adams’ explication of the allusion makes no reference to the fact that Cain is kept alive as a punishment, a fact that would surely have some relevance to her reading.  I shall deal with the second of these objections first, being, as it is, the least consequential of the two.  It is not entirely true that the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights – by whom I suppose Adams to mean Heathcliff and Hindley – commit crimes happily in the knowledge that no punishment will be forthcoming.  Both men suffer cruelly following the deaths of their loved ones.  Hindley survives Frances by six years, and Heathcliff lives through eighteen years of separation from Cathy.  The suffering of these two men is in turn visited upon those around them.  Adams is wrong, I think, to compare the inhabitants of the land of Nod with those of Wuthering Heights and to subsequently neglect this aspect of Cain’s story.  The mark of Cain may be protective, but it is also what is keeping him alive to suffer:

And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.  And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.[48]

Cain is made to wander the earth, a ‘fugitive’ and an outcast; never again is he to be allowed in the presence in the Lord.[49]  His crops will never grow, forcing him to beg for food.[50]  Adams could have compared the suffering of Cain to the suffering of Heathcliff, forced to endure eighteen years in a world without Cathy: ‘The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her!’[51]  But why should Heathcliff be made to suffer as Cain did?  At the time of Cathy’s death, his only crime is his elopement with Isabella, and she is an all-too-willing party to this act.  It makes more sense, especially given the events of Lockwood’s second dream, to equate the figure of Cain with that of Catherine Earnshaw.  In 1959, Edgar Shannon wrote a response to Adams’ article in which he pointed out that Adams had firstly mistaken the allusion, and secondly, that she had made the error of explicating the book in terms of the first nightmare alone; Shannon argues that ‘the two dreams are inextricably linked’.[52]  He considers that Genesis IV:24 has ‘no relevance whatever to Branderham’s pious discourse’,[53] and suggests that the correct source of the allusion is Matthew XVIII:21-22:

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus said unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Shannon argues that this allusion is more likely to be the one Brontë had in mind for two reasons.  Firstly, Branderham’s sermon consists of four hundred and ninety parts, which is ‘the product of seventy times seven’.[54]  Secondly, Shannon notes that Lockwood specifically refers to ‘the hypothetical brother of Peter’s question’:[55] ‘it seemed necessary the brother should sin different sins on every occasion’.[56]  I mentioned in chapter one Cathy’s bemusement at being admonished for making herself comfortable when she hides in the dresser with Heathcliff.  To name four hundred and ninety separate sins, one would have to see small sins everywhere, including the sin of making oneself comfortable on a Sunday.  If, as I have suggested, Lockwood has changed places with Cathy during this first dream-sequence, then the reader sees that he, like Cathy, is bemused by both the number and nature of the sins, and, again like Cathy, he is finally punished for being bored by the ‘good book’.

Shannon writes that the correct interpretation of the sermon ‘advances the idea of an unpardonable sin beyond the ordinary scale of human wrongs’.[57]  Cathy is the one who has apparently committed such an offence, and in Lockwood’s second dream, the reader sees the consequences of her actions: Cathy is the Wandering Jew, the Cain-like figure, condemned to wander the earth for twenty years.[58]  But what is the nature of her offence?  Shannon suggests that the atmosphere of Gothic tradition in conjunction with a second biblical allusion in Lockwood’s first dream identifies the crime as adultery.  He writes that Branderham’s words to Lockwood, “Thou art the man! ”, are ‘the words of Nathan the prophet when he delivers God’s rebuke to David for appropriating Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’[59]  If Lockwood has taken Cathy’s place in this dream, then the charge of adultery is laid at Cathy’s feet: she had been given Heathcliff but she took Edgar Linton instead.  One may argue at this point that Heathcliff and Cathy do not actually commit adultery; but, says Shannon, Cathy’s ‘sin is marrying Edgar Linton, when she loves Heathcliff with a love that springs from a natural and elemental affinity between them’.[60]

To sum up: Lockwood’s dreams contain two allusions that must be considered jointly if they are to be fully understood.  The first allusion refers to a story in the New Testament in which the virtue of forgiveness for crimes committed is extolled and the second allusion identifies the crime as that of adultery.  Cathy, having changed places with Lockwood in his dream, is charged with having committed adultery in abandoning the man she truly loved to marry another.

Lockwood’s dreams are recounted at the beginning of the book but chronologically speaking the events related take place near the very end of Heathcliff’s story.  The key to understanding his story lies perhaps in the interpretation one places on the allusions in these dreams.  It seems entirely possible that Shannon has correctly identified the two allusions.  However, it is arguable that Adams’ mistake is not entirely baseless: the fact that the wording does recall the Old Testament story of Cain may have some significance.  In the text identified by Shannon, Jesus makes the point that forgiveness is better than vengeance and the reader is perhaps intended to recall the vengeance of Cain and his punishment for being unable to forgive his brother Abel.  At the end of Wuthering Heights, it is Heathcliff who finally forgives Cathy, abandoning his plans of vengeance directed at her remaining family, and his reward is to join her in death.  In this reading, both Heathcliff and Cathy are likened to the figure of Cain: both are excluded from the world or sphere they wish to inhabit until Heathcliff can learn forgiveness and abandon his plans for vengeance.

iii)     Conclusions

In my brief overview of reader-response criticism it was noted that Fish places a great deal of emphasis on the role of the reader in his affective stylistics.  Fish advocates the study of the reader’s experience of reading rather than any attempt to extract meaning from the text, and he claims that it is imperative that one take into account the temporal left to right flow of the reading experience.  Mailloux presents an argument that focuses on the reader less as an individual and more as a member of a reading community.  He differs from Fish in his assertion that one cannot be a reader without also being a critic and that textual interpretation is the product of shared meaning-producing strategies.

It was seen that the displaced interaction between the encoder of the message, the author, and its decoder, the reader, is arguably one of the hallmarks of the literary text, as is the text’s potential for supporting a plurality of interpretations.  This potential is not limitless, however; the author takes pains to ensure that her message is decoded more or less as she intended, and to this end she acts as a guide for the reader.  This argument is not incompatible with Iser’s contention that the reader fills in textual gaps: this is indeed what happens, but the reader is not allowed to fill the gaps at random and is provided instead with hints and clues.  Knapp and Michaels suggest that textual meaning and authorial meaning are one and the same and that it does not make sense to search for any additional meaning with reference to the author’s biography or personal psychology: it suffices to believe that the author wrote what she meant!  This argument can, I think, be cited in support of the claim that form and content are inseparable.

My investigation into the factors affecting reader response to individual word meaning also supports the claim that form = content in that it was demonstrated that words are not simply interchangeable.  At first glance, it may appear that there is little difference between the words ‘tourist’ and ‘traveller’, but my small survey showed otherwise.  Lexical choice is therefore as important in determining meaning as other textual factors such as syntactic arrangement and punctuation.  A paraphrase of a literary work involves changes to these factors, resulting in an undesirable loss of the original’s meaning.  Furthermore, I hope to have demonstrated that psycholinguistic study into the meaning of individual words can prove very useful to the student of literature.  I discovered that the following factors have some bearing on word meaning: the reader’s age, gender, nationality and attitudes; the time of year; current events; priming; the meaning of other, related words; the distance in time between the original encoding and the subsequent decoding – material for a diachronic study; and finally, the context in which the word appears.

The boundaries of what is understood by the ‘content’ of a literary text are stretched when it comes to a consideration of literary competence.  It has been seen that specialised literary knowledge such as knowledge of literary schemata, genre, storylines, frames, and other texts is occasionally required to bridge the distance between the reader and the text.  Linguistic research can help the student of literature in the study of the historical development of a language, which may sometimes be necessary to pinpoint the most likely meaning of a word or phrase at the time of writing, but leaving diachronic study aside, this is the area where the literary critic comes into his own.  It must be concluded therefore, that the stylistic study of literary texts has to incorporate literary as well as linguistic analysis.  For a full understanding of the text, linguistic analysis must be supported by specialised literary knowledge.

[1] Michael Riffaterre, ‘Criteria for Style Analysis’ in Word (1959), pp. 154-174.

[2] Stanley Fish, ‘Literature in the Reader: Affective Stylistics’ in New Literary History (1970), p. 131.

[3] Ibid., pp. 126-127.

[4] The fact that a reader responds to a left to right temporal flow has some very interesting implications for graphic novels and comic books in particular; indeed, in Tintin: The Complete Companion, Michael Farr notes that ‘when…Tintin bursts into the cabin to find Bobby Smiles already gone on page 18 of the colour edition, he logically rushes out to the right; in the black and white version he had dashed out to the left, disrupting the natural flow of left to right dictated by the reader’s eye’ (p. 36).  I also think it important that the effects of peripheral vision should not be overlooked – I remember as a child covering up the last paragraph of the ghost stories I used to read, so that I wouldn’t glimpse the spooky ending before I wanted to!

[5] Carole Berger, ‘The Rake and the Reader in Jane Austen’s Novels’ in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 (1975), p. 544.

[6] Ibid., footnote.

[7] Steven Mailloux, ‘Learning to Read: Interpretation and Reader-Response Criticism’ in Studies in the Literary Imagination (1979), p. 93.

[8] Steven Mailloux, ‘ “The Red Badge of Courage” and Interpretive Conventions: Critical Response to a Maimed Text’ in Studies in the Novel (1978), pp. 48-63.  A bowdlerised version of Stephen Crane’s book was published by Appleton & Co. in 1895, and its critics fell into three camps: those who used existing interpretive conventions relating to that particular genre at that particular time and who arrived at a misreading; those who dismissed the text as incoherent; and finally those who, because of a greater sensitivity to those conventions, arrived at a reading which reflected more accurately the text in its completed state.  Mailloux concludes that this critical activity demonstrates ‘how traditional literary conventions function as interpretive conventions – shared strategies for making sense of texts’ (p. 49).  It is noteworthy that most critics fell into the first camp, and that they were those who simply ignored the conflicting evidence of the expurgated text, while the more sensitive critics in the third camp did not.

[9] Steven Mailloux, ‘Learning to Read: Interpretation and Reader-Response Criticism’ in Studies in the Literary Imagination (1979), p. 93.  Mailloux’s paper, written in 1979, reflects the contemporary reaction against the intentional and affective fallacies of Wimsatt and Beardsley.

[10] G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 259.

[11] Steven Mailloux, ‘Learning to Read: Interpretation and Reader-Response Criticism’ in Studies in the Literary Imagination (1979), p. 107.

[12] In their influential essay, ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ (1954), Wimsatt and Beardsley argue that authorial intention should not be the standard by which a literary work is measured, and that even if the author can and does give a straight answer as to her intended meaning, this answer still has little to do with the actual work.  Wimsatt and Beardsley do not go so far as to place the reader at the forefront of critical attention, however – indeed, their companion essay to the essay mentioned above, ‘The Affective Fallacy’ (1954), hotly denies such a position in its firm assertion of the supremacy of the text.  Wimsatt and Beardsley appear anxious to prove that the exegesis of a poem cannot be arrived at via an examination of emotions evoked in the reader of that poem: ‘the report of some readers…that a poem or story induces in them vivid images, intense feelings, or heightened consciousness, is neither anything which can be refuted nor anything which it is possible for the objective critic to take into account’ (ibid., p. 32).  This is true, but does not, I think, adequately address or explore the suggestion that the reader gives meaning to the text: the reader’s emotional response to a literary work is only a small part of the equation.  The authors are keen to argue that meaning resides solely in the text, concluding as they do that ‘though cultures have changed and will change, poems remain and explain’ (ibid., p. 39).  This last conclusion seems to me to be overly-optimistic: it is hardly difficult to find instances of texts – certain passages in Shakespeare, for example – which make little sense to modern readers owing to changes in the code itself over the passage of time, and it is in these instances that a diachronic knowledge of the code is invaluable.

[13] R. Fowler, Linguistic Criticism (1996), p. 130.

[14] W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley, The Intentional Fallacy in The Verbal Icon (1954), p. 5.

[15] S. Knapp and W. B. Michaels, ‘Against Theory’ in Critical Inquiry (1982), p. 724.

[16] Iser’s arguments are summarised and discussed in Stanley Fish, ‘Who’s Afraid of Wolfgang Iser?’ in Diacritics (1981), pp. 2-13.

[17] The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 8th edition (1990).

[18] G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), pp. 352-354.

[19] Undoubtedly the gender of the reader also creates differences in the perceived meaning of words, but I cannot comment on this particular issue in relation to my survey because the respondents were not asked to identify themselves as male or female.  I can, however, quote a personal instance in which I disagreed with a male reader over the interpretation of the phrase ‘well-developed’.  Angua from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is described as such, and while I, a female reader, imagined the character to have large breasts, my male friend insisted that the phrase meant she was muscular.  I have to say there is a great deal of other textual evidence to support my own interpretation!

[20] This constitutes an instance of priming: ‘preactivating a listener’s attention…is known as “priming”, the assumption being that if a word “primes” another (facilitates the processing of another), the two are likely to be closely connected.’  J. Aitchison, Words in the Mind (2003), p. 25.

[21] P. B. Shelley, Ozymandias (1818).

[22] In chapter five of Meaning in Language (2000), Alan Cruse describes the localist and holistic views of word meaning as follows: the localist view is that the meaning of a word can be finitely specified, in isolation from the meanings of other words in the language, whereas the holistic approach holds that the meaning of a word cannot be known without taking into account the meanings of all the other words in a language.

[23] J. Aitchison, Words in the Mind (2003), p. 245.

[24] In addition, literary texts are rife with invented words – the many and various neologisms of Gerard Manley Hopkins, for instance – and yet the reader can still make sense of these words simply by drawing on what he knows of other words, and how the separate components of lexical items function in the grammar of his native language.  The creation of new words is the subject of chapter 15 of Jean Aitchison’s book, in which she discusses ‘four types of word-formation process which are common in English: compounding, conversion, affixation and re-analysis.’  Words in the Mind (2003), p. 186.

[25] Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat (1970), Penguin Modern Classics edition, p. 25.

[26] G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 259.

[27] R. Fowler, Linguistic Criticism (1996), p. 239.

[28] Ibid., p. 241.

[29] J. Aitchison, Words in the Mind (2003), p. 72.

[30] M. Short, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose (1996), p. 234.

[31] G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 158.

[32] M. Peake, Titus Groan (1946) in The Gormenghast Novels (1995), p. 14.

[33] M. Riffaterre, ‘Criteria for Style Analysis’ (1959), p. 159.

[34] M. Short, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose (1996), p. 234.

[35] R. Fowler, Linguistic Criticism (1996), p. 241.

[36] I am indebted to Rose Lovell-Smith for this point.

[37] E. Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847), Penguin Classics edition (1995), p. 29.

[38] W. Shakespeare, Macbeth, The Arden Shakespeare, ed. Kenneth Muir, pp. 4 and 105 respectively.

[39] John Sutherland argues that Heathcliff is Hindley’s murderer in an essay entitled ‘Is Heathcliff a Murderer?’ (1996) published in his book of the same name, pp. 53-58.

[40] F. W. Bateson and B. Shakevitch, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s “The Fly”: A Critical Exercise’ in Essays in Criticism (1962), pp. 50-51.

[41] Readers’ letters posted in Discworld Monthly, Issue 109, May 2006.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ruth M. Adams, ‘Wuthering Heights: the Land East of Eden’ in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1958), pp. 58-62.

[44] Ibid., p. 59.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid., p. 62.

[47] Although this outer world does occasionally show its face from time to time: Heathcliff prevents Edgar from changing his will, and the lawyers can do nothing to help Hareton following Hindley’s death, to cite just two examples.

[48] Genesis IV:13-15.

[49] To be excluded forever from the presence of God having once been welcomed into His presence is Mephostophilis’ definition of hell in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus: ‘Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it./Think’st thou that I that saw the face of God/And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,/Am not tormented with ten thousand hells/In being deprived of everlasting bliss?’ Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, Act I, scene (iii), Penguin Classics edition (1969), p. 275.

[50] Genesis IV:12: ‘When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength’.

[51] Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847), Penguin Classics edition (1995), p. 324.

[52] Edgar F. Shannon, ‘Lockwood’s Dreams and the Exegesis of “Wuthering Heights”’ (1959), p. 95.

[53] Ibid., p. 96.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847), Penguin Classics edition (1995), p. 23.

[57] Edgar F. Shannon, ‘Lockwood’s Dreams and the Exegesis of “Wuthering Heights”’ (1959), p. 99.

[58] In Volume I, chapter 9, Cathy tells Nelly of her dream in which the angels, angry because Cathy is unhappy in heaven, fling her back to earth.  It seems here that Cathy chooses to be an outcast, and in view of later events her dream can perhaps be read as a premonition: Cathy wishes to be back on earth because Heathcliff is there.

[59] Edgar F. Shannon, ‘Lockwood’s Dreams and the Exegesis of “Wuthering Heights”’ (1959), p. 100.

[60] Ibid.

Foregrounding in ‘Gormenghast’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’

gormenghast_charactersi) The Background to Foregrounding

Jan Mukařovský, one of the founding members of the Prague Linguistic Circle, explores the concept of foregrounding (aktualisace) in a paper entitled ‘Standard Language and Poetic Language’.[1]  Mukařovský is never in any doubt that there is a distinction to be made between ‘standard’ language and ‘poetic’ language, and he writes that ‘the violation of the norm of the standard, its systematic violation, is what makes possible the poetic utilization of language; without this possibility there would be no poetry’.[2]  We have already seen that the postulated existence of an exclusively literary language has since been thrown into question, but Mukařovský’s work can be regarded in hindsight as a valuable precursor to the work on linguistic register.  The identification of ‘the norm of the standard’ is likewise a contentious issue:[3] any attempt to classify language use according to some all-encompassing norm is bound to involve arbitrary decision-making and sweeping generalisations.  However, the advent of the technological age and the rapidly growing role of computers in the gathering of linguistic data[4] means that is it becoming increasingly possible to establish the norms of a given text, as Rebecca Posner points out:

computers…are being used mainly for the purpose of compiling concordances and frequency word lists [which] for students of style…provide the solid ground of the ‘norm’, on which the deviation of ‘individual style’ can stand out more clearly.[5]

Although computers have simplified the task of spotting deviation from the norms established within a given text, it remains problematical nevertheless to measure linguistic deviation within a text against any external standard: first, because a norm of standard language use is practically impossible to document exhaustively,[6] and more importantly, because there are convincing arguments against the existence of a single standard language in the first place.

This dubious literary/non-literary distinction notwithstanding, Mukařovský recognised that foregrounding is possible in both poetic and standard language.  In standard language foregrounding is subordinate to the function of communication.  Conversely, in poetic language,

foregrounding achieves maximum intensity to the extent of pushing communication into the background as the objective of expression and of being used for its own sake; it is not used in the services of communication, but in order to place in the foreground the act of expression, the act of speech itself.[7]

Mukařovský describes the relationship between poetic and standard language in terms of three positions on a language continuum.  At one end of the scale there exists no distortion of the language, although Mukařovský is careful to note that this too represents a stylistic choice.  At the mid-point of the scale, the language is distorted to a certain extent, but communication is still the dominant function of the text.  At the far end of the scale, the language is distorted, and communication is now subordinated to aesthetic function.

Mukařovský complicates the notion of foregrounding by claiming that in poetry there are in fact two norms, that of standard language, and that of the aesthetic canon: Mukařovský argues that poetic language is not a special brand of the standard because it has at its disposal all forms of the given language in addition to its own lexicon, phraseology and grammatical forms.[8]  Mukařovský concludes his paper by noting that foregrounding contributes to richness of expression, and that it subsequently enriches the language.  He notes that in standard language, foregrounding brings to the fore ‘the essence of sentence meaning and the dynamic nature of sentence construction…the meaning of a sentence appears as the total of the gradually accumulated meanings of the individual words’.[9]  Poetry, on the other hand, can foreground the relationship between the individual words and the subject matter of the sentence, and the semantic interrelationships of the words in the sentence – every word affects every other.[10]

In sum, Mukařovský’s argument runs as follows.  There is a distinction between standard and poetic language, and standard language provides the background against which poetic language can be thrown into relief, whereas poetic language employs its own established canon as well as borrowing from standard language.  Foregrounding can occur in both standard and poetic language, but its function in literary texts is to highlight the expression itself, whereas in standard language foregrounding serves a communicative function.

Mukařovský’s ideas have since been adapted and revised.  The idea of a specifically literary language is no longer popular, and the precise way in which literary language functions has been more rigorously defined than it is in Mukařovský’s three-point scale.  It is also no longer fashionable to claim that literary texts do not communicate content, and that they exist purely as aesthetic objects; there is an element of truth in the claim that the function of foregrounding in literary texts is to highlight the expression, but we are perhaps less likely now to dismiss the idea that literary texts can communicate or that non-literary texts can have elements of literariness.  Finally, the claim that standard language acts as background for literary language has to be re-evaluated: instances of foregrounding can only confidently be identified within the confines of the given text, because the only standard that can be established is that of the text.  Any comparison to norms of language usage outside of the text will ultimately rest on subjective assumptions and inconclusive data.  This final point can, I think, be cited in support of the claim that ‘form’ must relate to the whole text: the text, not the language as a whole, is the background against which instances of foregrounding can be identified and from which they derive their meaning.

It should be noted that Mukařovský refers specifically to poetry in his paper, but according to Leech and Short, foregrounding can also act as an aid to clarifying the distinction between transparent and opaque prose writing.  The greater the number of foregrounded elements, the more opaque the text:

the aesthetic theory of foregrounding or de-automatization enables us to see the references to TRANSPARENT and OPAQUE qualities of prose style…as more than vague metaphors…prose is opaque in the sense that the medium attracts attention in its own right; and indeed, the interpretation of sense may be frustrated and obstructed by abnormalities in the use of the lexical and grammatical features of medium…opacity can be equated with the extent to which the reader is required to be creative.[11]

The distinction between transparent and opaque will not always be a clear one, however; in reality, it is likely that texts will occupy positions on a sliding scale.  Leech and Short begin their exploration of foregrounding and its implications by distinguishing between literary relevance (foregrounding), psychological prominence and statistical deviance.  Deviance is defined as a ‘purely statistical notion…the difference between the normal frequency of a feature, and its frequency in the text or corpus’.[12]  Psychological prominence refers to those features which register in the mind of the reader.[13]  Foregrounding is not the same thing as either prominence or deviation, because the foregrounded items must in some way be artistically relevant to other foregrounded items and finally to an interpretation of the text as a whole: ‘we should be able to see a prominent feature of style as forming a significant relationship with other features of style, in an artistically coherent pattern of choice’.[14]  A prominent feature may not have any literary function; prominence may be due to a writer’s preference for short sentences, or monosyllabic words, for example.  Therefore, ‘the dividing line between foregrounding and unmotivated prominence must be drawn in principle: where it is drawn in practice depends on a coherent literary interpretation of style’.[15]

Leech and Short also differentiate between qualitative foregrounding and quantitative foregrounding.  Qualitative foregrounding is to be found in deviation from the language code itself, when the writer breaches some rule or convention; quantitative foregrounding is the deviation from some expected frequency.  It should be noted here that an unusual or noticeable frequency does of course include examples of absence as well as presence: for instance, the absence of a rhyme in a line of poetry where there should have been one – thereby defeating reader expectancy – or the sudden shift away from a prominent pattern of parallel structures in a prose text.  Of course, one form of foregrounding will eventually shade into the other: ‘the quantitative foregrounding…of a prominent pattern of choices within the code shades into the qualitative foregrounding which changes the code itself’.[16]  Is the lack of finite verbs in the Peake passage discussed in the following section an example of qualitative or quantitative foregrounding?  It is more likely that it begins as one and ends as the other.  One expects to see finite verbs in prose text, after all, and their initial absence will undoubtedly strike the reader as odd; as the passage progresses, however, their absence becomes the norm, and any finite verb introduced at this stage will itself be foregrounded as deviant from the code already established by the writer.  I follow my discussion of the passage from Gormenghast with an exploration of a passage from a relatively more transparent text, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

ii) Semantic Density in Gormenghast

It is clear from the opening lines of Gormenghast that the reader is dealing with a unique text.  It is a text that quickly establishes its own norms, and these norms can be briefly summarised as follows.  Extra levels of meaning are created through a concentration of parallel structures, as detailed in Appendix B.  Lexical items are linked through sound patterns, notably alliteration and pararhyme.  Peake regularly breaks grammatical rules; for example, his text contains examples of the omission of expected items, and the use of grammatical ellipsis or deletion creates a sequence of fragmented sentences, particularly in the opening paragraphs.  In addition, instances of nominalisation account in part for the noticeable lack of finite verbs.  At word level, content words are shifted out of their more usual function, or they are employed in a slightly unusual sense or in a sense that is tricky to place.  Also prominent is Peake’s idiosyncratic use of punctuation, the colon and semi-colon in particular.  And yet I would argue that almost all the above constitute instances of foregrounding, because there is little here that cannot be justified in thematic terms.  To alter the form of Peake’s text is to lose something of its content.

In the following analysis, I have examined each of the seven paragraphs in question individually.  Each paragraph is numbered and reproduced in full preceding its discussion for ease of reference, and the text in its entirety is reproduced in Appendix A.  As noted above, Appendix B is an attempt to represent visually the parallel structures within the text; Appendix C is the result of my attempt to paraphrase these opening paragraphs as part of an investigation into whether the form could be altered without affecting the content.  I would argue that the semantic density of this text renders futile any attempt at paraphrase.

Paragraph 1

(1) Titus is seven.  (2) His confines, Gormenghast.  (3) Suckled on shadows; weaned, as it were, on webs of ritual: for his ears, echoes, for his eyes, a labyrinth of stone: and yet within his body something other – other than this umbrageous legacy.  (4) For first and ever foremost he is child.[17]

This paragraph consists of four sentences numbered (1) to (4) above.  The first and second sentences contain three words, the third, 34, and the fourth, eight.  The opening and closing words of this paragraph are parallel in structure (proper noun/pronoun – copula verb is – adjective/enumerator):

Titus    is          seven               S V C     (subject –verb– subject complement)

he        is          child                S V C

The omission of a determiner in the final phrase (‘he is child’, not ‘he is a child’) has a twofold effect.  The parallelism thus created between this phrase and the phrase which opens the novel – ‘Titus is seven’ – links the two statements in the mind of the reader, thereby reaffirming Titus’ status as a child.  The word ‘child’, which usually functions as a noun, arguably functions here as an adjective, as does the enumerator, the cardinal number ‘seven’, the effect of which is that the word ‘child’, italicized in Peake’s text for emphasis, describes Titus rather than simply telling the reader what he is, almost as if Titus is an embodiment of, or is representative of, every child in the world – an effect which becomes significant later in the extract.  It is Titus’ status as child which forms the basis of his rebellion against the oppressive atmosphere of the castle.  Peake’s use of parallel structures foregrounds this important information for the reader.

The first sentence also forms a parallel with the second, in that both consist of just three words.  The second sentence is elliptical: ‘His confines, Gormenghast.’  The second word ‘confines’ could be interpreted in either an abstract or a concrete sense, depending upon whether the confines referred to are the actual stone boundaries of the castle or alternatively the restrictions and limitations in Titus’ mind, in that Gormenghast is all he knows or all that he can conceive of.  However, the third sentence would appear to reinforce the abstract interpretation of ‘confines’ in its description of Titus’ upbringing and the way in which he interacts with and accesses the world available to him through his physical senses.

Peake’s rich prose does not lend itself easily to paraphrase, not only because several differing but equally valid interpretations of a sentence or phrase are occasionally possible, but also because any paraphrase is likely to lose the ‘poetic’ qualities of the original text, finishing as merely a pale reproduction.  I have noted in Appendix B the many parallel structures which contribute to the rhythm of Peake’s text, and in Paragraph 1, as in the other paragraphs under analysis, there are many subtle phonological effects which one would also not wish to lose.  Note the alliteration in ‘Suckled on shadows; weaned, as it were, on webs of ritual’, and the echo in ‘for his ears, echoes, for his eyes…’.  The italicized phrases echo each other, and the meaning of the text is thereby reinforced in its form.  The word ‘other’ occurs twice, providing another echo in the passage, and the sound pattern of the word ‘for’ is repeated in the final phrase ‘For first and ever foremost he is child’.[18]

In writing my very literal paraphrase of this opening paragraph, I noticed that many deep structure verbs had been suppressed in their surface structure manifestations.  The only verbs remaining are the copula ‘is’ – which, in its insistence on Titus’ state of being, perhaps serves to foreshadow Titus’ rebellion – and ‘suckled’, ‘weaned’, both of which place Titus in the role of beneficiary instead of agent.  Titus is not allowed to be active: he does not hear the echoes or see the maze of stone – they are provided by the castle for his ears and eyes.[19]  Titus is, but he does not act.

Paragraph 2

(1) A ritual, more compelling than ever man devised, is fighting anchored darkness.  (2) A ritual of the blood; of the jumping blood.  (3) These quicks of sentience owe nothing to his forbears, but to those feckless hosts, a trillion deep, of the globe’s childhood.

Sentence (1) consists of twelve words, and a subordinate clause is embedded within the main clause: ‘more compelling than ever man devised’.  This clause informs the reader that the ritual referred to in this paragraph is not, or is unlikely to be, one of the rituals observed at Gormenghast, all of which have been devised by Titus’ ancestors.  The present continuous verb form ‘is fighting’ locates the passage firmly in the immediate present; a battle is at this moment raging against the enemy, the ‘anchored darkness’.[20]  This enemy is fixed and immovable, ‘anchored’ in the liquid of Titus’ blood, which by contrast moves and jumps.

The nine words of the fragmented second sentence tell us that this ritual is ‘of the blood’; this phrase is paralleled in the words following the semi-colon, ‘of the jumping blood’.  The parallelism takes the form of the repetition and embellishment of a noun phrase; this repeated phrase ‘of the blood’, therefore, is the pulse of the sentence, and the adjectival participle ‘jumping’ represents one of the ‘quicks of sentience’ mentioned in (3).  This effect is reinforced by the rhythmical stress of the phrases:

of the blood

⁄              ⁄

of the jumping blood

where the regular heavy stress on ‘blood’ is interrupted by an additional stress on the first syllable of ‘jumping’.

The third sentence in Paragraph 2 is once again the longest, consisting as it does of 21 words, a coordinating construction (‘but to’) and a subordinate clause.  There are some difficult words here: ‘quick’ is not listed as a noun,[21] but in Peake’s text its function is clearly that of a collective noun.  I have assumed that Peake meant the reader to understand the ‘quicks of sentience’ as referring to the jumps in Titus’ blood mentioned in the previous sentence, if one is to assume that Peake has followed the rules, or guidelines, for the construction of a coherent text – namely, that the subject should not be randomly altered without giving the reader some indication of the change.  My assumption is reinforced by the use of the determiner ‘these’ as an anaphoric reference: ‘these quicks of sentience’ refers back to ‘the jumping blood’ of the previous sentence.  I have paraphrased ‘quicks of sentience’ as ‘flashes of self-knowledge’, to indicate Titus’ growing awareness of himself as a child, rather than as the Earl of Gormenghast.  By contrast, the word ‘feckless’ (‘feeble, futile, ineffective, aimless, irresponsible’[22]) seems to undermine the force of these ‘quicks’.  The hosts are ‘irresponsible’ because in encouraging Titus to rebel, they are working against the castle.[23]  Alternatively, the hosts are ‘feeble’ because Titus is as yet immature – or there is always the possibility that we are meant to understand both senses.  Another tricky word to place is ‘hosts’; but the phrase ‘a trillion deep’ would seem to suggest that ‘hosts’ should be interpreted in the sense of a large multitude.

Paragraph 3

(1) The gift of the bright blood.  (2) Of blood that laughs when the tenets mutter ‘Weep’.  (3) Of blood that mourns when the sere laws croak ‘Rejoice!’  (4 ) O little revolution in great shades!

In common with the preceding paragraphs, this paragraph consists of a series of fragmented sentences.  It ends with an exclamative, and is perhaps the most ‘poetic’ of the paragraphs to be analysed.  The second and third sentences in particular are poetic in that they are almost a mirror image of each other in their structure: Of blood that – verb phrase – when the – noun phrase – speech verb – imperative in direct speech.  This whole paragraph presents the reader with six verbs in four lines, a relatively dense concentration of verbs, presented as forms of opposites and contrasts (laugh/mourn; weep/rejoice).  This sudden proliferation of action verbs may be emblematic of Titus’ growing state of defiance: the imperatives issued by the laws and tenets are disregarded and mocked by the rebellion in Titus’ blood.[24]  Titus’ rebellion – referred to as a ‘revolution’ in (4) – is still ‘little’, opposed as it is to the ‘great shades’.  And how are we to understand ‘shades’?  Is Peake referring to the shadowy corners of Gormenghast castle, or to the ghosts of Titus’ numerous ancestors – or both?  And are we to understand ‘revolution’ as a rebellion, a change in the state of affairs, or as directionless turning in a circle?  For Titus cannot escape Gormenghast – having left its boundaries, he is later compelled to return – albeit briefly – at the end of the trilogy.  As the Countess prophesies at the end of the second novel, shortly before Titus leaves the castle: ‘You will only tread a circle, Titus Groan.  There’s not a road, not a track, but it will lead you home.  For everything comes to Gormenghast.’[25]

Paragraph 4

(1) Titus the seventy-seventh.  (2) Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of red rust: to rituals’ footprints ankle-deep in stone.

This paragraph consists of only two sentences and the structure here is very similar to that of the first paragraph in that both begin with the proper noun ‘Titus’.  The first paragraph told us Titus’ age, but now we are given his title: ‘the seventy-seventh’.  Leaving aside the obvious parallelism in the chosen enumerators (seven: seventy-seventh), the emphasis switches from Titus’ status as a child to his status as the Earl of Gormenghast.  The focus of the text has likewise shifted away from Titus’ growing feelings of rebellion, and moved toward the castle itself – that which Titus has inherited from his ancestors, as opposed to that which he has been given by the other children of the world.  The whole phrase forming the first fragmented sentence serves as a proper noun: it is an example of ellipsis – the phrase in its entirety should read ‘Titus is the seventy-seventh Earl of Gormenghast’.  The phrase reinforces Titus’ role as Earl, immediately following two paragraphs which describe his rebellion as child.  Titus is seven years old – but he is also the seventy-seventh Earl of Gormenghast.

There is a strongly marked parallelism in the second sentence:

Heir     to a…

to a…

to an…

to rituals’ footprints

The images which follow in each of the succeeding phrases are those of decay and things overgrown.  The image of the sea (‘a sea of nettles’[26]) is recalled when the reader reaches the word ‘footprints’ a little later, but the footprints are not those in sand which are quickly erased by the sea – these footprints are ‘ankle-deep in stone’.  The rituals have left their mark indelibly on the castle.

This fourth paragraph is followed by the single word ‘Gormenghast’, the proper noun forming a paragraph all on its own.  In this short extract, then, three paragraphs have begun with proper nouns, as follows:

Titus (is seven)

Titus the seventy-seventh


The parallel structure exemplifies the power-hierarchy.  Titus the seven-year old child is subject to Titus the seventy-seventh Earl of Gormenghast, and even the Earl himself is subject to the timeless power of the castle.  The structure demonstrates where the power lies – with Gormenghast, a force so powerful that it is granted a paragraph all to itself.

Paragraph 6

(1) Withdrawn and ruinous it broods in umbra: the immemorial masonry: the towers, the tracts.  (2) Is all corroding?  (3) No.  (4) Through an avenue of spires a zephyr floats; a bird whistles; a freshet bears away from a choked river.  (5) Deep in a fist of stone a doll’s hand wriggles, warm rebellious on the frozen palm.  (6) A shadow shifts its length.  (7) A spider stirs…

This is the longest paragraph of the opening passage, consisting of seven sentences.  The focus is still on the castle.  The first sentence contains a combination of animistic and humanizing metaphors[27] to personify the castle, which is given a sulky and faintly malevolent personality (withdrawn/broods).  The internal parallelism of (1) after the first colon is reinforced by the repeated ms in ‘umbra’ and ‘immemorial masonry’ and the (almost!) pararhyme in ‘towers’ and ‘tracts’.  The answer to the question posed in (2) is seemingly anomalous because the question – ‘Is all corroding?’ – is ostensibly about the castle, but the answer is concerned with forces of nature (zephyr/bird/freshet) unconnected with the castle – until, that is, the reader comes to Titus once again, wriggling his ‘doll’s hand’ within the ‘fist of stone’.  The question and answer imply the presence of a narrator and a narratee; Gormenghast itself is undoubtedly one of the characters of the trilogy, perhaps the most interesting character of them all.  Peake’s narrative voice is often situated within the consciousness of one of the characters, and more often than not the narration is given from the castle’s point of view.  Manlove comments that ‘Gormenghast, considered both as place and society, is the most important character’.[28]  In considering this short extract alone, it is interesting to note that the number of fragmented sentences rapidly diminishes once the subject turns from Titus to the castle.  The castle is complete – hence the full sentences – but the immature Titus is not.  Peake’s syntax is in this respect iconic.

The themes of rebellion and escape are quickly picked up again after the interrogative of (2), and here we find a succession of action verbs: ‘floats’, ‘whistles’, ‘bears away from’.  The wind, the birds and the streams do not answer to Gormenghast: they are not subject to the castle’s influence, unlike Titus, whom we meet again in (5).  He is no longer Titus the seventy-seventh; he is no longer even a person, but a wriggling ‘doll’s hand’, tiny and ineffectual against the ‘fist of stone’, the larger hand which holds him fast.  But he is active – he ‘wriggles’ – and he is ‘warm’ and ‘rebellious’ where the castle is ‘frozen’.  But the castle is clearly not going to give in without a fight; (6) once again reinforces the images of stagnation and inactivity within the castle grounds: ‘A shadow shifts its length.’  The length of the shadow changes because time is passing – the shadows grow as the day wears on and the sun moves through the sky; what appears to be a verb of movement here (‘shifts’) actually is not at all – it is the sun that moves, not the shadow, nor whatever it is that is casting the shadow.  Finally, the paragraph ends with a verb of movement after all – the spider ‘stirs’ – but with the image of the spider comes the association of cobwebs and dust.  By the end of this paragraph it seems that the two adversaries are evenly matched.  Titus is diminished in physical stature and located deep at the heart of the castle, but his eventual rebellion has been clearly marked in the text; Gormenghast is immeasurably huge, an inexorable power, but the freshet made its escape from the ‘choked river’, just as Titus will make his escape from the vast decaying mass of the castle.  The final word is perhaps reserved for the castle: ‘And darkness winds between the characters.’  How is one to paraphrase this?  Leech and Short suggest that ‘characters’ could refer to the characters of the text – the letters of the alphabet.[29]  But for the moment it would seem that the castle continues to exert its power over its occupants.

At the end of the opening passage, the reader has been introduced to the two adversaries: the enormous sprawling environs of the castle, with its weighty phrases and lexical items concerning stone and shadows, and the child Titus, with his action verbs and his tiny wriggle of rebellion.  Peake foregrounds the theme of rebellion by a number of means.  In the very first paragraph the omission of an expected article emphasises Titus’ childlike status and subsequent phrases relating to Titus’ various roles are placed in a series of parallel structures emblematic of the power hierarchy.  At this stage, the power lies with the castle.  Gormenghast is described in prepositional phrases separated by colons and semi-colons which give each phrase the weight of a sentence: ‘to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of red rust’.  The effect of this is to reinforce the castle’s immense physical weight and its heavy influence on the lives of the inhabitants.  Titus’ immature status is embodied in the elliptical sentence structure associated with him but there is a sense of growing rebellion in the description of his ‘jumping blood’; here the form arguably enacts the content.  Peake’s use of foregrounding therefore clearly signposts Titus’ eventual rebellion at word, sentence and discourse levels.

iii)     Foregrounding in Wuthering Heights

The opacity of the opening passage of Gormenghast requires the reader to actively construct meanings.  I turn now to a comparatively transparent text, Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.  I hope to demonstrate that foregrounded items in this text also require the reader to be an active participant rather than a passive recipient.  In the following analysis I have focused on anaphoric reference and parallel constructions, the impersonal pronoun coupled with the use of body parts as actor, and finally the use of parenthetical constructions.

The passage from Wuthering Heights I have chosen to explore is volume one, chapter three,[30] in which Lockwood passes the time before falling asleep reading the words Cathy has written; first those carved into the couch itself, which take the form of her given name followed by the three surnames she imagined herself to possess, and second, the words she has scrawled into the margins of those books which constitute her library.[31]  These words recount the events of an ‘awful Sunday’ (p. 20), in which Cathy and Heathcliff are compelled to listen to Joseph’s three-hour homily.

Lockwood’s first dream is a re-enactment of Cathy’s ‘awful Sunday’, in which Joseph is confused with the preacher Jabes Branderham and Lockwood himself takes the place of the child Cathy, forced to listen to a sermon consisting of ‘four hundred and ninety parts’ (p. 23).  At the commencement of the dream, Joseph and Lockwood are likened to pilgrims: Joseph carries a ‘cudgel’ which he refers to as a ‘pilgrim’s staff’ (p. 23), and he admonishes Lockwood for not having one.  In parallel constructions separated by a semi-colon (pronoun + auxiliary verb + main verb), Brontë changes the main verb from ‘going’ to ‘journeying’:

I was not         going there;

we were           journeying to hear…  (p. 23)

Joseph, described as Lockwood’s ‘guide’ (p. 23), was initially supposed to be showing him the way home, but Lockwood is now a pilgrim on a journey.  In the paragraph which follows, the pilgrims become potentially condemned men: ‘either Joseph, the preacher, or I…were to be publicly exposed and excommunicated’ (p. 23).  These events are reminiscent of the children’s admonition at the hands – or tongue – of Joseph, and his assertion that ‘owd Nick’ (p. 22) would come to fetch them.  Joseph’s three-hour homily is magnified in Lockwood’s dream to a sermon of prodigious length, each part of which deals with ‘odd transgressions’ (p. 23) or sins of which Lockwood was unaware; perhaps this reflects Cathy’s mystification at Joseph’s anger with the children for making themselves ‘snug…in the arch of the dresser’ (p. 21).

The Lockwood-Cathy/Jabes-Joseph confusion is made clear to the reader in the following section of Lockwood’s narrative:

Oh, how weary I grew.  How I writhed, and yawned, and nodded, and revived!  How I pinched and pricked myself, and rubbed my eyes, and stood up, and sat down again, and nudged Joseph to inform me if he would ever have done!  (p. 23)

The pronoun ‘he’ could be understood to refer to either Jabes or Joseph himself, the previous reference to Jabes being sufficiently distant from this passage to render it possible that it is Joseph to whom Lockwood refers.  Halliday and Hasan note that ‘where the cohesive element is something like he or one, which coheres by direct reference to, or substitution for, another item, the presupposed element is typically a specific item in the immediately preceding sentence.’[32]  It is significant, I think, that the last reference to ‘he’ which refers directly to Jabes Branderham is four sentences distant from the ‘he’ of Lockwood’s complaint; ‘Jabes’ appears five sentences distant.  It is plausible, therefore, that Joseph and Jabes could be confused in that ambiguous pronoun, and that this effect is intentional on the author’s part.  Joseph has taken the place of the preacher, and Lockwood, his head still full of Cathy’s words, has taken the place of the recalcitrant child.  The parallel constructions

how weary I grew

How I…-ed, and…-ed, and…-ed, and …ed!

How I…-ed and …-ed…and…-ed…

and stood [verb –ed] …,

and sat [verb –ed]…,

and…!  (p. 23)

mimic the fidgeting and complaining of a child.[33]  These constructions – the use of ‘how’ to indicate the extent of an emotion or action and the use of ‘and’ as a conjunction to bind together a string of verbs, coupled with the use of exclamation marks to emphasise strong emotion and to provide the reader with an indication of the tone in which the text is designed to be read – are strongly reminiscent of Cathy’s written style in her makeshift journal:

How little did I dream that Hindley would ever make me cry so!…

Poor Heathcliff!

Hindley…       won’t let him sit with us,

nor eat with us any more;

and, he says,

he and I must not play together,

and threatens to turn him out of the house…  (p. 22)

Lockwood’s complaint, as Branderham is about to embark on the ‘First of the Seventy First’ (p. 24), is the accusation of a child, that of being bored by an adult who has forced the child to sit still and listen, as Cathy is forced to groan and shiver her way through Joseph’s homily.  Jabes Branderham responds with the complaint that Lockwood ‘didst…gapingly contort thy visage’ (p. 24) – an adult’s complaint that a child has been pulling faces, or yawning, instead of paying attention.  Once again, the reader is given the impression that Lockwood has changed places with Cathy, and Joseph with Jabes Branderham.

Lockwood falls asleep for a second time, only to dream that he is visited by Cathy’s child-ghost, a visitor he refuses to acknowledge as human; this refusal is made evident in his use of the impersonal pronoun to refer to the figure at the window, and his repeated use of body parts as actor in material processes.

The poor light obliges Lockwood to rely on his other senses.  The child’s face is distinguished only ‘obscurely’ (p. 25), and the focus throughout this second dream is on that which Lockwood can feel and hear.  Lockwood uses the impersonal pronoun ‘it’ to refer to Cathy’s voice, ‘ “Catherine Linton,” it [‘a most melancholy voice’] replied shiveringly’, her wrist, ‘I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro’, the creature, ‘still it wailed’, and Cathy’s hand, or the grip of her hand, ‘and maintained its tenacious gripe’ (p. 25).  Not once does Lockwood refer to ‘she’, or ‘her’, or even ‘the child’.  Cathy is an amalgamation of disassembled face, hand, wrist, fingers, and voice; she is kept distant from the world of the living by Lockwood’s refusal to acknowledge her as anything other than a ‘creature’, and this effect is compounded when coupled with Lockwood’s use of elegant variation to describe Cathy once Heathcliff appears on the scene.  Cathy is, in turn, ‘the little fiend’, ‘that minx’, ‘a changeling’ and a ‘wicked little soul’ (p. 27); she is also linked with the witches of Macbeth in Lockwood’s later reference to the ‘brindled’ cat ‘Grimalkin’ (p. 29).  In Lockwood’s eyes she is a malevolent sprite, in spite of Cathy’s description of herself as a ‘waif’, homeless and helpless, and lost on the moors.

To recap, then: a calculated use of foregrounded anaphoric reference is in evidence once again, but the intention this time is not to confuse the characters in the reader’s mind, but to place as much distance as possible between the disturbed sleeper and the wanderer on the moors.  Lockwood’s persistent use of the impersonal pronoun it to refer to Cathy’s ghost, or parts of her ghostly body, has the double effect of distancing the ghost from the human beings – Lockwood and the reader – and of underlining Lockwood’s callousness towards a child in obvious distress, a female child who has lost her way on the moors, and on a cold and wintry night, at that.[34]

Parenthetical constructions[35] are very much in evidence in both dream-sequences, and their role in each is to remind the reader that Lockwood is simply recounting his nightmares, and that the events described have not actually taken place in the fictional ‘waking’ world.  In his dream of Joseph and the preacher there are two such constructions, the second comprising two lengthy sentences (106 words in total). The first of these interruptions to Lockwood’s narrative is as follows:

Alas, for the effects of bad tea and bad temper! what else could it be that made me pass such a terrible night?  I don’t remember another that I can at all compare with it since I was capable of suffering.

I began to dream…  (p. 22)

The reader is notified, therefore, that the events to follow are imaginary.  The second interruption is the longest, consisting as it does of a description of the chapel: ‘I have passed it really in my walks…’; the adverb ‘really’ is also intended to act as an indication to the reader that Lockwood’s walks are part of the ‘real’ world, whereas the particular journey he is currently relating is not.  This description comes to an end with the words ‘one penny from their own pockets’ (p. 23).  Although the digression is long, Lockwood’s words do not destroy the gloomy mood of the passage, referring as he does to the ‘embalming on the few corpses’ lying in the swamp.  The parenthesis is brought to an end when Lockwood brings us back to his narrative with the words, ‘However, in my dream,’ (p. 23) and the narrative continues until finally he is woken by the fir-tree’s taps on the window.  In his dream of Cathy’s child-ghost, the reader is kept conscious of the fact that Lockwood is dreaming by the scattering of parenthetical phrases such as ‘This time’, ‘I thought’, ‘when awake’, ‘the intense horror of nightmare came over me’, and, most tellingly of all, ‘why did I think of Linton?  I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton’, until finally we come to ‘I discovered the yell was not ideal’ (pp. 25-26).  Brontë, through these parenthetical constructions, has gone to some trouble to distinguish between Lockwood’s dream-world and the ‘real’ world of Wuthering Heights, and the reader is discouraged from confusing the two during Lockwood’s narration of his nightmares.  However, it is a different state of affairs once Lockwood is awake, and the effect is rendered more startling by these earlier attempts to convince the reader of the fictional nature of his dreams.  Heathcliff, of course, is beside himself with anguish, believing as he does that Cathy’s ghost has returned.  Lockwood, too, seems to be convinced that his dream was real.  He tells Heathcliff that the room is ‘swarming with ghosts and goblins’, and in reference to Cathy’s ghost he asserts that ‘If the little fiend had got in at the window, she probably would have strangled me!’ (p. 27).  In addition, let us not forget that the ghost identified herself as Catherine Linton – a fact already remarked upon by Lockwood.  After all, Cathy did not become Catherine Linton until she married Edgar, but Cathy’s child-ghost clings to the name she bore when she died.  As Catherine Linton, she is denied both the Heights and Heathcliff’s presence.

By first convincing the reader that Lockwood’s narrative is really only a dream, and then confounding the issue by having the characters behaving as if the aforementioned events had really taken place after all, coupled with the anomaly of the ghost’s name, Brontë leaves the reader in some doubt as to whether Cathy’s ghost did or did not come that night.  In any case, the effect on Heathcliff is that which is important.  John Hagan has commented as follows on this passage:

when Lockwood arrives at Wuthering Heights and dreams of Catherine’s ghost at the window, all of Heathcliff’s anguished yearning is revived….  Heathcliff is convinced that his visitor has really seen the spectre he himself had hoped to see for all those eighteen years.  Most significantly, it is on precisely this delusion that Emily Brontë arranges for the dénouement of the novel to hinge, for from this point onward Heathcliff can think of nothing but joining Catherine in death.[36]

It is certainly arguable that Heathcliff loses all lust for revenge once he hears Lockwood’s tale of ghosts and goblins.

Lockwood’s dream of Cathy’s child-ghost is one of several episodes in the novel in which Brontë balances the supernatural with the plausible.  We cannot know for sure whether or not Cathy’s ghost did come to seek Heathcliff that night, nor can we be sure that the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy do not ‘walk’ at the end of the novel, despite the assertions of Lockwood and Nelly Dean to the contrary.  Does Heathcliff really see Cathy herself shortly before his death, or is her appearance simply an hallucination, an effect of his self-imposed fast?

To sum up: foregrounded anaphoric reference indicates that the participants in Lockwood’s first dream have changed places; certainly the Joseph-Jabes switch is made evident, and thus the Lockwood-Cathy switch can be inferred.  The anaphoric ‘he’ is foregrounded because the reader will be forced to consider who ‘he’ is.  McHale notes that a character, unlike the narrator, is not subject to the cohesive rules of the text and does not have to supply a referent.[37]  It is unclear whether Lockwood is referring to Joseph or Jabes, but I have argued that this is not a failure on Brontë’s part but rather an intentional poetic effect allowing the switch between the characters to take place.  The resulting confusion of Lockwood with Cathy explains how Cathy and not Lockwood comes to be accused of adultery.  The foregrounded parenthetical constructions which represent Lockwood’s intrusions into his own dream narrative support the carefully constructed fabric of the supernatural versus the plausible which is woven throughout Brontë’s novel – a fabric which allows the more romantically inclined reader to believe that Cathy and Heathcliff do indeed walk the moors together once Heathcliff has joined Cathy in the quiet grave.

iv) Conclusions

In this chapter, we have seen many instances of foregrounding, both qualitative and quantitative: Peake’s text in particular abounds in broken rules and unusual constructions which amount to examples of qualitative foregrounding, or breaches of the language code itself.  The parallel constructions that constitute quantitative foregrounding, or deviation from an expected frequency, in Gormenghast contribute to the semantic density of the text: new meanings are created as the reader is required to interpret the links forged between the connected items.

We have also seen examples of prominence – sound patterns and parenthetical constructions – which are noticeable to the reader, but which lack thematic significance and therefore do not constitute an instance of foregrounding.  We see how a collaboration between linguist and critic could prove useful: a linguistic description of a text can reveal what rules have been broken or what is unusual about a particular utterance; the critic can then use this information in the formulation of a coherent interpretation of a literary text, because it is only those examples of deviation and prominence that show thematic significance which can accurately be described as foregrounding.  The theme of rebellion in Gormenghast is marked in foregrounded items such as parallel structures and elliptical sentences.  Brontë’s calculated use of anaphoric reference is important thematically because the character-switch between Lockwood and Cathy must be effected so that Cathy, and not Lockwood, can be seen to be charged with adultery: this point will be explored in more detail in chapter four.

Needless to say, foregrounding is lost in paraphrase, as I discovered in my attempt to paraphrase the opening paragraphs of Gormenghast.  Foregrounding is not just textual decoration that can be discarded: foregrounded items support, reinforce, or even introduce the ideas or themes of a text, and as such constitute a vital component of content.  To disregard foregrounded items, to exclude them from a paraphrase, to change the form in this way, necessarily entails a loss, or a change of content.



Appendix A

Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (1): Extract[1]

(1)        Titus is seven.  His confines, Gormenghast.  Suckled on shadows; weaned, as it were, on webs of ritual: for his ears, echoes, for his eyes, a labyrinth of stone: and yet within his body something other – other than this umbrageous legacy.  For first and ever foremost he is child.

(2)        A ritual, more compelling than ever man devised, is fighting anchored darkness.  A ritual of the blood; of the jumping blood.  These quicks of sentience owe nothing to his forbears, but to those feckless hosts, a trillion deep, of the globe’s childhood.

(3)        The gift of the bright blood.  Of blood that laughs when the tenets mutter ‘Weep’.  Of blood that mourns when the sere laws croak ‘Rejoice!’  O little revolution in great shades!

(4)        Titus the seventy-seventh.  Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of red rust: to rituals’ footprints ankle-deep in stone.

(5)        Gormenghast.

(6)        Withdrawn and ruinous it broods in umbra: the immemorial masonry: the towers, the tracts.  Is all corroding?  No.  Through an avenue of spires a zephyr floats; a bird whistles; a freshet bears away from a choked river.  Deep in a fist of stone a doll’s hand wriggles, warm rebellious on the frozen palm.  A shadow shifts its length.  A spider stirs…

(7)        And darkness winds between the characters.

Appendix B                  

Gormenghast (2): Figure showing parallel constructions in extract (1)

Titus is seven.

His confines, Gormenghast.

Suckled                       on shadows;

weaned, as it were,     on webs of ritual:

for his ears,                  echoes,

for his eyes,                 a labyrinth of stone:

and yet within his body something     other –

other than this umbrageous legacy.

For first and ever foremost

he is child.


A ritual, more compelling than ever man devised, is fighting anchored darkness.

A ritual            of the blood;

of the jumping blood.

These quicks    of sentience owe nothing        to his forbears,

but         to those feckless hosts, a trillion deep,

of the globe’s childhood.


The gift           of the bright blood.

Of blood         that laughs       when the tenets           mutter ‘Weep’.

Of blood         that mourns     when the sere laws      croak ‘Rejoice!’

O little revolution in great shades!


Titus the seventy-seventh.

Heir     to a crumbling summit:

to a sea of nettles:

to an empire of red rust:

to rituals’ footprints ankle-deep in stone.




Withdrawn and ruinous it broods in umbra:

the immemorial masonry:

the towers,

the tracts.

Is all corroding?


Through an avenue of spires   a zephyr floats;

a bird whistles;

a freshet bears away from a choked river.

Deep in a fist of stone             a doll’s hand wriggles,

warm rebellious on the frozen palm.

A shadow shifts its length.

A spider stirs…


And darkness winds between the characters.


Appendix C                           

Gormenghast (3): Paraphrase of extract (1)

Titus is seven years old.  He lives in the castle of Gormenghast, which is both his territory and his prison.  He has been reared within the castle, nourished and nurtured on its shadows and traditions.  He hears echoes and he sees an endless maze of stone.  But inside him there exists something alien, something else, something that is not the shadowy castle with its many rituals that he has inherited.  Because the most important thing about Titus is that he is a child.

This ‘something else’ growing inside Titus is a ritual, but it is not like any of the rituals that are observed in Gormenghast; it has more appeal, more power than these man-made rituals.  Within Titus there rages a battle between the rituals of Gormenghast and the more commonplace rituals of childhood.  The rebellion is situated in Titus’ blood, which pulses with life.  These flashes of self-knowledge have not been inherited from his ancestors, but they have originated in the multitude of children all over the world.

The rebellion in Titus’ blood is a gift from the world’s children.  This blood laughs when doctrine and tradition demand that it weep, and this blood mourns when the ancient laws command it to rejoice.   A small show of defiance in the boundless shadow of Gormenghast’s history and tradition!

Titus is the seventy-seventh Earl of Gormenghast.  He will inherit a castle whose uppermost towers are gradually disintegrating: whose grounds are overgrown with weeds; he will inherit a domain of rusting metal: a domain in which the rituals must be observed.  These rituals are imprinted upon the very stones of the castle.


The castle sits in shadow, decaying and isolated: the masonry ancient beyond memory or record, the towers, the vast regions within its boundaries.  Is everything corroding?  No.  A breeze floats through the many spires of the castle; a bird whistles; a fresh-water stream flows away from a choked river.  Inside the stones of the castle Titus’ tiny hand wriggles; it is warm and rebellious against the cold stones of the castle.  The day draws on and the shadows lengthen.  A spider stirs…

And darkness winds between the inhabitants of the castle.

[1] M. Peake, Gormenghast (1950) in The Gormenghast Novels (1995), p. 399.  Paragraphs are numbered for ease of reference.

[1] J. Mukařovský, ‘Standard Language and Poetic Language’ (1958), Linguistics and Literary Style (1970), D. C. Freeman (editor), pp. 40-56.

[2] Ibid., p. 42.

[3] Bernard Bloch is frequently quoted in relation to this issue, because Bloch asserts that the style of a particular text can be defined as ‘the message carried by the frequency distributions and transitional probabilities of its linguistic features, especially as they differ from those of the same features in the language as a whole’ (quoted in G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 43).  Leech and Short point out that it is indeed possible to make some fairly reliable statements about the properties of language, but that the norm of ‘the language as a whole’ is not so easily identified as Bloch seems to imagine, and that ‘without some clearcut notion…of what is meant by “the language as a whole”, any sampling procedure is bound to involve subjective decisions’ (p. 45).

[4] In corpus-based analysis, for example.

[5] R. Posner, ‘The Use and Abuse of Stylistic Statistics’, Archivum Linguisticum (1963), p. 126.

[6] Maurice Gross makes some interesting observations on the failure of generative grammar to produce a workable grammar of the English language some twenty years after its initial inception; Gross suggests that generative grammar could have provided this description of the language as a whole that is currently lacking.  He proposes various reasons for this failure, among them the fact that no room has been made for diachronic discussion, and that linguistic theory has been privileged over accumulation of data.  M. Gross, ‘On the Failure of Generative Grammar’, Language (1979).

[7] J. Mukařovský, ‘Standard Language and Poetic Language’ (1958), Linguistics and Literary Style (1970), D. C. Freeman (editor), pp. 43-44.  Mukařovský takes the position that poetic foregrounding cannot create new means of communication; in the case of poetic neologisms, for example, their aesthetic function is endangered if they are created with communication in mind.  Mukařovský’s argument here takes in some of the unwanted extremes of monism, but there is in his words the germ of the idea that literary language functions differently.

[8] The existence of an ‘aesthetic canon’ can be supported by reference to the fact that certain words and phrases are marked in the dictionary as belonging to a specifically literary register.  The following notes can be found on page xxxi of the eighth edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary: ‘9.3.6  literary indicates a word or use that is found chiefly in literature.  9.3.7  poet. ( = poetic) indicates uses confined to poetry or other contexts with romantic connotations.’

[9] J. Mukařovský, ‘Standard Language and Poetic Language’ (1958), Linguistics and Literary Style (1970), D. C. Freeman (editor), p. 55.

[10] Alex Rodgers’ excellent and very thorough essay on W. H. Auden’s poem ‘O Where Are You Going?’ constitutes an illuminating discussion on how this very process works: in working out the links between the words reader, rider, fearer, farer, horror and hearer – words that are placed in similar positions syntactically and which are also linked through phonological resemblance – the reader eventually arrives at a much deeper understanding of what is at first glance a strange and forbidding poem.  A. Rodgers, ‘ “O Where Are You Going?”: A Suggested Experiment in Classroom Stylistics’, Language and Literature: An Introductory Reader in Stylistics (1982), R. Carter (editor), pp. 123-161.

[11] G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 29.  See also introduction, p. 16, footnote 60.

[12] G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 48.  The problem with this definition, of course, is the difficulty in establishing the ‘normal frequency of a feature’.

[13] This notion is inextricably linked to literary competence, and is different for every reader, depending on previous training, experience, and so on.  See also chapter four of this thesis.

[14] G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 50.

[15] Ibid.  It will have been noticed that Leech and Short include the reader in their discussion of foregrounding, which Mukařovský does not.

[16] Ibid., p. 139.

[17] M. Peake, Gormenghast (1950) in The Gormenghast Novels (1995), p. 399.  Subsequent references to this work are taken from the same page unless otherwise indicated.

[18] The characters in bold are an instance of pararhyme (CVC), another of Peake’s sound patterns.  (CVC: where C = consonant and V = vowel; the characters in bold are those on which the rhyme is founded.)  However, the phrase in question here is very common in English.  M. Short warns the student of literature against the dangers of ‘over-milking’ the significance of phonetic patterns.  He notes on p. 116 of Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose (1996) that ‘because English only has approximately 45 phonemes, there are bound to be a fair number of accidental alliterative and assonantal patterns in any text as a consequence of the chance distribution of sounds in groups of words.  So we should not assume that all sound patterns will be significant in terms of interpretation.’

[19] Gunther Kress distinguishes between transactive and nontransactive structures as follows: ‘events either appear in a transactive form…that is, portrayed as either arising directly as the result of some agent’s action and with a direct effect on a goal (where both agent and goal may be either animate or inanimate), or in a nontransactive form, arising without such action, that is, as either a self-caused action or an action that happens in some unspecified way.’  Clearly, the reader is presented here with the nontransactive form, the portrayal of events in the passive voice.  G. Kress, ‘Ideological Structures in Discourse’, Vol. 4: Handbook of Discourse Analysis, Discourse Analysis in Society (1985), p. 34.

[20] Peake’s use of the present tense for the opening paragraphs of his novel lends the text a sense of immediacy; however, in the wider context of the novel, the use of the present tense also suggests and reinforces the idea of time standing still.  Manlove notes that frequently within the structure of the novel’s storyline ‘time seems to be going both backwards and forwards, and the net effect is that the temporal sequence appears frozen’.  C. N. Manlove, Modern Fantasy: Five Studies (1975), p. 226.  Past, present and future are all one and the same.  Change is the enemy of Gormenghast; changes take place over time; time does not move within the castle.  As noted elsewhere in this thesis, tense should not always be taken as an indicator of chronological time.  Ronald Carter has written that ‘recent studies have contended that where a particular tense pattern dominates a text, what is communicated as a result is not so much a notion of time or chronology as a special modality’.  R. Carter, ‘Responses to Language in Poetry’, Literary Text and Language Study (1982), R. Carter and D. Burton (editors), p. 32.  In the case of Peake’s novel, the present tense indicates not exactly the here and now, but the sense that what is described represents the general state of affairs, past, present and future.

[21] Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, fifth edition, 2002.

[22] Ibid.

[23] C. N. Manlove, author of Modern Fantasy: Five Studies (1975), would most likely agree with this reading, his argument being that Peake became so involved with the world he created in Gormenghast, that he failed to provide Titus with a good enough reason for leaving it: ‘so much does the castle of the Groans dominate [Peake’s] imagination, that where other writers strive to get into their fantastic worlds, Peake struggles to get out’ (p. 217)…‘Throughout Gormenghast he shows his uneasiness in a continual search for some way of accounting for Titus’ quest.  He offers a confused variety of motives which still beg the question as to where they come from in the first place’ (p. 238).

[24] Manlove notes that Peake generally avoids the use of verbs – specifically action verbs – in connection with the castle itself: ‘the power…comes from Peake’s use of verbs: giving none to the castle, he frees its life from any link with the time-bound’, Modern Fantasy: Five Studies (1975), p. 219.  While this is an interesting point, I think it has to be noted that Manlove does not provide any quantitative data to support his assertion; without such data – which a stylistician would not, I think, have neglected to provide –  his claim, although thematically plausible, is simply a hunch.

[25] M. Peake, Gormenghast (1950) in The Gormenghast Novels (1995), p. 807.

[26] Nettles are also plants on overgrown land.

[27] Leech notes that these categories ‘overlap, because humanity entails animacy’; the animistic metaphor ‘attributes animate characteristics to the inanimate’ and the humanizing or anthropomorphic metaphor ‘attributes characteristics of humanity to what is not human’.  ‘Withdrawn’ and ‘broods’ can at a stretch fit both categories, although ‘ruinous’ has a more dubious status.  G. Leech, A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry (1969), p. 158.

[28] C. N. Manlove, Modern Fantasy: Five Studies (1975), p. 217.

[29] Leech and Short provide an interesting analysis of a section of Gormenghast which immediately follows the one analysed here.  This section opens with the words ‘Who are the characters?’, and Leech and Short note that ‘characters can mean either “letters, ciphers”, or “people in the fiction” ’.  G. Leech and M. Short, Style in Fiction (1981), p. 140.

[30] E. Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847), Penguin Classics edition (1995), pp. 19-32.  Subsequent references to this edition are marked in the main body of the text.

[31] Critics have, of course, discussed Cathy’s negative relationship with books.  She makes herself ill on purpose in order to separate Edgar from his library, and from the passage discussed here the reader can see that even from a very early age she was ill-disposed towards literature.  Instead of reading the books in her library, she defaces them with scribbled complaints about Hindley’s ill-treatment of Heathcliff and with rude caricatures of Joseph.  She hurls a volume into the dog-kennel, vowing that she hates ‘a good book’ (p. 21).  Heathcliff follows suit, and his punishment is to be prohibited from eating meals with the family and from playing with Cathy.  Heathcliff is later barred from pursuing his education any further, and books symbolise to a certain extent the social world that is represented by Thrushcross Grange and its inhabitants.  One can add to these observations the fact that Lockwood piles ‘the books up in a pyramid’ against the hole in the window, in order to keep Cathy’s child-ghost out (p. 25).  It is significant also that Cathy’s daughter wins Hareton over by encouraging him to read, thereby achieving what her mother could not – she accepts and sets out to improve the ‘degraded’ Hareton, where Cathy rejects the ‘degraded’ Heathcliff.

[32] M.A.K. Halliday and R. Hasan, Cohesion in English (1976), p. 15.

[33] Heathcliff also reprimands Lockwood on this score: ‘your childish outcry has sent sleep to the devil for me’ (p. 28).

[34] There has been much discussion regarding the morality of Brontë’s novel, and Q. D. Leavis was of the opinion that the book ‘has a very firm moral effect.  The technical means…for implying moral criticism without stating it, for making the reader do this work himself, is the technique of contrast and parallelism’.  Q. D. Leavis, ‘A Fresh Approach to Wuthering Heights’, Collected Essays Volume 1 (1969), p. 252.  Leavis’ argument is that the apparently cruel behaviour of one character is often offset by the brutal behaviour of another, and this parallelism constitutes part of Lockwood’s role: ‘Lockwood’s horror of the household at Wuthering Heights is immediately offset by our horror at him when he then, in a real nightmare, brutally fights off the child begging…to be let in after losing the way on the moor’ (ibid., p. 254).

[35] By ‘parenthetical constructions’, I mean those clauses or sentences which are not part of Lockwood’s dream narrative, and which represent an intrusion of Lockwood’s voice into the dream-sequences.

[36] J. Hagan, ‘Control of Sympathy in “Wuthering Heights” ’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1967), p. 316.

[37] B. McHale, ‘Unspeakable Sentences, Unnatural Acts: Linguistics and Poetics Revisited’, Poetics Today (1983), pp. 17-45