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Journal of Literary Semantics

An International Review

Founded by Eaton, Trevor

Ed. by Toolan, Michael

2 Issues per year

CiteScore 2017: 0.38

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.122
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.575

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Volume 42, Issue 2


The rhetorical neuroscience of style: On the primacy of style elements during literary discourse processing

Michael Burke
Published Online: 2013-09-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2013-0010


Much work has been conducted in the social psychological sciences both modelling and predicting how the storage and retrieval of images and words in the mind operate (e.g. Baddeley 1974, 2000, Damasio 1999, Barsalou 1999). The focus has largely been on the interactions between short-term and long-term regions of memory. Such studies have also on occasion been complemented by behavioural experiments. More recently, a growing body of work has started to emerge from the biological cognitive neurosciences which looks at these same processes with the aid of scanning technologies (e.g. Dehaene 2003, 2009, Ledoux 1998, Eichenbaum 2011). The questions that will be considered in this paper are can these scientific findings be extended to aesthetic objects that are studied in the humanities, and in particular to the style of literary texts, and also can the way literary style figures operate shed light on how the mind and brain might function.

Keywords: Cognitive neuroscience; Literary reading; Primacy; Rhetoric; Style figures

About the article

Michael Burke

Michael Burke is Professor of Rhetoric in the Humanities Faculty of Utrecht University. He teaches rhetoric, stylistics and creative writing at University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, one of the two liberal arts and sciences honours colleges of Utrecht University. His publications include Literary Reading, Cognition and Emotion: An Exploration of the Oceanic Mind (2011, Routledge). He is a member of the international board of Neuro Humanities Studies in Catania, Italy. He is a linguistics series editor (rhetoric and stylistics) for Routledge, New York.

Published Online: 2013-09-17

Published in Print: 2013-09-17

Citation Information: Journal of Literary Semantics, Volume 42, Issue 2, Pages 199–215, ISSN (Online) 1613-3838, ISSN (Print) 0341-7638, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2013-0010.

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