What is stylistics? Discuss the dualist and monistic approach in relation to form and content of a text.

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Stylistics was a fleeting fad in the 70’s and 80’s, a product of Noam Chomsky’s work on generative syntax, when linguists tried various approaches to literary texts – reader response theory, speech acts, etc. – to expand more traditional ways to get at fiction texts, but, in a famous article (1973) by Stanley Fish, “What is Stylistics, and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things About It?”, the unsurpassable flaws in the approach were laid out – the monistic argument that the author would reveal his or her intentions by language choices that deviated from normative grammar in the text, and the dualistic approach (style as choice vs. style as departure or deviance from normalcy) – that the narrator and the author together formed a stylistic web around the text – were both taken apart by Fish’s argument that the vocabulary and syntax in the text did not indicate any subconscious intentionality  by the author, and was a circular argument.  The entire complex argument/debate, with its many ramifications, can be followed in Richard Ohmann’s and Roger Fowler’s papers in the decades before and after Fish’s seminal rebuttal.

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