Most discussions of stylistics as a field of study, characterized by a variety of approaches and dynamic trends in development, would fit quite well within the definition provided by Wales: “Stylistics characteristically deals with the interpretation of texts by focusing in detail on relevant distinctive linguistic features, patterns, structures or levels and on their significance and effects on readers” (Wales 2006: 216). Recently, semantic and pragmatic dimensions in stylistic analysis have been emphasized and elaborated to such an extent that one can observe convergences of the concepts and research methods within the field of stylistic, textual and discourse analyses. More recently, the interface between stylistics and pragmatics has been recognized and the field of pragmatic stylistics acknowledged.
In the next section, my aim is to provide more details on the interface between stylistics and pragmatics, which will enable me to proceed towards the discussion of particular ways of applying traditional (Gricean) pragmatic concepts and principles in literary discourse analysis. Further on, I will also consider a variety of objections raised to the project of applying pragmatic theory to the study of written/literary texts, providing text samples with commentary as exemplifications of the most discussed and criticised aspects of this process. Further issues discussed in subsequent sections of this chapter are analysing literary text as discourse, the Cooperative and the Politeness principle, and the concept of interpersonal rhetoric. I will also comment on the concept of irony and humour as a means of mutual interaction and expressions of close relationship (friendly mocking). The following discussion is always based on a series of analyses and commentaries of rich language material, the text samples chosen being from the collection of short stories by Doris Lessing (1993).
Before proceeding to the above-mentioned issues, I want to note that in my analysis the written (literary) discourse is always viewed as a message, which is to be interpreted by the reader via the process of contextualization. Attempting to establish certain links with a particular context, the problem of situational context becomes apparent (cf. Widdowson 2004). The novelist (producer of the message) and the reader (recipient of the message) have usually different contexts of situations. Thus the recipient may interpret the discourse in different ways, or even arrive at a different interpretation than that intended by the author. Here the pragmatic approaches to literary text/discourse are useful as they often provide the clues to understanding the (features of) context.