Creation Stylistics: using literary linguistics for making Drama, Films, Poems

Kieran O'HalloranMMUd

Traditionally, close reading of literary texts has been employed to facilitate insight into their creativity as well as to appreciate their effects on the reader. The particular approach to close reading in which we are schooled – “Stylistics” (Literary Linguistics) – largely continues with this focus also. However, neither in Stylistics, nor literary analysis more broadly, has there been a sustained use of close reading for assisting the production of a creative work. In an accessible demonstration, we showcase three innovative approaches, independently devised, for helping to generate creative works – drama, film, poetry – by using close reading techniques from Stylistics.

Nigel McLoughlin highlights his pedagogical use of Stylistics for creating poetry. In his work with university Creative Writing students, he draws on the branch of Stylistics known as “Cognitive Stylistics”. This branch of Stylistics is concerned with understanding and explaining the mental processes involved in the reading of literary texts. In his teaching, Nigel encourages students to apply ideas and frameworks from Cognitive Stylistics in their making of poems. These ideas and frameworks usefully help the students to think through what effects they want to create in a poem, as well as what linguistic and cognitive structures can be used to create the desired effect. Nigel will illustrate his pedagogical approach with examples from students’ creative work, as well as their accompanying discussions and rationale for their creative choices in the poems they produced.

Nigel McLoughlin (University of Gloucestershire)

Kieran O’Halloran uses Stylistics pedagogically for creating “film poems” – films of poems. Undergraduates on his recent “Film, Poetry, Style” module* make film poems on their mobile phones for the purpose of developing their creative thinking. In the film poem genre, the film’s vision usually exceeds, often radically so, the likely intentions of the poet. This makes pedagogical usage of film poems ideal for fostering creative thinking. However, in this genre, the stylistic detail of the poem is largely bypassed in its cinematic realisation. Kieran’s pedagogy not only addresses this oversight/limitation, but crucially highlights how analysis of a poem’s style can be used to motivate the film’s creativity. As illustration, Kieran will play a short film made by a student, explaining how their analyses of simple features of the source poem’s style drove their cinematic realisation and, in doing so, reinforced/enhanced their natural gift for creative thinking.

Kieran O’Halloran (King’s College London)

Jeremy Scott’s focus is using insights from Stylistics in creating theatre. An integral part of the process of devising a play is improvisation: the playing out of scenarios and use of free-form exercises to develop pre-created characters and build a rough-sketch narrative. Jeremy’s paper will discuss a current and on-going theatre project he is writing (with Greg Lawrence), The Plant,** which makes use of these techniques, drawing directly on Stylistics to investigate notions of “theatricality” (also including the work of arts research student Jonathan Fitchett). His paper describes the creative processes involved (initial character sketching, improvisations, scripting), and then goes on to examine the results (video excerpts from rehearsals and the completed script) using a novel combination of analytical and theoretical frameworks drawn from Stylistics and Drama Theory. Jeremy highlights how employment of these frameworks productively articulates moments of theatricality and, in turn, usefully helps to support decisions the authors make in the crafting of the final script.

Jeremy Scott (University of Kent)

Through our spotlighting of how Stylistics can be used to help originate creative works, our panel will both make a novel contribution to the theme of the conference as well as concretely and accessibly convey how our approaches could be used by conference participants in their own creative / educational contexts.


Sat 9:15 am - 10:30 am