An experiential view on what makes literature relevant
It’s a common intuition that literature is a special kind of language
use, pursuing other aims than the mere transmission of information.
This intuition is reflected in the notion that literature is art,
whereas ordinary conversation is not, and that reading literature is
a particular sort of experience, significant in a particular way.
However, the common view in pragmatics is that literary works are
not exceptional in terms of how language is used. In this paper, I
discuss this issue by exploring Sperber and Wilson’s (2015) notion of ‘impressions’ and
develop a tentative account of literature as triggering relevant
imaginative experiences. These experiences, I argue, relate to
expressivity and to affective, emotional, effects; they match
readers’ expectations of relevance by means of their resonance with
the individual’s own memories and imaginative experiences.
- 2.General considerations on literature, communication and
- 3.Literature as experiential communication
- 4.Experiential imports and relevance
- 5.The procedurality of experiential impressions
- 6.Applying the principle of relevance to experiencing