Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Style in Dutch literary prose

Terms used by literary critics in characterizing the style of novels are often impressionistic (‘baroque’, ‘austere’, ‘vivid’, ‘cerebral’ etc.). Foundations for such evaluations are usually not provided. A scientific way of studying and explaining style is lacking in present day Dutch Studies. Suzanne Fagel's project aims to develop a scientific basis for discussing and explaining the style of literary novels.

2008 - 2013
Arie Verhagen
NWO Vrije Competitie NWO Vrije Competitie

Stylistics is an interdisciplinary research area, in which insights from linguistics and literary theory are combined. Linguistics will therefore play an important role in the development of a model for stylistic analysis. A linguistic ‘checklist’ – a Dutch version of the famous checklist developed by G. Leech and M. Short in Style in fiction (1980) – will be used to make an inventory of possibly relevant stylistic features (e.g. word order, hypotaxis, modality, figurative use of language). Insights from cognitive stylistics, and more generally from cognitive linguistics will be used to specify the effects of the features so identified.  

Fagel will undertake a stylistic analysis of six modern Dutch novels:

  • Hafid Bouazza: Paravion (2003);
  • Renate Dorrestein: Het duister dat ons scheidt (2003);
  • Arnon Grunberg: Fantoompijn (2003);
  • Hella Haasse: Sleuteloog (2002);
  • Gerard Reve: Op weg naar het einde (1963);
  • J.J. Voskuil: Het bureau (1996).

These are works by well known authors who have been praised by critics for their marked, identifiable styles. The main question to be answered, is: how does the style contribute to the interpretation of a novel? In other words: how do the formulations chosen (the micro-level) contribute to the macro-level of the text (understanding of the characters, and the overall development of the narrative: artistic goal, overall theme, aesthetic quality of the text, etc.) The six novels differ in their general character and in their themes. This makes comparative research worthwhile and it also allows us to answer the question whether this kind of analysis is possible for several variants of narrative. In the process, the model of analysis will be continuously adapted and refined.

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