A theory of discourse deviation : the application of schema theory to the analysis of literary discourse
Schema theory suggests that people understand texts and experiences by comparing them with stereotypical mental representations of similar cases. This thesis examines the relevance of this theory (as developed in some Artificial Intelligence (AI) work of the 1970s and 1980s) to literary theory and the analysis of literary texts. The general theoretical framework is that of discourse analysis. In this approach, the usefulness of schema theory is already widely acknowledged for the contribution it can make to an explanation of 'coherence': the quality of meaningfulness and unity perceived in discourse. Building upon this framework, relevant AI work on text processing is discussed, evaluated, and applied to literary and non-literary discourse. The argument then moves on to literary theory, and in particular to the 'scientific' tradition of formalism, structuralism and Jakobsonian stylistics. The central concept of this tradition is 'defamiliarization': the refreshing of experience through deviation from expectation. In structuralism, attention has been concentrated on text structure, and in Jakobsonian stylistics on language. It is argued that whereas AI work on text pays little attention to linguistic and textual form, seeking to 'translate' texts into a neutral representation of 'content', the literary theories referred to above have erred in the opposite direction, and concentrated exclusively on form. Through contrastive analyses of literary and non-literary discourse, it is suggested that neither approach is capable of accounting for •literariness* on its own. The two approaches are, however, complementary, and each would benefit from the insights of the other. Human beings need to change and refresh their schematic representations of the world, texts and language. It is suggested that such changes to schemata are effected through linguistic and textual deviation from expectation, but that deviations at these levels are no guarantee of change (as is often the case in advertisements). Discourses which do. effect changes through text and language are described as displaying 'discourse deviation*. Their primary function and value may be this effect. Discourse categorized as 'literary' is frequently of this type. Discourse deviation is best described by a combination of the methods of A1 text analysis with formalist, structuralist and Jakobsonian literary theories. In illustration of these proposals, the thesis concludes with analyses of three well-known literary texts.