Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics
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Lizzie Stewart-Shaw

Research Student, Faculty of Arts


Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

The Cognitive Poetics of Horror Fiction

Research Summary

My PhD project explores the experience of reading horror fiction from a cognitive-poetic perspective. This genre is defined by the very emotion it evokes-horror. This equivalence between the genre's definition and the experience of reading it makes horror fiction unique from others. It is the requirement of the genre to provoke such emotion that interests me. The starting point of my research is a question posed by Stephen King in his treatise on the horror genre, Danse Macabre: 'why are people willing to pay good money to be made extremely uncomfortable?' (1981: 10). How does horror writing create these emotions-fear, anxiety, tension, revulsion, to name a few-in the reader? What is it about horror that makes it compelling enough for people to put themselves into this emotionally vulnerable position?

My research aims to answer these questions using Cognitive Poetics, a field which makes use of the theories and findings of cognitive science to develop understanding of the experience of literary reading. Text World Theory, the most innovative approach within this field, provides a means for examining both the text and its reader's contextual knowledge together, giving a comprehensive view of the literary work and its psychological effects (Werth 1999, Gavins 2007). Therefore, I am using Text World Theory to holistically investigate horror fiction and its effects on readers.

Research Interests

Cognitive Poetics, Text World Theory, Horror Fiction, Cognitive Linguistics

Research Supervisor/s

Primary Funding Source/s

  • Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship for Research Excellence (International)

Research Institutes, Centres and/or Research Clusters Memberships

Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics

The University of Nottingham

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 5924