Recruiting the reader in literary criticism

Beverly A. Lewin*, Hadara Perpignan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this paper, we analyze an array of rhetorical strategies directly aimed at recruiting the reader to be an active collaborator in the construction of arguments in literary criticism. Many techniques for this purpose have been posited, mainly reporting the frequency of specific, discrete lexicogrammatical items. However, this approach does not capture techniques that are not necessarily realized by a discrete structure but can be interpreted in terms of function. Our approach brought to light some techniques not previously reported, which operate simultaneously in individual texts. In addition, a framework is needed to account for the saliency of the diverse strategies involved. We propose a typology of techniques that tap various aspects of the reader's experience - among them the social, affective, ideological, and the intellectual spheres. Furthermore, analysis of recruitment strategies has been mainly restricted to scientific and other texts that validate their arguments by empirical research. Our study is based on texts in literary research, a field which is dependent on convincing the reader of the superiority of the critic's new reading and presumably entails a greater need for active collaboration of the reader.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-772
Number of pages22
JournalText and Talk
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Discourse analysis
  • Engaging the reader
  • Literary criticism
  • Rhetorical strategies


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