It is now ten years since the second edition of this Dictionary of Stylistics appeared, and over twenty years since the publication of the first. There are other significant milestones, which readers new to the subject, and to this work, might appreciate. It is now just over a hundred years since the Swiss scholar Charles Bally, a student of Ferdinand de Saussure, produced his Traité de stylistique française (1909) and so launched a new discipline in Europe. Some fifty years ago the Russian emigrant Roman Jakobson justified the linguistic study of ‘verbal art’ at a conference in Indiana (published 1960), and so promoted stylistics in the USA. It is just over forty years since Geoffrey Leech published his Linguistic Guide to English Poetry (1969), which helped to popularize stylistics in the UK. His work built a bridge between Western and Eastern Europe, in its creative application of Russian Formalism. It is also just over thirty years since the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA) was founded in the UK (1980), now with members all over the world; and almost twenty years since its journal of stylistics was first published (1992), Language and Literature. Throughout this long period stylistics has remained true to its general principle of the analysis of linguistic and textual features for the purpose of interpretation and appreciation, for nonliterary as well as literary texts.
In one important sense this dictionary then is an archive: a history of stylistics, its interdisciplinary influences and its successive or co-occurring obsessions and ‘turns’. In so far as it is possible, I have tried to indicate when relevant terms first came into fashion, or who instigated pertinent fields of investigation. It is quite remarkable how many relevant terms have endured in the working vocabulary of stylistics into the new millennium, even though some terms I have decided to ‘retire’. It is an archive, but not one of historical relics. Still, terms can surprise you. Take bricolage, popular in 1960s structuralism because of the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Now revived in sociolinguistics, it aptly describes the way young people select items of clothing and ways of speaking to produce their own personal style. Many terms and ideas have not simply endured, but have great currency and power, despite tweakings or tinkerings: politeness theory, Paul Grice’s conversational maxims and speech act theory, for example. It is hard to believe that J.L. Austin formulated his ideas on speech acts fifty years ago (published 1962). The work of the Russian linguist philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, unknown in Europe until well after the Second World War,continues to appeal to new generations of readers, and currently strikes a prescient chord with its stress on the need for critical and ethical responsibility and answerability. With Bakhtin in mind, I myself have tried to make a case for future work in eco-stylistics.
However, it is important to consider, as I also stated in my Introduction to the 2nd edition, that no flourishing discipline stands still; and given what Ronald Carter and Peter Stockwell (2008) rightly call the ‘apparently boundless appetite’ of stylistic studies for incorporating ideas from a range of disciplines across the humanities and even sciences, it is not surprising that new perspectives must now be recorded, as well as fresh reappraisals and reorientations of established ideas and their terms. The past ten years, certainly, have witnessed the consolidation of cognitive stylistics, which has led to a revival of interest in many basic figures from rhetoric, and which has led me also to supplement entries such as blending and foreground. corpus stylistics and forensic stylistics, increasingly popular amongst students, have led to a revival of the ‘dormant’ concepts of norm and idiolect, for example, and a refreshment of my entries on key and collocation. Stylistic studies are still heavily reader-oriented, whether in empirical work, or under the influence of new literary theories of ethics. Exciting work in sociolinguistics in relation to questions of variation, style-switching and performativity has led me to appraise the very concept of style itself. Both literary critics and linguists have been engaged in the reassessment of creativity, which has led to a new debate about literariness.