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Relevance Theory and Poetic Effects

Dr. Anna Christina Ribeiro

Thursday, October 18, 2007, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Texas Tech University, Department of Philosophy

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It is a fair question why poets should choose to repeat concrete sounds and/or abstract structures when conveying their poetic messages After all, it would seem that repetition devices tend to slow down the comprehension process and require greater cognitive effort. I argue that the key to understanding the rationale behind these poetic devices is the communicative principle of relevance proposed by Sperber and Wilson (1986, 1995). Retaining their insight that interlocutors communicate on the assumption that what is being said is relevant in the communicative context, I further develop their idea to include the relevance of how things are said, which accounts for poets creating patterns for pragmatic, communicative reasons. Relevance theory nevertheless focuses unduly on what is being said and thus reduces affective effects promoted by poetic devices to cognitive ones. I defend an expansion of their model beyond the purely cognitive, on the grounds that, although affective states may involve beliefs, propositions, and implicatures, that is not all there is to them, and some moods may be promoted by an underlying linguistic rhythm without having any propositions or implicatures associated with them.

Dr. Anna Christina Ribeiro