Variety and style in written English — II. The language of literature

  • Dennis Freeborn
  • Peter French
  • David Langford
Part of the Studies in English Language book series (SEL)


One of the defining features of literature is its special use of language. In many novels and short stories, in drama and especially in verse and poetry, language is itself foregrounded or ‘made strange’. Its style is different from that of other everyday uses. It is said to deviate from ordinary language. By applying to literary texts the methods of analysis which have been demonstrated on other varieties of English, you can discover interesting facts about the language of literature, and these will help in your evaluation of a literary work.


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  1. D. Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry (London: Longman, 1983)Google Scholar
  2. N.F. Blake, Non-standard Language in English Literature (London: André Deutsch, 1981)Google Scholar
  3. N.F. Blake, Shakespeares Language: an Introduction (London: Macmillan, 1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. R. Carter (ed.), Language and Literature (London: Allen & Unwin, 1982)Google Scholar
  5. R. Chapman, The Language of English Literature (London: Edward Arnold, 1982)Google Scholar
  6. G. Leech, A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry (London: Longman, 1969) G. Leech and A. Short, Style in Fiction (London: Longman, 1981)Google Scholar
  7. H. Widdowson, Stylistics and the Teaching of Literature (London: Longman, 1975)Google Scholar
  8. (In chapter 9, section 9.5, the distinction between spoken stress and metrical beat comes from D. Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry.)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dennis Freeborn 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis Freeborn
  • Peter French
  • David Langford

There are no affiliations available

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