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This chapter demonstrates the pervasive presence of the rhetorical figure of apophasis in Austen’s writing. Guides to rhetoric, in the eighteenth century and earlier, describe apophasis as occurring when a person claims not to speak of something and in saying so, speaks of it. Austen evidently enjoyed the irony of the figure, as her juvenilia especially demonstrates. But she also appreciated its efficiency and tact, touching, but not elaborating, upon subject matter. This chapter argues that Austen saw common statements of inexpressibility as apophatic, as they draw attention to supposedly suppressed material. Many characters in Austen’s fiction claim not to be able to express themselves. Austen transforms an often cliched form of expression into a subtle narrative movement towards what characters do not utter. In this way, apophasis contributes to the development of free indirect discourse, sharing with this technique the dynamic of speaking and not speaking at the same time.
Austen has long been celebrated for her skill in writing dialogue and for its dramatic qualities. This chapter analyzes her dialogue by drawing attention to the way she attributes speech to speakers. There are few extant comments by Jane Austen on her own novels, but she did write of Pride and Prejudice that “a ‘said he’ or a ‘said she’ would sometimes make the dialogue more immediately clear”. This chapter examines this statement closely and it points to the significance of “free direct speech” – unattributed direct speech – within her fiction. By minimizing attribution in this way, Austen cultivated dramatic dialogue and the depiction of speech across a group, but she also accepted the possibilities of ambiguity and error. Free direct speech is an underexplored speech category that is closely related to free indirect discourse, which is arguably Austen’s greatest technical contribution to the novel. As well as examining free direct speech in its own right, this chapter argues for its significance in the development of representing consciousness.
Nicholas Allott considers how relevance theory can be seen as responding to doubts about the possibility of any kind of systematic pragmatic theory. He considers three sceptical positions: Fodor’s argument that pragmatic processes are not amenable to scientific study because they are unencapsulated (highly context-sensitive), Chomsky’s claim that human intentional action is a mystery rather than a scientifically tractable problem, and a third view which maintains that intentional communication is too complex for systematic study. Allott argues that work in relevance theory can be seen as successfully challenging these sceptical views and he gives concrete examples of its achievements.
Anne Reboul makes a significant new contribution to relevance-theoretic discussions of the phenomenon of ‘free indirect discourse’, by developing a pragmatic account of the appropriate use and interpretation of pronouns in this special kind of discourse (which typically occurs in literary texts). She first reviews current semantic accounts of pronouns in this kind of discourse and finds that they have problems with certain non-transparent referential uses of pronouns and their presuppositions. Her alternative account, which employs the relevance-theoretic notion of pragmatic enrichment together with the account of singular concepts developed within Francois Recanati’s mental files framework, avoids the problems of the semantic accounts.
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