The lobster and the maid: scenario-dependence and reader manipulation in Agatha Christie

Alexander, M. (2008) The lobster and the maid: scenario-dependence and reader manipulation in Agatha Christie. In: Annual Conference of the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA), Sheffield, UK, 23-26 July 2008,

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Abstract

Readers of detective fiction deliberately seek to be deceived by the stories they read; in this manner, the genre forms a series of texts that aim to manipulate and persuade. This paper describes Agatha Christie’s manipulation of plot-significant information in her short story 'The Tuesday Night Club' by discussing a reader’s psychological depth of processing of significant entities and characters. In particular, I describe this technique within cognitive stylistics using the theory of scenario-dependence, in which a reader’s partitions of memory dictate the focus of a scenario and the role­ mapping of entities within a narrative. In this manner, the paper describes how Christie’s puzzle-like plot invites a reader’s engagement while she simultaneously uses psychological means to divert reader scrutiny and persuade them to follow the wrong ‘path’ to the story’s conclusion. This paper is part of a wider project to describe the cognitive and stylistic basis of reader manipulation in detective fiction (see also Alexander 2006).

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Alexander, Professor Marc
Authors: Alexander, M.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2008 The Authors
First Published:First published in Online Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA), Sheffield, Uk, 23-26 July 2008
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the publisher

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