schema refreshment

E 301 B
Unit 8
Semester II
The Literary Mind
Dr. Magda
 Unit 8 focuses on the following:
 How literariness can be defined and analyzed in terms of the cognitive
 The notion that the mental processes stimulated in the reader by literary texts
are distinctively different from those required for the interpretation of nonliterary texts.
 The way in which relevance theory and schema theory can be used separately
and in combination to explain the effects of literary texts on the mind of the
reader and to examine this aspect of literary creativity.
 How corpus evidence can be used to substantiate intuitions about general
schemata and literary vagueness.
Relevance Theory
 Using the cognitive theory to model the processes involved in reading
literature. The branch of linguistics which deals with this modeling is known as
cognitive poetics ( see Stockwell, 2002; Gavins and Steen, 2003), and the
cognitive theories that are related to the cognitive approach are relevance
 Review Paul Grice’s cooperative principle.
 For Sperber and Wilson, there is no cooperative principle
 According to Sperber and Wilson’s relevance theory , a piece of language has
an in-built guarantee that it is relevant. It comes with a presumption that it is
the most relevant way for the authors or speaker to communicate a set of
assumptions .
 From a relevance theory perspective, its multimodality ( its simulation of a
child’s handwriting , must be relevant to its communicative intentions.
 For Sperber and Wilson, a text has optimal relevance if for minimum effort in
reading it, its processing leads to maximum cognitive effects.
Relevance And Literature
 In Reading A, ‘ Relevance and Literature’, Tony Box draws on relevance
theory in an attempt to show how literary texts are different to nonliterary texts.
 On the principle of relevance, minimum effort is invested for maximum
cognitive effects. Any additional processing effort in a reader’s search for
optimal relevance needs to be balanced by a suitable set of effects.
 According to Box, there are certain texts with direct reference, such as
autobiographies, which have attained a valued literary status (example:
Rousseaus’ The Confession).
 The relevance of a poem versus that of an advert: Street Song (How can
you read this poem in regard to the relevance theory?/ Are Adrian
Pilkington’s (1991;2000) views similar to Sperber and Wilson’s ?/ how is
the term poetic effects is used to describe the meanings that can be
generated in the reading of literary work ?)
Schema Theory
 Schemata (plural of schema) are packets of knowledge of the world which are
drawn upon, either consciously or unconsciously , in helping us to make a sense
of the world and communicate about it.
 The concept of schema (page 371) was first used by the German philosopher ,
Kant, in the 18th century, but in the 20th century was initially associated with the
work of the psychologist, Bartlett (1932).
 In 1970s, schema theory was seized upon in artificial intelligence work. Attempts
to generate computer models of human text processing led to the realization
that this involves not only knowledge of language but also organized knowledge
of the world.
 Guy Cook, in Reading B, drives his schema framework from Schank and Abselson
(1977), who put forward one of the most complete and influential models in the
artificial intelligence revival of schema theory in the 1970s.
 Activating schemata to make sense of a text: ( read example in page 371) and
discuss script/ goal/ plan/ themes
 A script refers to knowledge of a stereotype situation or activity
 A goal relates to stereotype purposes.
 A plan is often activated in advance of a goal schema.
 Themes carry much more of an element of subjectivity in contrast to scripts,
plans, and goals.
Schema Theory And Literature
 Cook argues (in Reading B) that literariness is characterized
by ‘discourse deviation’ where lexical and grammatical
patterns in the text evoke deviation linkages between
schemata which challenge and transform a reader’s preexisting perception to bring about ‘schema refreshment’.
 Cook confirms stereotypical assumptions about people and
the world. The advert results is ‘schema reinforcement’.
 While indicating problems with using a purely Jakobsonian
inherency approach, Cook favors supplementing Formalist
approach with a focus on cognitive change or otherwise in
relation to trying to gauge literariness.
More on Cook’s Theory
 Semino’s modification of Cook’s theory to suggest that some degree
of schema reinforcement in the reader is also an effect of most
texts, and that ‘literariness’ can be seen in relation to a continuum
from schema reinforcement to schema refreshment.
 How the combination of such cognitive analytical approaches is
particularly useful when applied to the way literary narrative fiction
achieves its effects
 Short, Cluppper and Semino( Reading C) use these techniques to
show how the reader of such fiction can be manipulated by ‘
focaliser’ techniques . O’Halloran’s also further comments about
how fiction sometimes brings about ‘text-world refreshment’ rather
than schema refreshment.
 Another key idea in Cook(1994) in the discussion of schema
refreshment is that of novel linking of schemata . For Cook, literary
text s typically evoke conflicting and open-minded schemata and
reestablish complex and novel relationships between them ( Read
William Blake’s Poem The Tyger).
Criticism On Cook’s Theory
 Semino thinks Cook’s idea of schema refreshment is too extreme, too dramatic, and
feels that the typical reader experience of literary texts is not one of ‘schema
destruction’ and the creation of radically new perception , but rather of much more
graduated modification of schemata.
 Jeffries goes further than this in her critique. She feels that Cook is wrong to see the
man function of literature as being to change the way people see things. For her, the
most powerful effect of literature can be to endorse people’s existing personal
beliefs and values, especially when these are held in opposition to the dominant
ideology. She asks if schema change as described by Cook only happens on the first
reading of a text, or if it can happen also on subsequent reading. She suggests there
is something contradictory about the idea that such an experience can be repeated
and implies that there needs to be an explanation for why people re-read favorite
 The capacity of a literary text to give rise to schema refreshment is, for Cook, bound
up with its literary value. The question is , can certain literary texts continue to
refresh schemata on subsequent readings? Can you think of literary texts that you
have read that continue to do this for you, even after several encounters?
Relevance Theory And Schema Theory
Relevance theory is part of a branch of linguistics known as ‘pragmatics’ which has its roots in philosophy (Grice
whose work Sperber and Wilson start from, was a philosopher) .
The concept of relevance is studied in many different fields, including logic, information sciences, cognitive
sciences, and it is also studied in epistemology (the theory of knowledge).
The solution of any problem requires the prior identification of the relevant elements from which a solution can
be constructed.
In 1986, Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson drew attention to the central importance of relevance decisions in
reasoning and communication. Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson described the process of inferring relevant
information from any given utterance. To do this work, they used the "Principle of Relevance“, which means the
position that any utterance addressed to someone automatically conveys the presumption of its own optimal
The central idea of Sperber and Wilson's theory is that all utterances are encountered in some context, and the
correct interpretation of a particular utterance is the one that allows most new implications to be made in that
context on the basis of the least amount of information necessary to convey it. Relevance is conceived as relative
or subjective because it depends upon the state of knowledge of a hearer when they encounter an utterance.
Relevance, as a technical term, is restricted to relationships between utterances and interpretations.
Schema theory, on the other hand, drives from work in psychology and artificial intelligence. describes an
organized pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among
them. It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some
aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information.
The Prologue in Bilgewater by Jane
 Narrative Skill in Bilgewater Prologue (Reading C)
 Short argue that the prologue very carefully adjusts to the ‘focalizer’- the candidate-and, in
activating appropriate schemata, positions the reader to sympathize with the candidate. The
prologue relies on the reader activating a stereotypical script schema about interviews and a
theme schema about how young interviewees might feel. Furthermore, the linguistic patterns of
the text are not leading the reader to work to link schemata in a specific way. So, the concepts of
schema refreshment and reinforcement do not seem so relevant here.
 Is the misinterpretation of the prologue a case of schema refreshment? The answer would have
to be no because it is not a refreshment of world knowledge. It is instead a case of text world
refreshment . Once the readers accept changes have occurred in the text world they generate in
reading, then on a relevance theory account, they will seek to attach relevance to this.
 In searching for optimal relevance, there will be an expectation, whether unconscious or
conscious, that additional processing costs will be met by cognitive reward.
 In the case of Bilgewater, one possible reward for text world refreshment is that the reader
experiences surprise and possibly delight in being transported from particularities of the novel to
a more universal appreciation of human life cycles.
Using A Corpus TO Substantiate
Analysis OF Literary Vagueness
 450 million word corpus (The Bank of English), which was used in
Chapter 2 . When grammar and lexis regularly co-occur, in this way,
they are known as phraseologies (page 384).
 In analyzing corpus evidence we must be careful to distinguish
quantitative , frequency evidence from qualitative evidence about
the salience of a phenomenon in a culture.
 Regular phraseologies might tell us something about commonly
shared language schemata, i.e. looking for phraseological deviation.
 The notion of ‘literary vagueness’, which describes the tendency of
literary texts to draw the reader into using their own schemata to
seek meaning and ‘relevance’ because this is not immediately
apparent on the ‘surface’ of the text.
Assessing Literary Vagueness
 On the basis of corpus evidence, it is ambiguous whether someone is
loitering is associated with intention 9whether that intention is bad or
not0 and thus with a plan schema. Sometimes loitering is associated
with bad intention, sometimes with a neural intention and sometimes
with no intention at all.
 The corpus evidence helps substantiate vagueness and ambiguity.
 An advantage of using corpus with ‘Street Song’ is that it assists
explanation of why the poem is likely to be ‘dynamic and disturbing
for readers more generally. It suggests that a reader might not be
sure whether the footsteps behind you are those of someone who is
just walking or someone who may have malign intentions towards
 Corpus analysis suggests that sidling along is an instance of non-core
 This Unit goes beyond the idea that literariness only resides
in the text, a perspective that was covered in previous units,
in chapter 2, 3, and 6. Unit 8 discusses the kind of cognitive
processes involved in literary reading and whether
literariness can be defined in terms of cognitive effects. Unit
8 has . Unit 8 explains how corpus evidence can be used to
substantiate intuitions about general schemata and literary
 Relevance theory is part of a branch of linguistics known as
 Schema theory, on the other hand, drives from work in
psychology and artificial intelligence.
) Define the following:
The concept of relevance
script/ goal/ plan/ themes
schema refreshment
schema reinforcement
novel linking of schemata
text world refreshment
phraseological deviation
non-core phraseology
 2) Discuss Sperber and Wilson ‘s views as they describes in the of relevance Give examples to
support your discussion.
3) In Reading A, ‘A Relevance and Literature’, Tony Box draws on relevance theory in an attempt
to show how literary texts are different to non-literary texts. Explain and illustrate with
4) Discuss Cook ‘s (in Reading B) schema refreshment’ and schema reinforcement. Give
examples to support your discussion.
5) In Reading C , Short argue that the prologue very carefully adjusts to the ‘focalizer’- the
candidate-and, in activating appropriate schemata, positions the reader to sympathize with the
candidate . Explain and give examples to illustrate.
6) How can you use a corpus to substantiate analysis of literary vagueness? Give examples.