Miss Brill

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Review of European Studies

December, 2009

A Stylistic Analysis of “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield
Shenli Song College of Foreign Languages, Zhejiang Gongshang University Office of Foreign Language College at Zhejiang Gongshang University Xia Sha City-University-Town, Hangzhou 310018, Zhejiang, China E-mail: Abstract Katherine Mansfield, remembered as one of the finest writers of English short stories, enjoys enduring fame and a somewhat awesome literary status with her short stories, Miss Brill as one of her representative pieces. The interest of our Chinese critics, in general, locates more in the modernist techniques and devices she employs to present the inner world of the characters in her stories,
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Review of European Studies

the whole novel: “the linguistic pattern of choices realizes a primitive pattern of cognition, which in turn is the key to the tragic vision of the novel.”(Leech & Short, 2001: 32) Halliday being the widely acknowledged precursor of functional stylistics, the eminent German linguist-critic Leo Spitzer (1887-1960), is likewise father of literary stylistics. In his insistence that the smallest detail of language can unlock the “soul” of a literary work, he maintains the task of stylistics is to provide a hard-and-fast technology of analysis: I would maintain that to formulate observation by means of words is not to cause the artistic beauty to evaporate in vain intellectualities; rather, it makes for a widening and deepening of the aesthetic taste. It is only a frivolous love that cannot survive intellectual definition; great love prospers with understanding. (Leech & Short, 2001: 2) A question which is often asked in this connection is “At which end do we start, the aesthetic or the linguistic?” The image used by Spitzer of the “philological circle”, the circle of understanding, however, seems to suggest there is no logical staring point. Spitzer argues that the task of Linguistic-literary explanation proceeded by the movement to and fro from linguistic details to the
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