Language Performativity and Horror Fiction: A Cognitive Stylistic Approach
International Journal of Language and Literary Studies
This paper argues that horror fiction creates its effect through exploiting the workings of language in the minds of readers. As a genre that crosses many art forms, it might be tempting to analyze the multimodal vehicles of horror; the visual effects, the jump scares and the ominous music. However, studying the ability of language, on its own and without any audio-visual effects, to instill horror in its readers becomes even more enticing. The idea that words have the power to disrupt the
... ty of its readers is deeply rooted in the view of language as performative. The paper further argues that horror writers have manipulate linguistic structures in a peculiar way to serve the purpose of frightening their readers. To this end, an eclectic text-based cognitive stylistic approach is employed to analyze an excerpt from William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist (1971), demonstrating how the process of horror creation is both a textual and a cognitive one, whereby the mental image of reality in the minds of readers is manipulated and distorted by means of linguistic structures, hence horrifying them. Results reveal that for horror to be achieved, layers of blending take place in readers minds in order to arrive to horrific meanings textually described. Additionally, manipulation of syntactic complexity and the morphology of verbs intensifies the horrific effect.