Communicational Criticism

Studies in literature as dialogue

Roger D. Sell | Åbo Akademi University
ISBN 9789027210289 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
ISBN 9789027284860 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
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Further developing the line of argument put forward in his Literature as Communication (2000) and Mediating Criticism (2001), Roger D. Sell now suggests that when so-called literary texts stand the test of time and appeal to a large and heterogeneous circle of admirers, this is because they are genuinely dialogical in spirit. Their writers, rather than telling other people what to do or think or feel, invite them to compare notes, and about topics which take on different nuances as seen from different points of view. So while such texts obviously reflect the taste and values of their widely various provenances, they also channel a certain respect for the human other to whom they are addressed. So much so, that they win a reciprocal respect from members of their audience. In Sell’s new book, this ethical interplay becomes the focus of a post-postmodern critique, which sees literary dialogicality as a possible catalyst to new, non-hegemonic kinds of globalization. The argument is illustrated with major reassessments of Shakespeare, Pope, Wordsworth, Dickens, Churchill, Orwell, and Pinter, and there are also studies of trauma literature for children, and of ethically oriented criticism itself.
[Dialogue Studies, 11] 2011.  xi, 392 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
“Roger Sell's new book continues his remarkable series of explorations into the nature of 'literature as communication', an enquiry into the general principles of humanist dialogue which, like all the best theoretical thinking, is rooted in a deep knowledge of particular texts. His authors in Communicational Criticism range from Shakespeare to Pinter, and include Pope, Wordsworth, Dickens, T. S. Eliot and Orwell (as well as Winston Churchill!), a richly traditional canon which is everywhere open to the challenges of new texts and perspectives, and which takes in the postmodern as 'a condition to which we now look back.' Sell’s thoughtful learning and intellectual freshness, and his humane grasp of social and political issues, give this book its distinctive character and value.”
“This book is both fairminded and insightful, able to move through broad fields of knowledge without any loss of clarity and generous in argument. Roger Sell's analyses of theoretical and literary works are illuminating because he is committed to understanding the complex experience of dialogue between reader and text.”
“The implicit dialogue between writers and their readers fluctuates constantly as texts are read and re-read over the years. This dialogicality, not least as it arises with the plays of Shakespeare, when audiences and reader mindsets change so radically over time, is analysed in Roger Sell’s new book with quite exceptional acuteness.”
“Roger Sell’s book, both timely and sympathetic, seeks to rescue literature from the theoretical depredations of post-modernity and to re-awaken our sense of its capacity to make human contact. He offers, among many other things, a fine study of Wordsworth’s poetry of ‘friendly communion’ and the powerful social vision that animates it, in which community is no less meaningful because it embraces diverse points of view. It is a rich and stimulating study.”
“Roger D. Sell’s brilliant study offers a corrective to the view of the literary process as power struggle. What it shows is that the critique with which literary texts respond to the ideas brought along to them can be synergetic rather than confrontational. Valorizing “communicational genuineness” as one of the necessary conditions for lasting artistic achievement, Sell demonstrates that major writing engages in dialogue with its readers, while maintaining respect for their intellectual freedom.”
“In this inspiring book of 'post-postmodern' criticism, Roger Sell once again reminds us that literature does not exist in a vacuum, that it is a complex and ethically charged form of communication between authors and readers, and that without interaction with readers, literature would be pointless. This is an impressive piece of scholarship, itself opening a new dialogue between literature and its addressees, not least by fully recognizing that reading can be a pleasurable experience.”
“This study is remarkable for its range alone, as Sell applies his critical theoretical approach to Shakespeare, Pope, Wordsworth, Dickens, T.S. Eliot, Winston Churchill, Orwell, Lynne Reid Banks, and Harold Pinter. The list, drawn from the accustomed English literary canon with perhaps a couple of surprises, reflects tenets central to communicational criticism, defined in contra-distinction to the 'communication criticism' of Rybacki and others: it attends to texts that readers have found pleasurable and lastingly valuable. These properties are, according to Sell, what constitute the potentiality for a text’s “communicational genuineness” and vicariously account for its widespread durability. Communicational criticism develops then a post-postmodern approach allied to literary appreciation but based fundamentally on the dialogic relationship between writers and readers and their ethical articulations. The critical goal lies in ameliorating that relationship through acts of mediation. Roger Sell has published widely in this critical area already and brings together in this magisterial study both a clear justification of his approach and an impressive array of instances of its application.”
“Roger Sell's is the humane voice in contemporary literary criticism. His new book - working with texts from the Wakefield Nativity Play to Harold Pinter's drama, taking in writers such as Shakespeare, Pope, Coleridge and Dickens en route - urges us to consider the ways in which literature can function as a means of opening up dialogue with and among its unnamed readers. The impulse of this communicational criticism is generous and tolerant; its purpose is to instill an ethics of respect in the community of readers. It deserves to succeed.”
“In combination with the fascinating and the, at present, by no means fully explored linkages between Sell’s approach to literature and contemporary communication and media theory, his humane readings are doing much to help literary culture make the transition into the new, and also as yet largely unknown, communicative disposition of our globalising world, where that culture, with all of its history, has such an important role to play.”
“In a way, what Sell is advocating is a literary criticism with communicational potential almost as strong as the literature that is its subject. His Communicational Criticism, with its insightful and innovative analyses of much-discussed works, realizes this potential, practicing its own principles.”
“This important contribution to dialogue studies strikes me as a valuable and vigorous -- and surprisingly non-defensive -- defense of literature for our time. It manages to shun the hierarchies associated with the sacralization of literature by earlier ages, and redefines communication for whatever age we happen to call ours, finding tonic examples of the most 'genuine' forms of communication in texts that have become canonical not because they are universal in meaning but because they are insistently dialogical in spirit, both open to and helping to foster heterogeneity.”
Cited by

Cited by 25 other publications

Pia Maria Ahlbäck, Jouni Teittinen & Maria Lassén-Seger
Castore, Antonio
2014. Misunderstanding and embodied communication. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 79 ff. DOI logo
Chen, Yi
2014. Silence and dialogue. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 41 ff. DOI logo
de Saussure, Louis
2021. An experiential view on what makes literature relevant. In Beyond Meaning [Pragmatics & Beyond New Series, 324],  pp. 99 ff. DOI logo
Eilittä, Leena
2015. “The world at large … is only an expanded homeland.”. In Major versus Minor? – Languages and Literatures in a Globalized World [FILLM Studies in Languages and Literatures, 1],  pp. 233 ff. DOI logo
Fishelov, David
2014. Dialogue and dialogicity. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 23 ff. DOI logo
Garcia Landa, Jose Angel
2014. Notas sobre reflexividad y retroprospecciin en la Fenomenologga del Esppritu (Notes on Reflexivity and Retroprospection in the Phenomenology of Spirit). SSRN Electronic Journal DOI logo
Knights, Ben
2017. The Hidden Aesthetic of English Teaching. In Pedagogic Criticism,  pp. 107 ff. DOI logo
Knights, Ben
2017. Turning the Screw of Criticism. In Pedagogic Criticism,  pp. 53 ff. DOI logo
Kokkola, Lydia
2013. Literary Community Making: The Dialogicality of English Texts from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. European Journal of English Studies 17:2  pp. 217 ff. DOI logo
Ledent, Bénédicte
2014. The dialogic potential of "literary autism". In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 99 ff. DOI logo
Lejeune, Guillaume
2014. Early Romantic hopes of dialogue. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 251 ff. DOI logo
Leonardi, Barbara
2019. Chapter 9. James Hogg’s and Walter Scott’s Scottishness. In Pragmatics and Literature [Linguistic Approaches to Literature, 35],  pp. 192 ff. DOI logo
Popescu, Carmen
2014. Subjectivity and the dialogic self. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 197 ff. DOI logo
Sell, Roger D.
2014. In dialogue with the ageing Wordsworth. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 161 ff. DOI logo
Sell, Roger D.
2014. Introduction. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 1 ff. DOI logo
Strandberg, Lotta
2015. Minor and Major Readings Across Cultures. In Major versus Minor? – Languages and Literatures in a Globalized World [FILLM Studies in Languages and Literatures, 1],  pp. 141 ff. DOI logo
Toker, Leona
2014. Narrative and talk-back. In Literature as Dialogue [Dialogue Studies, 22],  pp. 115 ff. DOI logo
[no author supplied]

This list is based on CrossRef data as of 16 march 2024. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.


Communication Studies

Communication Studies

Literature & Literary Studies

Theoretical literature & literary studies

Main BIC Subject

CFG: Semantics, Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis

Main BISAC Subject

LAN009000: LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
ONIX Metadata
ONIX 2.1
ONIX 3.0
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2011022402 | Marc record