Dr Sara Whiteley

Lecturer in English Language and Literature


Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA


I joined The University of Sheffield as a Lecturer in English Language and Literature in September 2012, having previously taught at the University of Chester.

My research interests lie at the interface between language and literature, in the disciplines of stylistics, cognitive poetics and discourse analysis. My research examines issues of textual effect and interpretation in relation to contemporary prose, poetry and other texts. I am particularly interested in studying the experience of reading and researching reader responses to literary texts using empirical methods.


I began my career by researching emotional responses to literature from a cognitive poetic perspective. My doctoral thesis used the Text World Theory framework in order to examine the emotional effects of three novels by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I analysed readers’ emotional responses to the novels by studying reading group discussions and online forums, and used these to inform cognitive poetic theory on emotional response.

Subsequently, I became interested in the nature of reading group discussions and their potential as a source of data for stylisticians interested in literary response. I contributed to the Creative Writing in the Community project (2010) and led the Book of the Festival Project (2013) which both enabled me to record different reading groups discussing the same literary texts. I take a cognitive linguistic approach to the talk, using Text World Theory, and co-authored a book: The Discourse of Reading Groups: Integrating Cognitive and Sociocultural Perspectives (Routledge, 2016). I also co-edited a special issue of the journal Language and Literature about reader response research in stylistics.

My research interests extend beyond literature to the interpretation and effects of a variety of text types. In 2019 I co-authored an article examining the cognitive poetics of ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast. I am a co-investigator on the British Academy funded ‘Linguistic creativity in the discourse of National Trust holiday cottage guestbooks’ project (2017-2019), which examines the inscriptions in guestbooks from a cognitive linguistic perspective. In 2018 I co-authored a textbook in stylistics: Contemporary Stylistics: Language, Cognition, Interpretation (Edinburgh University Press) and I co-edited the Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics with Professor Peter Stockwell (2014).

Most recently, I have been revisiting the works of Kazuo Ishiguro and preparing a monograph on The Language of Kazuo Ishiguro (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan) which combines cognitive and corpus stylistic approaches to his style and its effects on readers.


My main undergraduate teaching responsibilities are on the BA in English Language and Literature degree, where I contribute to several of the degree’s core modules. I also run the optional third-year module ‘Researching Readers’.

At postgraduate level, I contribute to various MA modules across the school and convene the modules 'Literature of the Mind' and ‘Introduction to Literary Linguistics’.


I welcome enquiries about research projects on:

  • Discourse analysis and stylistics
  • Cognitive poetics
  • Emotion in discourse processing
  • Reader/audience reception


  • Gibbons, A. and Whiteley. S. (2018) Contemporary Stylistics: Language, Cognition, Interpretation. Edinburgh University Press.
  • Peplow, D., Swann, J., Trimarco, P. and Whiteley, S. (in press, 2015) The Discourse of Reading Groups: Integrating Cognitive and Sociocultural Perspectives. Routledge.
  • Stockwell, P. & Whiteley, S. (2014) The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics.  Cambridge University Press.
  • Peplow, D. and Whiteley, S. (forthcoming) ‘Interpretation in interaction: on the dialogic nature of response’, in A. Bell, S. Browse, A. Gibbons and D. Peplow (eds) Style and Response: Mind, Media, Methods, John Benjamins
  • Whiteley, S. (forthcoming) ‘Manipulating metaphors: interactions between readers and ‘Upon Opening the Chest Freezer’, in S. Sorlin (ed.) Stylistic Manipulation of the Reader in Contemporary Fiction, Bloomsbury.
  • Whiteley, S, and Canning, P. (2017) ‘Reader response research in stylistics’, Language and Literature 26(2): 71-87.
  • Whiteley, S. (2016) ‘A cognitive poetic approach to researching the reading experience’, in K. Otterholm, K. Ivar Skjerdingstad, L.E.F.McKechnie & P. Rothbauer (eds.) Plotting the Reading Experience: Theory, Practice, Politics. Wilfred Laurier Press
  • Whiteley, S. (2016) ‘Building resonant worlds: experiencing the text-worlds of The Unconsoled’, in J. Gavins and E. Lahey (eds) World-building: Discourse in the Mind, Bloomsbury.
  • Whiteley, S. (2016) ‘Emotion’, in Sotirova, V. (ed.) The Bloomsbury Companion to Stylistics. Bloomsbury.
  • Whiteley, S. (2014) ‘Ethics’ in P. Stockwell, & S. Whiteley (eds) The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics. Cambridge University Press, pp.393-407.
  • Whiteley, S. (2011) ‘Text World Theory, Real Readers and Emotional Responses to The Remains of the Day’, Language and Literature 20(1): 23-41.
  • Whiteley, S. (2011) ‘Talking about ‘An Accommodation’: The implications of discussion group data for community engagement and pedagogy’, Language and Literature 20(3): 236-56.