Professor Joanna Gavins

School of English

Professor of English Language and Literature

English Joanna Gavins
j.gavins@shef.ac.uk
+44 114 222 0214

Full contact details

Professor Joanna Gavins
School of English
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
Sheffield
S3 7RA
Profile

I am a Professor of English Language and Literature and have worked at the University of Sheffield since 2000. My central research interests are in the relationships between language, literature, and cognition, and I teach courses in stylistics and cognitive linguistics.

I am the author of:

I am currently working on a new monograph on the poet and gardener, Ian Hamilton Finlay.


I am Editor of the John Benjamins book series Linguistic Approaches to Literature and Director of the Text World Theory Special Collection at the University of Sheffield. I was a Co-Investigator on the multidisciplinary project, Plastics: Redefining Single Use, funded by UKRI, and I am a Co-Investigator on Many Happy Returns: Enabling Reusable Packaging Systems, also funded by UKRI.

Research interests

My research centres around the cognition of linguistic style in both literary and non-literary discourse. My work is interdisciplinary in nature and draws upon knowledge from the cognitive sciences in order to understand how human beings conceptualise and experience language.

Throughout my academic career, I have been principally focused on development of Text World Theory, a cognitive-linguistic model of human discourse processing, and its application to literary discourse in particular. I am the Director of the Text World Theory Special Collection, housed in the University’s Western Bank library, and my monograph on text-worlds, Text World Theory: An Introduction, was published in 2007. I co-edited a collection of leading-edge research on text-worlds, World Building: Discourse in the Mind, with Ernestine Lahey in 2016. For more information about the text-world approach to discourse, including its use in secondary school English education, please visit the Text World Theory website.

My development of the Text World Theory framework over the last two decades has been facilitated to a great extent by the exploration of challenging experimental literature. Much of my early research looked at the cognition of Absurdist prose fiction and poetry, culminating in my 2013 book, Reading the Absurd.

My more recent work on literary style has centred chiefly around the cognitive experience of reading contemporary poetry and I published a monograph for Edinburgh University Press in 2020 entitled Poetry in the Mind: The Cognition of Contemporary Poetic Style. I am currently working on another monograph on the poet and gardener, Ian Hamilton Finlay, exploring how the language of his poetry is conceptualised in its physical setting.

In my research on non-literary discourse, I am Principal Investigator on Linguistic Creativity in the Discourse of National Trust Holiday Cottage Guestbooks, a project run with my colleague, Dr Sara Whiteley, in collaboration with The National Trust. The project was funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust in 2017 and examines the language used by visitors to the Trust’s holiday rental cottages in the guestbooks situated in each property. It investigates the often creative discourse used in guestbooks, which provides a unique, permanent insight into otherwise transitory tourist experiences and interactions.

In 2018, I was a Co-Investigator on Plastics: Redefining Single Use, a multidisciplinary research project, funded by UKRI and involving researchers from every faculty in the University, working in partnership with a range of external organisations and companies. I am currently a Co-Investigator on Many Happy Returns: Enabling Reusable Packaging Systems, also funded by UKRI. I lead the linguistics work package on the project, which also includes my colleagues Dr Seth Mehl and Dr Emma Franklin. We are investigating the language people use to describe their interactions with plastics and the extent to which the public’s conceptualisation of plastic use and reuse is aligned with that of stakeholders (e.g. local authorities, government organisations, and manufacturers). Our aim is to understand how language can be used as a tool to promote changes in thinking and behaviour. 


I am a member of the Poetics and Linguistics Association and served as Assistant Editor of the association’s journal, Language and Literature, from 2009 to 2014. I am also Editor of the John Benjamins book series Linguistic Approaches to Literature.

Publications

Books

  • Gavins J (2020) Poetry in the Mind: The Cognition of Contemporary Poetic Style. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2013) Reading the Absurd. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2007) Text world theory: an introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Edited books

  • Gavins J & Lahey E (Ed.) (2016) World Building: Discourse in the Mind. London: Bloomsbury. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Armitage S, Gavins J, Sansom P & Sansom A (Eds.) (2014) Cast: The Poetry Busines Book of New Contemporary Poets. Smith/Doorstop Books. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J & Steen G (Ed.) (2003) Cognitive Poetics in Practice. London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles

Chapters

  • Gavins J (2020) 'Too much blague?': an exploration of the text worlds of Donald Barthelme's Snow White, The Language and Literature Reader (pp. 255-267). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J & Whiteley S (2019) Creativity and Cognition in the Discourse of National Trust Holiday Cottage Guestbooks In Hart C (Ed.), Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Text and Discourse: From Poetics to Politics (pp. 54-72). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2019) Afterword In Neurohr B & Stewart-Shaw L (Ed.), Experiencing Fictional Worlds (pp. 219-223). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2016) Stylistic Interanimation and Apophatic Poetics in Jacob Polley's 'Hide and Seek' In Gavins J & Lahey E (Ed.), World Building: Discourse in the Mind (pp. 276-292). London: Bloomsbury. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J & Lahey E (2016) World building in discourse In Gavins J & Lahey E (Ed.), World Building: Discourse in the Mind (pp. 1-13). London: Bloomsbury. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2015) Text World Theory In Sotirova V (Ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Stylistics (pp. 444-457). London: Bloomsbury. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2014) Defamiliarisation In Stockwell P & Whiteley S (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics (pp. 196-211). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2012) The literary absurd In Bray J, Gibbons A & McHale B (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature (pp. 62-74). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2010) "Appeased by the certitude": the quiet disintegration of the paranoid mind in The Mustache In McIntyre D & Busse B (Ed.), Language and Style (pp. 402-418). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2010) "And everyone and I stopped breathing": familiarity and ambiguity in the text world of 'The Day lady Died' In Lambrou M & Stockwell P (Ed.), Contemporary Stylistics (pp. 133-143). London: Continuum Publishing Corporation. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2007) Mental mapping of narrative In Herman D, Ryan ML & Jahn M (Ed.), Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory (pp. 300-301). London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2007) Scripts and schemata In Herman D, Ryan ML & Jahn M (Ed.), Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory (pp. 520-521). London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2007) Text world approaches to narrative In Herman D, Ryan ML & Jahn M (Ed.), Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory (pp. 596-597). London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2006) Text World Theory, Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (pp. 628-630). Elsevier RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J & Hodson J (2006) When the students become the teachers: practical pedagogical stylistics with third year undergraduates In Zyngier S & Watson G (Ed.), Literature and Stylistics for Language Learners: Theory and Practice (pp. 27-36). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2005) Text World Theory in literary practice In Veivo H, Pettersson B & Polvinen M (Ed.), Cognition and literary interpretation in practice (pp. 89-104). Helsinki: Yliopistopaino Helsinki Univeristy Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2003) Contextualising cognitive poetics In Gavins J & Steen G (Ed.), Cognitive poetics in practice (pp. 1-12). London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2003) "Too much blague?" An exploration of the text worlds of Donald Barthelme's Snow White In Gavins J & Steen G (Ed.), Cognitive poetics in practice (pp. 129-144). London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gavins J (2002) The absurd worlds of Billy Pilgrim: a text world analysis of Slaughterhouse 5 In Combrinck A & Biermann I (Ed.), Poetics, linguistics and history: discourses of war and conflict (pp. 402-416). Potchefstroom: Potchefstroom University Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Theses / Dissertations

  • Gavins J (2001) Text world theory: a critical exposition and development in relation to absurd prose fiction. Sheffield Hallam University. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

I welcome applications from potential PhD students in all areas of stylistics and cognitive linguistics, particularly Text World Theory.

I am currently supervising PhD projects on the cognition of comic book narratives of mental health; liminal and uncanny text-worlds in contemporary poetry; the style of Margaret Atwood’s autobiographical writings; the text-worlds of Young Adult fiction; and the language of contraceptive education in the UK.

My previous PhD students have included:

  • Dr Sarah Jackson (2021) The Discourse of Pre-School Storytime: A Text World Theory Account
  • Dr Jessica Norledge (2016) Reading the Dystopian Short Story
  • Dr Isabelle van der Bom (2015) Text World Theory and Stories of Self: A Cognitive Discursive Approach to Identity
  • Dr Helen Mort (2014) ‘Something Else, then Something Else Again’: Neuroscience and Connection-Making in Contemporary Poetry
  • Dr Sam Browse (2013) (Mega-)Metaphor in the Text-Worlds of Economic Crisis: Towards a Situated View of Metaphor in Discourse
  • Dr Sara Whiteley (2010) Text World Theory and the Emotional Experience of Literary Discourse
  • Dr Alison Gibbons (2008) Towards a Multimodal Cognitive Poetics: Three Literary Case Studies
  • Professor Alice Bell (2006) The Possible-Worlds of Hypertext Fiction
Teaching activities

My main undergraduate teaching responsibilities are on the BA in English Language and Literature degree. I teach stylistics and cognitive linguistics at undergraduate level and also offer a Level Three module on my own specialist area of research, Text World Theory. At postgraduate level, I teach modules on stylistics and literary cognition.

Selected publications
Books
  • Gavins, J. and Lahey, E. (eds) (2016) World-Building: Discourse in the Mind, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Armitage, S., Gavins, J., Sansom, A. and Sansom, P. (eds) (2014) CAST: The Poetry Business Book of New Contemporary Poets, Sheffield: Smith Doorstop.
  • Gavins, J. (2013) Reading the Absurd, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Gavins, J. (2007) Text World Theory: An Introduction, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Gavins, J. and Steen, G. (eds) (2003) Cognitive Poetics in Practice, London: Routledge.  [Japanese translation by Shigeko Uchida published by Tuttle Mori in 2008]
Articles and chapters
  • Gavins, J. (2016) ‘Stylistic interanimation and apophatic poetics in Jacob Polley’s “Hide and Seek”’, in J. Gavins and E. Lahey (eds) World Building: Discourse in the Mind. London: Bloomsbury, pp.276-92
  • Gavins, J. and Lahey, E. (2016) ‘World building in discourse’, in J. Gavins and E. Lahey (eds) World Building: Discourse in the Mind. London: Bloomsbury, pp.1-13
  • Gavins, J. and Simpson, P. (2015) ‘Regina v John Terry: the discursive construction of an alleged racist event’, Discourse and Society, 27(1)
  • Gavins, J. (2015) ‘Text World Theory’, in V. Sotirova (ed.) The Bloomsbury Companion to Stylistics. London: Bloomsbury, pp.444-57 G
  • Gavins, J. (2014) ‘Metaphor studies in retrospect and prospect: an interview with Gerard Steen’, Review of Cognitive Linguistics, 12 (2)
  • Gavins, J. (2014) ‘Defamiliarisation’, in P. Stockwell and S. Whiteley (eds) The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.196-211
  • Gavins, J. (2012) ‘Leda and the stylisticians’, Language and Literature, 21(4): 345-62 Gavins, J. (2012) ‘The literary absurd’, in J. Bray, A. Gibbons and B. McHale (eds) The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature. London: Routledge, pp.62-74
  • Gavins, J. and Stockwell, P. (2012) ‘About the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often’, Language and Literature, 21(1): 33-50
  • Gavins, J. (2010) ‘“Appeased by the certitude”: the quiet disintegration of the paranoid mind in The Mustache’, in D. McIntyre and B. Busse (eds) Language and Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, pp.402-18
  • Gavins, J. (2007) ‘“And everyone and I stopped breathing”: familiarity and ambiguity in the text-world of “The Day Lady Died”’, in M. Lambrou and P. Stockwell (eds) Contemporary Stylistics. London: Continuum, pp.133-43
  • Gavins, J. and Hodson, J. (2006) ‘When the students become the teachers: practical pedagogical stylistics with third-year undergraduates’, in G. Watson and S. Zyngier (eds) Literature and Stylistics for Language Learners: Theory and Practice.Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp.27-36
  • Gavins, J. (2005) ‘Text World Theory in literary practice’, in B. Petterson, M. Polvinen and H. Veivo (eds) Cognition in Literary Interpretation and Practice. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, pp.89-104
  • Gavins, J. (2005) ‘(Re)thinking modality: a text-world perspective’, Journal of Literary Semantics, 34 (2): 79-93 Gavins, J. (2003) ‘“Too much blague?” An exploration of the text worlds of Donald Barthelme’s Snow White’, in J. Gavins and G. Steen (eds) Cognitive Poetics in Practice. London: Routledge, pp.129-44. [Reprinted in 2008 in R. Carter and P. Stockwell (eds) The Language and Literature Reader. London: Routledge, pp.255-67.]
  • Steen, G. and Gavins, J. (2003) ‘Contextualising cognitive poetics’, in J. Gavins and G. Steen (eds) Cognitive Poetics in Practice. London: Routledge, pp.1-12
  • Gavins, J. (2000) ‘Absurd tricks with bicycle frames in the text world of The Third Policeman’, Nottingham Linguistic Circular, 15: 17-33