Dr Sara Whiteley

Contact Dr Sarah Whiteley

Room 2.18, Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA

Internal extension: 28498
Phone number: +44 (0)114 222 8498

Fax: +44 (0)1142228481

email: sara.whiteley@sheffield.ac.uk


I joined The University of Sheffield as a Lecturer in English Language and Literature in September 2012. Prior to this I worked as a Post-Doctoral Researcher here in the School of English and as a Lecturer 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 and poetry. I am particularly interested in studying the experience of reading and researching reader responses to literary texts using empirical methods


Emotional responses to literature: Some of my recent research examined the emotional effects of three novels by the author Kazuo Ishiguro, drawing on reader responses from face-to-face and online reading group discussions and using the cognitive-linguistic framework Text World Theory. My article ‘Text World Theory, Real Readers and Emotional Responses to The Remains of the Day’ won the 2012 Poetics and Linguistics Association prize.

Creative Writing in the Community project: In 2010 I collaborated with colleagues at the University of Sheffield on the year-long ‘Creative Writing in the Community’ project, examining the impact of literary reading and writing on the local community. My strand of the project involved the comparative analysis of discussions held by groups of readers both within and outside of University about the same poetic texts. The project culminated in a Forum event which brought members of the public, academics and the poet Simon Armitage together to discuss notions of literary interpretation and the relationships between authors and readers.

'Book of the Festival’ project: In 2013 I collaborated with staff at Off the Shelf literary festival, Sheffield Libraries and Dr David Peplow from Sheffield Hallam University on the ‘Book of the Festival’ project. This project saw academic research into reader responses running alongside public events at the literary festival. The novel selected as ‘Book of the Festival 2013’ was The Universe versus Alex Woods by Sheffield-based author Gavin Extence. A number of local reading groups were recorded discussing the novel over the summer of 2013, and the text formed the focus of a series of events involving the author, readers, University researchers and the wider public. My strand of the project involved comparative analysis of the different reading group discussions, and continuing analysis of the relationship between the language of the novel and the discourse of readers.

The discourse of reading groups: In 2013-15 I worked with David Peplow, Joan Swann and Paola Trimarco on a co-authored book bringing together cognitive and sociocultural perspectives on reading group talk. While reading is often considered a solitary process, reading groups constitute a form of social reading where interpretative activity is produced and displayed in discourse. The book investigates the language of reading group meetings and draws on an extensive range of examples to shed new light on the rich and complex nature of this type of literary interpretation and social interaction around books.


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 ‘Investigating Real Readers’.

At postgraduate level I contribute to various MA modules across the school and convene the module ‘Introduction to Literary Linguistics’ on the MA English Studies Online degree.


I welcome enquiries about research projects on:

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


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Whiteley, S. (2014) ‘Ethics’ in Stockwell, P. & Whiteley, S. (eds) The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.393-407.
  • Whiteley, S. (2015) ‘Emotion’, in Sotirova, V. (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Stylistics. Routledge.
  • Whiteley, S. (forthcoming) ‘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. (forthcoming, 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. (2015) ‘Book Review: David West, I.A. Richards and the Rise of Cognitive Stylistics’, Language and Literature, 24 (2): 167-70.
  • Whiteley, S. (2010) ‘Book Review: Cognitive Poetics: Goals, Gains and Gaps edited by Geert Brône and Jeroen Vandaele’, Pragmatics and Cognition 18(1): 211-18.
  • Whiteley, S. (2008) ‘Book Review: Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel by Lisa Zunshine’, Language and Literature 17(3): 276-79.


Sara Whiteley on academia.edu: https://usheffield.academia.edu/SaraWhiteley