International Journal of Innovation and Scientific Research
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  Call for Papers (January 2024)  

Linguistics and Literary Criticism: Shall the Twain Never Meet?

Volume 15, Issue 2, June 2015, Pages 473–481

 Linguistics and Literary Criticism: Shall the Twain Never Meet?

Pascal Ally Hussein1

1 Department of English and African Culture, Institut Supérieur Pédagogique of Bukavu, P.O. Box 854, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Original language: English

Copyright © 2015 ISSR Journals. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


It was a commonplace among traditional linguists and literary scholars that their disciplines were far apart from each other, and that there could be only very little interaction between them. In the late 20-th century, however, the fields of conventional linguistics and traditional literary studies were profoundly unsettled by major paradigm shifts like the decisive turn to text linguistics and discourse analysis, and new trends in literary theory (theoretical criticism). It is against the background of these shifts that the present paper investigates the relationship between modern linguistics (in the guise of text linguistics, discourse analysis, pragmatics, transformational-generative linguistics, semantics, etc.) and literary criticism, both theoretical and practical. By grappling with these two questions – 'Is there a common denominator between linguistics and literary criticism?' and 'Are literary texts fully amenable to a strictly linguistic analysis' -, this article traces the historical development of modern linguistics from conventional linguistics and of literary theory from traditional literary studies, while contrasting conventional linguistics and traditional literary studies, and comparing text linguistics/discourse analysis and literary theory. Ultimately, the paper establishes 'text', 'discourse' and 'language' as commonalities between linguistics and literary criticism, and takes the stance in favour of the irreducibility of literary texts to exclusively linguistic methods and techniques of analysis.

Author Keywords: Conventional linguistics, discourse, discourse analysis, language, literary theory, modern linguistics, text, text linguistics, traditional literary studies.

How to Cite this Article

Pascal Ally Hussein, “Linguistics and Literary Criticism: Shall the Twain Never Meet?,” International Journal of Innovation and Scientific Research, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 473–481, June 2015.