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Inferring character from text : attribution theory and foregrounding theory.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>04/1996
Issue number5
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)335-361
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


There is at present no theoretical framework that captures the processes involved in literary characterisation. In this paper, I focus on the issue of how and when people infer information about character from a text. Drawing upon work in social psychology, I assess and compare two attribution theories, both of which are designed to explain how we infer aspects of personality in real life situations. In particular, I highlight the apparent mutual incompatibility of these theories. In order to strengthen their theoretical position, I describe how these theories are analogous in particular ways with foregrounding theory, a theory which addresses issues to do with literary interpretation. In drawing this analogy, I demonstrate how the two attribution theories might be reconciled. Finally, I consider the operation of attribution theory in literary texts and demonstrate its power as a descriptive and explanatory framework.