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The lobster and the maid: scenario-dependence and reader manipulation in Agatha Christie

By M. Alexander


Readers of detective fiction deliberately seek to be deceived by the stories they read; in this manner, the genre forms a series of texts that aim to manipulate and persuade. This paper describes Agatha Christie’s manipulation of plot-significant information in her short story 'The Tuesday Night Club' by discussing a reader’s psychological depth of processing of significant entities and characters. In particular, I describe this technique within cognitive stylistics using the theory of scenario-dependence, in which a reader’s partitions of memory dictate the focus of a scenario and the role­ mapping of entities within a narrative. In this manner, the paper describes how Christie’s puzzle-like plot invites a reader’s engagement while she simultaneously uses psychological means to divert reader scrutiny and persuade them to follow the wrong ‘path’ to the story’s conclusion. This paper is part of a wider project to describe the cognitive and stylistic basis of reader manipulation in detective fiction (see also Alexander 2006)

Topics: PR, P1
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Enlighten

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