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    The Horror! The Horror! Digital Measures of Literariness Anxiety in the Novels of Stephen King

    Eve, Martin Paul (2021) The Horror! The Horror! Digital Measures of Literariness Anxiety in the Novels of Stephen King. In: Digital Americas: The 48th Conference of the Austrian Association for American Studies, 30-31 October, 2021, Online. (Unpublished)

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    In his 2000 book, On Writing, one of the best-selling novelists of the twentieth century, Stephen King, published his advice for aspiring writers. Including directives to use fewer adverbs, instructing the would-be author to avoid adverbially modified direct-speech attribution, and listing a set of “pet peeve” phrases that should remain unused, this advice has been widely cited in the secondary academic literature. Computational methods, however, allow us to appraise the extent to which King follows this advice over his career, even while he admits in On Writing that he may not be his own best adherent. We do so not to catch King violating his own dictums but rather to situate his changing stylistics within an almost career-long anxiety seemingly shared by King and his critics over the value status of his work in relation to genre vs. “literary” fiction. In all, we use the quantitative findings from this paper to assess not only the ways in which King, a significant and popular author, adheres to his own advice or otherwise, but also the interpretative resonances of the contexts in which gradual changes to style and individual moments of “bad writing” occur. It is, I argue, this interplay between the “extra-literary” Stephen King, who forbids the use of these devices, and particularly the later fiction of Stephen King, that does use such devices in specific contexts, that makes On Writing worthy of greater attention. At the same time, this paper will draw attention to the ways in which the use of computational approaches can draw us back towards literary texts, as opposed to the traditional supposition of ‘distant’ reading.


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Depositing User: Martin Eve
    Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2021 15:16
    Last Modified: 03 Nov 2021 17:53


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