Floral foregrounding

corpus-assisted, cognitive stylistic study of the foregrounding of flowers in Mrs Dalloway

  • Marie Møller Jensen Aalborg University
  • Katrine Lottrup Aalborg University
  • Signe Nordentoft Aalborg University


The study reported here combines quantitative and qualitative methods from both cognitive stylistics and corpus stylistics to analyse the flower-motif in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway. The quantitative analysis compares the frequency of flower lemmas in the novel to both a reference corpus consisting of Woolf’s other works as well as a general corpus (the British National Corpus). The analysis found significant differences between the frequencies in the novel and both corpora. The qualitative analysis is based on the statistically significant results and considers cognitive entrenchment and salience in relation to these. Furthermore, the analysis also links these two notions to different types of foregrounding as conceptualised in stylistics proper. Finally, aspects of repetition, parallelism and symbolism in relation to the flower-motif are considered. In conclusion, it is found that the flower-motif consists of more variables than sheer frequency and that it is the combination of these varied stylistic tools which result in the foregrounding of the flower-motif. Combining both quantitative and qualitative approaches in stylistic analyses proved beneficial in demonstrating the functions of foregrounding and the presence of the flower-motif in Mrs Dalloway, but also highlighted the potential of combining insights from cognitive linguistics with more traditional stylistic features.

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