Pronouns in Literary Fiction as Inventive Discourse

  • Henrik Skov Nielsen


This chapter approaches the question of pronouns from a rhetorical perspective, focusing on literary fiction as inventive discourse. Standard models of pronouns, especially linguistic ones, are based on non-inventive language uses. In the rhetorical approach, it becomes evident that parts of the grammar of literary fiction work differently from non-fictional conversational discourse. Focusing on pronouns, the chapter argues that it is a mistake to impose real-world, non-invented, narrative situations on fictional narratives. Having presented the semiotic framework of Charles Sanders Peirce, I offer a new reading of his ‘concept of’ the indexical sign in order to examine deictic and personal pronouns in literature.

Outside fiction in, say, conversational narratives, the referent of you is inevitably addressed. In most fictional second-person narratives, the referent of you is instead inevitably created, an argument also applicable to first-person narratives. Thus, in light of such unnatural pronoun usage, it is possible to speak of instances in which a fictional narrative foregrounds its own inventive powers and resistance to real-world descriptions.


Charles Sanders Peirce Fictionality Literary fiction as invented discourse Rhetoric The unnatural 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henrik Skov Nielsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Aarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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