Complete Story

KEARNS, Michael

Summer 2001, pages 73-92

Relevance, Rhetoric, Narrative

Abstract: Relevance is a universal function of communication by which humans innately attempt to balance processing effort with the cognitive effect of an utterance. Relevance theory informs the cognitive and rhetorical dimensions of reading a narrative by (a) defining the conditions under which a text will initially be taken as a narrative (emphasizing context selection, display, and tellability) and (b) delimiting the unmarked cases of the ur-conventions for reading narrative (naturalization and progression). These ur-conventions and the Cognitive and Communicative Principles of Relevance also ground claims about the role played by narrative in humans' search for rationality and moral identity.