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Personal Statement

From Sept 2014- August 2017 I had a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship to pursue the project 'Epiphanies in literature: a psychological and literary linguistic account'. I studied a family of experiences which includes the sublime, literary epiphanies, mystical experience, peak experience, ecstasy, awe, etc. My current approach is to treat these all as responses to a perception of discrepancy.  This partially explains the epistemic feelings which arise - feeling of learning, feeling of significance and feeling of ineffability; and it explains the emotions, as 'surprise emotions'.  I am currently writing the book which summarizes this research.  

I also continue to work on poetic form, and the setting of poetry to music in songs. I gave a keynote talk on rhyme in Helsinki in May 2019.  I am working with Myfany Turpin (Sydney) on Australian Aboriginal songs, on which I will be giving a talk (with Warwick Edwards) at Glasgow University Department of Music in October 2019. 

My tenth book was What is Poetry: Language and Memory in the Poems of the World (Cambridge 2015); the book argues that the added forms of poetry such as metre, rhyme, alliteration and parallelism depend on the division of a text into sections short enough to be held in working memory.  My book with Morris Halle, Meter in Poetry: a New Theory (Cambridge 2008), argues that counting is the basis of all metrical poetry, and rhythm is derived from the counting mechanism.  My book Language and literary structure: the linguistic analysis of form in verse and narrative (Cambridge 2002) argues that form can hold of a literary text by inference.

PhD in linguistics from MIT (1984) supervised by Noam Chomsky. Edited Journal of Linguistics (1997-2014). Head of department (2002-5). Acting dean during the first two months of the new Faculty in 2010. Vice-dean for research (2010-13). Harkness Fellow (1980-82). Leverhulme Fellow (2014-17). An editor of the Literary Universals Project

I teach four undergraduate classes: the first year English class (spring); language in business and organizations; songs and literature; international influences on literature in English.  I teach one postgraduate class on 'intercultural communication' as part of the MSc in TESOL and intercultural communication.

I welcome PhD students in literature, literary linguistics, and psychology of literature.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Award Date: 1 Jan 1984

Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 1980

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  • Experiences of ineffable significance

    Fabb, N., 1 Nov 2021, Beyond Meaning. Ifantidou, E., de Saussure, L. & Wharton, T. (eds.). Amsterdam, p. 134–150 37 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Open Access
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    15 Downloads (Pure)
  • "Of" in Paradise Lost as evidence for the metrical line

    Fabb, N., 6 Sep 2019, In: Umanistica Digitale. 3, 6, p. 1-25

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    File
    30 Downloads (Pure)