Processing effort and poetic closure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Downloads (Pure)


Smith (1968) argues that poems may end with formal changes which produce an experience of closure in the reader. I argue that formal changes do not directly cause an experience of closure. Instead, changes in poetic form always demand increased processing effort from the reader, whether they involve new forms, shifts from more to less regular form, or from less to more regular form. I use relevance theory (Sperber and Wilson 1995) to argue that the increased processing effort encourages the reader to formulate rich and relevant thoughts, including the thought 'this poem has closure'. Closure is thus the content of a thought rather than a type of experience. I further argue that 'closure' is a term whose meaning cannot be fully understood, which makes the thought 'this poem has closure' into a schematic belief of the kind which Sperber shows has great richness and productivity. This is one of the reasons that the thought 'this poem has closure' achieves sufficient relevance to justify the effort put into processing the end of the poem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Literary Linguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2016


  • closure
  • expectation
  • Gestalt theory
  • metre
  • poetic form
  • processing
  • effort
  • relevance theory
  • tension

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Processing effort and poetic closure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Profiles

    No photo of Nigel Fabb

    Nigel Fabb

    Person: Academic


    Cite this