Professor Michael Toolan MA, D.Phil, GDL

Photograph of Professor Michael Toolan

Department of English Language and Linguistics
Emeritus Professor of English Language

Contact details

Frankland Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


My undergraduate degree was a four-year MA in English Language and Literature from Edinburgh University; from there I went to St John’s College, Oxford, and completed a DPhil on William Faulkner’s style. Then for six years I taught at the National University of Singapore, followed by nine years, latterly with tenure, at the University of Washington, Seattle.

I came to the University of Birmingham  in 1996, attracted by the lively community of English language researchers working here.  I have long nurtured a secondary interest in law and the power of language in all kinds of legal proceedings, and this led me to complete the Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies in 2000.  

From 2002 to 2020 I was editor of the Journal of Literary Semanticsand have served as Chair of the International Association for Literary Semantics.  In 2019 I completed a three-year term as Chair of the Poetics and Linguistics Association ( I am also quite involved in Integrational linguistics.  I retired from the University of Birmingham in 2020.

Postgraduate supervision

Professor Toolan is no longer accepting students for supervision.


My most recent research has been on how some of the UK news media have ‘normalized’ the increased wealth inequality that has harmed the UK in recent decades.  The research combines corpus linguistic and critical discourse analytical methods, and is the topic of my most recent book, The Language of Inequality in the News: A Discourse Analytic Approach (Cambridge University Press, 2018).  In narrative studies, my corpus stylistic study of short-story narratives appeared in 2016 from Routledge: Making sense of narrative text: situation, repetition, and mental picturing.

Other activities


Recent publications


Toolan, M 2018, The language of inequality in the news. Cambridge University Press.

Toolan, M 2016, Making sense of narrative text: situation, repetition, and picturing in the reading of short stories. Routledge, London and New York.


Toolan, M 2016, 'Peter Black, Christopher Stevens, class and inequality in the Daily Mail', Discourse and Society, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 642-660.

Toolan, M 2016, 'Stylistic iconicity and Love's two orders of language', Language Sciences.

Toolan, M 2012, 'Engagement via emotional heightening in "Passion": On the grammatical texture of emotionally-immersive passages in short fiction', Narrative, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 210-225.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Toolan, M 2016, Can integrational linguistics be integrated with (critical) discourse analysis? in A Pable (ed.), Critical Humanist Perspectives: The Integrational Turn in Philosophy of Language and Communication. Routledge, New York.

Toolan, M 2016, Unexpected sequencing at story’s end: Munro’s “Passion”. in P Krogh Hansen, H Skov Nielsen, RA Kraglund & SS Grumsen (eds), Expectations. Forlaget Medusa, Holte, Denmark.

Toolan, M 2015, Musical Narrativity. in RL Baroni & F Revaz (eds), Narrative Sequence in Contemporary Narratologies: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH, pp. 130-150. <>

Toolan, M 2015, Narrative and narrative structure. in K Allan (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Linguistics. Routledge, pp. 236-249.

Toolan, M 2015, Poetry and poetics. in R Jones (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Language and Creativity. Routledge, London, pp. 231.

Toolan, M 2014, The Stylistics of Film. in M Burke (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics. Routledge, London.

Toolan, M 2014, The theory and philosophy of stylistics. in P Stockwell & S Whiteley (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


Toolan, M 2016, A sample of memorable articles on stylistics and text analysis from the past fifty years: A personal selection and commentary. in S Kikuchi (ed.), Towards the linguistic and philological study of English literary texts. Kyushu University Press, Kyushu, pp. 97-121.

Book/Film/Article review

Toolan, M 2015, 'Review Article on Vyvyan Evans, The Language Myth', Language and Dialogue, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 443–456.

Toolan, M 2014, 'Afterword', Language and Literature, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 89-98.

View all publications in research portal


English language; the language of literature; the language of public discourses