You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
October 30, 2003
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Typically, I hold to the latter view — "grammatical," as you may call it — aware that Romano's theme, like that of E. M. Forster in Howard's End ("Only Connect"), partially bridges (or "pontificates") such a gap nicely. Such is my hope too, but it is hard work — especially in view of the examples. Here, for instance, is Judith Butler's winning quote in Philosophy and Literature's Bad Writing Contest (1998):
As I have sometimes abused such prose — recall High Style and Compromising Style — you may find it strange that I sympathize with Butler's point, not to say with Butler's writing. It is simply because Butler delineates here, with a line that may drift and circle around too much, the analogous concerns of Robin Lakoff's excellent discussion of "How to Write Like a Professor." To Lakoff's credit in Talking Power: The Politics of Language, Butler's "question of temporality" — considered vis-à-vis "structure," "power," and "style" — is even graphically well-illustrated.
The curve of the line suggests that academic style, as Lakoff claims, "is connected to notions of privilege and power."
So where, pray tell, does that leave Styles, as a life-long academic bottom-dweller — a wily old fish, full of Ancient Academic Graces and all the Modern Gumptions? Just stuck in the reedy backwaters of learning, warily observing clumsy bait-hurlers like Butler (her aim is good, by the way) and stylish fly-tossers like Robin Lakoff (she must shop at R.E.I.) almost communicating effectively. But so much Butlerian telling and Lakoffian showing leave this fish reflecting, if truth be told, on Norman Maclean's sage advice in A River Runs Through It: "Grace comes by art, and art does not come easy."Permalink
Absolutely fantastic! What a lift! If you are, as you say, an academic bottom-dweller, the view from the bottom must be quite clear. Thanks, Styles, for the intellectual equivalent of a TGIF happy hour.
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