You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
January 11, 2004
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· From Substance to Style: G. H. Lewes Takes on Immanuel Kant ·
So what of English speakers? Well, we're of course betwixt-and-between, typically adopting Kant's essentially smart intellectual substance while necessarily abusing his style. Consider the mid-Victorian writer George Henry Lewes. His The Principles of Success in Literature (1865), published in The Fortnightly Review, catches well the spirit of Kant's words while abusing his often drab style. Take this from Lewes' sixth chapter, "The Laws of Style":
Lewes' vocabulary, "intellect" and "sensibilities," "ideas" and "emotions," is lifted, of course, right from Kant's three great classic critiques of reason, practicality, and judgment, but used in the direct service of literature, not of philosophy. Yet as to Kant's own prose style, Lewes himself disparages it as do most of my smart students. Take this brief passage from Lewes' fifth chapter, "The Principle of Beauty":
Before you gloat with my students, however, do at least consider this happy exchange from Friday afternoon's English 101 class:
Whether researching or writing, I do have, it seems, Lewes' point made expressly for my own style.Permalink
Should you be interested, the passage I shared Friday was this:
You saw my greasy side first, as I recall, last June.
Your student's comment had me LOL. And I'm not a Little Old Lady, which is what that acronym stood for before on-line writing.
That sharp distinction between the influence of the mother and the influence of the father is thematic in Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima, where the mother's family are farmers (settled folk) and the father's people are vaqueros (wandering folk).
Thanks, everyone, for some nice binary distictions here. May I add another, in regard to Lewes on Kant? Here at Rowan U., where we fancy ourselves expert on applied communication (i.e., journalism, advertising, public relations, tech writing, radio-tv-film production, that sort of thing), we faculty divide ourselves into two groups based on the amount of grease and its print-making cousin, ink, used in our teaching: 1) dirty fingernails, or 2) clean ones. Happily for me, I have one hand of each. Nevertheless, you may be pleased to know, Styles, that my colleagues with ten dirty fingernails — or the metaphorical equivalent thereof — are most highly regarded here.
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