You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
January 31, 2005
· Mark Twain's Speaking-Truth-To-Power Style ·
Its prompt was simple. Twain was suddenly levied taxes in 1887 on his English royalties, and rather than write to the revenue clerk who'd informed him, Edward Bright, he wrote to Queen Victoria instead. You can almost hear the old writer say, "No Taxation without Representation," while presenting himself in a cagey tone of mock familiarity to Her Highness.
As Dr. Ziff says, "[Twain's] was a being that constantly manifested itself in his writings . . . yet was never embodied by them . . . an uncontainable force that could burst forth at any moment regardless of context." That's why, when given his honorary doctorate from Oxford, Twain slyly said, "I like the degree, but I'm crazy about the clothes."
Charming. Perhaps Matthew Arnold's shade might even have said then: "Hereabouts, Sam, it's 'the best that has been thought and said.'"Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 23, 2005
· For the Class That You Showed ·
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January 17, 2005
· Whose Words These Are I Think I Know ·
I begin this way because, poetry notwithstanding here, my subject today is history — especially this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We Americans celebrate it each January, of course. My own day I've spent preparing for a writing class tomorrow, one King has long figured in. Of interest has been a scholarly essay noting King's quoting of black clerics, but citing white, in My Pilgrimage to Non-Violence (Keith Miller, "Composing Martin Luther King, Jr." PMLA, January 1991).
Miller's claim is interesting. He explains how in borrowing from black preachers, King is not rightly to be charged, thoughtlessly, at least, with plagiarism. My students always take his essay to heart.
My purpose, however, is neither to commit nor commend such borrowing, but rather, in the interest of study, to inform solid, scholarly reading — which, as I tell my students, necessarily includes three key tasks:
Here I thought to note just the second, implicitly giving you the gist of Miller's essay. Fit to the task is an email I wrote Friday to a student who, down with an incipient cold, asked me for a short study update. Here is our exchange.
This short title, a classroom heuristic I use, will take the form tomorrow of "_____________, _____________, and the Idea of _________________." It helps my students inform their understandings of what I call an author's "conceptual topic." But tonight my topic is just bedtime, or, as Frost might say (echoing a prayerful rhyme), "Now I lay me down to sleep."Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
January 9, 2005
· Function Follows Form, Indicatively Speaking ·
Naturally, there are more — involving Perl script, ASCII code, binary digits, electrons, quarks, even theorized strings, I hear. All of which goes to show that such backend matters can become enormously complicated.
But it's been that way from the get-go. Indeed, you might recall my first nod to Geoffrey Hartman's apt take on style, "an index of how the writer deals with the consciousness of mediation." So I thought to end by extending Hartman's point with a quotation drawn from a programmer much smarter than I, LeRoy Searle — a Seattle writer who marks Hartman's point also more stylishly than I:
Naturally, I'll leave that interpretation to you.Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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Mark Twain's Speaking-Truth-To-Power Style
For the Class That You Showed
Whose Words These Are I Think I Know
Function Follows Form, Indicatively Speaking
Figures & Tropes
Grammar & Syntax