Refiguring Prose Style: Possibilities for Writing Pedagogy

Refiguring Prose Style: Possibilities for Writing Pedagogy

Refiguring Prose Style: Possibilities for Writing Pedagogy

Refiguring Prose Style: Possibilities for Writing Pedagogy

Synopsis

Style is of vital practical interest to college writing teachers, because everyone has to teach it one way or another. Yet, for about two decades, the theoretical discussion of how to address prose style in teaching college writing has been stuck, with style standing in as a proxy for other stakes in the theory wars.A consequence of the impasse is that a theory of style itself has not been well articulated. In Refiguring Prose Style, Johnson and Pace suggest that moving the field toward a better consensus will require establishing style as a clearer subject of inquiry.Accordingly, Refiguring Prose Style takes up a comprehensive study of the subject. The hope of the essays here--focusing on historical, aesthetic, practical, and theoretical issues--is to reawaken composition studies to the possibilities of style, and, in turn, to rejuvenate a great many classrooms.

Excerpt

T. R. Johnson and Tom Pace

It happens all the time: someone will use the word style and, at least slightly, the conversation will stumble. Rather more than most words, style means different things to different people. For some, style is always individualized and works in counterpoint to the surrounding community (“I like your style!”); for others, style is just the opposite—it refers to a broad, collective system of symbolic patterns, something like a discourse, even a worldview (“That whole style is so eighties!”). For still others, especially writing teachers, style calls to mind a rather old-fashioned mandate to get students to write more “clearly” and, as such, it partners with grammar as a similar sort of fussiness about “surface” technicalities; for yet others, style refers to something else entirely, perhaps the element of language that crosses into music, the realm of rhythm and balance that opens, in turn, into a mysterious realm of ineffable, intersubjective energies, as when we’re powerfully drawn to a text but cannot explain why (“I don’t know—the style just grabs me!”). Perhaps this last definition of style— style-as-music—explains why, in most writing classrooms, the discussion of style doesn’t often get much beyond vague feelings about how this or that passage “sounds.” Style, in short, seems to mean a number of things, perhaps so many that, at last, it means nothing at all.

Or, more likely, style is the elephant in the classroom and in our scholarly field that we constantly pretend isn’t there. From the long, historical perspective, style would seem to be precisely such an elephant, for not only is style one of the five canons of classical rhetoric—the others being invention, arrangement, memory, and delivery—it can often subsume these others. Obviously, ideas about delivery and arrangement are intertwined with matters of style, and memory is, too, given how the carefully stylized language we associate with poetry originally served as an aid to memory: orators, in short, can remember their speeches more readily if the speeches are stylized according to principles of balance, rhythm, repetition, and so on (see Havelock 1982; Ong 1982).

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.