Over the past few weeks in Close Reading we have been working on disentangling specific elements of poetry and fiction in order to improve the precision of our analysis. We’ve focused, for instance, on tone and diction, on figurative language, on imagery, on symbolism, on rhythm, on point of view, on narrative voice, on characterization, and on setting. Often separating these elements is quite an artificial exercise, but there’s value in it nonetheless, as it helps us moves from impressionistic responses to focused observations that can be the foundation of critical conversation and analysis.
Now we’re working on putting these elements back together again. Today we talked about “style,” which, as our textbook explains, encompasses all of a writer’s choices about both what to say and how to say it, and next we’ll be working on theme – which of course has been central to all of our attempts to read the significance of details all along.
“It is difficult to pinpoint the effects that make up an author’s style,” says the author of Close Reading. I agree, but that’s what makes it fun, so in that spirit, much of today’s class was spent trying to pinpoint the effects that make these authors’ styles so distinct and so interesting. In some cases, it’s the overabundance of rhetorical effects that’s most obvious and inviting; in other cases, the seeming absence of style is itself pretty stylish. Another factor is whether a particular style appeals to your taste — I think that just becoming more self-conscious about authors’ varying styles can not only help us identify what factors constitute our own taste but also lead us to a greater appreciation of authors whose writing we don’t particularly enjoy at first. Do you have any favorites among these? How would you pinpoint what constitutes their particular styles? Are there stylistic features you love that I’ve missed in my sampler? Who do you suggest I should consider including next time around, and why?