Saturday, October 3, 2009

Belated Notes on Lanham Chs 1-3

In his introduction, The Domain of Style, Lanham discusses and then dismantles the predominating theory of prose writing which he calls, 'C-B-S' theory: clarity, brevity, and sincerity. We are taught that prose should be unnoticeable, simply a vehicle for conveying meaning clearly, without any remarkable style. After looking into the literal implications of the 'C-B-S' theory, however, it "seems to contradict all that we say is good in literature and so runs an enormous rift between 'literature' on the one hand and 'ordinary prose' on the other" (Lanham, 3). This is a very provocative statement: Must literature necessarily break the rules that attempt to enforce the clear transferral of information to readers? Lanham then opposes poetry and prose, as the 'C-B-S' theory implies, "Prose must be entirely transparent, poetry entirely opaque. Prose must be minimally self-conscious, poetry the reverse" (Lanham, 3). Clearly, there must be a happy medium, a sort of continuum of style between poetry and prose, high literature and mundane statements of fact, as Lanham argues. The study of rhetoric is the examination of this continuum.

Some terms:
Isocolon: arranging phrases and clauses in units of equal length and structure. (15)
Doublet: sentence with paired structure.
Tricolon: sentence with three items of equal length and structure.
Tetracolon: sentence with four items of equal length and structure.
*Tricolon and tetracolon could be written as isocolon by opening up the sentence into multiple sentences, each with one item of equal length and structure.
Parataxis: sentences that weigh phrases, clauses and/or subjects equally. "Syntactic democracy." Leaves ranking, ordering, or relating of the parts up to the reader. (29)
Hypotaxis: sentences that rank the components, making clear what derives from what. Ranking is done for the reader. Hypotaxis usually has pronounced syntactic patterns (29)
Asyndetic: style that uses few connectors. Narrator or writer's voice can seem detached. (33)
Polysyndetic: style that uses many connectors, within and across sentences. Asyndetic styles are often paratactic and use anaphora. (33-35)
Lanham mentions that hypotaxis and polysyndeton often go together, while parataxis can be both asyndetic and polysyndetic.
Epanaphora: similar ending pattern. ex. "The afternoon is rawest and the dense fog is densest and the muddy streets are muddiest" (36)
Homoioteleuton: similar word endings. ex. "rawest, densest, muddiest" (36)
Protasis/apodosis: if/then quality. Protactic clauses are uncertain and open-ended; apodosis provides resolution. (40)

Periodic style
  • often hypotactic
  • construction formed from syntax and sense
  • suspension of syntax and sense until end; climax comes at end
  • period can be one sentence or stretch over several
Lamming lists different styles that developed in reaction to the dramatic style of period as an effort to capture a natural human thought or expression, including running style, pointed style, plain style.
Zeugma: A sentence in which one verb or subject serves for a series of others.
Ellipsis: omission of subsequent verbs/nouns where it is assumed in the following constructions. Creates interaction with reader.

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