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Gerald Prince WORLDS WITH STYLE Whether it is taken to be a laudable characteristic of verbal artifacts (as in, "This essay is really well written"), a distinctive feature of an individual manner of speaking or writing (as in, "Jane definitely has a style of her own"), an ornamental supplement to that which is expressed (style as elocutio), or an appropriate way of using language in different contexts (there is — or was — a style for tragedy, another one for comedy, and still another one for pastoral; there is a style for speaking at business meetings and other styles better suited to everyday conversations, political rallies, or Ph.D. exams), whether it is taken to be any of these four things (or many other things as well), the style of an utterance is traditionally viewed as a secondary phenomenon different from and added to some primary base. It is the mode of expressing a given matter, the way of "saying" some thing, the how of a what. The same is true when the notion style is used in connection with nonverbal artifacts — we talk about musical styles and about pictorial ones — but also in connection with any number of activities or states of affairs: walking down the street, dancing the tango, being pleasant, or playing ping-pong. Ping-pong players use rackets, a net, and a ball, in accordance with certain rules, when they engage in a casual game; but they are thought to be doing somediing more than merely playing: they are performing an activity (the what) in a particular way. They do it stylishly, idiosyncratically, with a lot of showboating, or in a manner appropriate to the informal context.1 It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that, when it comes to verbal (and nonverbal) representations, style is often thought to be irrelevant to the signified (what is represented) as opposed to the signifier (what represents). Graham Hough writes, for example: "In discussing whatever it is we mean by style we assume mat the primary choice, the choice of subject-matter in the large sense, has already been made. . . . We can talk about the secondary choice, the stylistic one, in various ways. . . . But whatever point of view we adopt, it will be the verbal ordonnance that we discuss, not the oudines of die mym, the facts of the case, the ideological or biographical substructure."2 Yet, as I have more than suggested, any what has (or can have) a corresponding how. Besides, both 59 60Philosophy and Literature in formal criticism and informal exchanges, we frequently seem to refer to the how of a signified. When we say, for instance, that a given short story is Kafkaesque , we do not, I think, have its verbal style in mind; and when we claim that a novelistic episode or character comes right out of Alice in Wonderland, we are not talking about linguistic matters. Of course, the fact mat we seem to refer to the how of signifieds (or that we do refer to the how of signifiers) does not necessarily mean mat mere are such things (or that we can describe them). But I suspect that there are (and that we can). I would like to discuss in what follows some of the ways in which we might be able to talk of the style of represented "worlds" more or less meaningfully and systematically and some of the problems attending such talk. For the sake of convenience and because of personal affinities, I will restrict myself to verbal narratives. I will not make a distinction between literary and non-literary ones, since such a distinction is formally and even pragmatically quite problematic. IfI concentrate on fictional narratives, it is, again, because of personal affinities and not because I mink that, when it comes to style, (ontological or other) differences between fiction and nonfiction make very much of a difference. As I will argue, style is in the eye ofthe beholder and, from that point of view, whether or not something is compossible with one's knowledge of the "real world" does not necessarily make it function as fictional or nonfictional; indeed, I am constandy surprised by the real world and I could easily recount...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 59-66
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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