Supplement: More on James’s style

Our discussion of James’s style on March 5 was somewhat incomplete, and I meant to return to it and summarize it on the 8th. We were unable to hold class that day. I have written up some extra notes, with even more detail than I could have given in class, here: More on James’s Style. These notes include my best effort at a full syntactic tree diagram of the single Jamesian sentence we analyzed on March 5. I also formulate there some principles for stylistic analysis:

1.8 For literary studies, the style of a text is a crucial dimension of its meaning; style is not separable from “content.” The way a text uses the linguistic medium—the way words are arranged and convey meaning—bears both on its generic status and on its specific significance.

1.8.1 The sources of style are many and layered: style may be analyzed as characteristic of a single speaker within a text, of a single text as a whole, of an author (who may have a signature style), of a genre (the formal characteristics of a genre may include a certain kind of style, in which case we speak of linguistic register), of a literary movement, of a social group, or of a historical era.

1.8.2 An analysis of style requires careful attention, at a minimum, to syntax and to diction, sentence by sentence: literary studies considers grammar and lexicon as resources used by texts.

1.8.3 Style also encompasses patterns in the pragmatic effects by which a text conveys meanings not explicitly stated at sentence level. Some of these effects are described as rhetorical figures (metaphor, irony, understatement, hyperbole); others have no widely used names but may be analyzed in context as a relationship between sentence meaning and discourse meaning.

Author: AG

Associate Professor, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick