The stylistic inflection



Publication Details

Buchanan, I. 1999, 'The stylistic inflection', Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 133-145.


Under the broad rubric of'style', I want to try to 'understand' the tenor ofCerteau's project by analysing its stylistic inflections. My rationale is that an analysis of style is at the same time an elucidation of a method because, in our time, according to Jameson at least, 'the search for the proper expression is the same as the search for the wholly adequate notion' (S, 67). On the evidence of a number of imaginative language experiments Certeau conducted in his own writing, not to mention the exceptionally rigorous analyses of other authors' style he was to write himself, I take it as read that Certeau was conscious of the importance and effect of style. As such, I will argue that in an objective or purely formal sense his own rhetoric can and should be taken as reflecting this consciousness. At which point, what becomes interesting in his work is not merely the' concepts' and their respective places in the critical arsenal, but how they manage 'to get said in the first place, and at what price.' 'Understanding' is a term Certeau himself used to describe a certain kind of non-judgemental criticism he hoped to develop. In rehearsing it here I am attempting to stage my argument in a form consonant with its object, such that the encounter and its fruit will be one and the same.

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