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Revisiting Style in Literary and Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary Articulations

Edited By Jasmin Herrmann, Moritz Ingwersen, Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank and Olga Ludmila Tarapata

The collected volume brings together leading scholars from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities to interrogate the productivity of style as an element of cultural expression and a parameter of cultural analysis. Despite its ubiquity in examinations of artistic singularity or postulations of epochal patterns, style remains a notoriously elusive concept. Suspicious of monolithic definitions, the contributions assembled in this volume address style from a multiplicity of methodological and conceptual angles, drawing from fields that include literary studies, film and media studies, post-structuralist philosophy, philosophy of science, and American cultural studies.

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20 Michaux and Mescaline: Mastering a Molecular Style


Abstract: This essay analyzes Henri Michaux’s search to invent, find, or discover an absolute style, in which mind and inscription coincide completely. We focus on Michaux’s writings and drawings that record his experiments with mescaline, which express a race to catch up to drug-induced speed, to match his lines to the molecular scale and velocity of thoughts induced by the drug. Michaux’s mescaline experiments and work are situated in poetic, theoretical, and scientific traditions and contexts, including the early emergence of neuroscience and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. The essay concludes that the fruits of Michaux’s labors—writings and drawings that are by turns frenetic, dense, enigmatic, and exhilarating—culminate in a mystical calm, the mind transparent to itself.

Keywords: Henri Michaux, mescaline, style, neuroscience, anxiety, Gilles Deleuze, René Couteaux

In literary criticism and theory, style remains an elusive, protean concept. It is one of those between-concepts, situated or emerging between a rudimentary dimension of writing as material inscription and an abstract, qualitative or immaterial quality of a text or body of work. Style is, one might say, impressionistic: it originates as an impression, the literal pressing in of a stylus (Latin stilus), an ancient writing instrument, to inscribe marks in clay or on wax tablets. As the way a text is written, style also involves making an impression, but in the more qualitative, intuitive sense of the overall impression a piece or writing or body of work makes on the reader’s mind. Style...

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