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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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21 Minding One’s Own Style: Versions of Singularity, Modes of Mediation, and the Contiguity between Marianne Moore and Susan Sontag


The great modernisms were … predicated on the invention of a personal, private style, as unmistakable as your fingerprint, as incomparable as your own body.

- Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”

Abstract: Despite their positions in distinct moments of modernity, the common ground shared by Marianne Moore and Susan Sontag—two single-minded, powerful, and strikingly stylish writers and intellectuals—is their unconventional preoccupation with style, explored in this essay by way of two seemingly contradictory, yet interrelated paths: On a first level, the essay (re-)encounters Moore’s idiosyncratic writing through Sontag’s postmodernist reassessment of style as “the signature of the artist’s will.” Both writers affirm style as a faculty of a singular intellect. On a second level, the argument follows Moore’s and Sontag’s critique of the claim modernism made to novelty. Just as Moore’s style resisted the prominent plea to “make it new,” Sontag considered newness not as an aesthetic mark, but as a shift in human perception, impacted on by a growing dissemination of multimedia formats and practices of popular culture. It is this paradox—between the claim for the singularity and the unmistakably particular ‘minding’ of styles, on the one hand, and the acknowledgment that, on the other, these styles are contained by conventional forms of mediation—that informs both Moore’s and Sontag’s writing practice and critical thought.

Keywords: Marianne Moore, Susan Sontag, Literary style, Aesthetics, American Modernism, Postmodernism, Critical theory, Mimicry, Animals in literature

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