Re: Style - how much can we know?

From: Sara R. Johnson (
Date: Mon Mar 24 1997 - 13:17:05 EST

>How much can we know about style? I suppose that we can compare forms to
>those found in other writings whose purpose and audience is clear. How else
>can we make objective statements about style?

I would echo this question, any more! When I was a graduate student in
ancient history, one of the professors in the classics department was known
for routinely assigning, as part of his undergraduate courses in classical
Greek, a "stylistic analysis" of the author being read. Students were
required to take a passage and rigorously analyse it for style -- not
making subjective or fuzzy generalizations, but identifying specific
distinctive characteristics of the author's style, in everything from
participles to particles. My friends spoke of this assignment with horror
and dread, because this professor's grading was as strict as his learning
was vast.

I'm sorry that I never happened to take one of these classes. As an
ancient historian, I somehow missed being formally trained in the art of
stylistic analysis, and more and more often lately I have cause to regret
it. I can make vague general observations about style (the difference
between the four gospels is subjectively very obvious to me), but it's hard
for me to base those observations on systematic analysis.

How does one go about learning to systematically analyse Greek style? Are
there resources or handbooks that one could turn to in order to teach
oneself stylistic analysis? Obviously computer programs and such can help,
but you have to know what you're looking for first. Or is it better to
start with the work of those who have analysed the style of a work or
author, and go from there?

Reflecting sadly on all I never learned in grad school,

Sara R. Johnson
Department of Religion and Classics
University of Rochester

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:10 EDT