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Thread: The Style vs Substance Problem in Literature

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    How many petals are on the bough? If those words were an image, I would know that. How many faces? Is the crowd on the right or on the left hand side of the image or does the crowd completely cover the image? Are the number of people in the crowd clearly countable or too fuzzy to count? If countable, does your count of the number of people agree with my count of the number of people in the image? Since this is about a metro, where is the train in the image? Is the train above the people or on the right or the left side of the image? Is there a station sign in the image showing us that this really is a metro? Is it on the right side or on the left side or maybe in the center of the image?

    If those words represented an image, I would know that information along with a lot of other details.

    My conclusion: those words do not constitute an image. They do mean something. They do have a sound. That is all they offer, which is quite a lot.
    I think that your understanding of what an image is might be a little limited. The poem might not exactly create a visual image of photographic precision, but do you really mean to suggest that it has no visual associations for you? I suppose that different people experience poetry differently, but personally, I found the work very evocative. The first line almost makes me think of an impressionist painting, with figures that don't have clearly defined features, but create the sense of a crowd of featureless people, with certain people growing clearer as the viewer's eye traverses the scene. And for me, the second line created the clear image of cherry blossom petals clinging to a branch after the rain. Perhaps you experienced the poem in a different way, but I feel that the imagery is definitely ingrained in the poem.

  2. #47
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pike Bishop View Post
    No, that is not the answer. It was some very interesting wordplay, but none of it showed showed how literary substance can exist without style. If you want to do so, you need to choose some actual texts and show how they separate style and substance. Since it can't be done, if you actually do so, you will probably earn a chair in most English departments.

    As to your second paragraph, which I couldn't quote, it was also interesting wordplay, but it didn't show in any way how literary substance can exist independent of language. Until you show how it can actually do so, the fact remains that it can't.



    there is this analogy related to metaphysic
    body and mind relationship with the outside/environment and how they transform to inform or understand

    lets consider a weather clock that indicates how and when the changes occur according to the hour/seasosn
    for example
    in a hour it will show there will be a storm
    and would explain the shift of how nature moves from being sunny in an instant to becoming snowy the next
    there is a study related to that.
    the study of that would oen substance because the style has indicated a shift or a movement

    the clock is the main substance

    the style
    would the handles that move from sunny to snowy
    and shows how the temperature goes up and down and why

    the evidence is the style
    the substance is the carrier of this edidence
    the clock
    without it there would no style

    without a style there is clock.
    a style occurs when the changes occur and not because until then it is sedate
    Last edited by cacian; 04-29-2015 at 04:10 AM.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  3. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bartlebooth View Post
    I think that your understanding of what an image is might be a little limited. The poem might not exactly create a visual image of photographic precision, but do you really mean to suggest that it has no visual associations for you? I suppose that different people experience poetry differently, but personally, I found the work very evocative. The first line almost makes me think of an impressionist painting, with figures that don't have clearly defined features, but create the sense of a crowd of featureless people, with certain people growing clearer as the viewer's eye traverses the scene. And for me, the second line created the clear image of cherry blossom petals clinging to a branch after the rain. Perhaps you experienced the poem in a different way, but I feel that the imagery is definitely ingrained in the poem.
    What I am trying to do is point out something obvious. A poem, or language in general, is neither a set of images nor is it music without lyrics. Those are at best metaphors of what language is and I think they are bad metaphors. Language is sound that communicates meaning.

    Why are they bad metaphors? Because they devalue the role that meaning has in language and attempt to see language as only style without substance.

    That brings us back to the OP where the question is whether there is any difference between style and substance in language. If one is thinking that style and substance (think "meaning") are the same thing, then one could make comparisons between language and some image or piece of music without lyrics. I don't think that comparison is valid because it throws away the meaning of the words.

    Consider this: we are expressing our views using language in this thread. We are using words that we mentally verbalize through sounds that intend something very specific. Suppose we wrote this thread using images or posted audio tracks of non-lyrical music. Would we be able to communicate with each other? I think it is obvious that we would not.

  4. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pike Bishop View Post
    Your conclusion is both unsupported and, respectfully, wrong. You can falsely deny "wet, black, boughs," "faces in the crownd" and a metro station are images all you like. They all are still images. Wet, black, boughs; faces in the crowd; and metro stations are all physical things evoking imagery when referenced. Until you can show otherwise, they are all still images in the poem.
    However you choose to understand the meaning of a word is something you as a reader do. You might see an image, hear some music or think of some idea. That is your personal experience. My experience may and probably will differ. The language that we are responding to has used style (sound) that we associate with a substance (sense) that allows us to understand. The language itself does not contain an image.

    If one views style as sound and substance as sense or meaning then one can separate the two to see their difference. As speakers of English we don't experience this separation clearly, but if a paragraph of English we understand is translated into another language that we do not understand, that is, a language in which we cannot make the connection between sound and sense, then all we get from hearing the paragraph read is the style or sound. We might be tempted to think that the sound is not language until we realize that other people can make the association and understand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    What I am trying to do is point out something obvious. A poem, or language in general, is neither a set of images nor is it music without lyrics. Those are at best metaphors of what language is and I think they are bad metaphors. Language is sound that communicates meaning.

    Why are they bad metaphors? Because they devalue the role that meaning has in language and attempt to see language as only style without substance.

    That brings us back to the OP where the question is whether there is any difference between style and substance in language. If one is thinking that style and substance (think "meaning") are the same thing, then one could make comparisons between language and some image or piece of music without lyrics. I don't think that comparison is valid because it throws away the meaning of the words.

    Consider this: we are expressing our views using language in this thread. We are using words that we mentally verbalize through sounds that intend something very specific. Suppose we wrote this thread using images or posted audio tracks of non-lyrical music. Would we be able to communicate with each other? I think it is obvious that we would not.
    I'm definitely in agreement with the idea that poems are more than just images. When I tried to explain how I reacted to the poem, I wasn't really trying to suggest that those impressions were the only important aspects of the poem. But I'm a bit confused by why you emphasize the aural aspect of language. It's true that a major part of language is speaking and the sounds it produces, but I think that some aspects of language on the page might be important as well. While visual appearance isn't always integral, some writers are concerned with the visual patterns that words on a page create. For example, if you were listening to a free verse poem, it might not always be clear how the lines of the poem are divided. And concrete poems absolutely rely on how words are aligned. The same way we can't reduce language only to visual images or music, we shouldn't reduce it only to the spoken word.

  6. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    there is this analogy related to metaphysic....
    a style occurs when the changes occur and not because until then it is sedate
    That, again, was some more interesting wordplay. Again, none of it showed how literary substance can exist without style or how literary substance can exist independent of language. As I said before, if you want to do so, you need to actually show some texts that do. You should also really use some syllogistic logic expressed through clear prosaic language.

  7. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    However you choose to understand the meaning of a word is something you as a reader do. You might see an image, hear some music or think of some idea. That is your personal experience. My experience may and probably will differ. The language that we are responding to has used style (sound) that we associate with a substance (sense) that allows us to understand. The language itself does not contain an image.

    If one views style as sound and substance as sense or meaning then one can separate the two to see their difference. As speakers of English we don't experience this separation clearly, but if a paragraph of English we understand is translated into another language that we do not understand, that is, a language in which we cannot make the connection between sound and sense, then all we get from hearing the paragraph read is the style or sound. We might be tempted to think that the sound is not language until we realize that other people can make the association and understand.
    1. Firstly, the language itself does contain images. When the language contains a word, and/or a group of words, referencing physical objects or phemonena evoking images of them, it contains images. And readers don't have the conscious ability to control their cognitive reactions to words. For most, if not all, readers, the word "cat" will evoke an image of a cat or images of cats. So, again, language does contain images.

    2. Your supposition about "viewing style as sound and substance as sense or meaning" assumes that supposition is correct; it's not . Style is much more than sound. Do you really think a writer's style is reduced to the sound of the words he or she chooses. Style exists in syntax, imagery, artistic mingling of words, and terseness in and/elaborateness of expression....it certainly doesn't just exist in sound. And substance is much more than just meaning. If you don't think there is substance in the style of brilliant writers like Dickinson, Faulkner, McCarthy, Proust, and Shakespeare, you need to read them again. There is as much substantive value in the way they wrote their literature as in the content of it.

    Finally, we get much more out of translated literature than "style or sound." Translated texts by Dostoevsky for example bring profound existential examinations of man's nature. Translated texts of Proust bring meditations on memory un-matched by any writer in English. So, you may only be getting style or sound from translated texts; but you're incorrect in saying that's all that's there.
    Last edited by Pike Bishop; 04-29-2015 at 11:19 AM.

  8. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    What I am trying to do is point out something obvious. A poem, or language in general, is neither a set of images nor is it music without lyrics. Those are at best metaphors of what language is and I think they are bad metaphors. Language is sound that communicates meaning.

    Why are they bad metaphors? Because they devalue the role that meaning has in language and attempt to see language as only style without substance.

    That brings us back to the OP where the question is whether there is any difference between style and substance in language. If one is thinking that style and substance (think "meaning") are the same thing, then one could make comparisons between language and some image or piece of music without lyrics. I don't think that comparison is valid because it throws away the meaning of the words.

    Consider this: we are expressing our views using language in this thread. We are using words that we mentally verbalize through sounds that intend something very specific. Suppose we wrote this thread using images or posted audio tracks of non-lyrical music. Would we be able to communicate with each other? I think it is obvious that we would not.
    1. Firstly, what you said isn't obvious at at all; in fact, it's incorrect. You can't just make an unsupported statement and claim it's "obvious;" it shows you are unable to support that statement. A poem is, partially, a set of images--and many more things--and I showed how in my post above. That is not a metaphor in any way; it is a statement of fact. And you can keep claiming "language is sound without meaning" all you want. It doesn't make it true, and it's not. You give no textual evidence or syllogistic logic to back that claim up, and nothing in consensual linguistics or literary study backs it up either.

    2. Also, your claim about "bad metaphors" is an unsupported supposition unsuccessfully supported by another unsupported supposition. You do not prove or show in any way how Pound's images "devalue the role that meaning has in language and attempt to see language as only style without substance." If you want to actually do so, you need to actually address the images in Pound's poem and show how they do what you claim. You also have to prove your view of the "role that meaning has in language" is correct. You have yet to do so.

    3. I never, and I believe nobody, asserted style and substance are the same thing. I correctly asserted they can never be fully separated, and I correctly supported that in my previous posts.

    4. Finally, we have expressed our views through many aspects of language on this thread...including images. You just mistakenly, and without support claim we only verbalize sounds. Secondly, nobody claimed language and/or literature only expresses itself in images. So, your hypothetical is a red herring; however, at least you admit language does contain images. And try to stop saying things are "obvious," particularly when they are not. It looks silly when your claim is shown not to be obvious....and if you "think" something is obvious, it clearly is not.
    Last edited by Pike Bishop; 04-29-2015 at 11:20 AM.

  9. #54
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pike Bishop View Post
    That, again, was some more interesting wordplay. Again, none of it showed how literary substance can exist without style or how literary substance can exist independent of language. As I said before, if you want to do so, you need to actually show some texts that do. You should also really use some syllogistic logic expressed through clear prosaic language.
    can i ask something
    who says literary substance can exist without style?
    how do we know for sure it does?
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    As you can see from my post you quoted, and my other posts, I stated clearly literary substance can't exist without syle.

    You, however, have made statements suggesting the contrary:

    "style is a luxury
    we come around it because we feel substance has lost track of us"

  11. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pike Bishop View Post
    As you can see from my post you quoted, and my other posts, I stated clearly literary substance can't exist without syle.

    You, however, have made statements suggesting the contrary:

    "style is a luxury
    we come around it because we feel substance has lost track of us"
    Pike Bishop
    i side tracked i have forgotten about this bit.
    ok now i have said that i need to explain why i said that...

    well the way i wrote that is because i thought that style is comparable to fashion
    one addresses a piece of material to transform into something wearable as well as unwearable
    it is a design made to impress rather then wear
    and that is because a stylist or a fashionista can do that
    it is no longer about making a garment practical so it wearable it is about making a statement
    i call it overbearing
    if you watch the catwalk you will see designs one simply could not wear because it is too fiddly grandiose too big too small too weird it would look
    stupid in everyday life

    this example i compared to substance being no longer the reason why we write
    it is more for the style to show we can
    and substance must retain so style can make sense
    the stream of consciousness is one style that is out of substance
    it is not about saying it is about styling so one does not say much but wishes to impress through insignificance

    therefore literary substance can be without style
    for example everyday speech one does not composition more sound and effect
    a style without substance
    is a show without an utterance

    substance indicates syndicates so the style does not get out of hand
    Last edited by cacian; 04-29-2015 at 01:30 PM.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    Nothing you said above showed how literary substance can exist without style...and vice versa.

    So, I say this as friendly advice. If you want to make a salient argument, don't try to do it in poetic form or poetic "prose." The style, content, and intent do not intermingle well, and they do not do so in your "arguments." Even the best rhetorical poets--e.g. Stevens, Eliot, and Wordsworth--knew their "arguments" would lose rhetorical clarity in their poetry. So, if you actually want to make your arguments, I suggest you do so in plain language. Otherwise, you're just wasting your time and effort, and failing to make your argument.

  13. #58
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    I think the main problem with Cacian's argument here is that she does not exactly know what literary style is, which might be due to her EFL background, and she is assuming it is similar to another meaning of the word; ie, having style or having taste... Hence she is making references to fashion and so on.

    Of course, this is a common problem with Cacian engaging in any discussion; she does not do her research before jumping and relies on her own assumptions to waffle on and and on... Unfortunately, communicating in solely in verse is a more recent hobby of hers, which further aids to blur the lines of her already blurry arguments, wasting not only her own time as you Pike points out but also others who have an interest in the debate.
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    JCamilo- Picasso didn't paint that way because he couldn't do otherwise...

    True. Picasso at age 14:



    ...it was the only way possible for him to express the emotions he wanted to express. It was an world view...

    An artist's "style" is something that evolves slowly over the course of years like one's signature. For a visual artist this style is the result of what subjects the artist is obsessed with, his or her favorite colors, preferences for certain ways of handling light, space, texture, line, etc... One doesn't simply decide one day, "I want to paint Impressionism or Cubism." I suspect the same is true of the writer. I know that my own writing style... even though I don't in any way consider myself a writer... is something that has evolved over time. Undoubtedly I can identify certain influences... but surely not all. My style is a result of what I have read, which authors I like the most, what form and expressive intent my writing takes, etc...
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    cacian- style is luxury

    style is secondary


    Cacian, you seem to assume a false dichotomy... a separation of "style" and "substance" (or "meaning"/"content"). Quite often this is how literature is taught at the grade-school level: you have the "meaning" and the form or style is thought of as simply an artful way of communicating this "meaning"... a bit of aesthetic perfume. I find this to be nonsense. The form taken by the poet... the language of poetry... is just as essential as the "meaning" or "substance". Form and meaning/substance are interwoven in constructing what we think of as content.

    It has been pointed out before that reduced to their simplest "meaning" many of Shakespeare's sonnets convey nothing more profound than "When I think of you, I feel blue." If that was all the content of the sonnets, why bother? If all that form or style achieves is but an aesthetic perfume, why bother?
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
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