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Discussing E.B. Whipe/Marquis de Sade “The Elements of Style”

This is where we’ll discuss E.B. Whipe/Marquis de Sade The Elements of Style. This is available on eReserves, btw.

Now, I’m going to assume that most of you have heard of the Marquis de Sade; for those who haven’t, take a look at that wikipedia link.  I haven’t read any of Sade stuff, but as I understand it, the late 18th/early 19th century books Justine and Juliette are about as pornographic as anything else you can read nowadays.  His name is the basis for the term “sadism.”

Personally, I think this parody is fun and funny in at least two different ways.  First, it is drawing on some of the actual writings of Sade to point out the virtue of different style rules, which is kind of odd and funny (there is that great quote from the famous French critic Roland Barthes about how Sade’s sentences were so “pure” they could serve as grammatical models). Second, it’s poking fun at Strunk and White, who have been accused of being grammatical/metaphorical Sadists of a sort with their rules.  I especially like the “misused words and expressions” part.

Now, in my mind, this is a good (albeit a bit extreme, I will admit) example of the sort of thing that I think would work really well for the style remake assignment.  What I see that part of the assignment as an opportunity where some parody and some “fun” would make a lot of sense,  In this case, the joke for me is the idea of what it would be like to learn about writing from these sadists, and I guess it works in part because you could argue pretty effectively that Strunk and White were kind of sadistic with their rules, too.

Posted in Class Readings.


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