Style: Beyond Form
This seminar invites papers on stylistic production in any medium and genre, in any period or place.
The past decade has seen an outpouring of work on form. Relatively little, by comparison, has foregrounded style. What is the relation between form and style? How does style get us leverage on political and social questions that form does not—and vice versa—and why? Which social contradictions animate style, or is it more a matter of psychic ambivalence? As D. A. Miller has argued, style may aim to get us close, but not too close, to hegemonic social and sexual orders that exclude us. Or perhaps, as Mark McGurl advances, style helps us negotiate our entrance into newly democratizing but elite institutions such as the university. What is the relation between style, social capital, and the body? How are sexualization and racialization divergently stylized? As Anne Anlin Cheng’s work on the “yellow woman” puts forward, racialization occurs not only in the site of the flesh, but also in that of “ornamental” fashion.
This seminar convenes interlocutors on the aesthetics and politics of style, with particular attention to its methodological relation to (or mismatch with) form per se, on the one hand; and to its participation, collusory or subversive, in biopolitical regimes, on the other. We invite both analysis of style in aesthetic productions of any genre or period and meta-theoretical accounts of what style is or how best to define it. Papers might explore questions including:
- How does style travel? What does the material circulation of style (made in X, sold in Y)—or the seemingly immaterial replication of Internet memes—mean for postcolonial conceptions of what a world is or could be?
- What do competing temporalities of style—both timeless and trendy—mean for periodization?
- How do competing scales of style—both style as individualistic and style as zeitgeist—amplify or redirect questions of social difference?
- How does style facilitate cross-media analysis, as the same style shows up (or is identified) in different aesthetic forms? (E.g., What holds together minimalist sculpture, minimalist literature, minimalist music?)
- What would the Venn diagram look like for the following terms: style, genre, form, and aesthetic category? Would it matter to call (e.g.) “camp” one of these things and not another?
- If style manages ambivalence, does it provide new ways of framing the relation between reading for depth versus reading for surface? How would we describe stylistics in relation to paranoid and reparative reading: as an oscillation, a resolution, or perhaps a movement beyond?
- Is lifestyle different from aesthetic style? Is this a historical question or an empirical one?
- When was style “the man himself”? Is it still? Is this an ontological question or a historical one?
- Must “the stylish” be the same as “the fashionable”? How does fashion organize our understanding of what style is?
- More simply: what *is* style?
Submit abstracts to https://www.acla.org/style-beyond-form by September 23.
Organized by Michael Dango and Judith Brown.