Topic: Refer to high, middle, and low styles with what you read/worked on from the edited collection.
I guess it’d be bad form to just copy/paste (or is it called “reposting”?) Melanie’s blog on this topic, wouldn’t it? I mean, if I’m going to start out with the same blockquote, right? 🙂
The middleness of the middle style will lie, for such a reader, in the expectedness of the style. To define as style in this way, of course, means that we cannot talk about the style itself – the actual configuration of words of the page – at all. We must talk about the social substance surrounding it, the historical patter of expectation which renders it transparent.
I really thought this was an interesting point, especially after his quasidismissal of the high/middle/low style distinction. (“A good case could be made for junking the whole distinction, except that it would be speedily reinvented.”) That is, he defines middleness not in terms of characteristic schemes or tropes, not in terms of patterns and recognitions, but in terms of how we read it, how readily readers look AT or THROUGH the style. A reader who sees what they expect to see in a style will more rapidly look through it, while when the style departs from our expectations of descriptions of reality, we sort it into the category of high or low based upon a few meaningful distinctions and a lot more that are arbitrary. Melanie points out the academic Latinate in her post, and I agree–for some readers, it’s definitely a High style, while for other readers it’s quite Middle.
Until I very consciously switched into an “editing” mode, I found the piece I was working with to be quite middle in nature. That is, it uses some very expected academicese (“modes/models”), a certain flavor of passive voice (“it will be argued that”), common academic sentence patterns complete with intteruptive structures (like moving connective devices a clause or two into a sentence: “It would seem, however, that…” ), and generally conforms to what most people would consider something like “standard edited prose.” There was nothing especially high about the text (perhaps a few attempts at metaphorical flights of fancy), but these tended to flop rather than take off. Neither was there anything incredibly low. It just kind of was. Of course, in this expectedness— better, once I perceived the expectedness for what it was looking at me from my own writing–much of the middleness of the text fell right apart. That is, it was no longer transparent. My goal became (in retrospect) to make the high sections actually high (to cut bad Latinate and leave or add meaningful latinate, to improve sentence patterns in and beyond paragraphs) and in other sections to become incredibly more direct (an oft-cited characteristic of the low).