A Conversation about Criticism

William Giraldi and Anthony Domestico at Commonweal:

When I suggest a nexus between style and morality I mean always to keep the query centered on the book, to interrogate the book’s moral vision as it is activated in language. That vision, like everything else in the writer’s arsenal, is manifest in style. Language is our fullest, most accurate embodiment of mind. How you write is how you think, and there’s reciprocity there, a fertile feedback loop, because the writing in turn sharpens the thinking, which in turn sharpens the writing. This is what Goethe means by “a writer’s style is a true reflection of his inner life.” Remember, too, Nabokov’s oft-cited line: “Style is matter.” He means that style is not something gummed onto prose after the fact—style is the fact. Style is born of subject. Robert Penn Warren makes a similar observation: “The style of a writer represents his stance toward experience.” That’s what Auden means in his second consideration above.

more here.