Why are Emily Dickinson and Henry James drawn habitually to dashes? What makes James Baldwin such a fan of commas, which William Carlos Williams tends to ignore? And why do that odd couple, the novelist Virginia Woolf and the short story specialist Andre Dubus II, both embrace semicolons, while E. E. Cummings and Nikki Giovanni forego punctuation entirely? More generally, what effect do such nonverbal marks (or their absence) have on an author's encompassing vision? The first book on modern literature to compare writers' punctuation, and to show how fully typographical marks alter our sense of authorial style, Mark My Words offers new ways of reading some of our most important and beloved writers as well as suggesting a fresh perspective on literary style itself.
Lee Clark Mitchell
Country of Publication:
06 August 2020
Acknowledgments Prologue: What Can Punctuation Do? 1. Silence: Hemingway's Periods 2. Hesitation: Baldwin's Commas 3. Interruption: James's Dashes 4. Rupture: Dickinson's Dashes 5. Expansion: Woolf's Semicolons 6. Hemorrhage: Joyce, Morrison, Saramago, Sebald 7. Enjambment: Cummings, Williams, Giovanni 8. Incarceration: Nabokov's Parentheses 9. Plenitude: Faulkner's Array Epilogue: Punctuation as Style Bibliography Index
Lee Clark Mitchell is Holmes Professor of Belles-Lettres at Princeton University, USA. He is the author of seven books, including Mere Reading: The Poetics of Wonder in Modern American Novels (Bloomsbury 2017), a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year.
Reviews for Mark My Words: Profiles of Punctuation in Modern Literature
Mitchell's sustained insight pushes the literary beyond alphabetic letters by recovering punctuation as more than an interface between words and the grammar of their articulation. In its most telling deployments, punctuation marks the conversion of format to content, seam to semantic gesture. Reading gets closer than ever, and with new power, in this study's riveting cross section of examples. On both prose and poetry, it's a terrific book, period. * Garrett Stewart, James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa, USA, and author of The Value of Style in Fiction (2018) *