This essay offers a new interpretation of a longstanding and unresolved controversy concerning the origins of modern prose style. Setting aside causal explanations proposed for the marked changes in prose style during the later seventeenth century, I argue that what emerges in urgent polemics for the “plain style” is a recognition of prose itself as a medium of composition. This intuition about the nature of prose had the unintended effect of liberating prose from its immemorial subordination to the system of rhetoric and opening up new possibilities for its exploitation as a means of communication.
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Research Article| May 01 2017
Mercury’s Words: The End of Rhetoric and the Beginning of Prose
Representations (2017) 138 (1): 59–86.
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John Guillory; Mercury’s Words: The End of Rhetoric and the Beginning of Prose. Representations 1 May 2017; 138 (1): 59–86. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2017.138.1.59
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