Style as Content and/or Form (the uniqueness of the literary work)

Style as Content and/or Form

Style as a content and form denotes that content (ideas or subject matter) and forms are two separate entities known as ‘dualism’. Style is ornamental in this sense because it arise only when aesthetic over turns are imposed on a hither to ‘pure’ semiotic content of a linguistic item. The content according to the view is constant while the form is the variable function. This concept is likened to palm kernel, the shell is synonymous to the form while the content is synonymous to the palm kernel nut. On the other hand, the conception of style as content or form known as ‘Monism’ stipulates that content or form are inseparable. It insists on the inseparability of content or meaning and form or surface realization. Both ‘how’ and ‘what’ are merged and are indistinguishable from the other for an ardent monist view of style. Roland Barthes (1971) asserts that style is an irreducible content. He likens a text to an onion consisting of layers ‘or levels or system whose body contains finally no heart, no kernel, no secret, no irreducible principle, nothing except the infinity of its own enveloped which envelopes nothing other than unity of its own surface” (31). According to Barthes, the text is not double or more exactly, the text in its entirety is only a multiplicity of forms without content.

For instance, the following poems by two distinct poets express their ideas in their unique way, in respect to style as content and/or form (Same ideas or Subject matter).

“Gentle Giants” – Amaka Azuike

“The macabre Dance”

Come my love

Come let us dance

The macabre dance

That dance befitting Kegities

In a congenial company

Doing their rituals; clad naked

Bodies glistering with talisman rounded their necks

Dancing till the break of dawn… (16)

The poet describes the act of sexual intercourse by two lovers as the macabre dance, she gives an invitation to her lover (Spouse) to come and dance the kind of dance likened to the kind of dance by the Kegities, the Gyratun, passion and pleasure derived during the dance. She uses her imaginative power to paint pictures in the mind of her readers.

Owemedimo .E. Iwoketok in her collection of poems titled Reminiscences writes on love.


Love, what are?

Sometimes you come like a flood

Consuming the soul, blurring.

Vision and opaquing imagination and reasoning

Are you weak? No!

For by your strength

Cities are leveled;

Nations are built…

Oh! That I May have a

Height to fall from

Than fall into the

Depth of love (14)

In the above poem, the poet’s confrontational, interrogative and demanding to understand what ‘love’ means. She describes love as flood, consumer of the soul, blurring visions, imagination and reasoning. The poet views love in lines 7-9 as strength, which is use in building and destroying of cities and nations. These distinctive personalities share the same ideas or have the same content embedded in their subject matter and have different ways of expression of form that is where content and form emerge.

Armah’s The Beautiful are not Yet Born, is all about corruption and decay that have eaten deep into the politick of Ghana. The vices are exemplified by the attempted bribery of the man by the timber contractor. The various sexual drawings on the wall of the lavatory show immorality or the level of moral decay obtainable in Ghana then. Armah used his contemporary locale of Ghana to paint a sordid picture of the horrendous cankerworm and graft that has eaten deep into the political and social landscape of Africa as a whole. In presenting the central idea of the work, Armah does not utilize the writing style of chronological plot. In other words, one story does not lead to another. There is a mix-up in the presentation of factual sense. Again, though the language is simple, it is raw, and could pose a problem of comprehension if one does not read in between the lines. Okoye’sMen without Ears, tells an absorbing story of men and some women who are society determinist or conformist. The author let her readers see the actions and feel the mood, reflections and thoughts of the characters through Chigo’s ‘eyes’. Chigo’s timidity and moral stand like that of the Man in Armah’s The Beautyful Ones serve the author’s deliberate ploy to expose ills and moral decadence in the society as a result of man’s insatiable quest for national wealth.

The general language of the text is simple, direct and straightforward. The simplicity of the language helps to look with pity and feel empathized by this obvious life of bribery and corruption, fake life, quest to acquire wealth either by hook or by crook and the plight of an upright man in such a morally bankrupt society.

Both Armah and Okoye share the same idea and subject matter but Armah sounds raw and harsh while Okoye subtly projects her themes.

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