Social Media as Literature—Story & Style (part 3)

The third literary style is the epic style where the writer presents the object in mediate relation to the (other) object(s).    This means that the writer presents the objects or facts while adding a layer of commentary or explanation, which mediates or interprets them.   This style is in direct contrast with the dramatic style (explained in part 2) that has no extra layer of commentary.   “Here are the facts, ma’am, and here’s what they mean.”   It focuses on the second-person viewpoint, as if the writer is addressing the audience with his comments.   Joseph Campbell in his lectures on James Joyce stated that Thomas Mann liked the epic style for his writings.   He compared James Joyce to Thomas Mann because they both used mythology in service of literature but used different literary styles to create their own unique “voice” in telling a story.

An example of the epic style from blogs regarding the Middle East would be from Informed Comment, the blog by Prof. Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.   In his blog post of April 18th, he is describing a recent appearance of Republican strategist David Frum on Erin Burnett’s program on CNN on April 17th.   He was stating the points where he agreed with David Frum, and the points where he disagreed with him.  But then he explained why he disagreed with him.

For example, he stated that David Frum was of the opinion that President Obama could affect the price of petroleum by offering more clarity on his Iran policy.   Prof. Cole disagreed with him, saying that the clarity of that policy is exactly what was contributing to higher prices, but he then went on to explain his position.   The policy of a financial embargo on the sale of Iranian petroleum sends a clear signal to an oil futures trader that Iranian petroleum will be taken off the market, and that future prices will rise.

So Prof. Cole says that President Obama’s policy should rather be more ambiguous to avoid such a negative signal to the market.   You may agree or disagree with his position, but you are in an informed position to comment on Prof. Cole’s opinion because he took the time to explain how he came to his conclusion.

I think this style is good for someone who is explaining a complex subject matter to those who may not be experts but rather educated laymen who are trying to learn about it.   In reality, however, a person may use both the epic or dramatic styles when blogging, with the dramatic or “newspaper” style used for tweets or for snapshots of a conference, let’s say, and the epic or “commentary” style used for longer blog posts or for explaining the topic to a general audience.


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