Seminar Frans-Willem Kortsen

Royal Academy of Art, The Hague

Seminar by Frans-Willem Korsten entitled 'The ontology of rhetoric and style'.

'The ontology of rhetoric and style'

The dominant metaphor in the European tradition in its thinking on meaning has been one of depth, or, its natural opposition, height. Proof of this can be found in common phrases that relate particularly to the domain of the arts, like: ‘What is the deeper meaning of this?’; or: ‘The work offers deep insights in…’; or yet again: ‘The artist takes us to great heights’. The postmodern revolution has been to swap this idealist or transcendental metaphor of depth for one of surface, or plane – of materiality and immanence. Accordingly, the easy point of accusation from the side of opponents of postmodernism would become that postmodern thought and works of art are superficial or shallow (‘anything goes’). It may be a point of reassurance that this was precisely the reactionary accusation put forward 2.000 years ago by Plato against rhetoric or against style. Yet, he expressed his concerns distinctively rhetorically, and in a recognizable, idiosyncratic style. It appears to be a point of concern therefore to reconsider rhetoric and style, not so much for their meaningful ‘depth’ or ‘height’, but for their being the origin of meaning, in terms of ontology.

Reading list:

Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense’, in C. Cazeaux, The Continental Aesthetics Reader, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 53-62.

Gilles Deleuze, ‘The method of dramatization: Paper presented to the Société Française de Philosophie, 28 January 1967’.

Deleuze - Qu'est-ce qu'un style ?


Frans-Willem Korsten (NL, 1959) is professor in Literature and Society at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in addition to working at the department of Film- and Literary Studies of Leiden University.

Since 2010, Korsten has been Director of Education of the Leiden Insitute for Cultural Disciplines in 2010. He is a member of the editorial board for Boom-The Hague Publishers, Amsterdam University Press, and the open access Journal of Dutch Literature (AUP.) In the past he has also worked for the Dutch Council for Culture as chairman for the Letters section, and is now a member of the Rotterdam Council for Culture.