‘What shall be our new ornaments?’ Description’s orientations

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Description has made something of a comeback in recent years as part of a theorising of possibilities for a post-hermeneutical critical orientation. The present essay considers the descriptive turn, so-called, in relation to a range of writing that crosses the boundaries of the critical and the creative: in work by Claire-Louise Bennett, Lisa Robertson, Wayne Koestenbaum and R. F. Langley. The essay identifies in this writing an occupancy of description’s register as it has been articulated over the ages by a frequently sceptical regulatory discourse: description as understood to be variously gratuitous, ornamental or passively affirmative. Rather than suggest an expanded field of contemporary descriptive practice, the proposal here is for description conceived as a minor mode, a relatively rare happening, but all the more valuable for being so.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-625
Number of pages21
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number4
Early online date30 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020


  • Description
  • ekphrasis
  • contemporary literature
  • creative-critical writing
  • criticism

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