Ever wonder how Faulkner managed to control a hundred word sentence? I wanted to know and in my search I found three books for writers, each borrowing ideas from the earlier. Most recent are the lecture transcript and course guidebook by Professor Brooks Landon, University of Iowa, called Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft, Parts 1 and 2, published by The Teaching Company. The second image is of the face page of Notes Towards a New Rhetoric, a group of essays published by Francis Christensen in 1967, and I believe, published in a book called A Generative Rhetoric of the Sentence. The third book is old. Titled Elements of Composition and Rhetoric by Virginia Waddy, my copy has a copyright date of 1889.
Here’s an example of a coordinate cumulative sentence from Landon’s book No. 1, referencing Christensen, who cites this sentence from Walter Van Tilburg Clark. Number 1 is the base clause, and all the number 2’s are subordinate. (Note where the commas separate)
- (1) He could sail for hours,
- (2) searching the blanched grass below him with his telescopic eyes,
- (2) gaining height against the wind,
- (2) descending in mile-long, gently declining swoops when
- he curved and rode back,
- (2) never beating a wing.
My writing jumped a level when I discovered the power of the cumulative sentence.