A term used in art criticism to refer to a work that borrows heavily from a master’s recognizable style and in music criticism to refer to a medley of known melodies, songs, or musical themes. Pastiche can be used in either way by literary critics, although the former usage is more common. (Most critics use the term descriptively, but some use it to derogate an author’s efforts. When used dismissively, the term describes a work that is deemed highly derivative of someone else’s work or style.) Pastiche may have a humorous, satirical, or serious purpose, but sometimes authors write pastiche simply as a literary exercise. Pastiche should not be confused with plagiarism, in which one author steals a passage or idea from another, passing it off as his or her own and failing to credit the original source. Plagiarism is characterized by deceptive intent; pastiche involves open and intentional imitation or borrowing.
Pastiche is also French for parody; when used as a synonym for parody rather than in its more general, imitative sense, the term refers to a satirical presentation, usually one involving a sustained, parodic imitation of a particular author’s style or technique.
Some of Carl Sandburg’s poetry could be referred to as “Walt Whitman pastiche.”
The American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) headquarters building in New York City, designed by noted American architect Philip Johnson, has been referred to as a pastiche. So closely does the top resemble a Chippendale cabinet that the building has, since opening in 1982, been referred to as the “Chippendale building.”
The setting of the film Moulin Rouge (2001) is Paris at the end of the nineteenth century, but the movie’s anachronistic musical score is a pastiche of late-twentieth-century popular songs such as Elton John’s “Your Song” and Sting’s “Roxanne.”
Through use of the technique known as “sampling” – borrowing riffs from other, well-known songs – rap artists have also created works that involve pastiche in the sense of a “medley.”
(Source for above text: Murphin and Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, 2nd edition)
Choose two paragraphs from the text (or a complete poem, as the case may be). Read it aloud to hear the rhythms created by the writer. Read it again silently, paying attention to: tone and other important stylistic features.
Now, change the subject and write about it imitating the style of the original. In order to become closely familiar with the prose style of the author, you must:
write about your subject (try to choose something quite different)
follow the exact placement of words and the very same sentence structure, where there is a noun, substitute your own noun; where there are several clauses, or where there is a simple sentence, you must imitate these
end up with exactly the same number of words as the original
When you are finished, respond in writing: What did I learn about the author’s style? How would I be able to explain the choices in an analysis?
Below are imitations of syntax (with changes to topic):
The pass was high and wide and he jumped for it, feeling it slap flatly against his hands, as he shook his hips to throw off the halfback who was diving at him. The center floated by, his hands desperately brushing Darling's knee as Darling picked his feet up high and delicately ran over a blocker and an opposing linesman in a jumble on the ground near the scrimmage line. He had ten yards in the clear and picked up speed, breathing easily, feeling his thigh pads rising and falling against his legs, listening to the sound of cleats behind him, pulling away from them, watching the other backs heading him off toward the sideline, the whole picture, the men closing in on him, the blockers fighting for position, the ground he had to cross, all suddenly clear in his head, for the first time in his life not a meaningless confusion of men, sounds, speed. He smiled a little to himself as he ran, holding the ball lightly in front of him with his two hands, his knees pumping high, his hips twisting in the almost girlish run of a back in a broken field. The first halfback came at him and he fed him his leg, then swung at the last moment, took the shock of the man's shoulders without breaking stride, ran right through him, his cleats biting securely into the turf. There was only the safety man now, coming warily at him, his arms crooked, hands spread. Darling tucked the ball in, spurted at him, driving hard, hurling himself along, all two hundred pounds bunched into controlled attack. He was sure he was going to get past the safety man. Without thought, his arms and legs working beautifully together, he headed right for the safety man, stiff-armed him, feeling blood spurt instantaneously from the man's nose onto his hand, seeing his face go awry, head turned, mouth pulled to one side. He pivoted away, keeping the arm locked, dropping the safety man as he ran easily toward the goal line, with the drumming of cleats diminishing behind him.
- Irwin Shaw, “The Eighty Yard Run”
The stitch was taut and thin and she pulled at it, loving its stretch smooth against the canvas, as her wrist throbbed to divert her attention from the task ahead. Her fingers worked on, the tips knowingly grazing Artwork’s surface as it showed its stitches and beautifully shuddered as the needle and thread went into the mass of previous stitch on the canvas. She had more than half to go and slowed her pace, smiling happily, feeling her canvas nudging and tickling her wrists, hearing the slight squeak of needle in space, shoving thread through, untangling the curls as they caught the line, an entire process, the kink forming in the thread, the thread knotting up, the tangle of color all uncontrollably difficult, always terrible to undo without snapping the thread in half, rips, destruction. She snarled at the knot as she worked, fingering thread deftly, wrist beginning to throb in wretched pain at the detailed task. The first strand slipped loose, then swung down again and looped the other, knotting the thread even more, catching end threads from other stitches, causing more pain to the wrists that so desperately want to finish. There was only more work now, laughing up at her, her wrists hurting, fingers aching. She tapped the thread with the needle, pulling another needle from her bag, slipping it into the knot, pulling with all her might, until the threads parted ways, fell lifelessly into her lap. She tossed the canvas aside, rubbing her wrist, scowling at the mess of broken thread strands as she made her way to the other side of the room to find the remote.
Original (also pastiches)
Genesis (in style of Henry James)
It is an old story, and indeed, it holds us today sufficiently breathless, as one may recall many stories in one’s youth. This particular case, I may mention, is of far more serious import, but its dramatic qualities, before ascending to the level of the beginning – it was a beautiful summer morning, and in whatever fashion He contemplated things, they must have seemed charming – God created, not immediately, but in the leisure required for accomplishments of such moment, the heavens and earth. It was a charming exhibition of tact, magnanimity, and of extraordinary power.
It is a modern tale, most definitely, and it leaves us all without breath, as we recall multitudes from youth. This one, if I do say so, is filled with gravity, but its suspense, before rising to the start – it was glorious outdoors, and in my own fashion of thinking, it looked appealing – I made, not instantly, but in my calmness in that second, a cup of coffee. It was a delicious example of skill, expertise, and of magnificent flavor.
It’s an old story, and yes, it has left many scars, as you may remember from our childhood. This peculiar situation, I have to say, is so much more significant, but the horrific events have definitely traumatized me. After eating lunch with some of my close relatives – I must say it was a lovely day – I climbed up the tree and then fell out of the tree, hitting every branch on the way down. It was a rather painful and bloody experience.