Patrick Kurp closes a typically fine discussion of the Anglo-Russian novelist William Gerhardie by quoting him on style:
A writer’s style is the most effective means of identifying him. Yet style is neglected in literary criticism and education. It has been replaced by racial or ethnic identity and its cousins gender and class. A writer is identified, not by detecting his unique and peculiar style, but by identifying him with a physiological category or social group with which he may share only superficial resemblances. This eliminates any need to wrestle with his thought, which might distinguish him from the group.
The problem, of course, is how to define style. In his introduction to an anthology on the problem, J. V. Cunningham shows that there are three basic kinds of definition—negative, affirmative, and neutral. Benedetto Croce is advanced as a spokesman for the first, holding that “how a thing is expressed is indistinguishable from the expression. . . .” Cicero and “Longinus” represent the second view; for them style appears but seldom, but when it does it deserves praise. The “neutral concept” is that “everything has style, though one may contrast various styles and find this good and that bad.”
My own is a neutral conception of style. Gerhardie and Oakeshott, quoted above, are affirmative: a style is a good thing to have. (To rephrase from my point of view: a good style is a good thing to have.) Style is the trace of mind, or what the Jews call sekhel, implying native shrewdness in addition to intelligence. What logic is to reasoning so style is to writing. It is where a man takes hold of a subject, how he turns it over, when he pauses and when he hurries on. A return to style from the fumbling of identity would also make it possible to distinguish a man’s thought from what he is saying. For style, as I would define it, is the stance and tempo of a mind.
 Michael Oakeshott, “Learning and Teaching,” in The Voice of Liberal Learning, ed. Timothy Fuller (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 56.
 J. V. Cunningham, “The Problem of Style,” in Collected Essays (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1976), pp. 251–52.