4 mar. 2011


I believe my interest in aphorisms arose with Blake's "Proverbs of Hell." I founded an avant-garde movement when I was 15 and one of the first works produced was "The Proverbs of Schmo." I was the only member of this movement, though some of my friends knew about it. I had also read the book of Proverbs from the Bible.

There are four main genres of literature, we hear: poetry, mostly lyric poetry. Drama (plays of different kinds). Narrative fiction, short and long. Essays: literary prose that is non-fiction.

Obviously that is not quite right. Not all poetry is lyric. Epic poetry is narrative "fiction," but not prose. We also have satire, panegyric, diaries and letters that are literary prose but not "essays." Chronicles, testimonies, blogs... The tripart classification of poetry, drama, and narrative, with a huge miscellaneous category of "essay" added on is very inadequate because then everything else become a mere hybrid or exception.

The aphorism is its own animal, not a hybrid between two other genres but its own beast. I suppose you could derive it from the epigram and make it a form of short lyric poetry, but that doesn't seem historically accurate to me. We could see it as the shortest form of didactic literature, akin to the fable, the parable, the exemplum. That doesn't sit right with me either. Aphorisms are not narratives or "miscellaneous non-fiction prose of some literary value" like the letters of great writers. They are the fifth genre.

What gives an identity to this genre? I don't really know yet and I'm thinking out loud here. Maybe it is the idea of making a collection of utterances all in the same category. The aphorism always needs other aphorisms to keep it company.

2 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

Any thoughts about Stein? I'm not her biggest fan, but taking her as an aphorist, I think she's obviously a unique master: phrases like "Before the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded" belong with La Rochefoucauld.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes. "What the use of being a little boy if you are going to grow up to be a man." That's worthy of Oscar Wilde.

Or 'I am I because my little dog recognizes me."

Or "I write for myself and strangers."