27 abr. 2011

A Culture of Citation

The tradition of using the "commonplace book" to write down memorable quotes from one's reading, of citing ancient authors in support of one's points, of consulting dictionaries of quotations or anthologies of aphorisms... Not all "quotes" are aphorisms, of course, but a quote used in a particular way is an aphoristic use. This is different from citing an authority or author for the support of a more specific point.

"Lugares comunes" or "commonplaces" began to take on a more negative connotation with writers like Flaubert, with his dictionary of "received ideas." Commonplaces, received ideas, clichés, truisms, and old saws have acquire negative connotations. Someone who quotes too many proverbs is seen as incapable of original thought. The public speaker who quotes a dictionary definition or a phrase from Mark Twain begins to seem a bit hokey.