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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Short Form

While my students were taking an exam, I designed a course on the short form. The trick will be to make it a long enough course! Perhaps it should be a mini-course.

First of all, the genres:

Idiom. This is the shortest form of all (above the level of the word). It is a lexicalized combination of words.

Mottos and slogans.

Proverb. The lexicalized sentence.

Glosas. The proverb explained in a slightly longer poem.

Aphorism. The aphorism is the proverb with an author.

Greguería. A humorous aphorism of the type written by Ramón Gómez de la Serna.

Sofisma. A genre similar to the greguería invented by another Spanish poet, Vicente Nuñez.

Haiku. In the Western tradition, a short poem written in imitation of a Japanese genre, or inspired by it in a general sense, like WCW's Wheelbarrow.

Microcuento. The short, short, short short-story.


Epitaphs. Short texts written to be inscribed on tombstones, or written in imitation of such inscriptions.

Minimalist works of other sorts, like the extremely short poems of Aram Saroyan. ("lighght")

Other genres of short songs: cantares, coplas, etc...

The fragment. A short text, that, while it stands alone, could seem to be a part of a lost whole. Or an actual fragment.

So the idea would be to spend a day or a week on each category, with some requiring two to three weeks (proverbs).

The theoretical approaches would begin with the "poetic function" (RJ) and move to cognitive psychology, cultural history, etc... Not every shortish text or poem is an example of the "short form." In some sense brevity itself must come into play in the text.

"Only incorrectly formulated problems have viable solutions." Vicente N.


Vance Maverick said...

How about summaries, abstracts, or old-school chapter headings ("in which our hero...")? Not necessarily very short, but certainly saliently short, i.e. obviously short with respect to a model.

j. said...

i only recently stumbled onto these, which i had never heard of in many years of circling around the phenomenon of short forms:


since i rarely wander into early modern english, or anything to do with romance languages, i wondered if maybe dionysius cato had a different afterlife in say hispanic studies.

there's a bit on the forms vance mentions in genette's 'paratexts'.

gary saul morson's last couple books, on quotation and on aphorisms, are imo worth looking at for theoretical material, especially given his bakhtinian interest in relations to the novel. they're too casual for me, but then there seems to be a dearth of good/major work on short forms, not even on the aphorism.

Vance Maverick said...

And the dictionary definition.

Jonathan said...

There is always more categories than I realize. Riddles, children's games, etc... can also be in "the short form."

j. said...

iona and peter opie, the lore and language of schoolchildren

Phaedrus said...

I love this idea!

Anonymous said...

So I'm now teaching the course on the short form, and it is amazing. Today we had the best discussion ever on the refranes. It was really a great idea to offer this course.

Jonathan said...

Yes. Of course it's a great idea. It was mine.