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Monday, 2 September 2013

Literacy Lapses

For reasons too controversial to be hinted at here, I was today reviewing the definition of 'adynaton' in that standard reference work the Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory. An entire post, nay a blog even, could be devoted to 'adynaton', tracing the development of the concept from its ancient Greek origins to its blossoming in more recent literary ages, but its definition is dispatched with a single sentence in the DoLT&LT.

Fair enough, I say. The DoLT&LT has many terms to cram in, and can't be blamed for treating one of my pet interests in a distressingly superficial way. Besides, the cursory nature of the definition itself is not the intended focus of this post.

(Readers- well get on with it then. We've got the Sudoku to finish).

Appended to the definition in the DoLT&LT were two examples of adynaton- both from Marvell. You'll remember My love is of a birth as ...of course, while the other I always remember in the Greek Aeì koloiòs parà koloiôi hizánei (of course). These were introduced by the compilers of the DoLT&LT as  'two famous examples', where the italics are mine. And I can tell you why they are mine (Readers- for heavens sake get to the point), for that very word famous in that very context makes me ask whether we in the literary world are not being just a little too refined, a little too elitist. By making our subject insufficiently accessible are we to blame for the drop in literary standards? Would Marvell's noted uses of adynaton, or those of Milton, Hyde, Percival, Storicles, Juvenile, or any of the other famous examples for that matter, be recognised by the kids in the street? I wonder.

(Readers- is that it? We thought these were meant to be funny).

It is going to be funny. Trust me. We're headed to a comedy climax of unsurpassed hilarity in the next post or two. This is the straight build-up to the comedic denouement. It's a recognised literary technique- anectnklysis. Famous examples occur in Milton, Eruces, Klaistepphon...

(Readers- We're doing the Sudoku now.)

Oh, right, bye then. But don't forget the comedy climax in the next couple of posts.

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