LITERATURE: On The Sublime – Diction

Of the five elements named, that is: Concept, Passion, Figures, Diction, and Composition, the course of diction is truly my favorite.

It may, however, be pointed out that stately language is not to be used everywhere, since to invest petty affairs with great and high-sounding names would seem just like putting a full-sized tragic mask upon an infant boy.  (Chapter XXX, Part 2)

Easily seen in writings of the Romance era, and of the overly dramatic romantic novels of even contemporary times.  But Cormac McCarthy has been accused by some of overstating description of setting–though I would find the justification in the first element, that is, the concept of the natural world is one that seeks out eloquence. 

Overuse of imagery, huge look-it-up words, language that doesn’t suit the story line and place and characters, this is what Longinus I believe is telling us here.

This entry was posted in LITERATURE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to LITERATURE: On The Sublime – Diction

  1. Creechman says:

    This is a most interesting point and one I’ve often mulled over: extensive description.

    Today’s writing, everything from TV screenplays to hack novels, emphasizes brevity. Noun, verb, maybe a direct object. But that ratter-tat-tat wearies.

    Then read, oh let’s say, Thackeray or one of the Bronte sisters – on and on and on, description with nothing happening.

    One could presume a proper mix is best, but I think you have to establish a mood in accord with your expanse of prose, fine if you steer clear of over-indulging yourself.

  2. Roberta S says:

    “overstated description of setting” sets my teeth on edge. But yet, but yet, in the English classics I wallow in it with such pleasure, and despite all the books I threaten to heave at the wall (and frequeently do) because of it, right now I am reading a book that goes go on for seemingly endless pages with nothing more than description of setting. But surprisingly, I am so intrigued at the originality of it, the poetry in it, the rhythm in it, that I sometimes think it is all too quickly truncated.

  3. susan says:

    I think that’s the key here, the rhythm that if well-tuned, flows and is pleasing rather than annoying. The piece must be consistent as well, and free from the restraints of so-called trends in writing.

    At the Crapometer, for instance, it bothers the hell out of some of the readers to spend any time on setting or description; they want action. To me, this just sounds like a rule learned in a classroom on CW, and one that could and should be broken by those who can do so with the right expertise.

Comments are closed.