Euphuism?

No, that is not a misspelling of euphemism.  Not surprisingly, Wikipedia had that same thought.

The given description of the style, used to greatest effect by John Lyly, is a peculiar one:

“It consists of a preciously ornate and sophisticated style, employing in deliberate excess a wide range of literary devices such as antitheses, alliterations, repetitions and rhetorical questions. Classical learning and remote knowledge of all kinds are displayed. Euphuism was fashionable in the 1580s, especially in the Elizabethan court, but never previously or subsequently.”

The ‘deliberate excess’ is hardly an uncommon thing in literature these days.  Most aspiring authors, trying to make a name for themselves, throw every possible literary trope into a story in order to show what they have learned.  As always, not everyone can paint on a canvas and make a masterpiece; there has to be a style to it.  Throwing everything in there just reeks of effort.

The article somewhat contradicts itself in saying that the style was never used ‘previously or subsequently’, quoting four instances of Shakespeare using the style.  The point of difference may be that the bard used them in a satirical way.  Considering the fame that Shakespeare now enjoys, would the use of the rarely used literary style in timeless works make it a flattery?

Euphuism was only the English incarnation of the style.  Wikipedia notes its contemporaries as ‘Culteranismo in Spain, Marinismo in Italy, and Préciosité in France’.  The Spanish form is described as trying to ‘use as many words as possible to convey little meaning or to conceal meaning’, while the Italian form was ‘an extensive use of antithesis and a whole range of wordplay, on lavish descriptions and a sensuous musicality of the verse’.  Where they came from male proponents, the French incarnation was born from ‘lively conversations and playful word games of… the witty and educated intellectual ladies who frequented the salon of Catherine de Vivonne’.

The one common theme to all of these:  they are ‘over the top’ in one way or another.

Are there any examples of your own readings that sound like they use these stylings?

There was an interesting conflict surrounding Culteranismo which might need some investigating, and hopefully there will enough behind it for a later post =)

Advertisements

4 responses

  1. I heard a comment that writers could learn a lot from screen writers. That about three quarters of our stories are not required. Sometimes though the point of a story is to show that there’s often a lot of words spoken when not a lot is said. This seems very true in Victorian era writings about society. Everyone was full of meaningless words.

    1. Hi Paul. Good to hear from you =)

      It is true that a good proportion of a story is scene setting, and that many pages are written doing so. Such a phenomenon is particularly prominent in the science fiction and fantasy genres, where the focus on world-building is highly visible.

      It did seem that the society were using big words and flowery language to show off their learned minds. That is also well seen in fantasy stories, with the more common Medieval setting leading to ‘ye olde’ language and courteously worded interactions.

      Thanks for reading =)

  2. Hi, DJ. In “The Lady’s Not for Burning” and “A Phoenix Too Frequent,” the 20th C. playwright Christopher Fry(e?I can’t recall spelling) plays magically with words, and I’ve never gotten over my affection for him. I wrote a post some time or other on “The Lady’s Not for Burning,” but i just don’t know when. It’s a great play, good to read. While euphuism per se was not always used, the entire play was inundated with precious word play which certainly verges on euphuism, anyway.

    1. Wikipedia advises his surname is ‘Fry’. I will have to investigate this author, as the synopsis for “The Lady’s Not for Burning” sounds very interesting. A slightly amusing way of reading the title would be if someone asked her opinion of her being burned at the stake, to which the questioner relayed to the court that answer. It is unlikely many would be for their own burning =P

      Thanks for recommending him to me =)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: