Essay Etymology

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The best aphorisms are not the most true but the most undecidable, those worth endlessly testing.

In , Heidi Julavits writes of herself and her husband: “We love to take a conviction we might, for a moment, entertain, and then turn it on its head and make a joke about it. Our jokes are interrogations that help us figure out what we care about, and where our faith, at the moment, lies.” Jokes as essays. Formally, it’s a platform ideally suited to the aphorism; in fact aphorisms should be quite a bit less than 140 characters.

Ethics are no more a part of poetry than they are of painting.

Poetry is the expression of the experience of poetry.

Occasionally, however, he breaks the pattern, as in “I don’t think we should insist that the poet is normal or, for that matter, that anybody is.” That “I don’t think” is odd in context; he could have phrased it more impersonally: “We should not (or must not) insist that the poet is normal.” Paradoxically, explicitly mentioning what he thinks or believes makes him sound less sure, the belief more shaky.

This works in speech too: “I believe it is raining” does not mean “I can say with complete conviction that it is raining,” a level of conviction analogous to, say, “I believe in God” or “I believe in freedom.” Instead, colloquially, “I believe” is a hedge that allows some doubt; it means “I’m pretty sure it’s raining.” Several years after I wrote it, I have a strange relationship with my own pseudo-.Example – In this developmental pattern, you will provide and describe an example of a particular subject or group.Cause and Effect – With this developmental pattern, you will illustrate the relationship between to variables, one dependent on the other.An aphorism In other words, an aphorism is not a truth but a kind of test (an assay), a statement you are meant to run up against to decide if you agree.If you don’t agree, that is not necessarily a failure of the aphorism.Describe the many ways in which this particular variable affects the other, and explain why it does so.Classification – This developmental pattern is used to categorize multiple subjects into separate or distinct groups by certain criteria.Some tweets, of course, aspire to literal, factual truth — those that report on science or the news, for example.But others are more like essays or poems or novels which can’t, fundamentally, be true or not true; it’s a category error.(I have stopped reading my Goodreads reviews.) Part of the job, I think, of the aphorist is to write statements that even she does not necessarily agree with.In my thinking about aphorisms, I have returned often to Wallace Stevens’ Poetry is not personal.


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