Saturday, 4 May 2013

Belles-lettres

The Writer's Desk by The Zartorialist

BELLES-LETTRES

Noun plural (occasionally treated as singular). Mid-17th century.
[French, literally 'fine letters'.]

Studies or writing of a purely literary character, especially essays, criticism, etc.
Originally more widely, literature generally, the humanities.

I've consulted with various sources as to the definition of belles-lettres, and it's still not particularly clear. Miriam Webster says that it's literature that is not 'merely informative,' but rather 'light, entertaining and often sophisticated,' and various sources say it's literature that is 'an end in itself,' rather then being purely practical. As such, it can include poetry, fiction, journals and essays. A common marker of belles-lettres, it would seem, is that it's characterised by its aesthetic value - perhaps its humour and style over its subject matter and scope.

This rather excited me. I couldn't help but wonder if Lexicolatry could be classed as belles-lettres (in fact, if a lot of blogs could). If that were to be true, that would make me a belletrist, which is a 'devotee or practitioner of belles-lettres'. I've been called a lot of things before, but I've never been called a belletrist (I still haven't, to be honest, although I have been called words starting with the word bell in the past). This wouldn't necessarily be something to shout about of course, as some consider belles-lettres and belletrist to be derogatory terms, perhaps suggesting empty and vacuous twitterings. I, however, rather like them.

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