Oxford Research in English, Issue 5: Brevity
“Since brevity is the soul of wit…” – Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2
“Short Talk on Brevity… try to leave the skin quickly, like an alcohol rub. An example, from Emily Tennyson’s grandmother, her complete diary entry for the day of her wedding, 20 May 1765: ‘Finished Antigone, married Bishop.’” – Anne Carson
Perhaps Polonius and Emily Tennyson’s grandmother were ahead of their time. In the twenty-first century, we can now choose to express our political opinions in 140 characters, express emotion in emoji, and finish our thoughts with a TL;DR. The literary context of ‘brevity’ spans across centuries, cultures and artistic forms, emerging in styles such as short stories and aphorisms, and ranging from the texts of the late Middle Ages to auspices of contemporary poetry. Whether found in the incisiveness of Anne Carson or the pith of Alexander Pope’s epigrams, economy of language is often prized in texts and academic work; whether or not that superiority is merited is, of course, up for debate.
The term ‘brevity’ also brings about various material interpretations—abbreviations and abridgements, for example. We can consider the consequences for the reader when a writer abridges narrative, paraphrases the work of another, or condenses their own language, as well as the physical marks of abbreviation on the page condition. Alternatively, we can consider texts and forms that are naturally short—such as Basho’s preternaturally tweetable haikus and the hermeticism of Symbolist poetry—as well as texts that are exceptionally long—Richardson’s Clarissa, for example—to consider the comparative value of brevity and length. In the end, the age-old question rises once more: ‘does size really matter’?
The implications of concision are endless (ironically enough), and this issue seeks to explore these different interpretations of brevity, welcoming papers investigating, but not limited to, any of the following topics:
- Abridged texts, paraphrases, simplifications or summaries
- The forms that brevity can naturally take: haikus, parables, sonnets and sketches
- Rhetoric and style
- Editing, collaboration, (self-)censorship
- Staging, sound, metre, time
- Abbreviation in the material text: signs, effacement/defacement, eyeskips and misprints
- Witticisms, aphorisms, clichés
- Advertisement: titles, blurbs, posters, chapter headings
- Linguistic change: semiotics, texts and tweets, artificial languages
Oxford Research in English (ORE) is an online journal for postgraduate and early career scholars in English, Film Studies, Creative Writing, and related disciplines. All submissions are peer-reviewed by current graduate students at the University of Oxford. The journal is currently seeking papers of 5-8,000 words for its fifth issue, to be released in 2017. Please submit papers for consideration to email@example.com by the deadline of 1 February 2017.
Papers should be formatted according to the journal’s house style, details of which can be found on our website: [http://ego.english.ox.ac.uk/journal/style-guide]