The Aphorism and Other Short Forms: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Aphorism and Other Short Forms

1st Edition

By Ben Grant


164 pages

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The aphorism captures a huge amount of truth, meaning or wit in a very short statement. It has been used and studied from classical times to contemporary theory and takes on a new relevance when we look at today’s communication media such as text messages and twitter. This concise guide offers an overview of:

  • The history of the aphorism to the present day
  • Its relation to other short forms, including the fragment, the proverb, the maxim, the haiku, the epigram and the quotation
  • The use of the aphorism by authors such as Heraclitus, Bacon, La Rochefoucauld, Chuang Tzu, Blake, Schlegel, Emerson, Nietzsche, Wilde, Woolf and Barthes
  • The interdisciplinary nature of the aphorism, bringing together science, philosophy, literature and religion

Exploring all the key aspects of the form, Ben Grant guides readers through this large and lively area in a wide-ranging and critically informed study of the aphorism.


"This book has no shortage of spark. Grant combines his (exceptionally good) historical overview with cross-cultural comparisons." -- Noreen Masud, The Cambridge Quartley

"Deft, short, sharp, concise, often witty, crammed with scholarship, and instict with wisdom, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms certainly shares many of the qualities of the object(s) of its attention." -- Clare Connors, Oxford Literary Review

"It is worth emphasizing the high quality and wide range of this research: Chapter 7, for example, offers an in-depth discussion of Blanchot, Baudrillard, and Jacques Derrida's views of the fragment and its relation to the aphorism." -- Alexandra Sattler, Modern Language Review

Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1: An Historical Overview Chapter 2: Brevity Chapter 3: Wisdom Chapter 4: Authority Chapter 5: Thoughts and Impressions Chapter 6: Enigma and Paradox Chapter 7: Singularity and Multiplicity Chapter 8: The Aphorism Today Glossary

About the Author

Ben Grant teaches English Literature at the University of Kent, UK. He is the author of Postcolonialism, Psychoanalysis and Burton: Power Play of Empire (Routledge, 2009).

About the Series

The New Critical Idiom

The New Critical Idiom is an invaluable series of introductory guides designed to meet the needs of today's students grappling with the complexities of modern critical terminology. Each book in the series provides:

  • A clear, explanatory guide to the use (and abuse) of the term
  • An original and distinctive overview by a leading literary and cultural critic
  • Helpful definitions of the boundaries between the literary and non-literary
  • Basic guidance for the introductory reader in how the term relates to the larger field of cultural representation

With a strong emphasis on clarity, lively debate and the widest possible breadth of examples, The New Critical Idiom is an indispensable guide to key topics in literary studies.

Learn more…

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