Jul 11
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“Linguists believe that the aphorism was one of the earliest literary forms—the residue of complex thoughts filtered down to an easily digestible metaphor. By the second millenium B.C., in ancient kingdoms like Sumer in the Middle East, aphorisms began appearing together in anthologies—collections of the sayings that were gathered and copied for noblemen, priests, and kings. But not long after these groupings of aphorisms appeared, the lists soon started to be catalogued by theme: “Honesty”; “Family Life”; “Death”; etc. When read together, the collection of aphorisms could now be said to make a general argument on their common themes. Imagine their effect together as that of a thesis, a treatise on the given theme, and eventually from here, out of the seeds of editing and of collage, it is easy to imagine the form germinating into longer, more complex, more sustained and sophisticated essaying.”

The Next American Essay, edited by John D’Agata (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2003), 337.


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