Storyglossia, what's in a word?
Storyglossia is a word I've coined to describe some of what this web site is up to. First, let's tour through some of the etymology.
Story: an account of events, a fictional narrative. From the Middle English via Old French [a history, tale] via Latin [history] via the Greek [information, or a learning by enquiry]. In the original Greek, history is also the stem of knowing and the base of to know.
There's a second relevant definition of story: a horizontal division of a building; an area between two levels. This definition is derived from the Latin [painted windows or sculpture on the front of a building depicting historical or legendary events].
Likewise, Glossia has two definitions. First there's gloss: a surface shininess or luster; glow. From Icelandic glossi [a spark, a blaze], which is related to the Swedish glossa [to glow] and the Norwegian glosa [to glow] and the Middle High German glossen [to glow] and glos [lustre].
The second definition of gloss: a commentary; explanation. This definition's etymology is from the Middle English glose via the Old French glose via Latin glossa [difficult word requiring explanation] via Greek glotta [the tongue; a language; a word needing explanation].
Some other definitions of gloss, just for flavor:
- A brief explanatory note of translation.
- A collection of such notes; a glossary.
- An extensive commentary accompanying a text.
- A purposefully misleading interpretation or explanation.
So those various senses of story and gloss are part of what I'm up to. But there are a couple of other notions as well. Following Seymour Chatman's analysis in his book Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Narrative breaks down into:
Story = Events (content)
Discourse = Expression (form)
Pondering those distinctions for a moment, a simple characterization of narrative suggests itself: The narrative impulse is the result of events requiring expression.
This next move might be a bit slippery, but it gets us back to storyglossia, and that is that narrative is the result of events (story) requiring explanation (gloss).
And finally there is Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of heteroglossia. Here's a sampling from The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holmquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holmquist. 1981. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
The novel can be defined as a diversity of social speech types (sometimes even diversity of languages) and a diversity of individual voices, artistically organized. The internal stratification of any single language into social dialects, characteristic group behavior, professional jargons, generic languages, languages of generations and age groups, tendentious languages, languages of authorities, of various circles and of passing fashions, languages that serve the specific sociopolitical purposes of the day, even of the hour, (each day has its own slogan, its own vocabulary, its own emphases)—this internal stratification present in every language at any given moment of its historical existence is the indispensable prerequisite for the novel as a genre. The novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social diversity and speech types [raznorecie] and by the differing individual voices that flourish under such conditions. Authorial speech, the speech of narrators, inserted genres, the speech of characters are merely those fundamental compositional unities with whose help heteroglossia [raznorecie] can enter the novel; each of them permits a multiplicity of social voices and a wide variety of their links and interrelationships (always more or less dialogized). These distinctive links and interrelationships between utterances and languages, this movement of the theme through different languages and speech types, its dispersion into the rivulets and droplets of social heteroglossia, its dialogization—this is the basic feature of the stylistics of the novel. [262-263]
Bakhtin's analyses focus on the novel, but clearly his theories regarding discourse applies to short stories as well. So with Bakhtin's conception of heteroglossia in mind, I envision my weblog exploring short story craft as both a heteroglot of stories and, via my glosses, a heteroglot of short story craft.