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A. THE BELLES-LETTRES STYLE




We have already pointed out that the belles-lettres style is a generic term for three substyles in which the main principles and the most general properties of the style are materialized. These three sub-styles are: '

1. The language of poetry, or simply verse.

2. Emotive p г о s e, or the language of fiction.

3. Т'he language of the dr a ma.

Each of these substyles has certain common features, typical of the general belles-lettres style, which make up the foundation of the style, by which the particular style is made recognizable and can there­fore be singted out. Each of them also enjoys some individuality. This is revealed in definite features typical only of one or another substyle. This correlation of the general and the particular in each variant of the belles-lettres styie had manifested itself differently at different stages in its historical development.

The common features of the,substyles may be summed up as follows. First of all comes theVcommon function which may broadly be called "aesthetico-cognitive". This is a double function which aims at the cog­nitive process, which secures the gradual Enfolding of the idea to the reader and at the same time calls forth a feeling of pleasure, a pleasure which is derived from the form in which the content is wrought. The psychological element, pleasure, is not irrelevant when evaluating the effect of the communication. x This pleasure is caused not only by admi­ration of the selected language means and their peculiar arrangement but also (and this is perhaps the main cause) by the fact that the reader is led

to form his own conclusions as to the purport of the author. Nothing gives more pleasure and satisfaction than realizing that one has the ability to penetrate into the hidden tissue of events, phenomena and human activi­ty, and to perceive the relation between various seemingly unconnected facts brought together by the creative mind of the writer.

Since the belles-lettres style has a cognitive function as well as an aesthetic one, it follows that it has something in common with scientific style, which will be discussed in detail later, but which is here mentioned for the sake of comparison. The purpose of science” as a branch of human activity is to disclose by research the inner substance of things and phe­nomena of objective reality and find out the laws regulating them, thus enabling man to predict, control and direct their further development in order to improve the material and social life of mankind. The style of scientific prose is therefore mainly characterized by an arrangement of language means which will bring proofs to clinch a theory. Therefore we say that the main function of scientific prose is proof. The selection of language means must therefore meet this principal requirement.

The purpose of the belles-lettres style is not to prove but only to suggest a possible interpretation of the phenomena of life by forcing the reader to see the viewpoint of the writer. This is the cognitive function of the belles-lettres style.

From all this it follows, therefore, that the belles-lettres style must select a system of language means which will secure the effect sought.

In showing the difference in the manner of thinking of the man-of letters and the man-of-science, N. A. Dobrolubov writes:

"The man-of-letters... thinks concretely, never losing sight of particular phenomena and images; the other (the man-of-science) strives to generalize, to merge all particulars in one general for­mula." *

The belles-lettres style rests on certain indispensable linguistic fea­tures which are:

1. Genuine, not trite, imagery, achieved by purely linguistic devices.

2. The use of words in contextual and very often in more than one dictionary meaning, or at least greatly influenced by the lexical environ­ment.

3. A vocabulary which will reflect to a greater or lesser degree the author's personal evaluation of things or phenomena.

4. A peculiar individual selection of vocabulary and syntax, a kind of lexical and syntactical idiosyncrasy.

5. The introduction of the typical features of colloquial language to a full degree (in plays) or a lesser one (in emotive prose) or a slight degree, if any (in poems).

The belles-lettres style is individual in essence. This is one of its most distinctive properties. Individuality in selecting language means (including stylistic devices), extremely apparent in poetic style, becomes gradually less in, let us say, publicistic style, is hardly noticeable in the

style of scientific prose and is entirely lacking in newspapers and in offi­cial style. The relation between the general and the particular assumes different forms in different styles and in their variants. This relation is differently materialized even within one and the same style. This is due to the strong imprint of personality on'any work of poetic style. There may be a greater or lesser volume of imagery (but not an absence of imagery); a greater or lesser number of words with contextual meaning (but not all words without contextual meaning); a greater or lesser number of colloquial elements (but not a complete absence of colloquial elements).

LANGUAGE OF POETRY

The first substyle we shall consider is v e r s e. Its first differentiating property is its orderly form, which is based mainly on the rhythmic and phonetic arrangement of the utterances. The rhythmic aspect calls forth syntactical and semantic peculiarities which also fall into a more or less strict orderly arrangement. Both the syntactical and semantic aspects I of the poetic substyle may be defined as compact, for they are held in “i check by rhythmic patterns. Both syntax and semantics comply with fi the restrictions imposed by the rhythmic pattern, and the result is brevity of expression, epigram-like utterances, and fresh, unexpected imagery. Syntactically this brevity is shown in elliptical and fragmentary senten­ces, in detached constructions, in inversion, asyndeton and other syntac­tical peculiarities.

Rhythm and rhyme are immediately distinguishable properties of the poetic substyle provided they are wrought into compositional patterns. They can be called the external differentiating features of the substyle, typical only of this one variety of the belles-lettres style. The various compositional forms of rhyme and rhythm are generally studied under the terms versification or prosody.

Let us examine the external properties or features of the poetic sub-style in detail. *-•••




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