Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Blog as Literary Form

We have distinguished essays on the essay as a literary form by Georg Lukács and Theodor Adorno, but we do not yet, as far as I know, have an account of the blog as a literary form. Yet blogs are a sufficiently well-established social practice in the early twenty-first century to deserve some generic self-consciousness, one would think. So here are my own preliminary thoughts in that direction: not an essay on essays, but a blog on blogs.

Blogs are, on the whole, very much shorter than essays, in my own case averaging out at about 250-300 words a time. Essays may themselves be a nimble, opportunistic, socially topical form, but blogs, which might only take 15-20 minutes to compose, will clearly therefore be even more so; especially since they can be self-published immediately. Blogs may have something of the immediacy of a diary entry, but they will on the whole tend to be more crafted than a diary jotting, to be more of an aesthetic artefact than a scribbled memo; and since in their brief compass they often try to crystallise a single epiphanic insight about their subject matter, perhaps we should think of them as the electronic equivalent of haiku, that traditional miniature Japanese poetic form.

Indeed, we are not short of traditional genres on which to model our blogs: the Oriental ‘pillow book’, the Nietzschean aphorism, William Morris’s own ‘Notes on News’ in Commonweal (and Walter Benjamin’s more avantgarde idea of an essay composed entirely of footnotes might be relevant here too). The blog entry will be to these modes what Bruce Lee’s fighting style jeet kune do was to karate, judo, kung-fu, aikido, and so on; it will opportunistically incorporate elements from all of them, while being reducible to none. The blog is a twenty-first-century genre still in the making; and like the novel for Mikhail Bakhtin, it is as yet more of an unsettling energy or force than a classical genre with formulable rules of its own. Long may it thrive, and happy New Year to you all!


mo said...

A lovely jewel of a post Tony. Happy New Years and may there be many more micro-essays to come. best, mo

Tony Pinkney said...

Thanks for the kind and encouraging comment, Mo. Your own 'William Morris Fan Club' blog has certainly been one of the things that's kept me going over the last couple of years.

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