Definitions

feuilleton'istic

Feuilleton

[foi-i-tn; Fr. fœyuh-tawn]
Feuilleton (a diminutive of French feuillet, the leaf of a book) was originally a kind of supplement attached to the political portion of French newspapers. Its inventors were Julien Louis Geoffroy and Bertin the Elder, editors of the Journal des Débats. It was not usually printed on a separate sheet, but merely separated from the political part of the newspaper by a line, and printed in smaller type. In French newspapers it consisted chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles. German newspapers still use the term for their literary and arts sections.

Besides France, Russia in particular cultivated the feuilleton genre since the 19th century, and the word acquired the general meaning of satirical piece in the Russian language.

The feuilleton in its French sense was never adopted by English newspapers, though the sort of matter represented by it eventually came to be included. But the term itself entered English use to indicate the installment of a serial story printed in one part of a newspaper. However the French form is quite popular in Continental Europe, as seen in the works of many popular Czech authors, such as Jan Neruda, Karel Čapek and Ludvík Vaculík.

Feuilleton is the genre that allows for much freedom as far as its content, composition and style are concerned; the text is hybrid which means that it makes use of different genre structures, both journalistic and literary ones. The characteristic of a column is also the lack of the group of fixed features being in strong structural relation. The thematic domain is one of the three basic and essential elements of a speech genre “column”. This component, along with its composition and stylistics, constitutes a speech genre according to the speech genre theory by Bakhtin (1986). Thematic domain of a column tends to be always up-to-date, focusing specifically on culture matters and social and moral issues. An accented and active role of a columnist as the subject of the narration is also very important characteristic of this genre. The tone a column is written in is usually reflexive, humorous, ironic and above all very subjective in drawing conclusions, assessments and comments on a particular subject.

In its composition a column uses very often digressive bonds with other parts and components of the text proper. Except for the use of numerous associations, there can be different types of fable-like compositions, logical- discursive and dramatic ones found in the internal structure of a column.

The style of this kind of publication, contrary to the style of most journalistic publications, is very close to literary. Its characteristic feature is lightness and wit, that is shown by play on words, parody, paradox and humorous hyperboles. The vocabulary that is usually used is not neutral, and strongly emotionally loaded words and phrases prevail.

The early days of a column go back to the date of 28 January 1800, when the supplement called “Feuilleton” appeared for the first time in the “Journal des Debats” magazine. The word “feuilleton” meant “a leaf”, “a scrap of paper”. Soon the supplement become the regular column devoted to entertainment and cultural issues.

In Polish press terminology the term “feuilleton” (Polish: felieton) meant a column in a magazine, permanent part of it, where episodes of novels, serial press publications (e.g. “Chronicles” by Boleslaw Prus in “Kurier Poznański”) and other materials on entertainment and cultural issues were published. Such a definition and use of a column still function in German and French press terminology. It is important to note that the English term “column” means both a part of a paper and the kind of press genre. At the turn of 19th and 20th century the traditional connection between the name “feuilleton” and the specific place in the magazine became weaker. From that point the term “feuilleton” has been associated only with textual properties of the publication. For this particular change the genetic and structural connections between “feuilleton” and press context became also weaker. It resulted also in the disappearance of the cyclical nature of the column as its prominent feature.

The changes in the functioning of the term “feuilleton” did not have much influence on the real and traditional features of this genre. Column publications, also contemporary ones, have preserved its cyclical nature and the exterior sign of it is the publication of particular texts belonging to the particular cycle always in the same part of a magazine with additional use of means of different kind signalising its cyclical nature (e.g. permanent vignettes, titles of a column as a part of a magazine, established type of typesetting matter etc.). The group of repeated prominent exterior features is an additional sing for its readers which helps them to identify it as a particular genre, even when its structural features seem to be insufficient for defining it. Radio equivalent of graphic features of a press column is fixed position of a column in the time layout of the emitted programme and the use of different kinds of conventionalised signal means, like the author’s own voice, the same title of a cycle, etc.

In the novel The Glass Bead Game, by Nobel Prize winning novelist Hermann Hesse, the current era is characterised and described as The Age of the Feuilleton.

The word is used in contemporary colloquial French to mean "television series".

Bibliography

  • Dianina, Katia. "The Feuilleton: An Everyday Guide to Public Culture in the Age of the Great Reforms,", The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Summer, 2003), pp. 187-210.

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