CFP : "Brevity is the Soul of Wit"

Call for papers, Issue #1

Brevity is the soul of wit

For its inaugural issue, Angles : French Perspectives on the Anglophone World welcomes original proposals inspired by the celebrated aphorism : ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’.

Often used to describe a literary and social form (humor or sarcasm) or to illustrate commonplaces, the dictum encapsulates beliefs about the relationship between ‘brevity’ and ‘wit’ which have numerous implications in different disciplines and forms of expression. The aphorism not only suggests that brevity is a gateway to revelatory truths, it also implies that true ‘wit’ exists only in shortened form, paradoxically positing depth of meaning (‘soul’) in brevity of form, and also hinting that humor loses its essence when explicated. Additional contradictions emerge when one recalls the context in which the line appears in Hamlet, when Polonius tires the audience by giving some words of wisdom to his departing son.

This issue of Angles will be an opportunity to discuss the links with humor, irony, and short forms of expression (mots d’esprit, soundbites, slogans) in a host of contexts : literary, linguistic, social, political and artistic.

Suggested topics may include, but are not limited to, the following :

the formal aspects of aphorisms and other brief forms of wit, and their evolution. What constitutes brevity has varied over time and cultures, influenced by the materiality of certain forms of production – oral quips in a public or private context are delivered and received differently than when they appear on the page, for instance. Proposals may address issues of syntax, analyze occurrences of, say, nominal sentences, double entendre, nonsense, etc. Proposals addressing the idiosyncrasies of the English language are also welcome.

certain literary and other artistic forms : verse, short stories, haikus, aphorisms, as well as cartoons, comics, caricatures, or sitcoms, stand-up comedy, etc. Papers can discuss the formal, aesthetic and metaphorical aspects of these forms of expression. Case studies as well as comparative analyses are welcome.

new forms of communication and social media : tweets, Facebook posts, text messages, as well as short forms in the arts (video, short films, etc.) Proposals may dwell on humorous reappropriations of new forms of communication which share one technical stricture : their limited length and/or lifespan.

the cultural and political use of jokes and repartee in the media, be it by professional comedians, journalists, political commentators or politicians. Proposals may compare speeches read at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for instance, quips during televised debates, verbal jousts during Prime Minister’s Questions or other parliamentary debates, etc.

transhistorical and transcultural analyses of what constitutes ‘brevity’ and ‘wit’, from the late Middle Ages to contemporary poetry and television, via the early modern era and the long eighteenth-century, in British, Irish, North American, Colonial and Postcolonial literatures.

Proposals can also address the pedagogical and social uses of aphorisms and other mots d’esprit, as well as psychoanalytic approaches to the topic.

Scholars from all disciplines are invited to submit 500-word proposals addressing these or other topics. In addition to traditional academic articles, Angles accepts scholarly contributions addressing the topic partly, or wholly, in non-traditional forms (documentary film, short story, comic book, manifesto, pamphlet…). Angles also encourages proposals meeting high standards of scholarship from academics wishing to experiment with different disciplinary perspectives.

Other topics

Additional, off-topic articles submitted to the same double-blind peer-review process will be published in a separate section of the issue. These off-topic articles may also respond to articles previously published in Angles.

Submission Procedure

All submitted articles are subject to a double-blind review process.

Abstract submission due for issue #1 : 15 December 2014

Completed paper submission due : 5 April 2015

Publication date : Summer 2015

We encourage submissions from both graduate students and established researchers in the field. Submitted papers should not have been previously published, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere.

All submissions should be sent to the Editor :

A complete stylesheet and other details can be found online on the journal’s website.