[ilds] Finally (2)

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Wed Jun 2 11:44:21 PDT 2010

Durrell describes the Gnomic Aorist in his letters to Henry Miller
while describing /The Black Book/ in conjunction with the historic
present (I'm annotating things at the moment and stumbled over this
just a few days ago...).  It's closely tied to his notion of the
Heraldic Universe, likely in early 1937.  Someone with a copy of the
letters handy may want to look up the actual passage.

It's an ongoing concept for Durrell, and while that one statement is
in the present tense (truth *is*), I don't think we should dismiss
David's idea.  It rings of the truth to my ear...


On 2 June 2010 11:12, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
> "Gnomic aorist" usually applies to Attic Greek.  Dunno if Modern Greek has
> that tense.  From my very little Greek, I understand the "gnomic aorist" to
> be a past tense, the aorist (i.e., with the sense of completion) that
> represents some truth.  As the venerable H. W. Smyth says, in Greek Grammar
> (1956), "The aorist may express a general truth.  The aorist simply states a
> past occurrence and leaves the reader to draw the inference from a concrete
> case that what has occurred once is typical of what often occurs" (sec.
> 1931).  The aphorism, "Truth is what most contradicts itself in time," is in
> the present tense, not the past.  Gnomic, yes; aorist, no.  Durrell,
> however, definitely likes gnomic; he advocates a gnomic style somewhere.
>  Whether he was influenced by Classical or possibly Modern Greek is a very
> interesting question, which could fall under that rubric of Durrell's
> diction, previously discussed.
> Bruce
> On Jun 2, 2010, at 7:57 AM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
> And don't let us forget the 'gnomic aorist' either in this typically
> provocative Durrellian sentence and the cleverly disguised use of his ever
> enigmatically and yet precisely ambiguous constantly shifting sand-dune-like
> metaphor of the greek infinitive for 'duration'.
> David, could you unpack this for US? For me, abyway.
> Bill
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James Gifford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English and University Core Director
School of English, Philosophy and Humanities
University College: Arts, Sciences, Professional Studies
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver Campus
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E-mail: gifford at fdu.edu

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