A Definition of the Maxim in Duclos’ Novels

  • Bette Gross Silverblatt
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idees / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARMI, volume 2)


The definition of one’s terms is clearly a most essential and perplexing problem facing literary critics. The most common response to this challenge is to ignore it; this has obvious though limited advantages, since it is rare indeed that a definition can completely satisfy the goals of the definer. When attempting to identify and set forth the meaning of a literary term, one meets the added difficulty of exploring the usage of the term through time as well as the always present difficulty of fixing its meaning at any given time. The procedure in this chapter, devoted to an investigation of the meaning of the term “maxim” as it relates to the novels of Charles Pinot Duclos, will be one of isolating the complexities of the word in its many variations, and then attempting to narrow our definition to classify exactly Duclos’ maxims.


Literary Critic Short Maxim Literary Term Limited Advantage Ambiguous Area 
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  1. 1.
    Rosso, “Démarches et structures de compensation dans les ‘Maximes’ de La Rochefoucauld,” CAIEF, XVIII (March, 1966), p. 113. (See also his book La Maxime: saggi per una tipologia critica [Naples: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 1968]).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., CAIEF, p. 115.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jean Starobinski, p. 29.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Brooks, p. 16.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Zeller, p. 6.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid., p. 12.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., pp. 6-8. The articles are: Fritz Schalk, “Das Wesen des französischen Aphorismus,” Die Neueren Sprachen, 1933. Franz Mautner, “Der aphorismus als literarische Gattung,” Zeitschrift für ásthetik une allgemeine kunstwissencheft, XXVII (1933). Adolf Sauer, Das aphoristische Element bei Theodor Fontane (Berlin: Verlag Dr. Emil Ebering, 1935).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lanson, p. 29.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See Léon Levrault, Maximes et Portraits (Paris: Paul Mellottée, 1933) for the historical tracing of the intermixings of maxim and portrait forms.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See the sixth chapter of Zeller’s book for detailed discussions of the grammatical patterns of La Rochefoucauld’s maxims. We have adopted several of her categories.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Histoire du roman français depuis 1918 (Paris: Seuil, 1950).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ibid., p. 87.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
  14. 14.
    Ibid., pp. 89-90.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bette Gross Silverblatt

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