classifying writings

The October 2008 issue of Harper’s (subscription required) has a hilarious excerpt from Chris Offutt’s “The Offutt Guide to Literary Terms” (.pdf) which was published a year ago in the Seneca Review. A few goodies:

MEMOIR: From the Latin memoria, meaning “memory,” a popular form in which the writer remembers entire passages of dialogue from the past, with the ultimate goal of blaming the writer’s parents for his current psychological challenges.

CHICK LIT: A patriarchal term of oppression for heterosexual female writing; also, a marketing means to phenomenal readership and prominent bookstore space.

ACADEMIC ESSAY: Alas, an unread form required for tenure.

COMPOSITION WRITING: An academic development in response to the economic needs of recently graduated MFA students.

POEM: Prose scraps.

PROSE POEM: Either a poem with no line breaks or a lyric essay with no indentation. No one knows.

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