Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Today's Word: epistolary

epistolary: At it's most basic, epistolary simply refers to letters (the kind you mail, not the kind play with in Scrabble). Epistolary novels are novels told indirectly through a series of exchanged letters. Some great epistolary novels include Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale (epistolary of sorts), Yevgeny Zamiatin's We, and Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea. Bram Stoker's Dracula has an epistolary element to it, though, besides letters, it also includes newspaper clippings, diary entries, and a ship's log. Epistles are letters, usually instructional in nature. The (capital-E) Epistles, then, are those books of the Bible that are actually letters. The New Testament is Epistle-heavy: It starts with the four Gospels, followed by Acts (which apparently doesn't get a scholarly epithet of its own). All the rest, from Romans to Revelation, are Epistles. I personally love epistolary novels — at least well-written ones. If you have another favorite epistolary novel to share, comments and quodlibets are welcome.