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A feuilleton (French pronunciation: [fœjtɔ̃]; a diminutive of French: feuillet, the leaf of a book) was originally a kind of supplement attached to the political portion of French newspapers, consisting chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles. The term feuilleton was invented by the editors of the French Journal des débats; Julien Louis Geoffroy and Bertin the Elder, in 1800. The feuilleton has been described as a "talk of the town", and a contemporary English-language example of the form is the "Talk of the Town" section of The New Yorker.
In English newspapers, the term instead came to refer to an installment of a serial story printed in one part of a newspaper. The genre of the feuilleton in its French sense was eventually included in English newspapers, but was not referred to as a feuilleton.
In contemporary French, feuilleton has taken on the meaning "soap opera".
A supplement called "Feuilleton" appeared for the first time of 28 January 1800 in the Journal des Debats magazine. The word "feuilleton" meant "a leaf", or, in this sense, "a scrap of paper". Soon the supplement became the regular column devoted to entertainment and cultural issues. It is important to note that the English term "column" means both a part of a paper and the kind of press genre.
The original feuilletons were not usually printed on a separate sheet, but merely separated from the political part of the newspaper by a line, and printed in smaller type. The slot was therefore nicknamed, throughout the 19th century in France, as the "ground floor".
In 1836 the Paris newspaper La Presse first began to circulate a separate sheet from the paper entitled "Feuilleton" in which cultural items were included. This French development of the idea was then subsequently taken up by the Director of Die Presse of Vienna and the "Feuilleton" soon became commonly used in several other newspapers in Vienna.
At the turn of 19th and 20th century the traditional connection between the name "feuilleton" and the specific place in the magazine became weaker. From that point the term "feuilleton" has been associated only with the textual properties of the publication.
The changes in the functioning of the term "feuilleton" did not have much influence on the traditional features of the genre. Newspapers, for their part, have preserved its cyclical nature and the mark of it is the publication of a series of articles always in the same part of a magazine with additional use of different ways of signaling its cyclical nature (e.g., permanent vignettes, titles of columns, established forms of typesetting, etc.).
Prominent exterior features are an additional way for readers to identify the feuilleton as a particular genre, even when its structural features seem to be insufficient to defining it as such.
The radio equivalent of a feuilleton is a fixed position of a slot in the time layout of the transmitted programme and the use of different kinds of conventionalized signals, like the author’s own voice, the same title of a slot, etc.
Besides France, Russia in particular cultivated the feuilleton genre since the 19th century, and the word фельетон [fʲɪlʲjɪˈton] acquired the general meaning of satirical piece in the Russian language.
In Polish press terminology the term feuilleton (Polish: felieton) meant a regular, permanent column in a magazine where episodes of novels, serial press publications (e.g., "Chronicles" by Boleslaw Prus in "Kurier Warszawski") and other items on entertainment and cultural issues were published.
Such a definition and use of a column still function in German and French press terminology.
S. J. Perelman
The writings of S. J. Perelman were infused with a sense of ridicule, irony, and wryness and frequently used his own misadventures as their theme. Perelman chose to describe these pieces as feuilletons and he defined himself as a feuilletoniste.
The tone of Perelman's feuilletons was very different from those sketches of the inept "little man" struggling to cope with life that James Thurber and other New Yorker writers of the era frequently produced. Yet his references to himself were typically wittily self-deprecatory—as for example, "before they made S.J. Perelman, they broke the mold." Although frequently fictional, very few of Perelman's sketches were precisely short stories.
The feuilleton is a writing genre that allows for much journalistic freedom as far as its content, composition and style are concerned; the text is hybrid which means that it makes use of different genre structures, both journalistic and literary. The characteristic of a column is also the lack of the group of fixed features in strong structural relation.
Thematic domain of a feuilleton column tends to be always up-to-date, focusing specifically on cultural, social and moral issues. An accented and active role by the columnist as the subject of the narration is also very important characteristic of this genre. The tone of its writing is usually reflexive, humorous, ironic and above all very subjective in drawing conclusions, assessments and comments on a particular subject.
Unlike other common journalistic genres, the feuilleton style is very close to literary. Its characteristic feature is lightness and wit evidenced by wordplay, parody, paradox and humorous hyperboles. The vocabulary is usually not neutral, and strongly emotionally loaded words and phrases prevail.
A contemporary example of the form can be found at the online literary magazine PANK, in their column A Forsley Feuilleton.
References in literary works
In the novel The Glass Bead Game (1943), by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Hermann Hesse, the current era is characterised and described as "The Age of the Feuilleton". In Hesse's novel, this so-called age of the feuilleton, viewed retrospectively from a future scholarly society called Castalia, is generally but not simply portrayed as having an overweening, trivializing or obfuscating character such as is associated with the arbitrary and primitive nature of social production prior to the historical denouement that resulted in the creation of Castalia. The bourgeois feuilleton of the Belle Époque, especially in France during the period of the Dreyfus affair, as well as those of Fascist Germany, served to effect Kulturpolitik; they established norms and tastes, contributed to the formation of social identity, and often expressed an underlying antisemitism. Glasperlenspiel was written during World War II, and Hesse would have been reacting in part to these real historical developments. In Maxim Gorky's novel "Foma Gordeev" the character Ezhóff is described as a feuilleton writer.
- Feuilleton, op. 293, is a waltz by Johann Strauss II. It was composed for the third annual dance of the association of authors and journalists of Vienna, which took place in Sofienbad-Saal on January 24, 1865.
- Felix Salten’s books Bambi, Neue Menschen auf alter Erde, and Fünf Minuten Amerika were first published as feuilletons in Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung and Neue Freie Presse.
- Feuilleton was the winning word for Ansun Sujoe in the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee. He was announced co-champion along with Sriram Hathwar; a feat that hadn't occurred since 1962.
- In the novel Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon, the Chums of Chance's pet dog Pugnax reads a roman-feuilleton by M. Eugene Sue "in the original French".
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 305. .
- Conway, Daniel W.; Gover, K. E., Søren Kierkegaard, p. 248
- Walter Benjamin meets Monsieur Hulot, James Buchan, The Guardian, 8 March 2003
- Hesse, Hermann. Das Glasperlenspiel: Versuch einer Lebensbeschreibung des Magister Ludi Josef Knecht samt Knechts hinterlassenen Schriftens. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2003. ISBN 3-518-41335-X. p. 16-17. "Die geistige Bewegung, deren Früchte unter vielen anderen die Einrichtung des Ordens und das Glasperlenspiel sind, hat ihre Anfänge in einer Geschichtsperiode, welcher seit der grundlegenden Untersuchungen des Literarhistorikers Plinius Ziegenhals den von ihm geprägten Namen 'Das Feuilletonistische Zeitalter' trägt."
- Dianina, Katia. "The Feuilleton: An Everyday Guide to Public Culture in the Age of the Great Reforms,", The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Summer, 2003), pp. 187–210.