In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. Purple prose is characterized by the excessive use of adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors. When it is limited to certain passages, they may be termed purple patches or purple passages, standing out from the rest of the work.
Purple prose is criticized for desaturating the meaning in an author's text by overusing melodramatic and fanciful descriptions. As there is no precise rule or absolute definition of what constitutes purple prose, deciding if a text, passage, or complete work has fallen victim is a somewhat subjective decision. According to Paul West, "It takes a certain amount of sass to speak up for prose that's rich, succulent and full of novelty. Purple is immoral, undemocratic and insincere; at best artsy, at worst the exterminating angel of depravity."
Inceptis grauibus plerumque et magna professis
Weighty openings and grand declarations often
- "A Word a Day – purple prose". Wordsmith.org. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- West, Paul (15 December 1985). "IN DEFENSE OF PURPLE PROSE". New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- Nixon, Cheryl (2008-12-30). Novel Definitions. Broadview Press. pp. 194–. ISBN 9781770482074. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Macrone, Michael (1994-05-18). It's Greek to Me. HarperCollins. pp. 147–. ISBN 9780062720443. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Horace (18 BC). Ars Poetica. Lines 14–21.
- Kline, A. S. (2005). "HORATII FLACCI ARS POETICA - epistulae 3". Retrieved June 17, 2019.
- Alternative translation:
Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy
purple patches; as when describing
a sacred grove, or the altar of Diana,
or a stream meandering through fields,
or the river Rhine, or a rainbow;
but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render
a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint
a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?[original research?]
- Coles Editorial Board, Dictionary of Literary Terms, Rama Brothers, 2001.
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