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 Julien Louis Geoffroy and Bertin the Elder, editors of the French Journal des débats in 1800. The feuilleton may be described as a "talk of the town",[1] and a contemporary English-language example of the form is the "Talk of the Town" section of The New Yorker.[2]

In English newspapers, the term "feuilleton" 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".

German and Polish newspapers still use the term for their literary and arts sections.


A page from the Finnish newspaper Helsingfors Dagblad (1889), showing a “ground floor” feuilleton.

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.

The French form remains quite popular in Continental Europe, as witness the works of many popular Czech authors, such as Jan Neruda, Karel Čapek and Ludvík Vaculík.

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.

In Yiddish a feuilleton was generally humorous and informal in tone. Two famous writers of Yiddish feuilletons were Sholem Aleichem and the Tunkeler, Yosef-Tunkel


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".[3] 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.


See also


  1. Conway, Daniel W.; Gover, K. E., Søren Kierkegaard, p. 248
  2. Walter Benjamin meets Monsieur Hulot, James Buchan, The Guardian, 8 March 2003
  3. 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."


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