Term of Art: Belles-Lettres

“Belles-Lettres (noun): Fine or imaginative , usually sophisticated, writing that, however limited in general appeal, is an aesthetic end in itself, including poetry, drama, light essays, and literary criticism. Adj. belletristic; n. belletrism, belleslettrism, belles-lettrism, belletrist, belle-lettrists.

‘The fear, as in literary criticism, is that one will lapse, or will be accused of lapsing, back into the old belles-lettristic mode, than which it is rightly felt that nothing could be more deadly—though other things can be as bad.’ Michael Tanner, in The State of Language.”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

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