from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
J'accuse , by Émile Zola. L'aurore, January 13, 1898

A pamphlet or diatribe is a pamphlet in which someone is involved, exaggerated and polemical on a scientific, religious or political topic. The factual argument takes a back seat; the passionate partisanship against a cause, however, predominates in the argument. The degradation of another person is accepted with approval or is even the actual aim of the pamphlet. This objective is subordinated to the argumentation, the style of language and especially the rhetorical design: diminutive forms or animal metaphors serve to belittle the opponent . Nevertheless, the term 'pamphlet' was originally intended to be neutral as a term for a genre of political-religious pamphlets .

Word history

The origin of the word pamphlet is not clear. It may be derived from the Latin name Pamphilus , the protagonist of the love poem Pamphilus seu de amore , which was very popular in the 13th century . The Latinized form of the name panfletus is likely to be the root for the English terms pamphilet or panflet and the French pamphillèt .

The epic poem de amore was extraordinarily known, popular and widely circulated. Possibly that was the reason that the name of the Pamphilus was the inspiration for texts that were small in scope but widespread, similar to the not uncommon procedure that the name of an individual product becomes a generic name . In the history of literature and language, the connection between the proper name of Pasquino and the name Pasquill for a mockery and insults would be comparable .

In Middle English it was still the name for any printed text that was too short to be bound as a book. Since the 15th century it took on the meaning of a little work or book, only since the 18th century has it been increasingly derogatory as polemical and aggressive connotations .

In current usage, the term 'pamphlet' clearly has a disparaging connotation. With this designation , any committed statement expressed in writing in a dispute can be disqualified and classified as 'unobjective' or 'levelless arguments'. In the course of time, a genre name has become a name with a negative rating.

Distribution and dissemination

In the past, pamphlets were rarely sold in bookshops, but reached their addressees in other ways. Until the 19th century, it was outpatient traders, peddlers and street vendors who brought the brochures and pamphlets to the reader. As pamphlets were increasingly used as a means of forming opinions and propaganda in political struggle and in the broadest sense of current social and cultural issues, parties and interest groups increasingly appeared as distributors.

Well-known pamphlets

Cranach: Papa loquitur (1545)

An example of a pamphlet is Buback - An Obituary . In this pamphlet, an author unknown at the time of publication condemns the murder of the Federal Public Prosecutor , but at the same time expresses “secret joy” about the act.

Probably the most famous pamphlet was written by the French writer Émile Zola in 1898 on the Dreyfus affair as an open letter to the President of the French Republic under the title J'accuse ("I accuse"). Following this pamphlet alleging anti-Semitism , Zola had to go into exile for a while. Later the Jewish captain Alfred Dreyfus , who was defended by Zola in his work and convicted by a court martial, was rehabilitated. In a certain way, some works by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels ( Manifesto of the Communist Party ) or Friedrich Nietzsche (e.g. The Antichrist ) can be classified as pamphlets, in the sense of combat pamphlets, despite their high level of thought and language.

Other important pamphlets are Adolf Hitler's political-ideological propaganda , hate speech and program publication Mein Kampf , in which, among other things, defamatory calls for the annihilation of Judaism are called, as well as the illustrated mockery of the Pope by the reformer Martin Luther . The ten woodcuts were published in book form and were created in 1545 in Lucas Cranach's workshop in Wittenberg . Original graphics from this series were sold at an auction at Hagenburg Castle in March 2006 at a price of 250,000 euros.


  • Herbert Grabes : The English pamphlet. Volume 1: Political and Religious Polemics at the Beginning of the Modern Era (1521–1640). Niemeyer, Tübingen 1990, ISBN 3-484-40117-6 .
  • A. Scherer: Poetry and pamphlet. In: Südostdeutsche Vierteljahresblätter. Vol. 36, 1987, ISSN  0562-5297 , pp. 100-107.
  • Hubert van den Berg: Pamphlet. In: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric. Volume 6: Must - Pop. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-12024-8 , Sp. 488-595.

Web links

Wiktionary: Pamphlet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: diatribe  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Renate Wahrig-Burfeind (Ed.): True . German dictionary. 8th, completely revised and updated edition. Wissen-Media-Verlag, Gütersloh et al. 2006, ISBN 3-577-10241-1 .
  2. ^ Webster's New Encyclopedic Dictionary . New York 1993.
  3. ^ Brecht, Bertolt: Large commented on Berlin and Frankfurter edition , Journale 2, Volume 27. Frankfurt am Main 1995, p. 219, ISBN 978-3-518-40087-6
  4. ^ Report on the auction