Recently, I was introduced to a literary concept called donnée. It’s a French word that means “given.” As defined by Answers.com, a donnée is “sometimes used to refer to the original idea or starting‐point from which a writer elaborates a complete work. This initial choice of subject matter may be a very simple situation or a basic relationship between two characters, which is then complicated as the work takes shape.”
This idea, taken a bit further, has been used to describe the central themes of a poet or writer, or the underlying concept that drives her or his body of work. Some think that issues with one’s mother is at the heart of most writing.
I don’t think it’s that simple and it’s probably different for everyone. It’s probably not just one thing but a combination of things.
For me, among other things, issues of abandonment related to my father underlies much my writing. The poem I posted yesterday speaks to my donnée directly, which I rarely do; I usually deal with the aftermath of it, either consciously or unconsciously–expressed as sadness, fear, or even resiliency. By resiliency, I mean the knowledge that at the end of the day, we must go it alone in order to survive.
I also think that everyone has a donnée, whether you are a writer or not. I think people’s donnée’s affect what profession they are in or how they conduct their lives. What do you think of this theory?
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011