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Sunday, September 2, 2007

JEREMIAD: "long literary work lamenting the state of society"

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A Jeremiad is a long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in poetry, that bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of its coming downfall.

The word is an eponym, named after the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, and is inspired by the tone of his surviving literary works, the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations. The Book of Jeremiah prophesies the coming downfall of the Kingdom of Judah, and asserts that this is because its rulers have broken the covenant with the Lord

As such, the name jeremiad is given to moralistic texts that denounce a society for its wickedness, and prophesy its downfall. Authors from Gildas to Robert Bork have had this label hung on their works. In contemporary usage, it is frequently pejorative, meant to suggest that the tone of the text is excessively pessimistic.
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