A Piddling Distinction That May Nonetheless Be Useful

We should, perhaps, stop talking about “hybrid” texts. “Hybrid” implies things being linked in such a way that their parts are traceable, if not functionally distinct. A hybrid car can run on gas OR electricity. It’s a term that looks backwards, towards its differing origins--a mule is a combination of a horse and a donkey. We know this. And if we didn’t, we could figure it out.

I propose that we speak, instead, of “mongrel” texts. “Mongrel” focuses on the indefinable ancestry of the piece. It forces us to grapple with what is before us, instead of tracing neat lines toward what preceded it.

Finally, the term “hybrid” not only looks towards the past—it sees no future. Hybrids are sterile; the mule cannot reproduce. The mongrel is only the beginning.


DeWitt said...

I love this.

Plus, hybrid sounds weak. Like an electric car with its little whirring noise and polite sensibilities.

Mongrel makes me think of a junkyard dog and a prince mating, producing an ogre. And that ogre would become a professor of physics at Princeton.


I disagree with the mule being sterile. I believe that if mankind--the really, really kind mans--were to get together, we could overcome that breeding problem. That "problem" is really more of a solution waiting to happen.

JT said...

Yes-- i like mongrels.

But I do have a concern about tracing lineage. I'm not so sure 'hybrid' texts have no interest in pointing to their ancestry or origins. I'm wondering if, for some texts, that's part of the point. To lay the bones bare.