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Literary Bible

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									                   A Glossary of Literary Terms
                                               -- A --
1. aesthetic. Connected with the appreciation or criticism of the beautiful. Aesthetics is the branch
of philosophy that explores the theory of the beautiful and the nature of art.

2. Aesthetic Movement, The. A movement during the 1890s in which sentimental archaism was
adopted as the ideal of beauty. In his novel Mademoiselle de Maupin (1838), the French poet and
novelist Theophile Gautier proclaimed that the only purpose of art was to be beautiful. The French
Symbolist poets attempted to translate that principle into practice. In English literature, the best
known proponent of this idea is Oscar Wilde, who in espousing "Art for Art's Sake,‖ claimed that
art was independent of morality.

3. Age of Reason, The. The term applies in English literature to the Restoration and AUGUSTAN
Periods, extending between the years 1660 and 1750. 'Augustan' is characterized by a sense of form,
balance, proportion, by classical order and discipline. It implies self-knowledge, self-control, a
sense of reality. These qualities were offset in society during this period by widespread self-
indulgence and excess; by material greed; by spiritual lassitude. It was an age that produced the
philosophy of Hobbes, the prose of Swift and Johnson, the poetry of Alexander Pope, and the
artwork of Hogarth.

4. agon. (Greek, ―contest‖ or ―conflict‖). In both COMEDY and TRAGEDY produced in classical
Greece, it represents the external or inner conflict that leads up to the turning point in the play.

5. alienation. The sense of estrangement from society or the self as a central feature of modern life.
In fiction, the alienated figures of Dostoevsky‘s Underground Man (Notes from Underground,
1864), Camus‘s The Stranger (1942), and Salinger‘s Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye,
1951) are just a few of the many figures haunted by the shallowness and hypocrisy of modern life.
One famous expression of this malaise can be found in Sartre‘s play No Exit: ―Hell is other people.‖

6. allegory. A description of one thing under the guise of another suggestively similar. Very
often, it's a story in which characters, animals, or situations are used symbolically. Famous
examples include Aesop's Fables and George Orwell's Animal Farm.

7. alliteration. The close repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginnings of words (Peter
Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers).

8. allusion. An indirect reference within a text to some person, place, or event outside the text.
Such references usually involve characters and events of mythology, legends, religion, history, and
literature. 'The face that launched a thousand ships' is an allusion to Helen of Troy.

9. ambiguity. (Latin, ―driving both ways‖). A word, phrase, or image whose meaning is unclear or
which signifies more than one thing, like a pun or a double entendre. ―Dark leaves,‖ for example
could signify a tree‘s leaves that are dark in color, or shady, or mysterious, or sinister; it could also

mean the darkness is departing and might suggest nighttime, or a room without lamps, or a period of
ignorance (like the so-called Dark Ages).

10. amphibrach. (Greek, ―short at each end‖). A metrical FOOT consisting of a stressed syllable
surrounded by two unstressed syllables (       ). Words that are amphibrachic include alluring,
deliver, and commotion. It is often found in the LIMERICK.

11. anapest. (Greek, ―beaten back‖). A metrical FOOT consisting of two unstressed syllables
followed by a stressed syllable (       ). In English, anapestic METER often starts galloping and is
hard to restrain, and it‘s unusual to find a poem entirely in anapestic feet. Byron's "Destruction of
Sennacherib" is a well-known poem in anapestic tetrameter (however, the –ian of Assyrian must be
elided into one syllable):

                       The Assyr/ian came down / like the wolf / on the fold.

12. anaphora. A figure of repetition, wherein words or phrases are repeated at the beginning of
successive verses or clauses. Here's an example from Keats' "Isabella":

                          And she forgot the stars, the moon, and the sun,
                          And she forgot the blue above the trees,
                          And she forgot the dells where waters run,
                          And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
                          She had no knowledge when the day was done,
                          And the new morn she saw not.

Although anaphora can sound monotonous, mechanical, and artificial, it can also bind a group of
words powerfully and memorably.

13. anastrophe. The inversion of natural word order, as in George Peele‘s ―His Golden lockes,
Time hath to Silver turn‘d,‖ which begins with the direct object; the natural order would be ―Time
hath turn‘d his Golden lockes to Silver,‖ which would change the METER and lose the rhyme—
serious defects in a poem written to be set to music.

14. anecdote. A brief account of a striking incident. Details of history hitherto unpublished.

15. Angry Young Men. A term applied to a group of English novels and plays in the 1950s that
featured protagonists who responded with articulate rage to the malaise of the times. This phrase
was originally the title of an autobiography published by Leslie Paul in 1951. The best-known
example is perhaps Jimmy Porter, the angry, working-class ANTI-HERO of John Osborne's play
Look Back in Anger (1960). The author shows his hatred of outworn social and political attitudes,
and strong reaction against "bourgeois" values.

16. angst. (German, ―anxiety‖ or ―anguish‖). The anxiety-neurosis of the years following the
Second World War expressed in the works of such writers as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.

17. annals. (Latin, annus, ―year‖). A narrative of events written year-by-year, generally historical

18. annotation. (Latin, annotare, ―to mark‖). The action of adding notes to a work or author, by
way of explanation or comment. An annotated edition is one printed with comments by the author
or an editor.

19. antagonist. (Greek, antagonistes, ―a rival‖). One who strives against another. The term is
used for the character opposing the hero or PROTAGONIST in drama. Iago is the antagonist in
Othello; Claudius is the antagonist in Hamlet.

20. anthology. Any collection of choice pieces of poetry or prose.

21. anticlimax. In fiction or drama, a falling off in intensity and interest following a serious high
point. An anticlimactic effect may be achieved over the span of several pages or even several
chapters. Anticlimax may be used intentionally, usually for comic effect, or it may be unintended,
the result of the author‘s ineptitude. When such an unintentional descent from the lofty to the trivial
or even ridiculous occurs while the author is trying to achieve the sublime, the effect is known as
BATHOS rather than anticlimax. The last ten chapters of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn –
chapters in which Huck arrives at Aunt Sally‘s place, is joined by Tom Sawyer, and goes along with
Tom‘s ridiculously and needlessly elaborate plans to rescue Jim – are often said to be anticlimactic.
In the following passage from Isabel Allende‘s The House of the Spirits (1982), Clara‘s anticlimac-
tic response to her husband‘s angry tirade reduces his fury to a pathetic and ineffectual effort to
control her:

       He shouted like a madman, pacing up and down the living room and slamming his
       fist against the furniture, arguing that if Clara intended to follow in her mother‘s
       footsteps she was going to come face to face with a real man, who would pull her
       pants down and give her a good spanking so she‘d get it out of her damned head to
       go around haranguing people, and that he categorically forbade her to go to prayer
       meetings or any other kind and that he wasn‘t some ninny whose wife could go
       around making a fool of him. Clara let him scream his head off and bang on the
       furniture until he was exhausted. Then, inattentive as ever, she asked him if he
       knew how to wiggle his ears.

22. anti-hero. The principal character in a play or novel who exhibits qualities the opposite of
those usually regarded as ―heroic.‖ This character has proven to be a staple of modern literature. In
Tradition and Dream, Walter Allen speaks of this term: "The anti-hero is indeed the other face of
the hero.... He is consciously, even unconsciously graceless." Meursault from The Stranger is one.

23. antiphon. The verse of a psalm, or other traditional passage, intoned or sung by alternating
choirs during Divine Office in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

24. antistrophe. (Greek, ―a turning back‖). In ancient Greek Drama, the part of a chorus chanted
on returning from left to right in reply to the strophe previously chanted when moving from right to
left. This reply reproduces exactly the meter of the STROPHE.

25. antithesis. The choice or arrangement of words to emphasize the contrast and give the effect of
balance. For example:
                              Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

26. aphorism. A concise or pithy observation or statement of truth or doctrine. Here's an example
from Oscar Wilde:
                  ―The pure and simple truth is never pure, and rarely simple."

27. apocalypse. (Greek, apokalupsis, ―unveiling‖). The last book of the New Testament
containing the revelation made to St. John on the island of Patmos. Generally speaking, it means
any disclosure of the future.

28. apocrypha. (Greek, apokruphos, ―hidden away‖). Writings of uncertain or unknown
authorship. Writings doubtfully attributed to certain authors (e.g., Chaucer and Shakespeare) are
called "apocyphal." This term also applies to stories and anecdotes about, or attributed to, a
particular person, though probably not genuine. The adjective that's applied to the authenticated
work of any author is canonical.

29. Apollonian and Dionysian. In his Birth of Tragedy (1872) Frederick Nietzsche used these terms
to show contrasting elements in ancient Greek tragedy. Apollo, the god of light and youth, stood
for reason, culture, and moral excellence. Dionysus, the god of wine, represented the irrational, the
frenzied, the undisciplined. Greek drama grew out of the dithyrambic choruses at the festival of
Dionysus and the Apollonian dialogue. Dionysian has been associated with ROMANTICISM,
Apollonian with CLASSICISM.

30. apology. (Greek, apologia, ―defense‖). A written work to defend or justify the writer's ideas or
beliefs. In his Apology, Plato sets before us Socrates defending himself at his trial in a series of
questions and answers. In the 18th century, apology came to be used loosely almost as a synonym
for autobiography, without any suggestion of justifying or defending the writer's ideas or conduct.

31. apostrophe. (Greek, ―turning away‖). An exclamatory address to some person, thing, or
personified abstraction, usually absent.

32. Arcadia. An idealized pastoral setting. A mountainous district in Greece taken as an ideal
rustic paradise. In pastoral verse, Arcadia is the home of shepherds and shepherdesses living in
simple innocence.

33. archaism. (Greek, archaios, ―ancient‖). The use of an old or obsolete word, idiom, or form.
Coleridge uses many archaisms in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

                                He holds him with his skinny hand,
                                'There was a ship,' quoth he.
                                'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"
                                Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

34. archetype. The original pattern from which copies are made; a prototype. Writers use
archetypal themes and images. For instance, the basic plot of the hero‘s quest is a recurring pattern
in myths and literature worldwide.

35. argot. A French term for jargon. Slang, originally that of thieves and vagabonds.

36. argument. (Latin, from the verb ―to make clear‖). The summary of a subject matter of a book
or poem that it precedes. A brief outline of the plot of a literary work or of each part of it. Each
book of John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost begins with a one-paragraph argument in prose.

37. aside. Words spoken in an undertone. In a theatrical production, words spoken by an actor
whom the other persons on stage are supposed to not hear.

38. assonance. A common method of producing an emotional effect in poetry with a succession of
dominant vowel sounds. Poe produces a melancholy effect in "The Raven" through the repetition of
the O:

                       And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on
                        the floor
                       Shall be lifted -- nevermore!

39. asyndeton. The omission of conjunctions between a series of clauses, as when Walt Whitman

                           All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well,
                             It becomes mine,
                           I am the man, I suffered, I was there.

This last line could be a pacifist‘s version of Julius Caesar‘s ―I came, I saw, I conquered‖ (another
example of asyndeton).

40. atmosphere. The general mood or feeling of a literary work. Atmosphere is presented by the
setting, time, conditions under which the characters live. In Macbeth, the first appearance of the
three witches establishes an atmosphere of danger and the foreboding of the supernatural, which
runs throughout the play.

41. attitude. The attitude of a writer to his subject determines the particular tone of his work: he
may be melancholy, satirical, enraged, optimistic, etc. In regard to certain forms of poetry, tone
has been described as "the manner of reading compelled upon one."

42. aubade. (French, ―dawn poem‖). A poem in which lovers complain of the appearance of
dawn, which requires them to part. The form achieved great popularity in medieval France and was
employed by Chaucer and later by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.

43. Aufklarung. (German, ―enlightenment‖). The great revival of art and letters, and the liberation
of the human spirit brought on by the Renaissance in the 14th century and continuing during the

15th and 16th centuries. In Germany, the principal figures of the Aufklarung are Leibnitz, the
philosopher and mathematician; Kant, the founder of modern thought; and Lessing, the leading
representative of the intellectual ideals of the movement.

44. Augustan Age. A great classical period in the literary life of any nation. It is named after the
emperor Augustus (27 B.C.- A.D. 14) in whose reign Virgil, Ovid, and Horace were famous. In
England, the term is applied to the NEOCLASSICAL PERIOD during which Alexander Pope was
in his heyday. In 1774, Horace Walpole wrote hopefully to Horace Mann:

                     "The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the
                     Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a
                     Xenephon at New York, and, in time, a Virgil at Mexico."

45. auxesis. The use of a more impressive word to exaggerate the importance of something, perhaps
ironically, such as calling a shouting match a ―brawl‖ or ―riot‖; it‘s the opposite of MEIOSIS.

46. avant-garde. (French, the vanguard of an army). In literature, this military metaphor is applied
to new writing showing innovations in style and matter. The words suggest an attack by progress-
sive elements on the bastions of some presumed-to-be-reactionary Establishment. The term implies
that true artists are ahead of their times, establishing new frontiers of thought and expression. Often
an avant-garde‘s criticism of prevailing forms of literature extends to criticism of society as a whole
– as , for example, the Beat movement‘s objection to American culture of the 1950s.

47. axiom. (Greek, axioma, that which is thought fit and worthy). In philosophy and mathematics,
a self-evident proposition which needs no proof or demonstration.

                                              -- B --
48. ballad. (Latin, ballare, ―to dance‖). Originally, a song accompanied by a dance. Later the
name was applied to a narrative poem of folk origin, sung to their own accompaniment by the
minstrels. Folk ballads, composed anonymously and passed down by word of mouth, were direct
and simple, with romantic, historical, or supernatural setting. Of these true medieval ballads, well-
known examples are "Chevy Chase," "Sir Patrick Spens," and "Edward." Literary ballads, on the
other hand, are composed by known poets; some literary ballads may follow the narrative tradition
of folk ballads while others depart from this to emphasize the emotions of the poet rather than a
specific story line. Most ballads have a regular pattern of rhythm and rhyme and use simple
language and REFRAINs as well as other forms of repetition.

49. ballad meter. A four-line stanza with alternating four-stress and three-stress lines (usually
iambic) rhyming ABCB, or sometimes ABAB.

50. ballade. This verse form, derived from Old French poetry, consists of 3 stanzas (8-10 lines
each) concluding with an ENVOY of 4 -5 lines. There can only be 3 or 4 rhymes throughout, in the
same order in each stanza, and with the same line ending each stanza and the envoy. The envoy
was often addressed to an important person and forms an invocation or dedication. The ballade

form is exemplified in Austin Dobson's "Ballade to Queen Elizabeth." Here are the first stanza and
the envoy:
                               King Philip had vaunted his claims;
                               He had sworn for a year he would sak us;
                               With an army of heathenish names
                               He was coming to fagot and stack us;
                               Like the thieves of the sea he would track us,
                               And shatter our ships on the main;
                               But we had bold Neptune to back us, --
                               And where are the galleons of Spain?


                                 GLORIANA! -- the Don may attack us
                                 Whenever his stomach be fain;
                                 He must reach us before he can rack us,...
                                 And where are the galleons of Spain?

51. bard. A Celtic tribal singer, minstrel, poet, and chronicler. The word is still used as a synonym
for Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon.

52. baroque. A term applied to the highly ornamental style of architecture that succeeded the style
of the Renaissance. More significant in art and in music than in literature, baroque reached its
culmination in 18th century France. A baroque literary style is exuberant and characterized by an
excess or ornament. In music, the term is applied to the 17th century period dominated by J.S.
Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi.

53. bathos. (Greek, bathus, ―deep‖). The descent from the sublime to the ridiculous in writing or
speech by an author who is striving for the noble and elevated. It‘s an unsuccessful attempt to
achieve PATHOS or the SUBLIME.

54. beatnik. Those members of the Beat Generation using unconventional dress, manners, and
behavior as a way of social protest. An anti-academic school of poetry that sprang up in the fifties
in New York‘s Greenwich Village and in San Francisco; characterized by fast-paced, associative,
free verse, a resemblance to jazz, a debt to Walt Whitman, a free-spirited attitude, and language that
is irreverent and slangy. The word beat may mean ―worn out‖ or ―beatific,‖ or it may refer to a
rhythmic beat, as in the pulse and improvisations of jazz. Novelist Jack Kerouac's On the Road
(1957) speaks for this group, as does poet Allen Ginsberg's Howl (1956).

55. belles-lettres. (French, ―fine letters‖). This term has been applied to polite or elegant literature.
Its meaning is restricted to literary studies, essays, and treatises, as distinct from technical and
scientific works.

56. Bildungsroman. (German, Bildung, ―formation‖ & Roman, ―novel‖). Novel portraying a young
person growing up or experiencing a period of intense personal development. Twain's Adventures

of Huckleberry Finn and Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye are notable examples. Other examples
include Dickens‘s David Copperfield and James Joyce‘s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

57. blank verse. Unrhymed verse written in IAMBIC pentameter. Blank verse is flexible, not
bound by recurring sound effects and structural webbing of rhyme. It is an effective form of talk
and storytelling (the monologues of Robert Browning, for instance) and storytelling (the narratives
of Robert Frost). Shakespeare uses it extensively in his plays.

58. blues. An African-American song form, derived from field hollers of slaves in the South. It
can refer either loosely to a song about being blue, about loss and hard times, or more especially to
a song in three-line blues form, in which the first two lines are roughly identical and the third line
rhymes with them.

59. Bowdlerize. From the name of Dr. Thomas Bowdler, who published in 1818 an edition of
Shakespeare intended for family reading. He expurgated everything which he considered indelicate
or profane. The term now means to expurgate a text without very sound judgment.

60. broadside. A sheet of paper consisting of a single page printed on one side only; especially a
popular ballad or tract so printed and sold in the streets, often as a vehicle for political agitation.

61. bucolic. (Greek, buokólos, ―herdsman‖). A term used to describe herdsmen and shepherds and
pastoral settings. Virgil's pastoral poems are known as Bucolics, dealing mostly with country life.

62. burlesque. An imitation of a literary work designed to ridicule its speech, action, ideas, etc.

                                                -- C --
63. cadence. The rhythm of poetry and prose produced by the arrangement of stressed and
unstressed syllables.

64. caesura. (Latin, caesum, ―to cut off‖). The break or pause between words within a metrical
foot; a pause in a line of verse, generally near the middle. In SCANSION, it‘s indicated by a double
slash. An example can be seen in Shakespeare‘s Sonnet 18:

                            So long as men can breathe, // or eyes can see,
                             So long lives this, // and this gives life to thee.

Poets composing in iambic pentameter usually try to vary the place where the caesura occurs from
line to line. There can be more than one caesura to a line. The absence of internal punctuation does
not necessarily mean that there is no caesura.

65. canon. (Greek, kanon, ―rule‖ or standard of excellence). The works of an author which are
accepted as genuine, for example, the Shakespeare canon. Also, a list of saints canonized by the
Roman Catholic Church.

66. canto. (Latin, cantus, ―song‖). A singing or chant section of a poem. A chief division of a
long poem. Dante's Divina Commedia is divided into 100 cantos; Byron's Don Juan is organized in

67. caricature. In literature, a character so exaggerated or distorted as to appear ridiculous yet
recognizable. Caricature usually serves a comic purpose, but the term is sometimes applied
pejoratively by a critic to a character who seems one dimensional.

68. carpe diem. (Latin, ―Enjoy the day‖). This phrase was first used by the Roman poet Horace
(65-8 B.C.). It has been applied ever since to the idea of taking advantage of the present moment.
In literature, the term refers to a type of poetry in which the poet implores the beloved to seize
pleasure rather than remain ―coy.‖ Two outstanding 17th century examples of this are Robert
Herrick‘s ―To the Virgins, To Make Most of Time‖ and Andrew Marvell‘s ―To His Coy Mistress.‖

69. catalectic. (Greek, katalektikós, ―left off‖). Applied to a metrical line which lacks one syllable
in the last FOOT as in these lines from Shelley's "Music, When Soft Voices":

                                   Music, / when soft / voices / die,

                                   Vibrates / in the / memor / y --

70. catastrophe. In Greek tragedy, it is the change which produces the final event, corresponding
to the play's FALLING ACTION.

71. catharsis. (Greek, katharsis, ―cleansing, purgation‖). In Greek tragedy, is the outlet to emotion
produced by the pity and fear that the audience feel.

72. chain of being. A metaphor depicting all existence as an interlocking chain, a gradation of
existence from the lowest to the highest. God was at one end of the chain, which extended down
from above to the nine orders of angels, to human beings, to animals, to animate and inanimate
objects, to nothing. The concept stretches back to Plato‘s Republic; it was to be developed more
extensively during the Middle Ages and the RENAISSANCE. It reached its culmination in the
theory of the 18th century philosopher Leibnitz, who used this concept to support his notion that this
is the best of all possible worlds, later satirized by Voltaire in Candide (1759). The most elegant
expression of the Chain concept is in Alexander Pope‘s Essay on Man (1734).

73. character. Characters can be classified as static, dynamic (sometimes called round), or flat. A
dynamic character changes in some important way as a result of the story‘s action. They have more
dimensions to their personalities – they are complex, solid, and multifaceted, like real people. In
contrast, a static character is a plausible portrayal of a person, but he does not change much in the
course of the story. A flat character has only one or two personality traits, sometimes to represent a
―type.‖ They are one-dimensional, and their personalities can be summed up in a single phrase.

74. characterization. The process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character. This
can be done through several methods: (a) by directly telling what the character is like: humble,

ambitious, etc. (b) by describing the character‘s physical appearance and dress (c) by describing
the character‘s personal environment – dwelling, possessions, etc. (d) by what the character says to
others (e) by revealing the character‘s private thoughts and feelings (f) by the reactions of other
characters to the individual in question (g) by the character‘s actions. The first of these methods is
known as direct characterization; it eliminates the need on the reader‘s part to figure out what a
character‘s personality is like. The remaining five methods are known as indirect characterization.
These require the exercise of judgment by the reader, the same judgment required in life itself.

75. choriamb. In SCANSION, it‘s an occasional FOOT consisting of one stressed syllable, two
unstressed syllables, and a final stressed syllable ( ).

76. classical. Pertaining to the ancient culture of Greece and Rome. The term is characterized by a
sense of form, balance, and proportion. It implies self-knowledge, self-control, and an unfaltering
sense of reality; also an adherence to externally imposed rules and canons. The Renaissance
rediscovery of classical literature led to the development in the 17th and 18th centuries of
NEOCLASSICISM – the conscious imitation of what were believed to be the forms of classical
literature. Although classical may be usefully opposed to the word romantic, yet they are not
mutually exclusive. The works of many writers, artists, and composers possess to some degree the
qualities of both.

77. closed couplet. One that is grammatically or logically complete. Each line has a logical pause
at the end, as in this closed couplet by Pope in "An Essay on Man":

                             Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
                             Man never is, but always to be blessed.

78. comedy. In general, it‘s a story that ends happily after a character overcomes a series of
obstacles and is reconciled with his or her opponents in the end in a way which suggests harmony.
As opposed to the elevated characters and tone of classical TRAGEDY, it deals with humorous,
familiar events and the behavior of ordinary people, speaking the language of everyday life. Its
purpose is to amuse, and the treatment of character often has touches of exaggeration and caricature
(see FARCE). Comedy can have a serious purpose, as in the humorous satire of Aristophanes, and
in the presentation by Chekhov of the universal predicament of sensitive, struggling people.

79. comic relief. A humorous scene in tragic drama or fiction that has the effect of temporarily
halting the mood of the play and thereby relieving the tension. As employed by Shakespeare in the
gravedigger‘s scene in Hamlet, the drunken porter episode in Macbeth, and the commentary of the
Fool in King Lear, comedy intensifies the tragedy by permitting us to see the tragic action from an
alternate point of view. Another form of comic relief occurs in the ironic juxtaposition of the comic
and the tragic.

80. conceit. A particularly fanciful metaphor. The conceit was frequently used in Elizabethan
poetry, and became a characteristic of John Donne and other METAPHYSICAL poets of the 17th

81. Concrete poetry. A modern term for ―pattern poetry,‖ a type of poetry that has existed since
the time of the ancient Greeks . A pattern, or concrete, poem is meant to be perceived as a visual
object and is at least as notable for its graphic design as for its verbal meaning. Thus, concrete
poems are not meant simply to be read; in fact, they cannot be read at all in the way we think of
reading. Such poems rarely employ conventional sentence structure and are often made up of a
single word or phrase, parts of which may be repeated, strategically placed on the page, or
otherwise graphically highlighted. A poem about a fish may be shaped like a fish; a poem about
motion might place the letters in the word motion in a wavy pattern on the page. Following is a
concrete poem by e. e. cummings written in 1958:






The poem characterizes loneliness by visually depicting the slow downward flutter of a single leaf
in the phrase ―(a / le / af / fa / ll / s).‖

82. confessional poetry. Works by American poets of the mid-twentieth century that uses personal
and private details from their own lives, material once considered too embarrassing to discuss
publicly. Includes the work of Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and John Berryman.

83. connotation. DENOTATION is the dictionary meaning of a word. Connotation is the
implication of something more than the accepted or primary meaning.

84. consonance. The recurrence of same or similar consonant sounds in poetry. Consonance is
used along with ASSONANCE and ALLITERATION as a sound effect. In the first stanza of
"Kubla Khan," Coleridge emphasizes the rapid movement of water through the repetition of the r

                                    In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
                                    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
                                    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
                                    Through caverns measureless to man
                                    Down to a sunless sea.

85. convention. A literary device, style, usage, situation, or form so widely employed that it has
become accepted and even expected by knowledgeable readers or audiences.

86. couplet. Two consecutive lines of verse rhyming together, usually in the same METER.
A two-line stanza.

87. courtly love. An attitude toward love, and a corresponding code of behavior, reflected in
medieval lyric poetry and romances. In both its social and literary guises, courtly love came to
exert an extraordinary influence throughout Western Europe. A representative model of courtly
love is the male lover, a young knight such as Lancelot or Tristan, who vows total obedience to his
lady, usually a married lady, whom he idolizes. This passion for an unattainable ideal throws the
lover into emotional torments which he transcends by noble deeds done in his lady‘s name. Courtly
love had a powerful influence on the literature of the Renaissance and on 19th century
ROMANTICISM. Courtly love represented the first expression of the belief that sexuality is the
consequence, not the cause, of love, and that sexual love is a noble passion that enhances and
enriches the lives of those who experience it.

88. crisis. The decisive moment in a play or story when a situation is dangerous and a decision
must be made. Several crises may occur, leading to a climax.

89. cubism. A style in art in which objects are so presented as to give the effect of a collection of
geometrical figures and shapes.

90. cynics. Originally a group of philosophers of 5th century B.C. Greece, who identified the
strength of the individual will and the virtue of self-control as the ultimate good. In their emphasis
on individualism, the cynics set themselves up against the accepted beliefs of their society,
particularly the belief in the essential goodness of human beings. A famous APOCRAPHAL story
relates the travels on foot of the cynic Diogenes, who walked the length and breadth of Greece with
a lantern looking for one honest man (he never found him).

                                              -- D --
91. dactyl. A metrical FOOT consisting of 3 syllables, one stressed syllable followed by two
unstressed syllables (  ). For example, two lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest:

                                Merrily, / merrily / shall I live / now

                                Under the / blossom that / hangs on the / bough.

92. dadaism. (French, dada, ―hobby horse‖). A disruptive, nihilistic movement in art and literature
started in Zurich, about 1916, by Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, and Hans Arp. According to its founder,
Tristan Tzara, ―Dada means nothing‖ – nothing, in this context, standing for the principle that

gratuitous, irrational, unconditioned element in life is the source of freedom and creativity. It was
the expression of revolt rising out of the horrors of the First World War, and sought through terms
of derision to destroy all sense of tradition in the arts, all values of conduct. In art, Marcel
Duchamp was among its chief proponents; Duchamp hung a urinal on a wall and called it art. Kurt
Schwitters created pictures out of dinner leftovers and stated, "Anything the artist spits is art." In a
cabaret, Hugo Ball, in fantastic clothes, read his poem composed of nonsense syllables. Sometime
in the 1920s, Dadaism lost its identity and merged with SURREALISM.

93. deism. A philosophical and religious position developed in the 18th century as part of the
ENLIGHTENMENT. Deism held that belief in God was consistent with human reason, but not
with the beliefs of specific religions that claim truth on the basis of divine revelation. Thus most
deists rejected the notion that the Bible contained the revealed word of God. Influenced by the
discoveries of scientists from Copernicus to Newton, Deists argued that although God had initiated
―the great clock‖ of the universe, the Deity had withdrawn from any involvement with or in the
activities of human kind.

94. denotation. The literal and factual meaning of a word. The dictionary definition, as opposed to
its CONNOTATION, or suggested meanings.

95. dénouement. The clearing up or ―untying‖ of plot complications in a story or play; usually a
final chapter or scene in which mysteries, confusions, and doubtful destinies are clarified.

96. deus ex machina. (Latin, ―God from the machine‖). In ancient Greek drama, when a god was
introduced to deal with a difficult situation, he was brought on stage by means of some mechanical
device, such as a crane which lowered him from the area atop the skene known as the theologeion.
Euripides used this method in some of his plays. The meaning of Deus ex machina has been
extended to imply an unexpected event in a play or novel which artificially clears up a difficulty.

97. diction. The selection and arrangement of words in speech and writing.

98. didactic. Intended to teach. Many literary works are didactic in intent or in effect.

99. dies irae. (Latin, ―day of wrath‖). The opening words of one of the greatest among medieval
Latin hymns. Often used as a component of the Catholic Mass for the Dead.

100. dimeter. A verse consisting of 2 measures (a measure being a metrical FOOT). Iambic
dimeter is exemplified in these lines from Dryden's "Alexander's Feast":
                                         With rav / ished Ears

                                         The Mon / arch hears,

                                         Assumes / the God,

                                         Affects / to nod

                                         And seems / to shake / the spheres.

101. dirge. A song sung at burial, or in commemoration of the dead.

102. dissonance. A combination of harsh-sounding words used for effect. Gerard Manely Hopkins
uses dissonant language in this excerpt from "The Wreck of the Deutschland":

                                    For how to the heart's cheering
                                    The down-dugged ground-hugged grey
                                    Hovers off, the jay-blue heavens appearing
                                    Of pied and peeled May!
                                    Blue-beating and hoary-glow height...

103. dithyramb. A Greek choral lyric originally connected with the worship of Dionysus, sung by
a 'circular choir,' probably of 50 singers. In the Poetics, Aristotle claimed that the dithyramb was
one of the roots from which TRAGEDY emerged.

104. doggerel. A rather vague term of abuse applied to trivial, jingling or irregular measures in
burlesque verse.

105. dopplegänger. (German, ―the double‖). A word used to describe a character whose divided
mind or personality is represented by two characters. Some notable examples include Robert Louis
Stevenson‘s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Poe‘s short stories ―William Wilson‖ and ―The Fall of
the House of Usher,‖ and Dostoyeveky‘s novel The Double.

106. double entendre. An ambiguous word or phrase with 2 meanings, one usually absurd or

107. dramatic irony. The device of putting into a speaker's mouth words which have for the
audience a meaning not intended by the speaker. Sophocles uses dramatic irony to great effect in
Oedipus Tyrannus. There is a second kind of dramatic irony where words spoken by a person later
recoil upon him. For instance, after the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth says to her husband, 'A
little water clears us of this deed'; yet in the sleep-walking scene she says that all the waters of the
ocean will not remove the stain of blood from her hand.

108. dramatic monologue. A poem in the form of a monologue featuring a speaker who addresses
one or more silent listeners. The reaction of this silent listener must be inferred by the reader. A
famous example is Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess."

109. dramaturgy. The art of composing dramas, and of producing them on the stage.

110. dumb show. In ELIZABETHAN drama, a mimed scene depicting an episode occurring
outside the time sequence of the play. The nest known example is the introductory segment of the
play- within-the-play in Shakespeare‘s Hamlet.

                                              -- E --

111. Edwardian Age. In England, the early years of the 20th century during the reign of King
Edward VII (1901-1910). Although it was a tranquil time of prosperity, stability, and assurance, it
was also a period of reaction against VICTORIAN values that saw the first stirrings of modernism.
It was also an age of social criticism and class conflict, during which the Women‘s Suffrage
Movement came into being. The Edwardian period was chronicled in the works of Geroge Bernard
Shaw, Joseph Conrad, and E. M. Forster. The period is usually seen as ending with the outbreak of
World War I.

112. elegy. (Greek, elegeia, ―mournful poem‖). A lyric poem meditating on the death of an
individual or on the fact of mortality in general. Elegies are love poems for the dead, tributes and
offerings to loss. Among the great English elegies are Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country
Churchyard," and Shelley's "Adonais," commemorating John Keats.

113. elision. (Latin, elidere, ―to strike out‖). The dropping out or suppressing of a vowel or
syllable in pronunciation or, less frequently, of a passage in a book. In poetry, it's the slurring
together of vowels in adjacent words so that a syllable is effectively deleted. (The verb form is
elide.) Elision may be marked with an apostrophe, as shown in this line from this line from John
Donne‘s Holy Sonnet 10, ―Death Be Not Proud‖:

                      Thou‘art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men.

114. Elizabethan. A term applied to the persons and writers of the 45-year reign of England‘s
Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Elizabethan literature is characterized by an intense national pride and a
sense of optimism expressed in rich, at times ornate, language. The glory of the age rests in its
popular drama; Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are its chief playwrights. The death of the
70 year-old queen in 1603 ushered in a new royal family, the Stuarts, and a new tone in literature.

115. ellipsis. The omission in a sentence of one or more words. Usually indicated by three periods

116. elocution. The effective use of voice and gesture in public speaking.

117. empirical. Known by observation and experience, and not by theory. Empiricism is the
philosophy which regards experience as the only source of knowledge.

118. end-rhyme. One which comes at the end of a line of verse.

119. end-stopped line. Having a strong pause at the end of a line of verse, usually signaled by a
punctuation mark. Sometimes there may be no punctuation even though the line is end-stopped, as
long as a thought or phrase is completed and doesn‘t run over to the next line. This is easily seen in
Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism":

                                A little learning is a dangerous thing;

                                Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
                                There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
                                And drinking largely sobers us again.

120. enjambment. In poetry, it's the continuation of a thought from one line to the next without
pause. Longfellow writes in a sonnet about Chaucer:

                               He is the poet of the dawn, who wrote
                               The Canterbury Tales, and his old age
                               Made beautiful with song; and as I read
                               I hear the crowing cock, I hear the note
                               Of lark and linnet, and from every page
                               Rise odours of plough'd field or flowery mead.

121. Enlightenment, The. An intellectual movement in 18th-century Europe celebrating human
reason and scientific thought as the instrument of emancipation, sweeping away the superstition and
ignorance that appeared to be the legacy of the past. The period is also known as the AGE OF
REASON since it was committed to the belief that, in the words of 18th-century philosopher John
Locke, ―Reason must be our last judge and guide.‖ Voltaire is a major figure of the Enlightenment.

122. envoy. (French, envoyer, ―to send‖). The final section of a poem commending the poem to
the person to whom it is dedicated.

123. epic. A long narrative poem that usually focuses on a heroic figure or group and events that
form the cultural history of a nation or tribe. The epic hero undergoes a series of adventures that
test his valor, intellect, and character. Among the conventions of the epic are the author‘s
invocation to the muse, the opening of the action in the middle of things (IN MEDIAS RES), and
the long lists, or catalogues, of ships, armies, or, as in John Milton‘s Paradise Lost, devils. The
most famous epics include Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, and Dante's Divina

124. epigram. A short poem ending in a witty or ingenious turn of thought. Hence, a pungent or
antithetical statement. For example, this pen stroke from Oscar Wilde:

                             I can resist everything except temptation.

125. epigraph. A quotation placed at the beginning a book or a chapter as a motto to illustrate its
title or designate its theme.

126. epilogue. The conclusion of a literary work, often as a follow-up to situations presented
earlier, sometimes dealing with the future of the characters.

127. epiphany. In literature, a moment of sudden insight or revelation that a character experiences.

128. episodic. Of the nature of an episode. A literary work which has a number of self-contained
episodes not closely connected with the central theme of the story.

129. epistemology. The branch of philosophy that deals with what can be known.

130. epistle. A letter, especially one from an apostle of Christ, forming part of the canon of
scripture and ranking as literature. It is also a verse letter, a form used by many English poets.

131. epistrophe. The repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive lines or clauses, as in
the repetition of ―nothing‖ in T.S. Eliot‘s ―‘Do/ ‗You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you
remember/ ‗nothing?‘‖ (from The Waste Land).

132. epithalamium. A poem written in honor of a marriage.

133. epithet. A word or phrase that comes to form part of or to substitute for a person's name or
title, or that is used repeatedly to describe a particular noun as in Homer‘s ―wine-dark sea.‖
Example: Richard the Lion Hearted. In Homer, the goddess Athena is usually referred to as Athena
Bright Eyes.

134. eponym. A real or mythical person from whose name the name of a nation, institution, idea,
or term has been derived. For example, Miguel de Cervantes‘ character Don Quixote is the eponym
for the word quixotic, which describes someone who is like the character – impractical, romantic,
and visionary. Another example is BOWDLERIZE.

135. eulogy. A statement or oration in praise of a person, often deceased. In Julius Caesar, Mark
Anthony eulogizes Brutus:

                               This was the noblest Roman of them all!
                               All the conspirators, save only he,
                               Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
                               He only, in general honest thought
                               And common good to all, made one of them.
                               His life was gentle, and all the elements
                               So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
                               And say to all the world 'This was a man!'

136. euphemism. The substitution of a less distasteful word or phrase for a more truthful but more
offensive one; for example, stout for fat.

137. euphony. Pleasing, harmonious sounds free from harshness.

138. evocative. (Latin, evocare, ―to call out‖). Tending to call forth. Evocative language,
therefore, falls for the images, associations, memories, feelings, reactions. Evocative names of
characters and places suggest some characteristic of the person or place in question. Dickens
frequently populates his novels with evocative character and place names: Mr. M'Choakumchild of
Coketown, for instance in Hard Times.

139. exegesis. The analysis or interpretation of a portion of a text, usually a passage or key phrase.
The term is used most often in interpretations of the Bible.

140. exhortation. A speech or formal discourse intended to urge strongly and earnestly a course of
action. A famous example in poetry is found in Tennyson's "Ulysses":

                           We are not now that strength which in old days
                           Moved earth and heaven: that which we are, we are;
                           One equal temper of heroic hearts,
                           Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
                           To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

141. existentialism. A 20th century point of view espoused by Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and
others to the effect that man is alone in a godless and, therefore, absurd universe.

142. expletive. (Latin, expletivus, ―filling out‖). A word inserted merely to fill up a gap; a word
which adds nothing to the sense. One example is the use by uneducated people of 'you know', 'sort
of', when they have no real meaning. Obscenities are often referred to euphemistically (or
humorously) as expletives.

143. explication. A form of critical analysis that involves the ―close reading‖ of a literary text.
Close reading requires a careful examination of the language and structural features of a work,
particularly LYRIC poetry

144. exposition. Giving the necessary information about the characters and the situation at the
beginning of a play or novel.

145. expressionism. In modern literature, any deliberate distortion of reality. A movement in the
early 20th century that explored the depths of the human psyche, represented by a range of artistic
devices including symbolism, fantasy, and distorted representations of reality.

                                                -- F --

146. falling action. The part of a play which follows the climax.

147. farce. A type of COMEDY in which ridiculous and often stereotyped characters are involved
in far-fetched, silly situations. The humor is farce is based on crude physical action, slapstick, and
clowning. Think of The Three Stooges. However, many elements of Shakespeare‘s dramas contain
farce; The Tempest is one of these.

148. feminine ending. A term for an unstressed final syllable in a line of verse, which in a line of
iambic pentameter usually counts as an extra syllable. Here‘s an easily recognized example:

                             To be / or not / to be, // that is / the ques/tion

In this instance the unstressed eleventh syllable tion represents the feminine ending. In a masculine
ending, the accent falls on the final syllable.

149. feminine rhyme. End Rhymes featuring unstressed, final syllables. For example, this couplet
from Pope's "An Essay on Man":

                          What can / enno/ble sots, / or slaves, / or cow/ards

                          Alas! / not all / the blood / of all / the How/ards.

150. figurative language. The term is equivalent to metaphorical, and opposed to literal.
Figurative language includes metaphor, simile, personification, metonymy, and synecdoche.

151. figure of classical rhetoric (also called rhetorical devices and figures of speech). Ways of
transforming the natural order or literal meaning of words, in order to make a text more inventive,
emphatic, rhythmic, impressive, or memorable. There are two kinds: schemes (changes in word
order) and tropes (changes in word sense). What follows is a list of both types. These terms are
defined in greater detail throughout this glossary.


   Alliteration: repetition of consonants at the beginnings of words
   Anaphora: repetition of the first word or phrase at the beginning of successive lines
   Anastrophe: inversion of natural word order
   Antithesis: juxtaposition of conflicting ideas or images, usually arranged in parallel structure
   Assonance: repetition of vowel sounds
   Asyndeton: omission of conjunctions between a series of clauses
   Consonance: repetition of consonant sounds
   Epistrophe: repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive lines or clauses
   Parenthesis: insertion of words that interrupt the sentence flow
   Polyptoton: repetition of words derived from the same root
   Polysyndeton: repetition of conjunctions such as ―and‖


   Apostrophe: direct address to someone absent or to something abstract
   Auxesis: use of a more impressive word to exaggerate the importance of something
   Hyperbole: overstatement or exaggeration
   Irony: the use of a word to convey the opposite of its meaning
   Litotes: understatement
   Meiosis: use of a less impressive word to minimize the importance of something
   Metaphor: a comparison omitting ―like‖ or ―as‖
   Metonymy: use of an associated word for what is really meant
   Onomatopoeia: word or phrase whose sound imitates the sense
   Oxymoron: word combination that seems like a contradiction

   Personification: attachment of human qualities to something non-human
   Pun: a play on words
   Simile: comparison using ―like‖ or ―as‖
   Synecdoche: a part standing for the whole

152. flashback. A scene of the past shown momentarily in a film, by way of explanation or
comment. It may also be inserted into a play, story, or novel.

153. flat characters. Sometimes referred to as "types." In their purest form, they are constructed
around a single idea or quality.

154. foil. A character who is used as a contrast to another character. The use of the foil emphasizes
the differences between two characters, bringing out the distinctive qualities in each. For example,
Horatio, Hamlet‘s even-tempered, sensible friend, serves as a foil to highlight the Prince‘s
emotional volubility.

155. folio. A leaf of paper folded in half, or a volume made from such sheets; largest-size volume.
All of Shakespeare's plays (except Pericles) were first collected in 1623 and published in a folio
edition. The reference is actually to the size of the page, but in effect it means the early collected
editions of his plays appearing in 1632, 1663, 1664, and 1685.

156. foot. A unit in the scansion of verse, containing in English poetry one strong stress or accent.

                       commonly used feet      occasional feet

                       iambus                   spondee
                       trochee                  pyrrhic
                       anapest                  amphibrach
                       dactyl                   amphimacer

157. frame story. A story within a story; a narrative which unfolds within the frame of another. An
example is Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, wherein pilgrims on a trip to Canterbury Cathedral relate
individual tales that are complete in themselves.

158. free verse. A kind of verse without METER and usually without rhyme. This irregularity
may give force to the thought and expression. However, Robert Frost said, "Writing free verse is
like playing tennis with the net down." Modern free verse in English begins with Walt Whitman,
who modeled his long lines on the Bible and on grand opera; in French, it begins with Arthur
Rimbaud, who simply rebelled against everything. T.S. Eliot writes, ―No vers is libre for the man
who wants to do a good job.‖ At its best, free verse can surge in waves or pull back, inventing itself
as it goes. At worst, it can be (as Ezra Pound, one of its early practitioners, points out) ―prose
chopped up into lines.‖

159. Freytag’s Pyramid. In 1863 Gustav Freytag published Die Technik des Dramas in which he
described the structure of the well-made play. Freytag‘s design features five movements arranged in
a pattern of rising and falling action. The pyramid, or diagrammatic plot, is shown below:

                       rising action                          falling action


                             complication                  reversal

                         exposition                             denouement

                                              -- G --
160. genre. The category to which a literary work belongs, such as epic, lyric, comedy, tragedy.
From the 15th to the 18th centuries, various genres showed marked differences which were
accepted by the writers of the time. In Hamlet Shakespeare satirizes this approach to classification
on Polonius‘s catalogue of the types of drama:

             The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral,
             pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-

Polonius‘s effort reminds us that the lines between genres are often blurred , and the effort to be too
precise can lead only to confusion. Today, less concern is shown in these distinctions. Recent
developments in literature and film, such as the nonfiction novel or the ‗docudrama‘ suggest a
blurring of genres. In art, "genre painting" deals with subjects taken from everyday life.

161. gloss. Originally, a word or phrase inserted between lines or in the margin to explain a
difficult word or phrase in the text. It can include explanatory commentary by an editor or the
author himself. A glossary is a collection of glosses. Gloss may also be used as a verb.

162. Golden Age. A mythical era celebrated in classical and Renaissance literature. The myth of
the golden age recounts a happy primitive state in man‘s prehistory, when justice, peace, and love
prevailed. The earliest reference appears in Hesiod‘s Works and Days (8th century B.C.), which
speaks of four prehistorical ages. The first of these was the golden era, when men lived in harmony
with nature and the gods and died painless deaths. The end of the golden age was followed by a
series of progressively deteriorating eras: the silver, bronze, and iron ages. With the humanist
revival in the RENAISSANCE, the golden age motif was incorporated in the works of most of the
major writers, including Shakespeare.

163. Grail. (from Latin, crater, ―a cup‖). In medieval legend, it was the cup used by Christ at the
Last Supper, in which Joseph of Arimathea collected the blood of Jesus at the cross. In literature,
the Grail cycle has two distinct legends, the most famous of which is the Quest by Perceval, a
knight of the Round Table, for certain talismans.

164. Greek tragedy, structure of. A Greek tragedy contained the following parts:

   a. prologos, the prologue, the part before the entrance of the
      chorus, setting forth in monologue or dialogue the subject of
      the drama.

   b. parados, the song accompanying the entrance of the chorus.

   c. epeisodia, the episodes or scenes in which one or more actors
      took part with the chorus.

   d. stasima, songs of the chorus now "standing in one place," and
      expressing emotions rising from the drama.

   e. exodos, the last stasimon, or final scene.

165. grotesque. Decorative painting or sculpture that is monstrous in appearance, combining
animal and human forms with foliage and scrollwork. Applied to literature, it means a work in
which abnormal or bizarre characters or incidents are presented in a mix of comedy and pathos or
horror. The incompatibility of the mix creates in the reader the kind of conflicted response that one
makes to a ―sick joke‖: on the one hand, funny; on the other, nauseating or horrifying.

                                               -- H --
166. haiku. A Japanese poetic form: three lines containing seventeen syllables, usually arranged 5-
7-5. The essential elements of haiku are brevity, immediacy, spontaneity, imagery, the natural
world, a season, and sudden illumination. Here‘s one by Matsuo Basho (1644-94):

                                       what with fleas and lice
                                       the horse having a good piss
                                       right at the pillow

167. hamartia. An error in judgment caused by ignorance or sudden weakness. Aristotle says this,
in his Poetics, when discussing the tragic hero: "He should be a man, not pre-eminently virtuous
and just, whose misfortune is brought upon him, not by vice and wickedness, but by some personal
error." In some English translations of the Poetics, hamartia has been defined as ―tragic flaw,‖ a
phrase that has led to the misinterpretation that sees the ―flaw‖ as the ―cause‖ of the hero‘s
downfall. Hamlet‘s indecision, for instance, has been seen erroneously as his ―tragic flaw,‖ a view

given wide circulation in Laurence Olivier‘s 1948 film version of the play, which opens with a
voiceover comment, ―This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.‖ The notion of
the tragic flaw suggests that the hero‘s deeds and his fate are always commensurate, an attitude
which reduces the complex tragic mystery to a simplistic equation.

168. Harlem Renaissance. An African-American literary movement centered in New York City‘s
Harlem area in the 1920s. It was influenced by jazz and the blues. The poets of the Harlem
Renaissance celebrated black culture, contemplated the movements of blacks from the rural South
to the urban North, and attacked the forces that oppressed blacks in America. Poets of the Harlem
Renaissance include Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen.

169. Hellenism. The Greek spirit. A term applied to the civilization, language, art, and literature
which is Greek in character. The attitude to life based upon intellect and the appreciation of beauty,
seen in Shelley and Keats.

170. hendecasyllabic. A line of verse having eleven syllables. The term usually refers to the
classical pentameter line, generally in Catullus and Martial, in which the first and last feet are
spondees, the second foot a dactyl, the third, fourth, and fifth trochees. In "Milton.
Hendecasyllabics," Tennyson imitates it in lines beginning:

                               Look, I /come to the /test, a /tiny /poem

                               All com/posed in a /meter /of Cat/ullus,

                              All in /quantity,/ careful /of my /motion,

                               Like the /skater on /ice that /hardly /bears him.

171. heptameter. A line of verse consisting of seven metrical feet. The seven-FOOT line is also
called the septenary (also known as the fourteener) when it's composed of seven iambic feet. Here
are some lines from Arthur Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses:

                 More cheer/ful than /the win/ter's sun /or sum/mer's shad/ow cold,

                 More seem/ly and /more come/ly than /the plane/ tree to /behold,

                Of val/ue more /than apples be /although /they were/ of gold...

172. heroic couplet. A couplet in iambic pentameter, so called because it was used for epic or
heroic poetry. This is from Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism":

                          True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
                          As those move easiest who have learned to dance.

173. hexameter. A line of six metrical feet. Dactyllic hexameter, the oldest known form of Greek
verse, was the meter of epic poems including those of Homer.

174. historic (or literary) present. The use of present tense in the narration of past events.
Newspaper headlines use it all the time e.g., Man Bites Dog.

175. Homeric epithet. Homer joined certain adjectives and nouns to make compound adjectives;
for example, wine-dark sea, rosy-fingered dawn, swift-footed Achilles. These compound adjectives
have an associative quality linked in an identifying sense to the nouns they describe. "Swift-footed"
would not be a Homeric epithet if it were applied to someone other than Achilles. Throughout both
the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer substitutes en epithet for a character‘s name. For example, instead of
saying the name Hector, he‘ll insert the epithet Tamer of Horses for the gallant son of the Trojan
King Priam.

176. homily. A sermon explaining part of the Bible and offering some guidance.

177. homophone. Term applied to written characters or symbols expressing the same sound, such
as C and K, and to words pronounced the same, but written differently, such as key-quay; pain-

178. Horatian ode. An ode in which each written stanza has the same length, rhyme scheme, and
meter. It is named after the Roman poet Horace, famous for this particular form.

179. hubris. The insolent pride in the Greek tragic hero that leads him to ignore the warnings of the
gods and invites disaster.

180. humanism. An attitude of mind, a system of thought, which concentrates especially upon the
activities of man, rather than upon the external world of nature, or upon religious ideals.

181. humours. (Latin, humor, ―moisture‖). In ancient and medieval physiology, the four fluids of
the body: blood, phlegm, choler, and bile. These corresponded to the four elements in nature: earth,
air, fire, and water, respectively. The proportions and combinations of these humours were believed
to determine the physical and mental qualities of human beings. In a hot-headed individual, choler
would be disproportionately dominant, for example. No one, according to medieval philosophers,
had ever had these humours in perfect balance – except Jesus Christ.

182. hyperbole. Exaggeration, for the purpose of emphasis. For instance, saying "I'm so
embarrassed I could die" hardly suggests lethality.

                                               -- I --
183. iamb (also called iambus). A metrical foot of two syllables, an unstressed followed by a
stressed syllable ( ). It is the normal foot of English verse. The following quatrain by Walter
Landor is in iambic tetrameter:
                                  Stand close around, ye Stygian set,
                                  With Dirce in one boat convey'd!
                                  Or Charon, seeing, may forget
                                  That he is old and she a shade.

184. ibidem. (Latin, ―in the same place‖). It means, in the same book, chapter, or passage. Often
abbreviated as ibid., or ib.

185. icon. (Greek, eikon, ―image‖). An image or statue, represented in the Eastern Church by
paintings and mosaic, of a sacred personage, and itself regarded as sacred.

186. iconoclast. One who assails established or cherished beliefs.

187. identical rhyme. The repetition of the same word in the rhyming position, so used for
emphasis, as in this excerpt from Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner":

                                 Then all averred, I had killed the bird
                                 That brought the fog and mist.
                                'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
                                 That bring the fog and mist.

188. id est. (Latin, ―that is‖). That is to say. Abbreviated as i.e.

189. idiom. A speech form that is peculiar to itself within a given language. In general, idioms are
expressions that make no literal sense; their meaning comes from general acceptance over time.
Examples: "rise to the occasion"; "follow events at close hand."

190. idyll. An idealized narrative of happy innocence, in pastoral form, often in verse. Tennyson's
Idylls of the King is a collection of verse stories about the King Arthur's court, albeit far from
pastoral. The adjective form is idyllic, which refers to something that is natural, simple, peaceful,
and picturesque.

191. imagery. Pictures in words, usually presented by appealing to one or more of the five senses.
From John Keats' "The Eve of St. Agnes" we have the following series of images conveying the
sensations of coldness:
                             St. Agnes' Eve -- Ah, bitter chill it was!
                             The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
                             The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass
                             And silent was the flock in wooly fold

192. impressionism. A way of writing that does not deal with objective reality, but gives the
impressions formed by the author. The term comes from the art doctrine started in France in the
first half of the nineteenth century that a picture should record the immediate sensuous impressions
made upon the painter when he looks at the objects he is representing.

193. imprimatur. (Latin, ―let it be printed‖). Official license to print. A book given an
imprimatur by the Catholic Church, for instance, meant that the work was considered to be free of
doctrinal or moral error.

194. in medias res. (Latin, ―in the middle of the thing‖). A term used to describe story narration
that plunges the reader into the thick of things rather than start at its chronological beginning. For
instance, Homer begins The Iliad, not with an explanation of how the Trojan War started, but with
an angry Achilles sulking in his tent over a perceived blow to his honor and refusing to fight. In
other words, we are thrown into the middle of things by this narrative technique.

195. internal rhyme. Rhyme falling in the middle as well as at the end of the same metrical line.
Poe does it throughout "The Raven":

                  Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
                  Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore --
                  While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
                  As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

196. irony. A contrast or discrepancy between expectations and reality. Irony in literature has
three major categories: Verbal irony occurs when a writer or speaker says one thing that actually
means the opposite. The person who says, ―I just love getting my teeth pulled‖ illustrates this.
Situational irony occurs when what happens is the opposite of what is expected or appropriate. In
the case of dramatic irony, the audience or reader knows something important that a character does
not. In addition to the literary variants, there‘s Socratic irony. Socrates, in discussion, often adopted
another person's viewpoint in order finally to ridicule him and reveal his weaknesses. In this
instance irony is used as an argumentative tactic.

                                                -- J --
197. Jacobean. Belonging to the reign of King James I (1603-1625); the word itself is derived
from the Latin word for James. In contrast to the promise and optimism of the Elizabethan era,
Jacobean literature was colored by darker, doubting tones. In addition to the drama of the period,
the word is also applied to architecture and furniture. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1599) and
Hamlet (1600) are Elizabethan plays. Othello (1604), King Lear (1605) and Macbeth (1606) are
Jacobean plays.

198. jargon. Unintelligible words; a way of speech full of unfamiliar terms; the vocabulary of a
science, profession, or art. Generally used in a derogatory sense.

199. juvenalia. (Latin, juvenis, ―young‖). Early works produced in an author's or artist's youth.

                                               -- K --
200. King’s English. Now, of course, the Queen's English, as it was in Victorian times. Correct,
standard English.

201. Kabbalah (Cabala). A set of esoteric doctrines developed within Judaism between the third
century B.C. and the 14th century A.D. Among the elements of the Kabbalah‘s doctrines were the
belief in a primordial man who was both male and female, in orders of angels, in a view of sin as
separation from God, and in the attribution of special importance to certain numbers. Among the
books that constitute the Kabbalah, the most important is the Zohar (The Book of Splendor).

                                               -- L --
202. lament. A conventional form of mourning. A dirge, an elegy composed and sung or played
on the occasion of some death or calamity.

203. lampoon. (Old French, lampons, ―let us guzzle‖). A virulent or scurrilous piece of satire
either in prose or verse. Lampoons, which are personal attacks, appeared widely in the 17th and
18th centuries, and were later checked by libel laws. In modern usage, this word is also a verb.

204. lay. (Old French, lei, ―melody‖). A short lyric or narrative poem which is intended to be sung.
During the latter part of the 12th century, lays, dealing with legend or romantic adventure, were
sung by minstrels in France. The term also applies to verse narrative to be recited without music,
such as Sir Walter Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel."

205. leitmotiv, also leitmotif. Short, recurrent phrases in literature or music, or recurrent images in
film used to underscore theme. In his operas Richard Wagner repeated certain musical phrases in
association with specific characters and ideas. The repeated sound of a breaking musical string in
Chekhov‘s The Cherry Orchard (1904) is one example from literature, and George Lucas‘ use of
Darth Vader‘s theme music on the soundtrack of Star Wars (1976) is an example from film.

206. libretto. (Italian, ―little book‖). The book or words of an opera, oratorio, or long musical
work. The author of such a work is called a librettist. Lorenzo da Ponte was the librettist of
Mozart's La Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutti. Wagner was his own librettist.

207. light verse. Verse written to entertain. It includes parodies, limericks, epigrams, and nonsense

208. limerick. Nonsense verse set out in a facetious jingle, usually consisting of five lines with a
rhyme scheme of AABBA and a meter that's heavily anapestic. For example:

                              There was a great sculptor named Phidias
                              Whose knowledge of art was invidious.

                                He carved Aphrodite
                                 Without any nightie,
                                Which outraged the purely fastidious.

209. litany. A series of petitions recited by the clergy in church services, with responses repeated
by the congregation.

210. literal. (Latin, littera, ―letter‖ of the alphabet). Based on what is actually written or
expressed. Taking words in their usual or primary sense, thus apt to miss the real spirit or meaning.
Hence, unimaginative, matter-of-fact.

211. litotes. (Greek, litos, ―plain‖; ―meager‖). A rhetorical understatement in which a negative is
substituted for a positive remark. For example, "it was no mean feat" means that it was a great
accomplishment. It‘s a form of MEIOSIS.

212. local color. Writing in which the scene is set in a particular locality to convey the particular
character and flavor of the place. The emphasis is on the distinctive characteristics of a region:
dialect, dress, mannerisms, culture, etc.

213. loco citato. (Latin, ―in the place cited‖). Abbreviated in research writing as loc. cit. or l.c.

214. Lost Generation. A term used to describe a group of young American writers of the 1920s
who experienced ALIENATION and the loss of ideals resulting from World War I and its
aftermath. These writers generally felt that the values with which they were brought up were a
sham, given the senselessness of the war and the consequent devaluation of human life. As a group,
they rejected what they viewed as a hypocritical society that falsely espoused puritanical values.
Many American members of the Lost Generation became expatriates in the 1920s, clustering
usually in Paris and London. The phrase itself derives from a comment Gertrude Stein made to
Ernest Hemingway, ―You are a lost generation.‖ Hemingway used the quotation as the EPIGRAPH
to his novel The Sun also Rises (1926), which recounts the disillusionment of a group of young
people in the wake of the war.

215. lyric. One of the three main genres of poetry (the others being dramatic poetry and narrative
poetry). It is poetry in which music predominates over story or drama. Originally a song intended
to be sung and accompanied on the lyre. The meaning has been enlarged to include any short poem
directly expressing the poet's own thoughts and emotions. The BALLAD, ODE, ELEGY, and
SONNET are special forms of the lyric.

                                               -- M --
216. macrocosm. The "great world" or universe, as distinguished from the "little world," or

217. magical realism. A term referring to fiction that integrates realistic elements with
supernatural or fantastic experiences, a with a matter-of-fact tone. In American literature, magic
realism has become a prominent feature in contemporary works by Toni Morrison (Beloved, 1987)
and Alice Walker (The Color Purple, 1982).

218. malapropism. The ridiculous misuse of words caused by the replacing of one word for
another, similar in sound but different in meaning. The term is derived from Mrs. Malaprop, a
character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775). Mrs. Malaprop says things like,
"You'll have a shrewd awakening."

219. marginalia. Marginal notes, references, or comments intended to illuminate a text.

220. masculine ending. This occurs when a line of verse concludes on a stressed syllable, as in
these lines by Ben Jonson on Fancy:

                         And Fancy, I tell you, has dreams that have wings,
                         And dreams that have honey, and dreams that have stings.

221. masculine rhyme. This is a rhyme limited to a single stressed syllable, as used by Edward
Lear in the first two lines of a limerick:

                                 There was an old man in a Marsh,
                                 Whose manners were futile and harsh.

222. matin: matins. (Latin, matutinus, ―belonging to the morning‖). One of the seven canonical
hours of the Roman Catholic Church, properly a midnight office, sometimes recited at daybreak.
The public morning prayer in the Church of England. A morning song of birds.

223. maxim. (Latin, maxima, ―greatest‖). A general truth which is drawn from experience. It is
also a rule of conduct; a precept. Here's a maxim from Plutarch:

                                  Success is getting what you want;
                                  happiness is wanting what you get.

224. meiosis. (Greek, ―lessening‖). The use of a less impressive word to minimize the importance
of something. Similar to LITOTES. It is commonly used in colloquial English; for example, 'That
was some opera.' or 'The royal procession was rather good.' Calling a fistfight a ―misunder-
standing‖ would be another example. It‘s the opposite of AUXESIS.

225. melodrama. (from Greek melos, ―song‖). Originally a stage play with songs interspersed.
Now a type of drama that highlights suspense and romantic sentiment, with characters who are
usually clearly good or bad. It often features a happy ending.

226. metaphor. (Greek, metaphora, ―transference‖). The application of a name or a descriptive
term to an object to which it is not literally applicable. An implied comparison not using 'like' or
'as.' From Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, we have the following metaphor:

                              A child said What is grass? fetching it to
                              one with full hands;...
                              And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut
                              hair of graves.

Be aware of the variants of this term. A direct metaphor states that one thing is another, such as
―the stars are icy diamonds‖ (―stars like icy diamonds is a SIMILE). Then there is the implied
metaphor which suggests a comparison rather than blatantly stating it (―Against her formal black
gown, she wore a constellation of diamonds‖ is an example). An extended, or controlling metaphor
is developed over several lines or even through an entire poem or paragraph. Avoid the mixed
metaphor, which is the inconsistent mixture of two or more metaphors – often with absurd results
(―The ship of state went into a tailspin‖).

227. metaphysical poetry. English poetry of the early 17th century that is characterized by
passionate thought, the succession of concentrated images, the exercise of elaborate comparisons
(see CONCEIT and WIT). John Donne and Andrew Marvell fall under this category.

228. metonymy. (Greek, metonumia, ―name-change‖). A figure of speech in which a thing is
represented by something closely associated with it. For example, substituting crown for king, or
Kremlin for officials in the Russian government.

229. meter (metre). Any form of poetic rhythm, determined by the type and number of feet in a
line or passage of verse.

230. microcosm. The 'little world' of human nature; a man viewed by ancient philosophers as a
miniature representation of the 'great world' (MACROCOSM).

231. mimesis. (Greek, mimos, ―an imitator‖). In the Poetics, Aristotle states that tragedy is, by
skillful selection and presentation, an imitation of the action of life. Shakespeare shows mimesis
through his use of the word 'playing' in Hamlet:

                    Anything so done is from the purpose of playing, whose end
                    both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the
                    mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn
                    her own image, and the very age and body of the time his
                    form and pressure....

232. mixed metaphor. A mistake in writing arising from insensitivity to the literal meaning of
words and phrases. The two elements in a mixed metaphor are disparate and clashing, as in these

                                I smell a rat: I shall nip it in the bud.
                                She is a budding star who already sings with a
                                master hand.

233. modernism. A broad trend in literature and the other arts from approximately 1890 to 1940
reflecting many artists‘ concerns over society‘s loss of traditional values. In general, modernist
writers sought new forms to reflect the fragmentation and uncertainty that they felt characterized
modern life. Many modernist poets, for example, rejected traditional METER in favor of FREE
VERSE. Novelists such as James Joyce employed a new technique called STREAM OF
CONSCIOUSNESS the jagged internal monologue of their characters‘ thoughts.

234. motif. A particular idea or dominant element running throughout a work of art, forming part
of the main theme. An example is the idea of decay permeating Hamlet.

335. motivation. The reasons that compel a character to act the way he or she does. A character‘s
motivations fuel the plot of a story and set it into motion.

236. muses. In Greek mythology the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory) were nine
Muses. They were conceived as minor goddesses, inspirers of different arts and sciences. Homer
begins The Iliad by calling upon Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry, for inspiration. Other muses:
Clio (history), Erato (love poetry), Euterepe (lyric poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia
(songs to the gods), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy)

237. narrative poetry. Verse that tells a story, presenting characters and leading them through a
plot. The oldest form is the epic, such as Homer‘s Iliad. Traditional ballads are also narrative. The
most notable example in English is Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

238. naturalism. A movement in fiction begun in France in the late 19th century. Naturalist
writers were influenced by the biological theories of Darwin and by the concept of social
determinism. Its subjects are drawn from the lower strata of society, and no detail of their sordid,
unhappy lives was spared. Emphasis was placed on the social environment of the characters and on
the totally subordinate relation of the individual human being to it. In the naturalistic novel, there is
a pervading sense of the control exerted over the actions and destinies of the characters by
impersonal social, economic, and biological forces. Human free will is shown as weak and almost
completely ineffectual. An example of the naturalistic novel in American fiction is Stephen Crane's
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.

239. near rhyme. Rhymes that are not true or exact. These rhymes are also called slant rhyme.
An example from Alexander Pope:

                               Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restor'd;
                               Light dies before thy uncreating word.

240. neoclassic. A revival of the style and outlook of Greek and Roman classical writers and
artists. In English literature, the term applies to writers of the late 17th and 18th centuries such as
Dryden, Pope, and Swift. The neoclassical period is frequently identified with the

ENLIGHTENMENT in its emphasis on rationality, order, and logic. It celebrated the development
of reason as the ultimate human achievement in art as well as in life, a position that the
ROMANTIC emphasis on imagination later challenged.

241. nihilism. A term that offers at least two definitions. The first refers to a social doctrine
developed in 19th century Russia, that called for the eradication of existing social, religious, and
political institutions, including prevailing ideas of morality, justice, and private property. This type
endorsed only the truths of science. Memorable portraits of nihilists of this sort form important
elements of Ivan Turgenev‘s Fathers and Sons (1862) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s The Possessed
(1871-71). A broader and more commonly used sense of the term refers to the view of life that sees
all existence, including that which reset in a faith in science, as empty and meaningless.

242. noble savage. The belief that primitive man is essentially noble. This concept was a
cornerstone of Rousseau's philosophy and is a basic tenet of Romanticism.

                                               -- O --

243. occasional verse. Poetry written to commemorate an occasion; a poem commissioned by
someone to celebrate some happening, like a coronation ode by a poet laureate.

244. octave. A group of eight lines of verse, more specifically, the first eight lines of a sonnet.

245. ode. A lyric poem of exalted style and feeling, often addressed to a person or an abstraction.
Odes are often passionate, expansive, exuberant, and rhapsodic. In odes the poet usually comments
on—and praises—things apart from himself, even though the ostensible subject may be his own
childhood. There are several types of odes, the three most important of which are:

   Pindaric or choral ode (used by the Greek Poet Pindar and Greek playwrights such as
    Sophocles: written in triads of three stanzas (a strophe and antistrophe that are metrically
    identical followed by an epode that diverges in its meter); the ode may have more than one triad.
   Horatian ode (as used by or modeled after the Roman poet Horace): regular matching stanzas or
    metrical units; often in quatrains. John Keats‘ odes are Horatian in that the stanzas in any given
    ode have the same number of lines. ―Ode on a Grecian Urn,‖ for example consists of ten-line
   Cowleyan or irregular ode (also ―False Pindaric‖; named after Abraham Cowley [1618-1667]):
    lines of irregular length and irregular rhyme scheme, stanzas (if any) not matching each other in
    meter, line length, or rhyme; free to be anything but regular. No two Cowleyan odes will have
    anything in common except that they will use rhyme and meter in some fashion. The finest
    such ode in English is Wordsworth‘s ―Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of
    Early Childhood.‖

246. onomatopoeia. (Greek, ―making a name‖). The formation of words from sounds which seem
to suggest and reinforce the meaning. For example, murmur, sizzle, and buzz.

247. ontology. The science or study of being. That part of metaphysics which relates to the being
and essence of things.

248. open couplet. A couplet of which the second line is run-on and depends upon the first line of
the following couplet to complete its meaning, as in the first of these couplets from Milton's

                                  When the merry bells ring round,
                                  and the jocund rebecks sound
                                  To many a youth and many a maid
                                  Dancing in the chequered shade.

249. oration. A formal speech delivered on a special occasion. In English literature, perhaps the
most famous oration is Mark Anthony's speech to the crowd in Julius Caesar.

250. ottava rima. A stanza consisting of eight iambic pentameter lines, rhyming a b a b a b c c.
Byron used it in Don Juan.

                               His suite consisted of three servants and
                                A tutor, the licentiate Pedrillo,
                               Who several languages did understand,
                                But now lay sick and speechless on his pillow,
                               And, rocking in his hammock, long'd for land
                                His headache being increased by every billow;
                               And the waves oozing through the port-hole made
                                His berth a little damp, and him afraid.

251. oxymoron. The combining in one expression of two words or phrases of opposite meaning,
for effect. Here's an example from Tennyson's "Lancelot and Elaine":

                              The shackles of an old love straiten'd him,
                              His honor rooted in dishonor stood,
                              And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.

                                               -- P --
252. paean. A song of rejoicing, often used to describe any intense expression of joy or praise.

253. paeon. In SCANSION, it‘s an occasional FOOT consisting of one stressed syllable and three
unstressed syllables (       ). This foot is known as first, second, third or fourth paeon according to
the position of the stressed syllable.

254. palindrome. A word, sentence, or verse which reads the same backwards and forwards.
                                      Madam, I'm Adam.

                                     Able was I ere I saw Elba.
                                 A man, a plan, a canal -- Panama!
                              Stop, Syrian, I start at rats in airy spots.

255. paradox. A statement which, though it seems to be self-contradictory, contains a basis for
truth. 'Waging the peace' is a paradoxical concept.

256. parallelism. The similarity of construction or meaning of phrases placed side by side. This is
illustrated in the following excerpt from Pope's An Essay on Man:

                               All Nature is but art, unknown to thee;
                               All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
                               All discord, harmony not understood;
                               All partial evil, universal good;
                               And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
                               One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

Parallelism is device used to accentuate ideas or images by using grammatically similar
constructions. Words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and even larger structural units may
be consciously organized into parallel constructions, thereby creating a sense of balance that can be
meaningful and revealing. Charles Dickens consciously uses parallelism to emphasize antithetical
but balanced ideas in the opening lines of his novel A Tale of Two Cities (1859) as the narrator
speaks of the year 1775:

       It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the
       Age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the
       season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter
       Of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct
       to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

257. parenthesis. The insertion of words that interrupt the sentence flow, as when ―who knows?‖
interrupts Elizabeth Bishop‘s line ―impractically shaped and—who knows?—self-pitying

258. Parnassus. A mountain in Greece, a few miles north of Delphi, sacred to the Muses. One of
its peaks was sacred to Apollo, the other to Dionysus.

259. parados. The song accompanying the entrance of the chorus in a Greek tragedy.

260. parody. A composition mimicking closely in rhythm, phrase, and theme a serious work.

261. pastiche. (Italian, pasticcio, muddle). A medley, hodge-podge, or patchwork of terms,
phrases, or sentences taken from other sources and pieced together for the sake of comedy,
burlesque, or satire. The source of humor in ―Hamlet‘s soliloquy‖ in Chapter 21 of Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn (1884) is a blend of scraps from Shakespeare‘s plays, which begins:

               To be, or not to be, that is the bare bodkin
               That makes calamity of so long life;
               For who would fardels bear, till Burnam
                Wood do came to Dunsinane,
               But that the fear of something after death
               Murders the innocent sleep,
               Great nature‘s second course,
               And makes us rather sling the arrows of
                Outrageous fortune
               Than fly to others that we know not of.

This pastiche concludes, ―Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws,/But get thee to a nunnery – go!‖

262. pastoral poetry. (Latin, pastor, shepherd). Poetry which deals with the life of shepherds and
rustics, or that idealizes country life. Among the most famous examples of pastoral poetry is
Christopher Marlowe‘s ―The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,‖ the first two stanzas of which
appear below:

                                 Come live with me and be my love,
                                 And we will all the pleasures prove
                                 That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
                                 Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

                                  And we will sit upon the rocks,
                                  Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
                                  By shallow rivers to whose falls
                                  Melodious birds sing madrigals.

263. pathetic fallacy. The attribution of human feelings to external objects, particularly to
inanimate nature. In "The Giaour" Byron says of a cypress tree:

                            Dark tree, still sad when others' grief is fled,
                            The only constant mourner o'er the dead!

264. pathos. (Greek, suffering, emotion). The quality in writing which evokes pity or sadness.

265. pentameter. A line of verse consisting of five metrical feet. The iambic pentameter is the
commonest in English poetry.

266. peripeteia (peripety). (Greek, sudden change). The moment when the action of the tragedy
changes its course. The turning point in a tragedy.

267. persona. The projection of the writer into another person.

268. personification. The representation of inanimate objects or abstract ideas as persons, or
endowed with personal attributes. Carl Sandburg personifies Chicago as the city with "broad

269. picaresque. (Spainsh, picaro, rogue). A form of novel with a rogue for a hero who remains
unchanged throughout.

270. Platonic love. Love of a purely spiritual character, free from sensual desire.

271. plot. (French, complot, conspiracy). A story is a narrative of events arranged in time
sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, but the emphasis is on causality. 'The king died and
then the queen died' is a story. 'The king died, and the queen died of grief' is a plot.

272. poetaster. A paltry poet; a writer of inferior or trashy verse.

273. poetic justice. The idea that the good are rewarded and the evil are punished.

274. poetic license. The leeway given to poets to use certain forms and structures not usually
acceptable in prose. Examples include ARCHAISMs, contracted forms like e’er, the giving of full
syllabic value to the final -ed in cases where it would not be pronounced as a separate syllable, etc.
Poetic license does not extend to gross breaches of grammar or to the distortion of word
pronunciations merely for rhyming purposes.

275. poet laureate. In England, an official court poet appointed by the sovereign. He receives a
stipend as an officer of the Royal Household; his duty (no longer enforced) was to write court-odes
for the sovereign‘s birthday and in celebration of important state occasions. Included in the list of
poets laureate are such figures as Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Masefield.

276. polyptoton. The repetition of words derived from the same root, a kind of play on words or
pun, as when Hamlet says to Polonius, ―Conception is a blessing, but not as your daughter may

277. polysyndeton. The repetition of conjunctions, such as ―and,‖ as in these verses from Genesis:

                 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon
                    the face of the deep: and the spirit of God moved upon the face
                    of the waters.
                 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
                 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light
                    From the darkness.

278. postmodernism. A continuation of MODERNISM‘s alienated mood and disoriented
techniques; however, it abandons modernism‘s quest for artistic coherence in a fragmented world.
Where a modernist writer would try to wrest meaning from the world through myth, symbol, or
formal complexity, the postmodernist greets the absurd or meaningless confusion of contemporary
existence with a certain numbed or flippant indifference. It‘s a much disputed term that applies to

loosely to culture from the 1950s onward, but it doesn‘t apply to all writers – only to those whose
attitudes and approaches fit this model. Postmodern writers often favor ―depthless‖ works that
employ PASTICHE and other forms of disconnected narrative. The term encompasses less
structured fictional modes, particularly magical realism, theater happenings, anti-fiction, web E-
zines, other electronic anthologies, and hallucinatory dreamscapes. Writers labeled as
postmodernist include William S. Borroughs, Kurt Vonnegut, Umberto Eco, John Gardner, and
Tom Stoppard.

279. pot boiler. A work of literature or art which is done merely to make a living.

280. précis. (French, ―precise‖). An abstract, a summary of a work.

281. Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A group of painters and poets active in Victorian England. Pre-
Raphaelite poetry is characterized by dreaminess, romanticism, and an almost religious view of art.
In 1848 several young painters formed an organization which they called the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood, devoted to countering academic, formal art by harkening back to the Italian painters
before Raphael, the 16th century painter whose works they considered soulless. One of the founding
members, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, happened to be a gifted poet as well as a painter. The brotherhood
lasted only a few years, but the movement it fostered thrived over four decades, adding poets such
as William Morris, Christina Rossetti, George Meredith, and Algernon Swinburne. Late in his life,
Rossetti dismissed the initial brotherhood: ―As for the prattle about Pre-Raphaelitism, I confess to
you I am weary of it, and long have been. Why should we go on talking about the visionary
vanities of half-a-dozen boys?‖ The movement was also ridiculed as the ―Fleshly School of

282. prologue. In Greek tragedy the part before the entrance of the chorus, setting forth, in
monologue or dialogue, the subject of the drama.

283. proscenium. The stage of a Greek or Roman theater on which the actors stood, between the
orchestra and the wall standing at the back. In modern theater it is usually the front part of the stage
between the curtain and the orchestra, also the curtain and the arch holding it, which divides the
stage from the auditorium.

284. protagonist. The chief actor or character in a drama.

285. pun. A play on words, of which there are at least two kinds: (1) the repetition of a word in
different senses, as in Ben Franklin‘s ―If we don‘t hang together, we‘ll hang separately‖; (2) the use
of words alike in sound but different in meaning, as in the riddle, ―What‘s black and white and red
all over?‖ [a newspaper is read].

286. purple prose. A pejorative term for a passage or an entire work that is stylistically
extravagant or overdone.

287. pyrrhic. A metrical FOOT consisting of two unstressed syllables (      ). No English words
are pyrrhic, since one of the word‘s two syllables would have to be accented, however slightly. In

English, pyrrhic meter is impossible; however, pyrrhics can be mixed in with other metrical feet, as
Shakespeare does in Macbeth:

                           To mo/rrow and / to mo/rrow and / to mo rrow

288. Pyrrhic victory. One gained at too great a cost to the victor, like that of Pyrrhus, King of
Epirus (318-272 B.C.) over the Romans at Asculum. He was said to exclaim, "One more such
victory and we are lost."

                                              -- Q --
289. quarto. A book size produced by folding a printer‘s sheet twice, thereby forming four leaves
or eight pages of print. Approximately half of Shakespeare's plays were originally printed as
quartos; these contain discrepancies not found in the larger size FOLIO editions published later on.

290. quatrain. A stanza consisting of four lines, which may have various rhyme schemes. In
English verse, the quatrain is the most commonly used stanza form.

                                              -- R --

291. refrain. A phrase or line recurring usually after each stanza, sometimes within the stanza. It
was common in old ballads and had the value of an incantation.

292. Renaissance. (French, rebirth). The great revival of learning under the influence of Greek
and Roman art and literature, which began in Italy in the 14th century. The Italian Renaissance, for
instance, ran from approximately 1350 until 1550. It continued throughout Europe during the 15th
and 16th centuries, emphasizing the vital importance of the intellect, and the conviction that human
affairs do not become intelligible until they are seen as a whole.

293. repartee. A rapid and witty response in conversation, especially one that turns and insult back
on its originator; or a succession of such replies in a dialogue between characters, usually in a

294. requiem. (Latin, requies, rest). A special mass for the repose of the souls of the dead. also
the musical setting for the requiem. At the funeral of Ophelia in Hamlet, the Priest says:

                                         No more be done:
                             We should profane the service of the dead
                             To sing a requiem and such rest to her
                             As to peace-parted souls.

295. Restoration, The. The return of Charles II in 1660 re-established the monarchy in England.
The term 'Restoration' in English literature extends to the end of the 17th century. The chief poet of
the period is John Dryden.

296. revenge tragedy. A type of popular Elizabethan tragedy, modeled loosely on the plays of the
Roman playwright Seneca, in which revenge was featured and bloodshed was common. These
generally deal with a son‘s quest to avenge his father‘s murder or vice versa. A typical revenge
tragedy includes the following elements: (1) the ghost of the murdered man who seeks revenge and
implores or orders the protagonist to act; (2) hesitation on the part of the protagonist seeking
revenge; (3) other delays that retard the accomplishment of the revenge; (4) some dissimulation
(such as feigned insanity by the protagonist to deceive the scheming and villainous murderer;
(5) dramatic scenes of gore and horror, especially during the showdown between the protagonist
and the villain; (6) intrigue and lurid incidents such as adultery, suicide, and incest; (7)
philosophical soliloquies. Thomas Kyd‘s The Spanish Tragedy (1586) established the revenge
tragedy as a popular genre in England. Although Hamlet (1601) was written in this tradition,
Shakespeare managed to transcend the genre‘s limitations; few other revenge tragedies ever rose
above the level of melodrama.

297. rhetoric. The art of using language, as in public speech, to persuade or influence others.
Eloquent and often heightened use of words.

298. rhetorical question. A question put not to elicit an answer but as a more effective substitute
for a statement. Shakespeare puts this device to good use in The Merchant of Venice:

                      Hath not a Jew eyes? hat not a Jew hands, organs, dimen-
                      sions, senses, affections, passions?...If you prick us,
                      do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you
                      poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we
                      not revenge?

299. rhyme royal. A seven-line decasyllabic stanza with the rhyme scheme a b a b b c c. Chaucer
was the first to use it.

300. roman à clef. (French, novel with a key). A novel in which actual, sometimes well-known
individuals appear under fictitious names.

301. roman à these (French, thesis novel). A novel that advocates a specific position on a social or
moral question. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term ―protest novel.‖ Examples include
John Steinbeck‘s The Grapes of Wrath (1939), an indictment of how migrant laborers were treated
in the 1930s, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn‘s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), a protest
against the inhumanity of Soviet concentration camps.

302. romance. A tale of chivalry. A medieval tale in prose or verse celebrating the adventures in
love and war of some hero of chivalry. In a more modern sense, it‘s a type of narrative featuring
adventures in exotic places, love stories, and/or the celebration of simple rustic life. In the words of
critic Northrop Frye, ―the romance is the nearest of all literary forms to the wish-fulfillment dream.‖

As a result, romance has been a staple of popular literature from the time of Greek romances (2nd &
3rd centuries A.D.) to contemporary Harlequin novels.

303. romanticism. A term applied to the movement in European literature and the other arts that
began toward the end of the 18th century. In emphasizing the imagination and emotions over
intellect and reason, the movement was a reaction against NEOCLASSICISM. Broadly speaking,
romanticism might be said to involve the following characteristics: individualism; nature-worship;
primitivism; an interest in medieval, Oriental, and vanished or alien cultures in general; philosophic
idealism; a paradoxical tendency toward both free thought and religious mysticism; revolt against
political authority and social convention; exaltation of physical passion; the cultivation of emotion
and sensation for their own sakes; and a persistent attraction to the supernatural, the morbid, the
melancholy, and the cruel.

304. rondeau. A 13th century French verse form consisting of fifteen lines, usually divided into
three stanzas; there are only two rhymes throughout, and the opening words are used twice as a
refrain. The following rondeau by African-American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906)
adheres to the standard pattern:

                                      WE WEAR THE MASK

                                We wear the mask that grins and lies,
                                It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—
                                This debt we pay to human guile;
                                With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
                                And mouth with myriad subtleties

                                Why should the world be over-wise,
                                In counting all our tears and sighs?
                                Nay, let them only see us, while
                                    We wear the mask.

                                 We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
                                 To thee from tortured souls arise.
                                 We sing, but oh the clay is vile
                                 Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
                                 But let the world dream otherwise,
                                     We wear the mask!

305. round character. A fully developed character who is never predictable and can surprise the
reader in a convincing way. Novelists famous for the creation of round characters include Austen,
Dickens, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky.

306. run-on line. A line of verse whose sense runs over to the following line. See

                                               -- S --
307. saga. In its original sense, a medieval Scandanavian or Icelandic narrative poem depicting the
adventures of legendary figures. In modern literature, the term has come to mean a long narrative
dealing with the fortunes of a family over a number of generations.

308. satire. The holding up of vice or folly to ridicule. It often makes use of irony and sarcasm.

309. scansion. The study of metrical form; the determination of patterns comprised of stressed and
unstressed syllables.

310. semantics. The branch of philology concerned with word meanings.

311. septet. A poem or stanza of seven lines. The most common seven-line stanza is known as
rhyme royal.

312. sestet (sextet). A poem or stanza of six lines; the term frequently refers to the second part of
the Petrarchan sonnet.

313. sestina (Italian, ―sixth‖). A fixed verse form of 39 lines, developed in Provenal by the
Troubadours. It features six end-words that are repeated in an interwoven order through six stanzas
and in a final three-line envoi which contains all six words.

314. Shakespearean sonnet. The sonnet pattern that emerges from Shakespeare's sonnet cycle of
154 poems. This pattern consists usually of three quatrains followed by a couplet

315. sic. (Latin, ―so‖). This word is appended in brackets after a word or expression in a quotation
as a guarantee that it is quoted exactly, though its incorrectness or absurdity would suggest that it is

316. simile. An imaginative comparison using the words "like" or "as."

317. slant rhyme. One that is not a true rhyme, usually to create a particular effect. Synonymous
with NEAR RHYME. Some examples would be: myth/math and break/brook.

318. soliloquy. In theatrical terms, speaking one's thoughts aloud with none to hear but the

319. solipsism. The view that the self is the only object of real knowledge or the only thing really

320. sonnet. (Italian, sonnetto, ―little song‖). A poem of fourteen lines usually in iambic
pentameter. The Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet is divided by a pause into OCTAVE and SESTET.
The octave (two quatrains) rhymes abba,abba. The sestet (two tercets) rhymes cde,cde. The

English (or Shakespearean) sonnet consists of three quatrains and a concluding couplet, rhymed
abab,cdcd,efef,gg. Many poets write variations of these two basic forms.

321. sophism. (Greek, sophos, ―wise‖). A specious and fallacious argument used deliberately to
mislead or to display ingenuity in reasoning. In ancient Greece, a sophist was a paid teacher of
intellectual and ethical matters; contrasted with philosopher, it is frequently a term of

322. spondee. In English poetry, a FOOT consisting of two stressed syllables (        ), an example of
which is seen in Milton's Paradise Lost:

                    Rocks, caves, /lakes, fens, /bogs, dens, /and shades /of death.

Spondaic meter is virtually impossible in English, although spondees can be combined with other
metrical feet.

323. Spoonerism. From the name of the Rev. W. A. Spooner, Warden of New College, Oxford,
who made many such slips. An accidental reversal of the initial sounds, or other parts, of two or
more words. Examples:

     ―Poured with rain" for "roared with pain"; "a well-boiled icicle" for "a well-oiled bicycle"

324. sprung rhythm. A rhythm counted not by syllables and regular feet but by stresses (stress
being the emphasis of the voice upon a word or syllable). If you imagine a line divided into feet,
then one syllable would be stressed in each foot, but that syllable can either stand alone or be
accompanied by a number of unstressed syllables (usually not more than four). As stresses, not
syllables, make up the line, it may vary considerably in length. These lines from G.M. Hopkins's
"The Wreck of the Deutschland" serve to illustrate sprung rhythm:

                     Thou hast bound bones and veins in me fastened me flesh

                     And after it almost unmade, what with dread...

Each line has five stresses, but without the more patterned aspect of this normal line in iambic
pentameter from Hamlet:

                            But soft:/ methinks/ I scent/ the morn/ing air.

325. stichomythia. In drama, a dialogue in which two characters respond to each other in rapid,
hostile REPARTEE. The effect is of a verbal duel. Examples include the exchange between
Oedipus and Tiresias in Oedipus Rex. The term repartee is the modern equivalent of stichomythia

326. stream of consciousness. A modern writing style that tries to depict the random flow of
thoughts, emotions, memories, and associations flowing through a character‘s mind. Famous
practitioners of this method include James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner.

327. strophe. (Greek, strepho, ―turn‖). In Greek prosody, a stanza of a choral song sung as the
chorus moved in one direction. It was followed by the antistrophe, a similar stanza, which was
sung when the chorus turned and moved in the opposite direction. The verse concluded with an
epode, spoken while the chorus stood still. Currently, strophe can apply to any stanza or unit of

328. sturm und drang. (German, ―storm and stress‖). A German literary movement in the 1770s
which sprang up in reaction to the prevailing 18th century NEOCLASSICISM. This movement of
young writers strove to achieve an emotional intensity and freedom from the restrictions of neo-
classical conventions. Inspired by the fervent idealism of Rousseau, it was a revolt against the
limitations of conventions, and was a recall to nature. Another important influence was the political
and social unrest in Europe that was to issue the French Revolution. The term is still used today to
describe and work exhibiting emotionalism, intensity, and exaggerated language. Its spirit can be
found in Goethe's Faust. It was a precursor to ROMANTICISM.

329. sublime. Characterized by extreme nobility and grandeur. Impressive, exalted, and awe-
inspiring, as though raised above ordinary human qualities.

330. subplot. A separate action in a story or play, usually contrasting with the main plot.
Sometimes called a counterplot, it is important in many of Shakespeare's plays, for example in King
Lear and Hamlet.

331. subtext. A term used in contemporary drama to suggest the implied, rather than explicit
meaning of statements that a character makes.

332. surrealism. (French, surrealisme, ―beyond realism‖). A movement among certain writers and
painters to approximate the subconscious by means of words set down without logical sequence, or
of normal objects distorted visually. It grew out of DADAISM and Futurism and stressed the
importance of dreams. In art, the painters Joan Miró and Salvatore Dali are most associated with
this movement. In English literature, the prose of James Joyce and, sometimes, the verse of Dylan
Thomas have been called surrealistic.

333. syllabic verse. The patterning of verse according to the number of syllables in each line,
rather than by metrics. Dylan Thomas uses it in "Fern Hill."

334. syllogism. A series of three statements, the last of which is a logical deduction from the first
two. It consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion that is necessarily true
because the two remises are true. Example: All men are mortal; all soldiers are men; therefore, all
soldiers are mortal.

335. symbolism. Something standing for something else. Also, the name of a movement in French
literature, wherein poets aimed at representing ideas and emotions by suggestion rather than by
direct expression. Symbolist poetry was inspired originally by Edgar Allan Poe. This movement,
associated with the likes of Mallarmé, Verlaine, and Rimbaud, attempted to revolt against
naturalism and realism. In English, the poet-painter William Blake and William Butler Yeats are

among the symbolist poets. Some critics claim that the work of T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Kafka
is close to symbolism.

336. synaesthesia. The close association of an image perceived by one of the senses with and
image perceived by another. The sensory impressions belonging to sight, sound, and smell are
intimately connected. One example of such synaesthesia occurs in Baudelaire's sonnet
"Correspondences" when he describes certain perfumes as "soft as oboes, green as meadows."
Common synaesthetic expressions include descriptions of colors that are ―loud‖ or ―warm,‖ and of
sounds that are ―smooth.‖

337. synecdoche. (Greek, ―taking jointly‖). A figure of speech in which the part is substituted for
the whole, the whole for the part, or the genus for the species. An example: All hands on deck; the
substitution of ―talking head‖ for ―television commentator‖ or ―mouthpiece‖ for ―lawyer‖ are
further examples.

338. synopsis. A summary of a work‘s plot or argument.

339. syntax. The arrangement and grammatical relation of words as parts of a sentence; the tactics
of word order.

                                                -- T --
340. tableau. In theater, a silent, static grouping of people, frequently used at the conclusion of an
act or play.

341. tabula rasa. (Latin, erased tablet). The mind at birth, comparable to an empty slate with
nothing written on it.

342. tercet. Three lines of verse which form a unit. The term applies especially to the terza rima
stanza and to half the sestet of a sonnet.

343. terza rima. (Italian, ―third rhyme‖). An Italian form of iambic verse consisting of inter-
locking stanzas of three lines, the middle line of each stanza rhyming with the first and last of the
succeeding. Rhyme scheme: aba, bcb, cdc, ded, and so on. It closes with a rhyming quatrain, or
with a rhyming couplet. The most famous example of this form is La Divina Commedia by Dante.
What follows are the opening lines of the best known English poem in terza rima, Shelley‘s "Ode to
the West Wind":
                          O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
                          Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
                          Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

                         Yellow, and black, and hectic red,
                         Pestilence-stricken multitudes! O thou,
                         Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

                         The winged seeds....

344. tetralogy. A group of four dramas competing for the prize at Athens at the festival of
Dionysus in the 5th century B.C. Three of the plays, forming the trilogy were tragic. The other
play was satyric. Here the chorus was dressed to represent satyrs (woodland gods, half men, half
beasts), attendants of Dionysus. The term also applies to four connected dramas.

345. tetrameter. A line of four metrical feet.

346. theater of the absurd. Dramatic works in which the playwright does not feel bound by any of
the old conventions of the "well made play." The play may have no fixed location or scene; the
very sequence of time and the laws of physics may go by the board. At first sight one seems to be
presented with a series of random events designed only to bewilder. We may suppose this to be one
of the effects of surrealism on literature. The works of Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco fall into
this category.

347. tone. The author's prevailing spirit, mental attitude, moral outlook appearing in the work itself
and determining its tone.

348. tour de force. (French, a feat of strength or skill). A work showing clearly the author's skill
and power.

349. tragedy. (Greek, tragoidia, ―goat song‖) The tragoidos was a tragic poet and singer, probably
a "goat singer" because the singers were clothed in goat skins, or because a he-goat was the prize.
A serious play in which the chief figures by some peculiarity of character pass through a series of
misfortunes leading to the final catastrophe.

350. tragedy of revenge. The name given to those Elizabethan plays of which Kyd's Spanish
Tragedy in 1592 was the first. These plays deal with bloody deeds which demand retribution. In
the hands of an unskilled playwright, such plays turn to melodrama. Shakespeare‘s Hamlet,
however, transcends this altogether and represents the flowering of this dramatic form.

351. tragic flaw. A character flaw in the tragic hero which brings about his downfall. An invention
of Dacier, a 16th century French critic. Aristotle, in his Poetics, mentions no such quality. The
tragic hero, he says, falls through hamartia, a sin of ignorance. This is the situation of Sophocles'
Oedipus. Dacier may have mistranslated hamartia as ―flaw.‖

352. tragicomedy. A hybrid of comedy and tragedy.

353. Transcendentalism. Nineteenth century American literary and philosophical movement
initiated by R. W. Emerson in his seminal essay "Nature." The movement emphasized the
transcendence of everyday existence through the contemplation of nature. God, Emerson contends,
is within all living things, and is not a supreme being as portrayed in Judaism and Christianity.

354. trilogy. A series of three tragedies performed at Athens by each competing playwright at the
festival of Dionysus. They were originally connected in subject.

355. trimeter. A line of verse consisting of three metrical feet.

356. triolet. A medieval French verse form consisting of eight lines involving only two rhymes,
with the rhyme scheme abaaabab. The first two lines are repeated verbatim in the last two lines,
and the fourth line is the same as the first line. Robert Bridges, like many authors of triolets, takes
up the subject of love in his poem ―Triolet‖ (1873):

                       When first we met we did not guess
                       That love would prove so hard a master;
                       Of more than common friendliness
                       When first we met we did not guess.
                       Who could foretell this sore distress,
                       This irretrievable disaster
                       When first we met? – We did not guess
                       That love would prove so hard a master.

357. triplet. Three lines of verse which form a unit, in which all three lines rhyme (aaa). This
distinguishes it from the tercet, which applies to three lines that do not have the same rhyme (as in
the halves of the sestet in a sonnet, or in terza rima).

358. trochee. (Greek, trokhaios, ―tripping‖; ―running‖). A metrical FOOT of two syllables with the
stress on the first foot, as in daily ( ). These lines from Dryden are an example of trochaic

                                          Hope is / banished,

                                          Joys are / vanished,

                                          Damon, / my be/lov'd, is / gone.

359. trope. (Greek, tropos, ―turn‖). The figurative, elaborate use of a word. Hamlet says that the
title of his play The Mousetrap is to be understood ―tropically‖ (i.e., figuratively), which suggests
that the trope was used in this sense in Shakespeare's day. The term was used frequently in the 18th
century, and applied to metaphor, simile, personification, and hyperbole. Tropes could be used in
forms of irony.

                                               -- U --

360. unities, the. The three principles of dramatic composition, the unities of time, place, and

361. Upanishads. (Sanskrit, upa-nishad, a sitting down at the feet of an instructor). In Sanskrit
literature, one or other of the various speculative, mystical treatises dealing with the Deity, creation,
and existence.

362. utopian literature. (Greek, outopos, ―nowhere‖). Literature describing an ideally perfect
place or ideal society. The word utopia was invented by Sir Thomas More, who used it as the title
of a speculative political essay published in 1516. He was influenced by Plato's Republic and set
the pattern of the imaginary place with a perfect political and social system.

                                               -- V --

363. verisimilitude. (Latin, verisimilis, ―likely to be true‖). Having the appearance of truth. This
quality can be achieved in literature by skillful selection and presentation of the material of human

364. vernacular. (Latin, vernaculus, ―domestic, native‖). Language which is not of foreign origin;
one which is distinguished from the accepted, literary language.

365. Victorian. In English literature, the period covered by the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837
to 1901. Victorian values are often simplistically stereotyped as smugly moralistic, sexually
repressive, and obsessed with middle class conformity. Writers of the period investigated the
massive social problems brought about by urban slums and industrialization. Darwin‘s The Origin
of Species (1859) challenged longstanding religious ideas and threw society into turmoil. Not sur-
prisingly, much of the writing of the period addressed the pressing issues of the day.

366. videlicet. (Latin, videre licet, ―it is permitted to see‖). That is; namely; to wit. Generally used
to introduce a further explanation of what has been stated. Abbreviation, viz., commonly spoken as

367. vignette. (French, an ornamental border). The decorative or ornamental design in the form of
vine leaves surrounding the capital letters of ancient manuscripts and books. In this century, any
kind of woodcut, engraving, not enclosed within a border. Also used in the sense of a short essay or
literary sketch having intimate charm and subtlety, as in the title of Austin Dobson's "Eighteenth
Century Vignettes."

368. villanelle. (Italian, villanello, ―rural, rustic‖). A poem of fixed form in nineteen lines, often
pastoral in subject matter, and lyrical in manner. There are five three-line stanzas and one of four,
with only two rhymes throughout. Lines one and three of the first stanza form a refrain and appear
alternately at the ends of the stanzas. ―The House on the Hill‖ by American poet Edward Arlington
Robinson (1869-1935) is a good example:

                                       They are all gone away,
                                        The house is shut and still,
                                       There is nothing more to say.

                                      Through broken walls and gray
                                       The winds blow bleak and shrill;
                                      They are all gone away.

                                      Nor is there one today
                                       To speak them good or ill:
                                      There is nothing more to say.

                                      Why is it then we stray
                                       Around that sunken sill?
                                      They are all gone away.

                                      And our poor fancy-play
                                       For them is wasted skill:
                                      There is nothing more to say.

                                      There is ruin and decay
                                       In the house on the hill:
                                      They are all gone away.
                                       There is nothing more to say.

369. voice. (1) The speaker of a poem [the reader should not automatically assume that the speaker
equals the poet]. (2) The characteristic sound, style, or tone of a particular poet.

370. volta. (Latin, volvere, ―to turn‖). The change in thought and feeling which divides the octave
from the sestet in a carefully designed sonnet.

371. vulgarism. (Latin, vulgus, ―the common people‖). A vulgar, unrefined way of speech, closely
connected with slang and colloquialism.

                                            -- W --

372. Walpurgisnacht. In the German tradition, a witches' sabbath held on the Brocken, highest
peak of the Harz Mountains, on the night of April 30th. Frequently alluded to in the works of
Goethe (Faust), Thomas Mann (Magic Mountain), Hawthorne ("Young Goodman Brown") and
Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

373. Weltanschauung. (German, ―outlook upon the world‖). A philosophical view of the world.
A world view.

374. Weltschmerz. (German, ―world-pain‖). Weariness of life; pessimistic melancholy. A feeling
of uneasiness with the state of existence.

375. wit. A quality of speech or writing that combines verbal cleverness with keen perception,
especially of the incongruous. Wit may be the product of PUNs, HYPERBOLE, LITOTES,

                                              -- X --

376. Xanadu. A province or region in China mentioned by Coleridge in his poem "Kubla Khan" as
the site of Khan's pleasure garden.

                                              -- Y --
377. yellow journalism. A name given to sensational American journalism developed about 1880
under the influence of Joseph Pulitzer. The name is derived from the appearance in 1895 of a
cartoon in the New York World featuring a scruffy child in a yellow smock ('The Yellow Kid'). The
child was the central figure in the one-panel series featuring street ruffians. This was a
experimental vehicle for color printing designed to attract purchasers.

                                               -- Z --

378. Zeitgeist. (German, ―spirit of the age‖). This is applied to the feeling and the reactions of the
writers of the time.

379. zeugma. (Greek, ―a yoke or bond‖). A figure of speech in which a verb or an adjective is
applied to two nouns, though strictly appropriate to only one of them. A commonly recognized
zeugma occurs in Shakespeare‘s Henry V when Fluellan says, "Kill the boys and the luggage."
Here the word kill does not logically apply to luggage.


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