Human mind is like a clock that ticks every moment. Even while we sleep, our brain spins stories, and plays them like a motion picture that we call a dream. It converts information of the hours of wakefulness into more permanent and enhanced memory. It should then not be difficult to perceive the level of activity (or should we call it hyperactivity), that the human mind undergoes when we are awake! Not only does our mind seep in all the information like a dry, hard surface soaking water, it processes all that information and forms its own opinions, and these opinions need to be communicated. The moment we talk about communication, the first thing that comes to our mind is LANGUAGE.
True, there are signs and symbols to communicate, but can they really replace words? Is it possible to put across our thoughts in a meaningful and comprehensible form form using them? Now that the need for words and sentences has been established, let us move a step further.
Let's consider the following two sentences:
- It was a very hot day.
- "The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner." (Cynthia Ozick, "Rosa")
Both the sentences mean the same. However, the second sentence makes use of metaphor
- a figure of speech that emphasizes the fact using a comparison rather than just stating it. Each language has such literary terms and devices that makes it a mode of expression of creativity and imagination along with one's thoughts. Besides the rules of English grammar there are numerous other devices that make expression so effortless. This article is a glossary of literary terms and definitions in English language. This glossary is not only of help to students of a particular language, but will also enable common man to appreciate the beauty of this language.
Literary Terms Glossary
: Latin phrase for a narrative that starts "at the beginning" of a plot and moves on describing events till the end of the plot in chronological order of events. This is opposed to in medias re
in which a narrative begins somewhere in the middle of the plot, and recounts earlier events through a character's memories or flashback.
: Any form of literary work, written in the nineteenth century, that was aimed at condemning slavery and slaveholders, and advocating abolitionism of slavery.
Abstract Diction or Abstract Imagery
: Language that denotes the qualities that can't be perceived by the senses. For instance, calling someone nice or good is abstract. However, saying that rose is red is concrete.
: A poem that relies on auditory patterns rather than meaning of words, grammatical, or syntactical use to convey sense.
: It refers to a literary work that has in common, a sense that human condition is essentially absurd, and can be best represented by works of literature that are themselves absurd.
: The stress or intonation on a syllable while pronouncing a particular word or sentence. The meaning can be easily derived by the stress that is applied on a particular word.
: A poem or other form of writing in which the first or last letter, syllable, or word of each line or paragraph, when arranged one after the other, form a word.
: A play is divided into a number of major divisions. Each major division is known as an act. The end of an act is signified by dropping the curtain. Playwrights use acts to emphasize change in time, events, or mood. Each act is further divided into scenes; each scene again highlights change in location, time, or entry of a new character within each act.
: An event or series of events (real or fictional), that make the subject of a literary piece of work. Actions along with dialogs of the character shape the plot of a narrative poem, prose, novel, story, or a play.
: A novel in which exciting events are more important than the development of a character or a theme. For example, Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo
and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes
: Aestheticism or aesthetic movement started in the latter part of the nineteenth century in France. During those times, anything that was not scientific or did not have any moral use was ignored, especially by the middle class. It was in opposition to this attitude, that French writers developed the aesthetic movement according to which, art was the most supreme of any work produced by man, and it need not have any moral implication or use. Art was perceived to be self-sufficient. The rallying cry of this movement was art for art's sake
: It refers to the mistake of judging a poem on the basis of its emotional effect on the readers. The term was coined by W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley as a principle of New Criticism, and is a direct attack on impressionistic criticism, according to which, the real value of a poem depends upon the reader's immediate response to it.
: A morpheme that is added to a stem or base to give it a new meaning. If the affix is added in the beginning of a stem, it is called a prefix. When added at the end of the stem, it is referred to as a suffix. In the word 'unbreakable' the affix un
is the prefix. In the word 'beautician', cian
is the suffix.
: Affixation refers to making a new word by adding an affix to it.
: It is a line of iambic hexameter. In this, twelve syllables in a line are divided into six feet of iambic stress pattern. Since, an alexandrine is a long line, it is often divided in the middle by a pause or a caesura. The division results into two symmetrical halves, called hemististches
: The word has been derived from the Greek word allegoria
which means, 'speaking otherwise'. This term acts as an extended metaphor in which, objects, characters, or actions are used to denote something other than their literal meaning. They are used to symbolize qualities of social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas like charity, kindness, greed, or jealousy. In other words, through allegory, authors use elements of the narrative, to stress upon broader ideas that may not be explicitly mentioned in the narrative.
: Allegoresis refers to reading a story as an allegory.
: Alliteration is a literary or rhetorical stylistic device in which, consonant sounds are repeated (usually at the beginning) of a number of words in close succession. However, the repetitive sound can come inside the words as well. In literature, alliteration is used to emphasize on specific actions. For example, in Astrophel and Stella
by Sir Philip Sydney, a line states "Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite" (Line 13). In this line, the repetitive use of the sound 't'
helps the reader to visualize and better understand the poet's anguish as he bites his pen. Other, more simple uses of alliteration are 'descending dew drops' and 'luscious lemons'. While in the first case, the writer helps the reader visualize action like descent of the dew drops by repeating the sound 'd'
, in the second example, the quality of the lemon being luscious is highlighted by using the sound 'l'
: Allomorphs are the variations or different pronunciations of a morpheme. For instance, the morpheme plural-s has the standard /s/ sound in cats
, but in dogs
the morpheme becomes a /z/ sound.
: Phonetic variants of the same phoneme are allophones. For example, the letter t
in the word tar
is aspirated, but the letter t
in the word stop
: In literary work, allusion is a reference to some person, place, or event in history or in another work of literature. Allusions are often used to convey broad complex ideas with a quick reference to well-known events or characters. An example is Steve's love for comfort was his Achilles heel
. Here the allusion 'Achilles heel' draws reference to Achilles, the famous warrior whose mother dipped him in holy water holding his heels. Due to this, his only weakness was his heels. Here, Achilles heel refers to Steve's love for comfort which was his only weakness, and could cause his downfall.
: In ordinary parlance, ambiguity refers to the use of a vague expression instead of being precise. Hence, this could be interpreted as a fault in the writing style. However, in literature ambiguity is often used on purpose by an author to highlight the effectiveness and richness of a work. In such a case, a single expression, word, or phrase can allow for two or simultaneous expressions. A good example is the open ended conclusion to Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."
: Amelioration is a favorable semantic change in which a word gains increasingly positive connotations or loses the negative ones. For example the word 'knight' that originally meant servant came to be used for 'servants of the kings' at a later stage through amelioration of the word.
: It is a metrical foot of three syllables in which, one stressed syllable has an unstressed syllable, one on each end.
: Anachronism refers to placing of an event, person, object or verbal expression in the wrong historical time. For example, in Julius Caesar
, Shakespeare mentions the clock in a number of instances. However, there were no household clocks in ancient Rome. Anachronism is either intentional or accidental. However, it is allowed under 'poetic license'. Another example of anachronism is found in the costumes of Elizabethan plays. This tradition continues even today when Shakespearean plays are carried out in Victorian frippery.
: The introduction of one or two unstressed syllables in the beginning of a line of verse where normally a stressed syllable would come.
: When the letters in a name or words are jumbled or shuffled to form a new word, it is said to be an example of anagram. Often taken as an author's ingenuity with wordplay, anagrams were used to conceal messages or veil names. By using anagram one could indirectly refer to some quality that was not socially accepted. An example can be found in the work of Tanith Lee. In her short story Bite-Me-Not, or Fleur De Feu
the vampire's name is Feroluce
, which is an anagram of his demonic predecessor Lucifer
: A term used by Aristotle, it refers to the realization by the protagonist of something of great importance, especially some truth about himself or human nature. For example, in the novel Joseph Andrews
by Henry Fielding, the protagonist, on evidence of a birthmark, realizes that he is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.
: Using an instance somewhat similar (not the same) to the one being talked about, in order to highlight the salient features of the instance in question, through comparison of the two.
: It is one of the four standard feet in the English Language in which two unstressed syllables are followed by one stressed syllable. For example, The As syr
/ ian came down
/ like a wolf
/ on the fold
. / The italicized syllables are stressed and the non italicized ones are the unstressed ones.
: The intentional repetition of a word or phrase in the beginning of each sentence, line, paragraph, verse, or stanza in order to achieve artistic effect. For example, Churchill's declaration "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on the end. We shall fight in France. We shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost shall be.", is an example of anaphora where the phrase "We shall" has been used repetitively every time in the beginning of sentences. This example of anaphora emphasizes determination and solidarity.
: Introduction of a weak vowel sound between two consonant sounds in order to make pronouncing a word or a phrase easier. This introduction of the vowel sound is intrusive and is unexpected historically or according to the norms of language development.
: It refers to the inversion of the normal order of words in a language. For example, in this sentence Glistens the dew upon the morning grass.
, the verb comes before the subject-noun. However, according to normal syntax, verb should come after the subject-noun. According to the normal syntax, the sentence should read as "The dew glistens upon the morning grass."
: It is an un-elaborated narration of a single incident, with the dialog of the characters, actions, and thoughts all organized into a plot that is aimed at creating particular effects on the audience.
: A concise form of historical writing that has a chronological, year by year account of events.
: A character in prose or poetry that deceives, frustrates, works against, or tries to harm the main character who is known as the protagonist. The antagonist need not be a live character. It could be any quality as well. Also, the antagonist needn't be always bad. In fact, it can be a virtue which acts against a protagonist, who in this case would be evil.
: A collection of poetry, drama, or verse.
: The act of attributing human-like qualities to non-human entities. Anthropomorphism specifically refers to gods and goddesses having human forms and human-like qualities like jealousy, hatred, or kindness.
: Anti-romance is a story which has an apathetic and self-doubting protagonist or the antihero, who fails in his objectives. Anti-romance features insanity and depression. It is a direct contrast to romance.
: A sudden change or drop from some important and dignified idea or situation, to one that is trivial or ridiculous. It is a deliberate action of a writer with the aim of achieving a comic or satiric effect. It is often used as an equivalent of bathos.
: A character in a literary work, who is opposed to the image of a protagonist or a hero as he is traditionally perceived. He embodies negative qualities like dishonesty, selfishness, ignominy, and so on.
: Antithesis refers to the use of contrasting words or phrases in close sequence. For example, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." - Speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., at St. Louis, 1964."
: A moral fable in which the author uses animals and inanimate objects as people or characters, that allow the author to comment on human conditions. Apologues are often used to emphasize the irrationality of traits of mankind. George Orwell's Animal Farm
and Aesop's Fables
are examples of apologue.
: It refers to a belief or a proposition that can be determined only through observation.
: It is used when addressing a real or imagined person.
: An argument is referred to as a priori if its veracity can be inferred without any direct perception.
: A mountainous region in Greece in which shepherds lived in peace and contentment. In literature, the word is associated with simplicity and denotes a retreat from the complexities of life.
: Deliberate use of words, expressions, spellings, or phrases that have become obsolete in the present era by a writer for artistic purposes.
: Archetypes are characters, images, and themes that evoke same response in readers across cultures and time because of their symbolic association with universal meanings.
: The sequence of ideas or the plot of a poem that forms its conceptual structure.
: Any piece of literature that is related to King Arthur.
: A stage device through which a speaker communicates his thoughts and ideas to the audience through a short speech which, by convention, other characters on stage are unable to hear.
: Assonance is the repetition of identical or similar vowels (specially in stressed syllables), in words that occur in close sequence.
: It is a stylistic scheme in which conjunctions are intentionally removed from a string of related clauses. This is usually done to speed up the rhythm and emphasize on the idea in a single line or phrase.
Atmosphere or Ambiance
: The emotional tone prevalent throughout a literary work or a section of it, that helps the reader to anticipate and relate to the course of events, whether happy or sad. Alternatively, the terms mood
(French word) are also used for atmosphere.
: Also called a dawn song, an aubade is a genre of poetry in which the subject of a poem revolves around the dawn or coming of the dawn. It also includes a song that is to be sung or played outdoors at dawn. Aube
is the dawn song sung specifically by a friend over a pair of lovers until the break of dawn.
: Descriptive language that evokes some sound that could be noise or music.
: A semi-fictional account of an individual's life, in which the experiences of an author are either transposed on to other characters or are mixed with fictional experiences.
: A non-fictional work by a subject, about his or her own life. Every account of the author's life is true.
: Piece of art or literature, that is experimental and innovative, and transcends the norms that are generally accepted.
: Also known as on-stage business
, the term business denotes any on-stage activity like expressions, gestures, and general activity of the actors, other than blocking.
: A foot in a poetry containing three syllables in which the first syllable has a light stress, and is followed by two heavy stresses.
: Very rare in English, bachic meter refers to a poem in which each foot has three syllables, all of which are heavily stressed.
: A ballad measure consists of a four line stanza with four stress and three stress lines alternating with each other. A ballad measure has abcb
: An eighteenth century comic drama in which lyrics are set to current popular tunes.
: A four line stanza that consists of alternating lines of eight and six syllables. It is also known as quatrain and follows the rhyme scheme of abcb
: A narrative folk song or poem that tells a story and is passed orally through tradition. Ballads cannot be traced to a particular author. Characteristically, they are dramatic and impersonal narratives.
: A French verse that is made of three, eight line stanzas, that have a consistent meter, and a rhyme scheme. The last line of the stanza is a refrain and the ballad stanza is followed by a concluding stanza, four lines known as the envoi
, which are addressed to the prince.
: Originally, a Celtic poet who would sing heroic poems by memory while playing the harp. In time, the word bard came to denote any poet. In modern times, Shakespeare is largely referred to as the Bard of Avon
: Baroque refers to a style of architecture, sculpture, and painting, that employs the classical styles of the renaissance. However, the classical styles are broken and intermingled to produce a dramatic, grandiose, and highly energetic effect. A good example of this style is, St Peter's Cathedral in Rome. In literature, baroque refers to any piece of work that is elaborately formal and grandiloquent in style. For instance, in English literature the metaphysical poems of John Donne are often referred to as baroque. However, it more appropriately applies to the elaborate style, fantastic conceits and the fervent religious emotionalism of poet Richard Crashaw.
: A genre of literary work which comprises tales consisting of animal characters with human qualities that were intended to be read allegorically. The beast epic started with Aesop's Fables
in the sixth century.
: A medieval listing containing the names and attributes of different animals, birds, and even rocks. The explanation of every animal ended with a moral. These animals were often used as symbols of Christian doctrines and beliefs. For example, the pelican in bestiary was described to tear open its breast to give life to its young with its blood. This was a living representation of Jesus Christ.
Beat Generation or Beat Writers
: A group of American poets and novelists who formed a close knit association in the second half of 1950s and early decades of 1960s. They rejected the mainstream American values and experimented with drugs and alternate forms of sexuality. They favored unrestricted self-realization and self-expression. The cultural phenomenon that they inspired was later sometimes called "beatniks".
: Beat is a heavy stress or accent in a line of poetry. The meter of a line is determined by the number of beats in it.
: This term denotes a reader who reads a work of fiction with a critical eye with the aim of improving its grammar, spellings, characterization, and the style of writing in general, before it is published.
: Also known as Erziehungsroman, these are German words that mean "novel of education" or "novel of information". These novels dealt with the development of the character and mind of the protagonist as he grows, from childhood to adulthood, through various experiences. The protagonist most often faced a spiritual crisis and as he recovered from it, he matured and understood his role in the world. Examples of this are, Bronte's Jane Eyre
, George Elliot's The Mill on the Floss
, Charles Dickens' Great Expectations
and Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage
: A complete account of a particular person's life that attempts to portray the character, temperament, as well as the experiences of the individual.
: The proponents were mostly the African-American writers who rejected the 'high art' advocated by white culture and called in for exploitation of the vigor and freshness of black vernacular, in rhythms and moods emulating jazz and the blues, that concerned mainly with the lives of the lower class, and specifically addressed the Black audience. The most prominent proponent of Black aesthetic was Imamu Amiri Baraka.
Black Arts Movement
: Black arts movement refers to the literary works of African-American writers that were shaped by the social and political turbulence of the 1960s. This period was marked by the widespread protests against the Vietnam War, rights of the Blacks that led to a number of violent confrontations and the burnings and riots in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, and so on.
: A sub genre of comedy in which topics that are taboo are treated in a satirical or humorous way. However, the seriousness of the topics are never compromised in their depiction. Black comedy is also known as black humor, morbid humor, dark comedy, or dark humor.
: It is the ethnic dialect of the African-American writers. It is also known as Black English Vernacular (BEV) or African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) in scholarly texts.
: A verse in iambic pentameter that does not have any rhyme scheme, hence the name 'blank'. It was popularly used in verse drama of the sixteenth century by Shakespeare, and later by Milton and Wordsworth for poetry.
: A person, circumstance, or mentality that prevented two lovers from being together.
: Arrangement and movement of characters on stage, that ensures that all characters are visible to the audience, and actors are spread evenly throughout the stage and not cluttered at one place.
: The Bloomsbury Group was an informal association of a group of writers, intellectuals, and artists in the Bloomsbury town of London, formed in 1905. Its members opposed the post-Victorian restrictions on arts and morality. This group had an important influence on literature and arts about two decades after the end of World War I. Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and Clive bell were some of this prominent members of the group.
: Anything related to the philosophy of Boethius, that is a philosophy of predestination, which suggests that all events appearing evil, disastrous, or accidental are actually not so. They are, in fact, illusions that appear like that because of the limited perception of mankind. According to Boethius who founded the philosophy, these events have a higher beneficial purpose that would elude the comprehension of human beings, as long as they are bound with the laws of the physical universe.
: Inflated and wordy speech that is grossly disproportionate to the worth of the subject it addresses.
: A morpheme that in itself does not have a meaning and hence, has to be exclusively used as a part of a larger word. For instance, the morpheme gruntle
in the word disgruntle
is an example of a bound morpheme. This is opposite to a free morpheme that can retain independent meaning on its own. Examples of free morpheme are it
in the word itself
: It refers to the dramas in the 1830s in England which were based on domestic life and contemporary matters. Emphasis was laid more on re-creating local color and domestic detail. This marked the deviation from melodrama and romanticism in drama of the preceding stages. Emergence of bourgeois drama saw the development of new staging practices.
: A French term that refers to the non aristocratic middle class, that comprised the well to do group of consumers, that did not have to face the hardships of the lower class workers or the proletariats. The word bourgeois is the adjective of the term bourgeoisie that refers to the tendencies, values, and qualities of the bourgeoisie.
: A form of tragedy which had protagonists from the middle class who suffered a commonplace or domestic disaster. This kind of tragedy that developed in the eighteenth century was the result of the enlightenment and the emergence of the bourgeoisie class and its values. It is also known a domestic tragedy. The first true example of bourgeoisie tragedy is George Lilo's English play The London Merchant
: Editing a literary work for profanity, sexually illicit material, or unacceptable political sentiment. The term was often used derogatorily by editors and scholars to denote an incomplete or inferior quality literary work. The term originated from the name of Reverend Thomas Bowdler who removed parts from his Family Shakespeare
that he considered "unfit to be read by a gentleman in the company of ladies."
: A theatrical structure in modern drama in which the stage is set up as consisting of a room with three walls, with the audience watching the drama through the invisible fourth wall.
: Fourteenth century narrative poem about courtly love and chivalry, which also contains supernatural elements. The Franklin's Tale
from Canterbury Tales
written by Chaucer is an example of a Breton lai.
: A play, film, stage production or any other form of literature that mocks a person, idea, object, or style of writing, by trivializing the exalted, or by portraying the trivial in a grand manner.
: It is a musical term that denotes a brief comic Italian ( later English) opera. Its synonyms are burla or burlettina.
: Also known as the six line stave
or the Scottish stanza
, the Burns stanza is a six line stanza with an aaabab
rhyme pattern. It has tetrameter, a lines, and diameter b lines. However, the second b
line may or may not be repeated. Though such stanzas are named after the Scottish poet Robert Burns, they were not invented by him; he just used them prolifically in his work. It was in use much before Burns and then it was known as the Standard Habbie
. Examples of the Burn stanza include Robert Burns' To a Louse
and Address to the Deil
: It is a renaissance term for the elegantly laced boots worn by actors in ancient Greek tragedies. Later on, the buskins came to denote the elevator shoes, that made the actors wearing them, unusually tall. The height emphasized the royal status of the character being played. These shoes are also known as Cothurni
: An idealized and romanticized antihero who is flawed in character. A Byronic hero is typically a young and attractive man who defies authority and moral codes of conduct. However, paradoxically, the character comes to be ennobled by his rejection of virtues. The term has its origin in the works, as well as life of Lord Byron whom his ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb had characterized as being "mad, bad, and dangerous to know".
: In poetry, cacophony refers to the use of sharp, harsh, and unmelodious sound. It is the opposite of euphony.
: Cadel specifically means a small item or an extra something added to the initial letter
. Initial letter refers to the first decorated letter in the beginning of a chapter, story, poem, or section of text of medieval manuscripts.
: Generally, cadence refers to the rhythmic pattern created in language due to varying stressing of words and syllables. However, more specifically it denotes to the melodic pattern just at the end of a phrase or a line. Cadence gave writers a distinctive style. A cadence group
is a series of word that have a specific pattern when spoken due to specific heavy stresses and light stresses. For example "our inalienable rights".
: A pause that can come at any place within a line of poetry. It helps in maintaining the poetic rhythm of the line, and may not be indicated typographically at all. However, certain writers either use a slash (/) or a space to denote caesura in a line.
: Canon is a collection of works, genuinely believed by scholars to belong to a particular writer. For instances the Shakespeare canon
. As opposed to it, apocryphal work
denotes those that are of dubious or uncertain origin.
: Canto denotes the major divisions within a poem, specially an epic. A canto is comparable to a chapter in a novel. Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy
contains 100 cantos.
: An autobiographical narrative of colonials or settlers who are captured by the aboriginal tribes and live with them till their freedom. Such narratives often include a theme of these settlers surviving the temptations of alien ways of life and attaining salvation by their faith when they are faced with difficult situations.
: The cardinal sins were also known as the seven deadly sins
. These sins are Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Anger, and Sloth. These sins were defined and discussed at length by major theologians as Gregory the Great and Thomas Aquinas, and played an important role in many works of the medieval and Renaissance literature and were frequently presented as personifications.
: As opposed to the three Christian or Spiritual values of faith, hope, and love, the four Cardinal values are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.
: In arts, caricature is an exaggerated portrait of an individual in which the physical features are distorted, however, maintaining a visual likeness that enables one to identify the individual. In literature, it means exaggerating certain characters whereas, over simplifying the others. Caricature can be insulting or complimentary. It can be used for political purpose or simply for entertainment, and is a form of burlesque
: This is the time between 1625 to 1649 which marks the reign of Charles I. The name Caroline Age is derived from Carolus
, the Latin word for Charles. The supporters of Charles I were broadly referred to as the Cavaliers who were rich aristocrats and courtiers. They were known for their love for luxury, finery, licentious behavior, and fervent interest in arts. The writers with the court were referred to as the Cavalier poets. They were famous for the use of witty and polished lyrics of bravery and courtship. They were in conflict with the supporters of the Parliament who were known as the Roundheads
. The conflict between the two groups led to a Civil War. With the end of the Civil War, the Cavalier Age and their art form also ended. The Caroline Age is also known as the Cavalier Age
. Richard Lovelace, Thomas Crew, and Sir John Suckling were some of the prominent poets. It was in the Caroline age that John Milton started writing.
: Poetry or literature of the carpe diem tradition stresses the brevity of life, and the fleeting nature of time. Hence, it means to make the most of life, as life is short and time is fleeting.
: Dialect spoken by specific classes of society. Many times the caste dialect spoken by a speaker gives him the identity of belonging to a particular class.
: According to the Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, catachresis implies "misapplication of a word, especially in a mixed metaphor". It could also indicate use of word in a place where normally it would not be used. Using a word for something that does not have any word in that language could also be taken as an example of catachresis. Due to the myriad implications of the term, it is difficult to give a single definition for catachresis. Examples: Black Sun
- paradox or contradiction, To take arms against a sea of troubles.
- an example of illogical mixed metaphor, Can't you hear me? Are you blind?
- inappropriate use of words.
: Catalectic lines in poetry are those that are formed by dropping one or more unstressed syllables. Hence they form a metrically incomplete line. Headless or acephalous lines are examples of catalectic lines in which the syllable is dropped in the beginning of a line. Catalectic lines contrast with the acatalectic lines that refer to normal lines of poetry that have as many number of syllables as normally expected in poetry. A hypercatalectic line has one or more syllables extra, than a line of poetry should normally have.
: Catalexis is the act of making a catalectic line in a poetry.
: Catastrophe refers to the final action that results in the unfolding of the plot in a play, especially in a tragedy. Denouement (French word for "unknotting") is a synonym of catastrophe.
: Catchword was the single word at the right hand corner at the bottom of each page, that appeared as the first word on the next page. It was very common in Shakespeare's plays that were published in earlier times.
: In Greek, catharsis means "purgation'", "purification" or "cleansing". As per Aristotle's definition, Catharsis describes the release of emotions (especially that of fear and pity) of the audience, after they have watched a tragedy.
: Caudate sonnet is an expanded form of a sonnet which consists of 14 lines followed by a coda
. A coda is a passage that marks the end of a piece of music.
: See Caroline Age.
: Court plays of 1630s, that received patronage of the Queen, were known as Cavalier Drama. This form of drama was often criticized for their ponderous style and lack of originality in subject matter. Prominent playwrights of this type of drama are Sir John Suckling, Thomas Killigrew, and James Shirley.
: See Caroline Age.
: Celtic revival refers to the literary movement that started in 1880 and continued till the death of William Butler Yeats in 1939. Although, the movement aimed at the revival and encouraging a new appreciation of the Celtic Arts and culture, and was spread across various countries of the North West Europe, its best incarnation was in Ireland. Hence, it is also known as the Irish Literary Renaissance
or the Irish Literary Revival
. The poets and writers of Ireland emphasized on the revival of traditional Irish literature and Irish poetry. Their aim was to create a distinct national literature that would include Irish legends, myths, and history. The major writers, however, wrote in English language instead of using native Irish which was one of the Celtic languages. They also used non-Irish literary forms and modern Irish life instead of ancient past for subject matter. Some of the noted writers of this movement were William Butler Yeats, Edward Martyn, lady Gregory, and AE (George Russell).
Censorship Ordinance of 1559
: A law under Queen Elizabeth which was aimed at political censorship of plays and all literary works based on religious or political themes.
: It refers to the act of hiding, destroying, or altering piece of literary works so that the public is able to read it or view it only partially.
Chain of Being
: A cosmological hierarchy of universe that finds resonance in arts, politics, literature and philosophy of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The Chain of Being put the Judeo-Christian God at the top, followed by the angels, human beings, animals and plants arranged in descending order of intelligence. At the lowest rung of this hierarchy, were placed the inanimate objects like rocks and stones. This hierarchy is a complex one, as different parts of the Chain were believed to correspond with each other.
Chanson de geste
: This is the old French word that means "songs of great deeds". Chanson de geste are epic poems that were written between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, in praise of events (some legendary and some real) in the history of France during the eighth and the ninth centuries, with emphasis on the conflict of Charles Martel, Charlemagne, and Louis the Pious with the Moors and the Saracens.
: The embodiment of a person in a drama or narrative through verbal representation or actions. It is through their dialogs and actions that the readers or audience is able to understand the moral, intellectual, and emotional qualities of that character, and thus the overall story.
: Use of description, dialogs, dialect, and actions to create the emotional, intellectual, and moral dimension of a character is called characterization. Besides enabling the reader to understand the personality of a character, characterization may also give clues about the social, cultural, and geographic background of a character as well.
: Chaucerism refers to the experimental revival and formation of new words, that was a deliberate attempt at emulating sounds, verbal patterns and the 'feel' of words from older centuries. This is an example of verbal or grammatical anachronism.
: A figure of speech such that words in the second clause or phrase transpose or invert the order of the first clause or phrase. Example: "Flowers are lovely, love is flowerlike" - Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
: A literary genre of high culture, prevalent during the middle ages that comprised tales of chivalry and adventures of knights as they went on a quest, mostly to rescue fair maidens. In such tales, the knights would display courage, nobility, and respect for the ladies, and the ladies in turn displayed virtues like modesty, elegance, and fidelity. The knights on their quest would meet elements with supernatural and magical powers, whom they would defeat showing exemplary courage.
: Also known as the choral character
, the choric figure is a character in a play who remains detached from the actions of the play and through his comments gives the audience a perspective, through which the characters and events in the play should be viewed. For example the Fool
in Shakespeare's King Lear
: Initially a group of people in Greek tragedies served as commentators expressing religious, traditional, and moral attitudes as the dramatic events and actions unfolded in a play. However, the chorus found place in the works of Roman as well as English playwrights and dramatists. During the Elizabethan Age, chorus referred to a single person who the author used, to express a commentary on the play. This chorus would often speak the prologue, epilogue, and an introduction to each act in the play.
: Plays based on the historical materials in the English Chronicles of Raphael Holinshed and others. The group of plays include Marlowe's Edward II
and three parts of Shakespeare's Henry VI
. The Elizabethan chronicle plays are also known as historical plays
: A systematic compilation of events and accounts in history, arranged in chronological order, in which the chronicler does not attempt to analyze or question the events.
: Probably an invention of the medieval writers, cinquain refers to a five line stanza with varied meter and scheme. Modern cinquains are based on the model standardized by Adelaide Crapsey (an American Poet). Craspey's cinquain had lines in increasing order of syllable count, starting with two in the first, four in the second, six in the third and eight in the fourth, returning to two syllables in the fifth line.
: Work of art, drama, architecture, philosophy literature, and history related to the Romans and Greeks in between 1000 BCE and 410 BCE, is referred to as classical.
: A tradition that highlights the ideals like objectivity, emotional restraint, systematic thinking, clarity dignity, and promotion of general welfare, that were prevalent in ancient Greece and Rome is termed classicism.
: A saying, expression, or idea that has been used so often in works of literature that it has lost its original meaning and has become a stereotype.
: An artistic arrangement of items so that they appear in increasing order of importance. Its synonyms are auxesis
: A point in the play or any form of literary work at which crisis reaches its maximum intensity and then is resolved.
: Bit by bit analysis of every word and literary devices used to understand their significance, inter-relationship. and ambiguity (multiple meanings).
: A drama that is written to be read by a single reader or aloud to a small group instead of being played on stage.
: According to the American historians, this is the period dating from 1607 to 1775, when the first settlements of the American soil started by the colonialists, till the outbreak of the American Revolution against the British Monarchy. Writings of the Colonial Period were mainly religious, practical, or historical in nature. As per the British historians, they used this term to imply the general expansion of the British empire to America, Indies, India, Africa, and the Middle East.
The most general definition of this literary term is a fictional work that is mainly aimed at amusing the readers or audience. A comedy is supposed to entertain the audience rather than compelling them to think about serious ideas and themes. The characters typically avoid disastrous events and have a happy ending. The different types of comedy are romantic comedy, satiric comedy, comedy of manners and farce.
Comedy of Errors
: A dramatic work that is humorous or satirical and is characterized by a series of comic instances of mistaken identity. The drama typically has a happy ending with the resolution of the thematic confusion.
Comedy of Humors
: A genre of dramatic comedy in which personality of each character was dominated by a particular trait or 'humor'. The English playwrights Ben Jonson and George Chapman popularized this genre in later years of the sixteenth century.
Comedy of Manners
: A witty form of dramatic comedy that depicts and criticizes the manners and affections of a contemporary society, often represented by stock characters.
: Introduction of a humorous character, instance or speech in a serious or tragic work to relieve tension.
: In Italian it means "comedy of the artists (or of the guilds)". This form of comic drama evolved by the guilds of professional Italian actors in the mid sixteenth century. In this genre, the plays were unscripted and actors largely improvised the dialogs around the scene. Outside Italy, it is known as Italian Comedy
: Common measure consists of closed poetic quatrains which have rhyming pattern of abab
. The lines in this, have iambic tetrameter that alternate with lines of iambic trimeter. Synonym for this is common meter
Concrete Diction / Concrete Imagery
: As opposed to abstract or generalized language, concrete diction or concrete imagery uses language that describes qualities that can be perceived by the senses.
: Also known as shaped poetry
, concrete poetry derives significance from the shape in which the text of the poetry appear on the page. The shape which can vary from that of a swan's neck to a set of wings, in some way have connection to the meaning of the words.
: Depiction of struggle in literary work, be it between two ideas, characters or groups of people. The conflict can also be internal, that is the protagonist struggling with psychological tendencies.
: While denotation implies the primary significance or reference of a word, connotation means the associated or secondary significance of a word. For example, the words civil war, revolution, and rebellion have the same denotation. However, the word Civil War
has a historical significance for Americans that gives a greater meaning than just being an attempt to bring about a change in the political or social milieu.
: A type of alliteration in which a consonant sound is repeated in quick succession. For instance, in all mammals named Sam are clammy
the consonant sound that is repeated is m
: Convention is a set of norms, criteria, or standards that become associated with a certain genre of literary work as its indispensable trait. For example, in the Western movies of the early twentieth century, it was a convention for the protagonist to wear white hats and the antagonist to wear black hats.
: A pair of lines in a verse that rhyme and have the same meter. The couplet was popularized in English language by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century.
: A doctrine of love that had elaborate code and which dictated the relations between lovers of the aristocratic class. This code was popular in the lyric poems and chivalric romances during the Middle ages in Western Europe.
: A moment of uncertainty and tension that results from earlier conflicts in a plot. During crisis, it is unclear if a protagonist will fail or succeed in his struggle.
: Literary criticism is the overall term for study, analysis, defining, interpreting, and evaluating works of literature. The different types of criticisms are practical criticism or applied criticism
, impressionistic criticism
and judicial criticism
Crown of Sonnets
: A sequence of sonnets addressed to one person or dealing with a single theme. It is also known as sonnet corona
: A performance or a stage act by an actor that opens the show for a more famous actor.
: A post-modern genre of science fiction in which events take place partially or completely in virtual reality. The characters may be human or artificial intelligences. A popular example is William Gibson's Neuromancer
: It is a three-syllable foot that contains one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. Dactyl is the opposite of anapest.
: Dada or dadaism is a movement that began during the First World War in Switzerland and peaked in 1916 to 1922. The movement was in opposition to the brutality and destructiveness of war. It used all art forms including visual arts, literature, and theater against the prevailing standards of art. The movement held public gatherings, demonstrations, distribution of pamphlets, and journals and presentation of art forms to engender negative art and literature that stood in direct opposition of the values professed by the contemporary bourgeois society. By 1925 this movement gave way to surrealism and other movements.
: See Aubade.
: A language that doesn't change or evolve is a dead language. It seems to have frozen in time as it is not used in general everyday discourse and is learned only to be used during rituals or scholarly studies. Examples are Classical Latin and Sanskrit.
: A figure of speech that originally developed as a metaphor, but lost its original, metaphorical implications due to over use, and is used more as a regular idiom.
: Decadence or decadence movement was the derogatory name given by critics to a late nineteenth century movement that took shape in Western Europe, mainly in France. However, later on some writers of this movement triumphantly adopted the name, and called themselves the decadents. The writers were for most part associated with symbolism and the aesthetic movement. The decadent movement is now considered a transitional phase between Romanticism and modernism.
: A declined language is one in which declensions or inflections are used to give more meaning to words. Inflections or declensions mean special endings stuck on the end of a word to signify features like case, number, gender and so on. Example of an English noun declining to distinguish between singular and plural is book
. Other names for declined language is synthetic language
or inflected language
: In poetry and theater, decorum refers to the requirement that characters, their speech and characterizations should match with each other and be in consonance with the genre they represent. For example, satire requires lowly characters, low style and actions. However, epic literature requires the characters to belong to high estate and speak in elevated style and diction.
: A religious movement that was popular throughout late seventeenth century up to the late eighteenth century that professed a rational rather than faith-based approach to understanding religion and God. This movement is frequently associated with the Enlightenment movement, Neoclassicism and Free Masonry.
: The strict meaning of a word as found in the dictionary, without any reference to its any implications or associations it may have with any event or abject. Also see connotation
: A French word, Dénouement refers to a series of events that take place after the climax that concludes the plot and brings about resolution conflicts.
Deus Ex Machina
: The literal meaning of Deus Ex Machina is "God out of the machine". The term is a plot device in which a person or object intervenes in the play unexpectedly to help a character out of the difficult situation that he is stuck in.
: The character in a play who is next in importance to the protagonist. The character of slave Jim
in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an example of Deuteragonist.
: Analysis of changes in literature, history or linguistics over a course of time is known as diachronic. It is the opposite of synchronic
which refers to study in a single moment of history. However, a synchronic analysis considers development of traits or norms over wide geographical areas or over a number of disciplines.
: The difference in sound, spellings, grammar, and diction in language used by people of specific class or group that distinguishes them from those of other class or groups.
: The lines spoken by characters in a play, novel, or essay. It is through dialogs that characters converse with each other. Dialogs help in characterization and are crucial for the plot to advance.
: A metrical foot in poetry that has two unaccented short syllables. It is also known as Pyrrhic
: Diction refers to the kind of words, phrases, sentence structures, style of expression, and figurative language used by a writer or a speaker.
: Any piece of literature that is designed to expound, teach, or give information on any subject like a moral, religious, philosophical doctrine rather than concentrate on the artistic qualities or techniques of writing. Didactic literature, as opposed to non-didactic piece of work, is not aimed at entertaining the readers. Example: Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism
. Similarly, didactic poetry refers to something that is supposed to teach an ethical, moral or religious theme.
: Intentional diversion from the theme in a particular section of a speech or composition is known as digression. In Classical rhetoric, since Corax of Syracuse
, digression was one of the five sections of an oration or composition. However, the place of digression in the order of the five sections was not fixed. In the eighteenth century, digression became a part of satirical works, fine examples of which are A Tale of Tub
by Jonathan Swift and Tristram Shandy
by Laurence Sterne.
: Precursor of paperbacks, comic books, and pulp magazine, dime novels became popular in the US during the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. These were melodramatic novels of adventure, that were based on western theme. Prominent writers were E.Z.C. Judson.
: A line that has only two metrical feet.
: A song of grief or mourning to be sung most suitably in a funeral.
Dissociation of Sensibility
: A literary term for separation of intellectual thought from feeling of experience that was prevalent in seventeenth century poetry.
: Also known as alienation effect
or estrangement effect
, distancing effect refers to the tactic used by a dramatist to ensure that the audience does not establish an emotional link, and accepted the social reality being depicted in the drama. Instead, with distancing effect a dramatist would evoke a reaction, and an urge to act against the state of society being depicted in the play.
: Derogatory term for a verse of inferior literary value.
: Popular in folklore, doppelgänger refers to seeing oneself in peripheral vision. Doppelgänger was considered as a bad omen, and was popularly used by Fyodor Dostoevski and E. T. A. Hoffman in their works.
: A comic verse with two quatrains in which each line is written in dactylic dimeter.
: Deliberate ambiguity introduced in a phrase or image that usually involves sexual or humorous meaning.
: Use of two plots within a single narrative.
: A feminine rhyme that involves repetition of two syllables instead of one. For example bend/lend
is a single rhyme as it has used one syllable to rhyme. However, bending/lending
is an example of double rhyme as it uses two syllables for rhyming.
: Two words that originated from the same etymon (origin of a word), however, have different meanings as they were adapted into the language during different periods. For example, the words chef
come from the same French word, Chief means leader of a war band, as it was adapted when Norman French was associated with military power. However, when the word chef
was derived, Parisian French was largely associated with culinary arts.
: A composition in prose or verse that is designed to be presented on stage. In this, actors take the role of characters. Through their dialogs and actions, the characters advance the plot. An individual work of drama is called a play.
: A device by which a dramatist lets the audience know a circumstance that a character in the play is supposed to have gone through but is unaware of. Due to his ignorance, the character behaves in a way grossly inappropriate to the present circumstance, and expects the outcome to be quite opposite of what the audience knows is awaiting him.
: A dramatic monologue in which a speaker addresses an auditor in a critical moment, revealing himself in a dramatic situation.
: A type of lyric poem in which the speaker speaks at length to the audience about his innermost thoughts and feelings.
: A Latin phrase for the list of characters who play a role in a drama - commonly employed in various forms of theater.
: A genre of poetry popular in Middle Ages in which the narrator goes off to sleep. In his sleep he sees a dream in which a spirit guide takes him on a long journey, in which the narrator comes across a number of historical or fictional characters engaged in allegorical activities. Through their activities and interactions with them, the narrator learns important lessons about religion, spirituality, and love which he otherwise would not have been able to know in real life. After he wakes up the narrator resolves to share his knowledge with the world. This is also known as a dream vision
: A pantomime introduced before a (spoken) play or before each act of a play that summarizes the events that follow.
Duple Meter/Duple Rhythm
: Duple meter refers to a poetry that has one meter in each line and two syllables in every metrical foot.
: A work of fiction which presents a very grim picture of the social, political, and technological aspects of a society. It is characterized by poverty, disease, oppression, war, violence, violation of human rights, and widespread unhappiness.
Early Modern English
: In the beginning of the 1940s, many historians replaced the term Renaissance with "early modern" to cover the period from the 1450 to 1800. "Late modern" began from 1800 to the present day.
: A poem written in a classical style that has a pastoral subject. Such poems are also called bucolics
: A system of values which denotes that all livings things (not just human beings) and the environment are no less important than human beings themselves and even possess moral and political rights. Ecocentrism is in opposition to anthropocentrism
: The time between 1901 to 1910 during which, King Edward VII reigned United Kingdom. The prominent writers of this period were Thomas Hardy, Alfred Noyes, William Butler Yeats, Henry Arthur Jones, and George Bernard Shaw.
: A stock male character in Greek tragedies who appeared to be less clever than he actually was. The eiron was known for his ironic understatements. Through his superior verbal skills, he defeated the braggarts and shallow characters.
: Derived from Greek for "description", ekphrasis is a writing in which an author includes a passage that describes a visual (or non-visual) work of art like a painting, sculpture, or architecture.
: A melancholic lyric poem written to commemorate the loss of a loved one. Alternately, the subject matter of an elegy could also be serious meditations or sustained formal lamentations. It is a form of lyric poetry. Famous works include Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
, Edmund Spencer's Astrophel
, John Milton's Lycidas
, P. B. Shelley's Adonais
and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse
: The period of 1553 to 1603 that marks the rule of Elizabeth I. During this time commerce, maritime power, and literature developed rapidly. It was, in fact, the age of English literature which witnessed the literary works of Sir Philip Sidney, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, and Ben Jonson to name a few.
: A pictorial representation or an image that symbolizes a concept or represents a person like a king or a saint.
: A rhyme in which the last word of every verse rhymes. In contrast, in an internal rhyme
the rhyming word lies somewhere in the middle of each line. In head rhyme
, the starting consonant of a word alliterates with the beginning consonant of another word.
: If in a poem, pause in the reading at the end of a sentence, phrase, or clause coincides with the end of the line, then it is said to have end-stopped line. This is in contrast to enjambment
in which the continuity of the syntactic unit (clause phrase or sentence ), is broken by the end of a line or between two verses.
: An intellectual movement that developed in the seventeenth century in western Europe and lasted till the nineteenth century. It believed that humanity could improve its plight by applying reason and logic. It disapproved superstitions, untested beliefs, and barbarism of the medieval ages to embrace the artistic excellence of the Greco-Roman world.
: Like a regular simile, an epic simile compares two objects. However, instead of doing the comparison in a single line, epic simile develops the comparison at great length that may span over fifty or hundred lines. It is also known as Homeric simile
: A genre of classical poetry that is a long narrative verse written on a serious subject, usually about the ideals and cultural values of a race, a nation or a group of people upheld by a hero or a demi God. The exploits of this central character is written in high elevated language. An epic is set over a vast geographical area and involves Gods and supernatural beings taking part in it. Other than the central character, there are other important characters that are warriors or belong to the royalty. Iliad
are considered the most important epics in the history of literature. While primary epics
refer to folk epics that were transmitted orally in pre-literate cultures, secondary epics
are those that are actually written down.
: A verse or a prose that is written in a witty satirical manner with the aim of ridiculing an idea or a thought.
: A quotation which marks the beginning of a document. It can be in the form of a phrase or a poem, and has multiple functions. It can be the preface, the introduction,