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stylistic devices


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Semantic field: stylistic devices

abbreviation a shortened form of a word, often one used in writing Mr, Mrs, N.Y, lb, ctn
accumulation figure of speech characterized by piling up of similar words or phrases within a few lines W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair, "Fancy an old, stumpy, short, vulgar and very dirty man, in old clothes and shabby old gaiters ..." Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, "And if a young woman has beauty, birth, breeding, wit, sense, manners and modesty, and all those to an extreme, yet if she has not money, she's nobody."
acronym a word formed from the initial letters or first few letters of a series of words AIDS, NATO, radar
acrostic Greek “at the extremity of a line or row”; a number of lines of writing, usually verse, whose initial letters (read downward) form a word, phrase, or sentence. A single acrostic is formed by the initial letters of lines only; a double acrostic is formed by the first and last letters.
act the major division in the action of a drama; it is usually subdivided into scenes which in modern play usually consist of units of action in which there is no change of place or break in the continuity of time. Some recent plays dispense with the division into acts, and are structured as a sequence of scenes or episodes. The end of an act is usually indicated by a dropped curtain and an intermission.
acting time time from the beginning to the end of an episode or episodes in a fictional text. The relationship between acting time and reading time is dependent on the mode of presentation see reading time
action connected series of events exhibiting unity and significance. The action can be external (outward movement through time) or internal (predominance of the psychological interest and the character's feelings, thoughts, consciousness, etc.)
actor someone whose job is acting in plays or films
alexandrine a 12-syllable line of verse known to date from the 12th century, and used for almost all French poetry from the 16th century. It has been variously divided into two groups of six syllables (usually in English poetry) or three groups of four syllables (usually in French poetry) Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism: "A needlessAlexandrine ends the song, That, líke a wóunded snáke, //drags íts slow léngth alóng.
allegory (n.) allegorical (adj.) a kind of narrative in which characters, objects and events are to be taken not as real but as standing for some set of ideas. That is, each item in the narrative is equated with some item among the ideas
alliteration (n.) to alliterate with (v.) repetition of sounds, especially consonants, at the beginning of neighbouring words or of stressed syllables within such words "fingers the size of small spades" "Five miles meandering with a mazy motion" Hopkins, Spelt from Sybil's Leaves: "Earnest, earthless, equal, attuneable ... "
allusion (n.) to allude to (v.) allusive (adj.) an indirect or passing reference to something (literature, events, the Bible ...) outside the text in which it occurs the title of Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is an allusion to John Donne's "Meditation XVII" where D.'s concept that "no man is an island" is transformed by H. to imply that the loss of freedom in one place means the loss of freedom everywhere
alternate rhyme rhyme scheme: abab cdcd (German: Kreuzreim)
ambiguity (n.) ambiguous (adj.) a word or phrase that has two or more relevant meanings "Go and ask the butcher if he has any brains."
anacoluthon (sg.) anacolutha (pl.) sentence or construction lacking grammatical sequence but serving as an effective rhetorical device when applied in a speech "Your business is to paint the souls of man - Man's soul, and it's afire, smoke ... No, it's not ... It's a vapour done up like a new-born babe - (...) It's ... well, what matters talking, it's the soul." (Browning, Fra Lippo Lippi)
analogy the resemblance or partial likeness of two or more attributes of phenomena parental and judicial discipline
anapest three-syllable foot with rising stress _ _ ' : en/gi/néer
anaphora anaphora refers to the noticeable repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive lines, sentences or paragraphs "Art is a system invented ... Art is a form of communication ... Art is a promise ... Art is a way of telling ..." William Blake, London: "In every cry of every Man, In every Infant's cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, ..."
antagonist in fictional texts, the person who opposes the protagonist Shakespeare, Macbeth: Macduff is Macbeth's antagonist
anthology an anthology (Greek, "collection of flowers") is primarily a collection of selected poetry or prose by various authors. Today, anthologies include such diverse genres as humor, drama, criticism, and even music and film the earliest anthology to survive in full is the so-called Palatine Anthology, compiled by a 10th-century Byzantine scholar and based on collections of epigrams and poetry dating back to the Hellenistic period. With the publication of Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonnets (1557), popularly called Tottel's Miscellany, the anthology became a popular literary form. The poems of SIDNEY, SHAKESPEARE, and SPENSER were included in England's Helicon (1600), and the best of 18th-century verse appeared in Percy's Reliques (1765). In the 19th century, Francis Palgrave's Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics (1861) set the style for such modern anthologies as the Oxford series of English and American literature
anticlimax often surprising descent from the important to the unimportant, normally occurring in a series of statements; a stylistic effect resulting from a sudden drop of interest or importance "He pawned his life, his watch and his word. "
anti-hero a protagonist who lacks the traditional heroic characteristics such as courage and bravery, does not carry out great deeds and does not fit into conventional society Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman: Willy Loman
antithesis a figure of speech in which opposing or contrasting ideas are balanced against each other in grammatically parallel syntax Helen Keller, The Story of My Life: "There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his." Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism: "To err is human, to forgive divine."
anti-utopia (n.) anti-utopian (adj.) in a fictional text, a futuristic and perfectly organized world, in which individual freedom is severely limited, also called dystopia. Anti-utopian or dystopian literature usually intends to warn the reader about the dangers of any form of totalitarianism Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, (1932) George Orwell, 1984, (1949) Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, (1953)
antonym (n.) antonymous (adj.) the antonym of a word is another word which means the opposite good' and 'bad' are antonymous
aphorism short, sharp, witty saying, usually making a general observation.The term derives from the Aphorisms ascribed to Greek writer Hippocrates "Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes" is one of many aphorisms by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism (1709/11): "True wit is Nature to advantage dressed; What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed."
apocope the omission of the last sound or syllable of a word goin' = going
appeal (to the reader), argumentum ad hominem figure of speech characterized by the author's explaining his or her intentions to the reader or listener directly to arouse interest in and often pity for the character(s) concerned, mainly by employing emotive language C. Brontë, Shirley: "If you think ... that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never were more mistaken ... Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard. ..."
appendix information, additional or explanatory, added at the end of the book; a reference to the appendix is usually signaled in a footnote to the text
argument a short account of the story, subject or logical structure of a book, poem, etc.
assonance repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds within stressed syllables of neighbouring words "on the dole with nowhere to go" "twice five miles of fertile ground"
asyndeton the omission of conjunctions, (Greek asyndetos = unjoined); words or phrases appear in a series without being linked by conjunctions. They are separated only by commas George Orwell, 1984: "Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC".
atmosphere the atmosphere of a literary work is its general mood or emotional climate. It is often developed through a description of the setting an serves to establish the reader's expectations Ann Petry, Solo On The Drums Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death
audience group of people watching a play, a concert, a film, television or listening to a speech or to the radio or the people who read the books of a writer or hear about the ideas of a thinker
autobiography (n.) autobiographic(al) (adj.) a person's own account of his life; sometimes it may be a mixture fiction and non-fiction Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, 1771
ballad (Latin ballare “to dance”); form of traditional narrative poetry, widespread in Europe and the US. Ballads are metrically simple, sometimes unstrophic and unrhymed or dependent on assonance. Concerned with some strongly emotional event, the ballad is halfway between the lyric and the epic. The ballad form was adapted in “broadsheets”, with a satirical or political motive, and in the “hanging” ballads purporting to come from condemned criminals.

most English ballads date from the 15th century but may describe earlier events. Poets of the Romantic movement both in England and in Germany were greatly influenced by the ballad revival, as seen in, for example, the Lyrical Ballads 1798 of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Des Knaben Wunderhorn/The Boy’s Magic Horn 1805-08, a collection edited by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, was a major influence on 19th-century German poetry. Historically, the ballad was primarily intended for singing at the communal ring-dance, the refrains representing the chorus. Opinion is divided as to whether the authorship of the ballads may be attributed to individual poets or to the community. Later ballads tend to center on a popular folk hero, such as Robin Hood or Jesse James. In 19th-century music the refined drawing-room ballad had a vogue, but a more robust tradition survived in the music hall; folk song played its part in the development of pop music, and in this genre slow songs are often called “ballads”, regardless of content
bestiary in medieval times, a book with stories and illustrations which depicted real and mythical animals or plants to illustrate a (usually Christian) moral. The stories were initially derived from the Greek Physiologus, a collection of 48 such stories, written in Alexandria around the 2nd century AD.

translations of the Physiologus into vernacular languages (French, Italian, and English) date from the 13th century; illustrated versions are known from the 9th century. Much of later and contemporary folklore about animals derives from the bestiary, such as the myth of the phoenix burning itself to be born again
bibliography list of books on a particular subject, or used in the research for a work; or a list of all the books by a particular writer.
An annotated or critical bibliography includes a critical judgment on listed works; some bibliographies include an abstract of the contents of the works
Bildungsroman (German: “education novel”); chiefly a German form; novel that deals with the psychological and emotional development of its protagonist, tracing his or her life from inexperienced youth to maturity. The first example of the type is generally considered to be C. M. Wieland's, Agathon (1765-66), but it was Goethe's Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795-96) that established the genre. Although taken up by writers in other languages, it remained a German form C. M. Wieland, Agathon (1765-66) Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795-96) Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (1924)
biography (n.) biographic(al) adj.) an account of a person's life history written by another person, a biographer Mrs Gaskell, Life Of Charlotte Brontë (1857)
blank verse in literature, the unrhymed iambic pentameter or ten-syllable line of five stresses.
first used by the Italian Gian Giorgio Trissino in his tragedy Sofonisba 1514-15, it was introduced to England about 1540 by the Earl of Surrey, who used it in his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. It was developed by Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare, quickly becoming the distinctive verse form of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. It was later used by Milton in Paradise Lost 1667 and by Wordsworth in The Prelude 1805. More recent exponents of blank verse in English include Thomas Hardy, T S Eliot, and Robert Frost.
After its introduction from Italy, blank verse was used with increasing freedom by Shakespeare, John Fletcher, John Webster, and Thomas Middleton. It was remodeled by John Milton, who was imitated in the 18th century by James Thomson, Edward Young, and William Cowper, and revived in the early 19th century by Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, and later by Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Algernon Charles Swinburne.
caesura phonetic pause within a line (German: Verseinschnitt) Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock: "On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore, Which Jews might kiss, || and infidels adore. Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose, Quick as her eyes, || and as unfix'd as those ..."
cartoon a comic or satirical drawing, often dealing with current, especially political, events
catastrophe it usually ends a tragedy with the death of the hero. In a comedy the plot or the intrigue is unravelled and leads to a happyending
catharsis term used by Aristotle in his 'Poetics' where he speaks of the function of tragedy which should succeed in 'arousing pity and fear in such a way as to accomplish a catharsis (purgation / purification) of such emotions' within the tragedy and / or the audience; (Greek katharsis “purification”)
emotional purging and purification brought about by the experience of pity and fear, as in tragic drama. Aristotle in his Poetics used the term to explain the audience’s feelings of relief or pleasure in watching the suffering of characters in a tragedy brought low by their own mistakes or cruel fate
chanson de geste epic poetry of the High Middle Ages in Europe. It probably developed from oral poetry recited in royal or princely courts, and takes as its subject the exploits of heroes, such as those associated with Charlemagne and the crusades Chanson de Roland
character in a fictional text, person developed through action, description, language and way of speaking
characterization (n.) to characterise (v.) to characterize (v.) characteristic (adj.) the way in which the narrator presents the characters in his story. Characterization deals with describing all the features that make up a personality and its development. The description of a person's appearance may also be part of characterization
chiasm(us) a form of antithesis, a grammatically balanced statement of contrasting or opposing ideas in which the second half of the statement inverts the word order of the first half John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." 'She went to Paris; to New York went he.'
chorus (in ancient Greek plays) a group of actors who used poetry and music to explain or give opinions on the action of the play; (in Elizabethan plays) a person who makes a speech before, after or during the play explaining or giving opinions on the action of the play
circumlocution roundabout, verbose way of speaking or writing when someone tries to appear impressive or is being deliberately unclear, perhaps to disguise the truth

Charles Dickens in the novel Little Dorrit invented the Circumlocution Office as a satirical representation of a typical government department
cliché any expression that has been used so often that it has lost its freshness and precision "sadder but wise"; "the last straw"; "Money makes the world go round."
climax structural element of a text, the moment when the conflict is most intense. In fictional texts, the climax follows the rising action and precedes the turning-point
comic relief a moment of comic relief in a serious play amuses the audience; for a short time the tension becomes less. On the other hand comic relief also creates suspense because the development of the action is halted for a moment
complication the device of bringing the conflicting forces together
compression when the reading time of a narrative is definitely shorter than the narrating time
concrete term the parts of the subcategories of an inclusive term "science" is an inclusive term, "biology", "chemistry" et al. are concrete terms
conflict clash between different forces. In fictional texts, the struggle may be one of ideas or values within a character (=internal conflict) or between two characters or one character and fate / nature / society / etc. (=external conflict)
connotation (n.) connotative (adj.) the connotation of a word refers to all possible associations this word evokes; additional meaning of a word beyond its dictionary definition Intermediate' has connotations of the inferior and the second rate.
context (n.) contextual (adj.) the words or sentences that come before or after a particular word and help to make its meaning clear
continuous rhyme rhyme scheme: aa bb cc (German: Paarreim)
contrast opposite or strongly contrasting forms of words "I'm going north by train; she's coming south by car."
couplet in literature, a pair of lines of verse, usually of the same length and rhymed.
heroic couplet, consisting of two rhymed lines in iambic pentameter, was widely adopted for epic poetry, and was a convention of both serious and mock-heroic 18th-century English poetry
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism: “A little learning is a dang’rous thing; / Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”
crime fiction variant of detective fiction distinguished by emphasis on character and atmosphere rather than solving a mystery. Examples are the works of US writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler during the 1930s and, in the second half of the 20th century, Patricia Highsmith and English author Ruth Rendell.
The English writer William Godwin’s
Caleb Williams 1794 is a forerunner that points to the continuing tendency in crime fiction for serious psychological exploration to be linked with political radicalism
crisis in a play or narrative, the turning point in the fortunes of the protagonist, signaling the onset of the falling action in the plot. In dramatic structure, it is sometimes synonymous with climax, leading to the catastrophe
cynicism (n.) cynical (adj.) in its broadest sense, expressing contempt for mankind and the world in general. It is based upon an essentially sceptical attitude towards human values and usually found in offensive, destructive satire E. M. Forster, A Passage To India, "'I really do know the truth about Indians. A most unsuitable position for any Englishwoman. I was a Nurse in a Native State. One's only hope was to hold sternly aloof.'-'Even from one's patients?'-'Why, the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die,' said...."
dactyl three-syllable foot with falling stress ' _ _ : lóne/li/ness
decorum decorum is the criterion of appropriate relationship between style and subject matter. In Renaissance and neoclassical criticism, decorum regulated distinctions between the styles of literary genres: a grand style for epic poetry and tragedy, which dealt with noble character; a low, colloquial style for comedy, which depicted mundane events. Rules of decorum are constantly challenged and amended by writers who depart from accepted convention
denotation (n.) denotative (adj.) the denotation of a word refers to its basic, literal meaning, as found in a dictionary (most usually used as a verb: to denote) BASIC', as its name denotes, is a very straightforward set of computer instructions.
dénouement (French dénouer = "to untie"); the unraveling of the plot of a work of fiction. In a typical structure, the denouement would come just before the end, following the climax.
the final outcome of a fictional text, especially in a drama, when the conflict is resolved;
the detective story is a genre where the complication of plot usually needs a lengthy denouement, where all is explained to the reader
detective fiction novel or short story in which a mystery is solved mainly by the action of a professional or amateur detective. Where the mystery to be solved concerns a crime, the work may be called crime fiction Edgar Allan Poe, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841): his detective Dupin became the model for those who solved crimes by deduction from a series of clues. A popular deductive sleuth was Sherlock Holmes in the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.The “golden age” of the genre was the period from the 1920s to the 1940s, when the leading writers were women - Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and Dorothy L Sayers. See also the works of Swedish writers Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo and Francis Iles, Malice Aforethought. Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett's detective fiction became known for its social realism and explicit violence. See also: P D James, Innocent Blood, A Taste for Death; Patricia Highsmith, This Sweet Sickness; Tony Hillerman, The Joe Leaphorn Mysteries, Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
deus ex machina a Latin phrase meaning "god out of the machine," referring to the practice in ancient classical drama of lowering a deity onto the stage to resolve a crisis in the plot. The phrase is now applied to any improbable event used by a dramatist to extricate characters from difficulty
dialogue two or more people talking to each other in any kind of text; an exchange of words between characters in drama or fiction. The term also refers to a literary form, such as the Socratic Dialogues of Plato, consisting entirely of spoken parts but not meant for stage presentation
diary informal record of day-to-day events, observations, or reflections, usually not intended for a general readership. One of the earliest diaries extant is that of a Japanese noblewoman, the Kagero Nikki 954-974, and the earliest known diary in English is that of Edward VI (ruled 1547-53). Notable diaries include those of Samuel Pepys and Anne Frank. The writer John Evelyn, the Quaker George Fox, and in the 20th century the writers André Gide and Katherine Mansfield were also diarists.
diction the choice of words and phrases; poetic diction refers to the use of special words and phrases in poetry (or literature in general) which are not used in prose or speech; the words of which a literary work is composed and from which its individual tone and meaning are derived. Neoclassical critics considered only certain words ("poetic diction") appropriate for poetry to find out about the diction you should ask the following questions: "What kind of words are used? Are they taken from a particular word field? Does the author use, f. e., a lot of descriptive adjectives or adverbs, or verbs of motion?, etc.", cf. Ann Petry's, Solo On The Drum:the use of words from the semantic fields "light" and "sound"
didactic poem a poem intended to teach morally, politically, etc.
digression narrative device that is often found in 18th and 19th century fiction, the narrator interrupts the plot to insert a comment, reflection or to address the reader; an excursive passage within a piece of writing; the introduction of material which is either unrelated or only indirectly or distantly related to the main subject of a piece of writing Henry Fielding, Tom Jones: "... Reader, take care, I have unadvisedly led thee to the top of as high a hill as Mr Allworthy's, and how to get thee down without breaking thy neck, I do not well know. However, let us e'en venture to slide down together, for Miss Bridget rings her bell, and Mr Allworthy is summoned to breakfast, where I must attend, and, if you please, shall be glad of your company. ..."
dimeter line containing two feet
disguised narrator if things are presented as they are seen through the eyes of a character in the story, we speak of a disguised narrator
distich see couplet
drama a serious play for the theatre, television, or radio; a serious work of literature that can be acted or read as a play
dramatic irony a device by which a character's words have a different meaning for the audience than for the character, because the audience knows some information which the character does not; in a narrative, irony is introduced by a narrator, but in drama, most irony is situational. Dramatic irony occurs when the audience is apprised of facts hidden from a character, or when a character's words or acts have an implication of which he or she is ignorant and the audience is aware in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Malvolio believes that Olivia has sent him a love letter and therefore he behaves in a ridiculous manner; the audience, however, knows the letter is a fake
dramatic monologue a poem in which a person speaks to an implied auditor or in soliloquy, creating a brief drama
dystopia (n.) dystopian (adj.) bad place'; represents a very unpleasant imaginary world, in which certain ominous tendencies of our present social, political, and technological order are projected in some future culmination; imaginary society whose evil qualities are meant to serve as a moral or political warning. The term was coined in the 19th century by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill, and is the opposite of a Utopia. George Orwell’s 1984 published 1949 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World 1932 are examples of novels about dystopias. Dystopias are common in science fiction;see also anti-utopia George Orwell, 1984 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
elision (n.) to elide (v.) the omission of sounds in connected speech bacon 'n' eggs
ellipsis (sg.), ellipses (pl.) shortening of sentences by dropping a word or words which can be understood from the context there's an ellipsis of was in the following sentence: "In the accident the child was hurt and the mother killed." "Cesar came, saw and conquered." (Shakespeare) "Coming?" instead of "Are you coming?"
enclosing rhyme rhyme scheme: abba cddc (German: umarmender Reim)
enjambement a line in a poem which continues into the following line without a break in the sentence or meaning E. E. Cummings (1894-1962): Sonnet, " ... A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away ..."
enumeration (n.) to enumerate (v.) the name of things one by one, one after the other "He enumerated all his reasons: bad weather, no transport, not a single penny, lots of work ..."
epic narrative poem or cycle of poems dealing with some great deed - often the founding of a nation or the forging of national unity - and often using religious or cosmological themes. The two major epic poems in the Western tradition are The Iliad and The Odyssey, attributed to Homer, and which were probably intended to be chanted in sections at feasts.
Greek and later criticism, which considered the Homeric epic the highest form of poetry, produced the genre of secondary epic - such as the Aeneid of Virgil, Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, and Milton’s Paradise Lost - which attempted to emulate Homer, often for a patron or a political cause. The term is also applied to narrative poems of other traditions: the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf and the Finnish Kalevala; in India the Ramayana and Mahabharata; and the Babylonian Gilgamesh. All of these evolved in different societies to suit similar social needs and used similar literary techniques
epigram (n.) epigrammatical (adj.) short, witty statement, artistic in style and ingenious in thought O. Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey, preface: "When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself."
epilogue postscript to a book; a short speech or poem at the end of a play, addressed directly to the audience
epistrophe epipher repetition of one or more words at the end of two or more lines or clauses Hilda Doolittle, Oread: " ... Whirl up, sea - Whirl your pointed pines, Splash your great pines On your rocks, ..." T. S. Eliot, Waste Land (1922): If there were water And no rock If there were rock And also water And water A spring A pool among the rock ..."
essay short piece of nonfiction, often dealing with a particular subject from a personal point of view. The essay became a recognized genre with French writer Montaigne’s Essais 1580 and in English with Francis Bacon’s Essays 1597. Today the essay is a part of journalism: articles in the broadsheet newspapers are in the essay tradition. A. Cowley, whose essays appeared 1668, brought a greater ease and freedom to the genre than it had possessed before in England, but it was with the development of periodical literature in the 18th century that the essay became a widely used form.
great names: J. Addison and R. Steele, with their Tatler and Spectator papers, and later S. Johnson and O. Goldsmith. In N. America the politician and scientist B. Franklin was noted for his style. A new era was inaugurated by C. Lamb’s Essays of Elia 1820; to the same period belong L. Hunt, Hazlitt, and Th. De Quincey in England, C A Sainte-Beuve in France, and R. W. Emerson and H. Thoreau in the US. From the 19th century the essay was increasingly used in Europe and the US as a vehicle for literary criticism. Hazlitt may be regarded as the originator of the critical essay, his successors include M. Arnold and E. Gosse. Th. Macaulay presents a strong contrast to Lamb with his vigorous but less personal tone. There was a revival of the form during the closing years of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, in the work of R L Stevenson, O. W. Holmes, A. France, Th. Gautier, and M. Beerbohm. The literary journalistic tradition of the essay was continued by Thurber, Twain, Mencken, E. Wilson, MacCarthy, the critical essay by Orwell, T S Eliot, N. Mailer, J. Updike, and others
euphemism (n.) euphemistic (adj.) the use of a pleasanter, less direct name or expression for something thought to be unpleasant or embarrassing, such as death or sex ethnic cleansing (= killing of ethnic groups), to fall asleep (= to die), the events of May (= the student revolution in France in 1968), remains (=corpse) "needy", "disadvantaged", "underprivileged" = "of low socio-economic status" to die: to decease, to expire, to depart, to pass away, to meet one's Maker, to pay the debt of nature, to go the way of all flesh, to snuff it, to hop the twig, to kick the bucket, to turn up one's toes, to push up the daisies
exaggeration (n.) to exaggerate (v.) exaggerated (adj.) strong overstatement, often used to create an amusing or serious effect "Your suitcase weighs a ton."
expansion if the reading time of narrative is definitely longer than the narrated time
explicit characterization directly telling the reader about the person's qualities G. Meredith, Diana of the Crossways, "He was generous, Diana says ... She said he was unselfish, kind, affable with his equals; he was cordial to the acquaintances he met. Perhaps his worst fault was an affected superciliousness before the foreigner ..."
exposition the part of a novel or play that provides essential information about the characters, the setting and about what has happened before the action starts. Generally speaking, it sets forth the prerequisites from which the story will develop Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." The first sentence of this exposition reveals the theme (marriage) and the tone (ironic) of the novel
expository text as opposed to the descriptive text, the expository text tends to explain interrelations between phenonema, it gives reasons and stated causes. Example: "I cannot come because I am ill." That is why expository texts often emply conjunctions that link two sentences in a hierarchical way
external action a sequence of events which need not necessarily be presented in chronological order
extrinsic approach a method of interpretation which is based on or includes material outside the literary work, e. g. the author's biography, sociological findings
fable a fable is a narrative in prose or verse. Non-human creatures or inanimate things are normally the characters. The presentation of human beings as animals is the characteristic of the literary fable, often ending with a moral summarizing its meaning La Fontaine James Thurber George Orwell
fairy tale a story relating the mysterious adventures of supernatural spirits (fairies, gnomes, elves) that take the form of diminutive human beings. They are endowed with good or bad qualities and have the quality to interfere with man's affairs to regulate them the brothers Grimm Hans Christian Andersen
falling action structural element of a fictional text, marked by a reduction of the suspense. It usually follows the turning-point and precedes the solution
fantasy fiction nonrealistic fiction. Much of the world’s fictional literature could be classified under this term but, as a commercial and literary genre, fantasy started to thrive after the success of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings 1954-55. Earlier works by such writers as Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees, E R Eddison, and Mervyn Peake, which are not classifiable in fantasy subgenres such as science fiction, horror, or ghost story, could be labeled fantasy.
Much fantasy is pseudomedieval in subject matter and tone. Recent works include Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea series 1968-91, Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant 1978-83, and, in the more urban tradition, John Crowley’s Little, Big 1980, Michael Moorcock’s Gloriana 1978, and Gene Wolfe’s Free, Live Free 1985. Such books largely overlap in content with the magic realism of writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Angela Carter, and Isabel Allende.
Well-known US fantasy authors include Thomas Pynchon (as, for example, in V), and Ray Bradbury, whose works are often in the science fiction genre.
feminine rhyme double or dissyllabic rhyme
fiction (n.) fictional (adj.) category of texts in which the author creates his or her own world. The readers or audience are expected to accept this worlds as existing within the context of the text, even though it may be different from their own experiences of reality. Common examples of fictional texts are novels, short stories, fables, dramas and poems
first-person narrator; first-person point of view a narrator who is either a major character ("I" as a protagonist) or a minor character ("I" as a witness) in the story; the narrator is involved in the action and relates what he observes, experiences and thinks; his point of view is limited examples: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; J. D. Salinger, The Catcher In The Rye cf. also oral telling
flashback a scene in a film, novel, story or play which interrupts the chronological sequence and shows events that happened at an earlier time; the insertion of an earlier episode or incident into the plot of a novel, play or movie Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge Ann Petry, Solo On The Drums
flat character a (minor) character having only one or two basic characteristics lacking the depth or complexity of a real person, one who is built around a single dominant trait or quality and who represents a type; static character without (any) development
foot the smallest metrical unit
foreshadowing in literature the technique of giving hints or clues that suggest or prepare for events that occur later in a work. Foreshadowing creates suspense, prepares the reader for what happens next, and makes final outcomes seem inevitable in Shakespeare's Macbeth (1606) the three witches allow the audience to believe that Macbeth will become king
frame story the main story provides the frame for one or more quite independent stories within it Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
free verse (French: vers libre) poetry without metrical form. At the beginning of the 20th century, many poets believed that the 19th century had accomplished most of what could be done with regular meter, and rejected it, in much the same spirit as John Milton in the 17th century had rejected rhyme, preferring irregular meters that made it possible to express thought clearly and without distortion.
This was true of T S Eliot and the Imagists; it was also true of poets who, like the Russians Esenin and Mayakovsky, placed emphasis on public performance. The shift to free verse began under the very different influences of US poet Walt Whitman and French poet Stéphane Mallarmé. Poets including Robert Graves and W H Auden have criticized free verse on the ground that it lacks the difficulty of true accomplishment, but their own metrics would have been considered loose by earlier critics. The freeness of free verse is largely relative
Gothic novel literary genre marked by mystery, violence, and horror established by Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1765) other exponents were the English writers Anne Radcliffe, Matthew “Monk” Lewis, Mary Shelley, the Irish writer Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe in the US
gradation a stage in a set of changes or degrees of development "the different feelings from joy to grief" We shall learn all these devices the white man has, We shall handle his tolls ourselves. We shall master his machinery, his inventions, ." D. M. Nez, New Way, Old Way
heading the words written as a title at the top of a piece of writing, or at the top of each part of it
headline the heading printed in large letters above a story (in a newspaper); the titles of the main news stories, as shown on large notices where newspapers are sold; a main point of the news as read on radio or television (pl.)
heptameter line containing seven feet
hero, heroine the principal male or female character in a work of literature. The hero is usually in conflict with an opponent (= antagonist), fate and / or society; cf. protagonist Horatio Alger, Dirty Dick Shakespeare, Othello Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
heroic couplet two iambic pentameters coupled by a rhyme cf. Shakespeare's sonnets
hexameter line containing six feet William Wordsworth, Upon Westminster Bridge: "Shíps, tówers, dómes, théatres and témples líe ..."
historical novel fictional prose narrative set in the past. Literature set in the historic rather than the immediate past has always abounded, but in the West, Walter Scott began the modern tradition by setting imaginative romances of love, impersonation, and betrayal in a past based on known fact; his use of historical detail, and subsequent imitations of this technique by European writers, gave rise to the genre.
Some historical novels of the 19th century were overtly nationalistic, but most were merely novels set in the past to heighten melodrama while providing an informative framework; the genre was used by Alessandro Manzoni, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, and James Fenimore Cooper, among many others. In the 20th century the historical novel also became concerned with exploring psychological states and the question of differences in outlook and mentality in past periods. Examples of this are Robert Graves’ novels about the Roman emperor I, Claudius and Claudius the God, and Margaret Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian

the less serious possibilities of the historical novel were exploited by writers including Kenneth Roberts, James Michener, Jeffery Farnol, Stanley Weyman, and Rafael Sabatini in the early 20th century in the form of the historical romance; Dorothy Dunnett and George MacDonald Fraser revived the historical romance with some success in the late 1960s. Subgenres of the historical novel have developed, with their own conventions. Examples include the Western, many of which draw on Owen Wister’s classic The Virginian; and the novels of the South in the period of the Civil War, notably Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. In the late 20th century, generational series of novels about families, often industrialists of the early 19th century, became popular
humour (n.) humorous (adj.) in its broadest sense, everything that makes one laugh. A humorous effect is achieved when a speaker or writer makes a statement which is strange, unusual, unexpected, inadequate, out of place, exaggerated, grotesque or absurd - in any case, completely contrary to the listener's or reader's expectations
hyperbole (n.) hyperbolic(al) (adj.) a single phrase containing an exaggeration; it can attract the reader's or audience's attention and emphasize statements "I've told you a million times not to use that word!" (The actual number of times is usually much less than a million) "I could eat a horse." "Sue is extremely rich. She is rolling in money."
hypotaxis the dependent relation of a clause or construction on another see: syntax
iamb two-syllable foot with rising stress _ ' : to bé
idiom any expression that is peculiar to a language and cannot be translated or interpreted literally
image an image is a vivid mental picture created with words, which strongly appeals to the senses and which represents something else. Collectively images are called imagery; they include symbols, similes, and metaphors
impersonal style style of communication where the speaker or writer deliberately distances him- or herself from what is being said or written. The effect is language that is (or at least seems) objective, free of bias or emotion. The use of the passive voice and formal language is characteristic of an impersonal style
implicit characterization indirect characterization through action G. Eliot, Middlemarch, "Two cousins were present to hear the will, and a second cousin besides Mr Trumbull. This second cousin was a Middlemarch mercer of polite manners and superfluous aspirates."
in medias res Latin: "in the middle of things"; the term describes the narrative practice of starting a story in the middle of the action to involve the reader. In epic convention flashbacks are often used to fill in what led up to that point; see open beginning Francis Bret Harte, The Luck Of Roaring Camp
inclusive term a term that includes all its subcategories "bird" is an inclusive term, "swallow", "sparrow", "eagle" are concrete terms
initiation (n.) to initiate (v.) to be initiated (expr.) if you initiate someone into a type of knowledge or into a group, you conduct a ceremony or teach them special things so that they become a member of a group; the person initiated is an initiate see: story of initiation
interior monologue the technique in the streams of consciousness novels in which the thoughts, impressions and associations of the character are described as they occupy the character's mind
internal action the action taking place within the mind of a character Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
interpolation introduction of additional words in a text, as when an editor uses explanatory words. Such interpolations are normally enclosed in square brackets
intrinsic approach a method of interpretation which relies solely on the text itself and and which does not admit external evidence
inversion an interchange of position of elements in a clause or a sentence for emphatic reason or because of a grammar rule "On the table lay the most beautiful cat." "Seldom have I seen such a nice guy." Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist: "... up go the windows, out run the people, onward bear the mob; ..."
irony (n.) ironic(al) adj.) in its strictest sense, a statement expressing the opposite of what is really meant, whereby the reader or listener is expected to realize the true meaning. The two basic kinds of irony are verbal irony and irony of situation. "What charming behaviour!" when someone has been rude, this may be called irony
irony of situation irony of situation is based on the contrast between what a person would like to be, have, get and what he really is, has, or gets
layout the way elements are arranged on a printed page of a book, magazine, newspaper, etc.; the layout includes such elements as the type of letters, the use of bold type, italics, underlining, bullets (= dots or other symbols used at the beginning of a text passage), the size and number of columns, colour and the placement of illustrations. The layout determines whether a text is attractive to the eye, and it helps writers to structure their texts and to emphasize certain words, phrases or passages compare text books, magazines, newspapers, etc.
leitmotif the repetition of a significant word, phrase, theme, or image throughout a novel, short story or play, which functions as a unifying element = guiding motif Ann Petry, Solo On The Drums: "I'm leaving, I'm leaving ..."
Leonine rhyme see middle rhyme
lighting the system, arrangement or apparatus that lights a room, a building or the stage of a theatre
limerick verse form that is used for light nonsense verse; basically 5 anapaestic rhymes of a set rhyme pattern (aa bb a) but there are also limericks that modify the basic pattern for the sake of fun There was a young woman named Jones Who midst her screams, her howls and her groans, Was raped by a nigger Whose tool was no bigger Than yours or mine - hence the groans!
limited point of view a perspective that prevents the narrator from seeing and knowing certain things (e. g. other people's thoughts and hidden feelings, things happening at places and times far away). A first-person narrator always has a limited point of view
literature words set apart in some way from ordinary everyday communication. In the ancient oral traditions, before stories and poems were written down, literature had a mainly public function - mythic and religious. As literary works came to be preserved in writing, and, eventually, printed, their role became more private, serving as a vehicle for the exploration and expression of emotion and the human situation. In the development of literature, esthetic criteria have come increasingly to the fore, although these have been challenged on ideological grounds by some recent cultural critics. The English poet and critic Coleridge defined prose as words in their best order, and poetry as the “best” words in the best order. The distinction between poetry and prose is not always clear-cut, but in practice poetry tends to be metrically formal (making it easier to memorize), whereas prose corresponds more closely to the patterns of ordinary speech. Poetry therefore had an early advantage over prose in the days before printing, which it did not relinquish until comparatively recently Over the centuries poetry has taken on a wide range of forms, from the lengthy narrative such as the epic, to the lyric, expressing personal emotion in songlike form; from the ballad and the 14-line sonnet, to the extreme conciseness of the 17-syllable Japanese haiku. Prose came into its own in the West as a vehicle for imaginative literature with the rise of the novel in the 18th century, and fiction has since been divided into various genres such as the historical novel, detective fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.
litotes an understatement, sometimes ironical, expressing an affirmative by the negative of its contrary not bad - good not too far away - near
local color the use in writing of the physical setting, dialect, customs, and attitudes that typify a particular region; tendency in literature to focus on a specific geographical region or locality Francis Bret Harte uses local color in his short stories; Thomas Hardy provides so detailed and colourful a picture of "Wessex" (Dorsetshire) that that portion of England has become known as Thomas Hardy country
locale the place where the action of a book, a drama or film is set
lyric poem any short, personal, and passionate form of verse. Lyric poetry is a genre; it does not imply a particular rhyme scheme or technique. Sonnets, odes, and elegies are lyric poems, for example, since they express strong feeling or ideas. Originally, a lyric was a song sung to a lyre, and song texts are still called lyrics
malapropism mixing up two words or expressions that are similar in sound Sheridan, The Rivals (1775): "I would by no means wish a daughter of mine to be a progeny (=prodigy) of learning ... I would send her, at nine years old, to a boarding-school, in order to learn a little ingenuity (cf. Ingenious) and artifice (cf. Art) ... she should have a supercilious (=superficial) knowledge in accounts ... and as she grew up, I would have her instructed in geometry (=geography), that she might know something of the contagious (=contiguous) countries. ..."
masculine rhyme monosyllabic rhyme
metaphor (n.) metaphorical (adj.) an implied comparison, i. e. one not introduced by like or as; (Greek “transfer”)
figure of speech using an analogy or close comparison between two things that are not normally treated as if they had anything in common. Metaphor is a common means of extending the uses and references of words. See also simile.
If we call people cabbages or foxes, we are indicating that in our opinion they share certain qualities with those vegetables or animals: an inert quality in the case of cabbages, a cunning quality in the case of foxes, which may lead on to calling people “foxy” and saying “He really foxed them that time”, meaning that he tricked them. If a scientist is doing research in the field of nuclear physics, the word “field” results from comparison between scientists and farmers (who literally work in fields). Such usages are metaphorical
"the evening of life": life is compared to a day; "Transportation was hell for the slaves."; bottle-neck; the leg of a table; "The road was a ribbon of moonlight."
meter in poetry, the recurring pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse. The unit of meter is a foot. Meter is classified by the number of feet to a line: a minimum of two and a maximum of eight. A line of two feet is a dimeter. They are then named, in order, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter, heptameter, and octameter
metonymy the substitution of the name of a related object, person, or idea for the subject at hand Crown = monarchy; the White House = the President "I know my Shakespeare." = the works of Shakespeare "There were a lot of uniforms around." = soldiers
middle rhyme rhyme in the middle of a line (German: Binnenreim)
mimesis a term derived from the Greek mimos, the actor in a play, meaning "imitation." According to Aristotle, all forms of art imitate reality, not merely copying it but offering an ideal manifestation of the natural order. Imitation has often been used to signify adherence to classical literary models
mimicry the act of mimicking by copying someone or something in order to make people laugh
mode of presentation the way of telling a story. If the narrator gives a summarizing report of what happens in a certain period of time, he employs the panoramic mode of presentation If he uses direct speech or presents the action in great detail, this is called scenic mode of presentation panorama: "We appeared to travel over hundreds of miles. We passed through several towns. scene: In one town, a very large one , the coach stopped; the horses were taken out, and the passengers dined.
monometer line containing one foot
moral the lesson contained or taught by a text; it may be expressed explicitly in a final statement, as is often the case in fables, or implicitly through the plot James Thurber, The very proper gander: "Moral: Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country."
motif recurrence of an idea , image, or literary device, emphasizing something about the theme of a piece of literature In Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart the central motif consists of the over-acuteness of the sense of hearing and the beating of the old man's heart
narrating time time it takes to relate a particular event or series of events in a narrative text. The relationship between reading time/narrating time and acting time is dependent on the mode of presentation cf. reading time
narrator (n.) to narrate (v.) narrative (adj.) the narrator is the person who tells the story and who is not identical with the author
non-fiction (n.) non-fictional (adj.) category of texts in which the writer or speaker refers only to persons and places that really exist and to events that do or did happen. Common examples of non-fictional texts are comments, reports and scientific studies
novel a novel is a long prose narrative. It usually has many characters and a complex plot (German: Roman) John Grisham, The Chamber Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist Terry Pratchett, Small Gods et al.
novelette a fictional text written in prose which is shorter than a novel but longer than a short story. It is often used derogatorily to signify popular fiction with no literary merit
novella the term used for any fictional text written in prose which is shorter than a novel but longer than a short story Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man And The Sea
nursery rhyme short traditional poem or song for children. Usually limited to a couplet or quatrain with strongly marked rhythm and rhymes, nursery rhymes have often been handed down by oral tradition.
Some of the oldest nursery rhymes are connected with a traditional tune and were sung as accompaniment to ancient ring games, such as ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’, which was part of the May Day festivities. Others contain fragments of incantations and other rites; still others have a factual basis and commemorated popular figures, such as Jack Sprat and Jack Horner
Baa, baa black sheep Have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, Three bags full. One for the master, One for the dame, One for the little boy Who lives down the lane.
octameter line containing eight feet
ode lyric poem of complex form which is usually fairly long. It is normally addressed to a person, an idea or an idealized object and written in a highly formal style. Odes originated in ancient Greece, where they were chanted to a musical accompaniment Classical writers of odes include Sappho, Pindar, Horace, and Catullus. English poets who adopted the form include Spenser, Milton, Dryden, and Keats
omnibus in literature, a collection of works by a writer, or works by various writers on a similar subject, reprinted in one volume
one-act play as a genre of its own, a dramatic work consisting of only one act. It can be a stage play, a television play or a radio play. As brevity is a characteristic feature of the one-act play, it tends to concentrate on a single episode or situation with usually two or three characters Willy Russell, The Boy with the Transistor Radio Tennessee Williams, The Last of My Solid Gold Watches Susan Hill, On the Face of It Stephen Poliakoff, City Sugar
onomatopoeia (n.) onomatopoeic (adj.) words that sound like the thing they refer to "The chain clanked and clanged along the path."; "hiss"; "buzz"; "rat-a-tat-tat"; "cuckoo"
open beginning the beginning of a story in the middle of an action without any introductory passage or explanation Ernest Hemingway, Indian Camp
open ending structural element of a fictional text, the opposite of a solution. In a story with an open ending the conflict is not solved; the final interpretation is left up to the reader or audience John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969): two possible endings are offered to the reader Ernest Hemingway, Indian Camp
oral literature the ballads, folktales, and proverbs (of preliterate or nonliterate cultures) that are sung or recited to audiences and are passed on from generation to generation through memory rather than by being written down Homer, Iliad Francis Bret Harte,The Outcasts Of Poker Flat Francis Bret Harte,The Luck Of Roaring Camp
oxymoron a figure of speech in which two contradictory words or phrases are combined in a single expression, giving the effect of a paradox "The Sounds Of Silence", "wise fool", "cruel kindness", "heavy lightness", "loving hate", "sweet death"
palindrome a word or sentence which reads the same way forwards and backwards Madam, I'm Adam. a man, a plan, a canal, Panama! civic
parable short fictional narrative making a general statement about existence or teaching a moral or religious lesson. The moral of a p. is rarely explicitly stated; rather, the reader is expected to draw a parallel between the story and his / her own experience Christ, The Good Samaritan John Rae, Parable of the Good Lunatic Ray Bradbury, The Aqueduct
paradox (n.) paradoxical (adj.) statement that seems at first to be in itself contradictory, even senseless, but reveals some hidden truth on second thought "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude." (Henry David Thoreau) "Cowards die many times before their deaths" (Shakespeare, Julius Cesar) "The King is dead. Long live the King!"
paragraph group of sentences dealing with one topic only. Ideas are developed logically and put into sentences that are connected by connectives (while, furthermore, etc.) so that the reader will be able to follow the presentation of the writer's ideas step by step
parallelism repetition of the same or similar syntactical form in different sentences or parts of sentences "If you stay, we'll be happy. If you leave, we won't hold you back." "In like a lion, out like a lamb." "While there's life, there's hope." "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."
paraphrase retelling or rewriting a text in other words, one's own words, and in a condensed, clearer and simpler form
parataxis constructions joined without the use of co-ordinating elements such as conjunctions "She opened the door, stepped inside, looked around, saw the corpse and screamed." Charles Dickens, Hard Times: "The whole town seemed to be frying in oil. There was a stifling smell of hot oil everywhere. The steam engines shone with it, the dresses of the Hands were soiled, with it, the mills throughout their many stories oozed and trickled it."
parenthesis a phrase or sentence put within brackets or commas in a passage that usually serves as an explanation "Mount Isa, 220 miles south of Brinawa, is a mining centre (silver, lead, zinc, and copper) and a focal point for surrounding cattle stations."
parody in literature and the other arts, a work that imitates the style of another work, usually with mocking or comic intent; it is related to satire
pentameter line containing five feet
performance entertaining an audience by doing something such as singing, dancing, acting a play or acting a role in a play
persona a Latin word originally signifying the masks worn by actors in ancient classical theater, the term now indicates the personality of the author as it appears in the work
personification (n.) to personify (v.) a figure of speech in which an animal, a plant or an object is given human characteristics and feelings "The sun is smiling on us today."
picaresque (Spanish pícaro “rogue”); genre of novel that takes a rogue or villain for its central character, telling his or her story in episodic form. The genre originated in Spain and was popular in the 18th century in Britain. The device of using an outsider gave the author the opportunity to give fresh moral insights into society Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Tobias Smollett’s Roderick Random, Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn are typical picaresque novels
pictograph a picture (-like symbol) which represents an event, an idea, etc., cf. Newspaper Rock which is a rock covered with petroglyphs made by native Americans

play a piece of writing to be performed in a theatre, on the radio, or on television
play within a play an interpolated play (or scene) within a drama (or narrative). Very often there is a direct connection between the main action and the inlaid play Hawthorne, Dr. Heidegger's Experiment Shakespeare, Hamlet
play-novelette "a play that is easy to read or a short novel that can be played simply by lifting out the dialogue" John Steinbeck, Of Mice And Men John Steinbeck, Burning Bright
pleonasm (n.) pleonastic (adj.) the use of unnecessary and superfluous words, cf tautology each of the two twins
plot the structure of the action as a set of events connected by cause and effect and centred around one or more conflicts, usually composed of the following elements: exposition, rising action, climax, turning point, falling action, solution / open ending; the storyline in a novel, play, film, or other work of fiction. A plot is traditionally a scheme of connected events. Novelists in particular have at times tried to subvert or ignore the reader's expectation of a causally linked story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, with no loose ends "'The king died and then the queen died,' is a story. 'The king died, and then the queen died of grief' is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it." (E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel)
poem there are five types of poems: 1) narrative poems 2) descriptive poems 3) reflective poems 4) didactic poems 5) lyric poems; as with prose, we can say that most poems are mixed and not pure types, although they may belong broadly to one type
poet a person who writes (good or serious) poems Walt Whitman William Wordsworth Dylan M. Thomas et al.
poetic diction way of writing characterized by choosing words that the reader or listener recognizes as going beyond the commonplace, and as being unique, original and imaginative. It conveys ample, complete and intense human experiences and feelings thus appeals to and enriches the reader's or listener's mind C. Brontë, Shirley, "It was now the middle of the month of February; by six o'clock, therefore, dawn was just beginning to steal on night, to penetrate with a pale ray its brown obscurity, and give a demi-translucence to its opaque shadows. Pale enough that ray was on this particular morning; no colour tinged the east, no flush warmed it. To see what a heavy lid day slowly lifted, what a wan glance she flung along the hills, you would have thought the sun's fire quenched in last night's floods."
poetry the imaginative expression of emotion, thought, or narrative, frequently in metrical form and often using figurative language. Poetry has traditionally been distinguished from prose (ordinary written language) by rhyme or the rhythmical arrangement of words (meter).
A distinction is made between lyrical, or songlike, poetry (sonnet, ode, elegy, pastoral), and narrative, or story-telling, poetry (ballad, lay, epic). Poetic form has also been used as a vehicle for satire, parody, and expositions of philosophical, religious, and practical subjects. Traditionally, poetry has been considered a higher form of expression than prose. In modern times, the distinction is not always clear cut
point of view the perspective from which the narrator sees and presents things; the point of view establishes the relationship between the reader and the text, it is dependent on the narrator
polysyndeton the use of a number of conjunctions in close succession or the succession of the same conjunction Hemingway, A Day's Wait
portmanteau word two words used to form a new one breakfast + lunch = brunch smoke + fog = smog work + alcoholic = workaholic
prologue a short speech at the beginning of a play introducing the characters or the theme, sometimes delivered by one of the actors speaking for the playwright
properties props movable objects on a stage
prose spoken or written language without metrical regularity; in literature, prose corresponds more closely to the patterns of everyday speech than poetry. There are five types of prose: 1) narrative prose, 2) descriptive prose, 3) informational prose, 4) argumentative prose, 5) persuasive prose; most types of prose are mixed and not pure types, although they may belong mainly to one type.
In Western literature prose was traditionally used for what is today called nonfiction - that is, history, biography, essays, and so on -while verse was used for imaginative literature. Prose came into its own as a vehicle for fiction with the rise of the novel in the 18th century. In modern literature, the distinction between verse and prose is not always clear cut
protagonist the positive hero or heroine of a play or story; main character, or one of the main people in a novel, play, etc. Peyton Farquhar (An Occurrence ...) George, Lennie (Of Mice And Men)
pun deliberate play on words that produces an effect of surprise and usually makes use of homophones or similarity of sound; the use of words that are alike in sound but different in meaning, usually with a humorous intention "Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man." (Shakespeare); "Schmidt copied out scores of symphonies": either Schmidt copied out the written versions of symphonies or he copied out a large number of symphonies [see: "scores of"] "These sausages are unidentified frying objects." When the former US President Nixon visited Cairo on a state visit, his aide is said to have discovered a hole in Nixon's sock when the President was visiting a mosque. When he told him, the President is reported to have answered: "Oh well, we are in a holy place, after all."
reading time time it takes to read about a particular event or series of events in a narrative text, nearly the same as narrating time. The relationship between reading time/narrating time and acting time is dependent on the mode of presentation It takes about 30 minutes to read "The Outcasts Of Poker Flat", but the acting time is much longer.
repetition (n.) repetitive (adj.) repetition refers to the deliberate use of a word or phrase more than once. This is done to achieve a special effect, e. g. for special emphasis; parallelism and anaphora are both types of repetition
rhetorical question question to which the answer is obvious and therefore not expected or given. It forces the reader or listener to think in a certain direction and is characteristic of persuasive style "What is wrong with an educational élite? His new book claims that the wrong kind of élite still fill the corridors of power. How would he qualify quality? How can the best be better, or does he think the better should not be best?"
rhyme identity of sound, usually in the endings of lines of verse, such as wing and sing. Avoided in Japanese, it is a common literary device in other Asian and European languages. Rhyme first appeared in Europe in late Latin poetry but was not used in Classical Latin or Greek. There are masculine, feminine, continuous, alternate, enclosing, middle or Leonine rhymes
rhyme scheme the pattern into which the rhymes at the end of lines in poetry are arranged
rhythm rhythmic(al) the sound movement which is produced by the - often irregular - sequence of actually stressed and unstressed syllables according to natural speech. Rhythm must not be confused with metre. The rhythm of a line or a whole poem depends a) on the stress which is determined by the meaning of the words or the sentences, b) on the pauses, and c) on the speed with which the line or poem is spoken
rising action structural element of a fictional text, marked by an increase in the suspense and an intensifying of the conflict. It usually follows the exposition and precedes the climax
round character a character in fiction portrayed in detail as a multifaceted, complex, dynamic personality that goes through some changes in the course of a series of actions
run-on line see enjambement
sarcasm (n.) sarcastic (adj.) a sharp, bitter or aggressive remark used to express disapproval or mockery; with irony, the victim is not always consccious of the ironic intention, but in sarcasm, he must be conscious of a double intent "'Oh yeah,', said Jenny with broad sarcasm, 'I notice how you hate getting paid.'"
satire (n.) satirical (adj.) a piece of writing that holds up to ridicule or contempt the weaknesses, foolishness or wrongdoings of individuals, groups, institutions, society or humanity in general. Satire often makes use of exaggeration, irony and sarcasm Pope, Moral Essays Shaw, Arms And The Man Swift, Gulliver's Travels
scansion to scan the act of showing the way the line of a poem scans; that means to examine a line of a poem to have the regular pattern of music-like beats in each line
scene1 a subdivision of an act of a play, usually consisting of unity of time, place and action, the smallest subdivision of a play; scenes are the sequences of continuous, uninterrupted action
scene2 the place of action in a play or narrative text; see also setting
scenery in a theatre, the set of painted backgrounds (cloth and boards) and other articles used on the stage
science fiction speculative fiction sci-fi SF genre of fiction and film with an imaginary scientific, technological, or futuristic basis. It is sometimes held to have its roots in the works of Mary Shelley, notably Frankenstein 1818. Often taking its ideas and concerns from current ideas in science and the social sciences, science fiction aims to shake up standard perceptions of reality.
Science-fiction works often deal with alternative realities, future histories, robots, aliens, utopias and dystopias (often satiric), space and time travel, natural or man-made disasters, and psychic powers.
Early practitioners were J. Verne and H G Wells. In the 20th century the US pulp-magazine tradition of science fiction produced such writers as A. C Clarke, I. Asimov, R. Heinlein, and F. Herbert; a con-sensus of “pure storytelling” and traditional values was disrupted by writers associated with the British magazine New Worlds who used the form for serious literary purposes and for political and sexual radi-calism. Thriving science-fiction traditions, only partly influenced by the Anglo-American one, exist in France, Germany, E Europe, and Russia. In the 1980s the “cyber-punk” school spread from the US, spearheaded by W. Gibson and B. Sterling (1954- ). Many mainstream writers have written science fiction, including Huxley , Orwell , and D. Lessing . The term was coined 1926 by Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967), editor of the US science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories
setting (n.) to be set (expr.) the place, time, social, political, cultural, religious, intellectual, etc. circumstances in which the events of a novel or short story take place
short play see one-act play
short story short narrative, existing in many varieties, usually with a tight plot and limited in theme, setting, number of events and characters. Less complex and detailed than most novels, it is more likely to create a certain and unique effect in the reader Ernest Hemingway, A Day's Wait Sherwood Anderson, I want to know why Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge Ann Petry, Solo On The Drums Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death
showing indirect characterization or the showing of the person's deeds through which his character is revealed
simile element of imagery, the linking of two distinctly different things in the form of an explicit comparison using "like" and "as", thus suggesting some kind of similarity "His hair was like snow." Robert Burns: "My love is like a red, red rose ..."
slice of life the extremely detailed, unselective, and realistic presentation of a segment of life, without comment or evaluation by the author. The technique invites the reader to become an invisible spectator of life as it really is, recorded in minute detail A method central to Naturalism, it appears in the works of the French writer Émile Zola as well as in those of Theodore Dreiser, Eugene O'Neill and Stephen Crane. Short stories, almost by definition, often represent a slice of life.
soliloqui a device by which a dramatic character, alone on the stage, delivers a speech expressing thoughts, emotions, and intentions to the audience
solution the conflict is resolved, also called dénouement
sonnet poem of 14 rhymed iambic pentameters of Italian origin introduced to England by Thomas Wyatt in the form used by Petrarch (rhyming abba abba cdcdcd or cdecde) and followed by Milton and Wordsworth; Shakespeare used the form abab cdcd efef followed by a heroic couplet gg.
In the final couplet Shakespeare summed up the argument of the sonnet or introduced a new, perhaps contradictory, idea. The difference in the rhyme scheme of the first eight lines (the octet) and the last six (the sestet) reflected a change in mood or direction of the Petrarchan sonnet
cf. Shakespeare's sonnets
spondee two-syllable foot with level stress héart/béat
stage in a theatre, the stage is the raised platform where actors or other entertainers perform cf. Shakespeare's "wooden O" with galleries, pit apron or thrust stage and tiring house proscenium stage or picture frame stage (German: Guckkastenbühne) theatre in the round (German: Arenabühne)
stage directions a description or direction for performance put into written form of a play
stanza (n.) stanzaic (adj.) (Italian “resting or stopping place”)
group of lines in a poem. A stanza serves the same function in poetry as a paragraph in prose. Stanzas are often of uniform length and traditionally separated by a blank line.
Each stanza has a set, repeatable pattern of meter and rhyme
stereotype A character who represents a trait generally attributed to a social or racial group and lacks other individualizing traits. The term originally referred to a metal mold used for mass-producing duplicates for printer's types Stereotypes such as the absent-minded professor, the nagging wife, the spoiled child, the hard-boiled detective, the cynical businessman, the idealistic student, etc. are repeated from work to work
story of initiation, coming-of-age story a fictional text, in which the process of growing up is portrayed. Usually the hero is a child or adolescent, who in the course of the story undergoes an experience which changes his outlook on life and marks an important stage in his development Sherwood Anderson, I want to know why, (1920) Doris Lessing, Through the Tunnel, (1954) Ernest Hemingway, Indian Camp, (1938)
story within a story an interpolated story within a novel or short story. Sometimes there is a direct connection between the larger story and the inserted one. In Hemingway's, A Day's Wait the inlaid hunting scene is to be taken as a direct comment on the theme of the main action. The paradox of togetherness and separateness is symbolized by the transparent layer of ice covering the wintry landscape
stream of consciousness a method and subject matter of narrative fiction that attempts to represent the inner workings of a character's mind at all levels of awareness, to recreate the continuous, chaotic flow of half-formed and dis- continuous thoughts, memories, feelings, etc.; narrative technique in which a writer presents directly the uninterrupted flow of a character's thoughts, impressions, and feelings, without the conventional devices of dialogue and description. It first came to be widely used in the early 20th century. Leading exponents have included the novelists Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and William Faulkner.
Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in Joyce’s
Ulysses is a good example of the technique. The English writer Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957) is said to have originated the technique in her novel sequence Pilgrimage, the first volume of which was published 1915 and the last posthumously. The term “stream of consciousness” was introduced by the philosopher William James in 1890
James Joyce, Ulysses William Faulkner, The Sound And The Fury Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
style a general term referring to an author's distinctive manner of expression. A definition of a particular style must take into account all the devices of language
subplot a subsidiary action in a narrative or play that accompanies the main plot in a contrasting or complementary relationship
substitutionary narration dt.: 'erlebte Rede'. It means the presentation of a character's consciousness (thoughts, sensations, anticipations, moods, etc.). Those passages, in which the character seems to speak to himself, are often indicated by an introductory clause ("He thought..") Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge: at the end of section one
summary (n.) to summarise (v.) to summarize (v.) a short continuous text presenting the most important information from some other text. Although formulated in the summary writer's own words, it does not contain his or her personal opinions and interpretations
surprise ending an unexpected twist of the plot not revealed until the end of the story Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge: the simple statement of the hero's death after the presentation of his imaginary flight
suspense feeling of tension or expectation in the reader or audience about the further development of the characters, conflict and plot; refers to the relationship between the reader / the audience and the narrative / the drama; see tension cf. detective stories; the interpolation of the middle part in An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
syllepsis a single word modifying or governing two or more other words although it only fits with one; this grammatical construction often has a comic effect "He took leave and his hat."
symbol (n.) symbolic (adj.) element of imagery in which a concrete object stands not only for itself but for some abstract idea as well Christian symbols in The Luck Of Roaring Camp "rose" = symbol love and beauty "pomegranate" = symbol of soul or virginity or sexuality or stupidity
synaesthesia words describing different sensations (e. g. colour, smell, vision) are linked to express another sensation murmuring light, cold colour Keats, Ode to a Nightingale (1819): "I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet ..."
syncope the omission of sounds or letters in the middle of words. It may be used to indicate dialect or slang being used in a text or to accommodate the metre of a poem John Steinbeck, "Of Mice and Men" (1937)
synecdoche figure of speech using a part of something to refer to the whole "The burglar was sentenced to only one year serving behind the bars." (bars = prison)
synonym word with (nearly) the same meaning (adjective: synonymous) "sad" and "unhappy" are synonyms
syntax (n.) syntactic (adj.) the arrangement and grammatical relation of words, phrases and clauses in sentences; the ordering of words; syntax is an important element of a writer's style; cf. Hemingway: fairly simple syntax with few complex sentences and few modifying elements Hemingway, Indian Camp (1938)
tale (n.) to tell (v.) a short narrative text. Tales are more closely related to literary tradition than other short narrative texts, such as short stories cf. oral telling
tautology (n.) tautological (adj.) superfluous repetition of words that does not clarify a statement, but is used for emphasis to divide into four quarters to hear with one's ears personally speaking, I myself would ...
telling direct characterization
telling name in a narrative text, a person's name which reveals one or more of his or her characteristic traits Wackford Squeers in Charles Dickens's novel Nicholas Nickleby: his weird and tyrannical nature are indicated by "wack" and "queer"
temporal order the structuring of a text by presenting actions and events in relation to time. The most common type of temporal order is chronological order; but compare flashback and stream of consciousness Ernest Hemingway, Indian Camp
tension a condition when feelings are under great strain; in a tense situation a particular state of affairs might any moment be transformed into something crucially different. Hence the reader or the audience feels intense interest or excitement at such phases, he is kept in suspense, i. e. he is uncertain about the outcome of an action and the way it so brought about.Tension is inherent in the narrative
tercet a group of three lines
tetrameter line containing four feet Emily Dickinson: " My Lífe had stóod - a Lóaded Gún ..."
text form realization of one of the five text types in actual texts, e.g. poems, novels, short stories, reports, comments. Although most text forms contain elements of several text types, one of them is usually dominant
text type classification of texts according to five different models based on the writer's intentions: argumentation, description, exposition, instruction, narration
theme central topic or idea of a text, holding all its elements together and giving them meaning; the message implicit in a work, seldom stated directly the theme of William Shakespeare's Othello (1604) is jealousy
third-person narrator a narrator standing outside the story and using the third person voice ("he", "she" or "they") to refer to the characters. A third person narrator may tell the story as an omniscient narrator with an unlimited point of view or from the point of view of one of the characters.
third-person point of view of one character (dt. personaler Erzähler); the third-person narrator may also tell the story from the point of view of a character. The reader is - in contrast to the omniscient narrator - hardly aware of the narrator's presence. Very often does he learn about the character's thoughts and ideas from the interior monologue Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
third-person point of view; omniscient narrator (dt. allwissender Erzähler); a narrator who has total knowledge and who can describe and comment on all the characters and events in the story; an omniscient narrator relates from an unlimited point of view, thus revealing in an objective way such information necessary for the reader Charles Dickens, Hard Times Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
time-lapse any span of time that is omitted in a narrative
time-scheme in any piece of fiction there are two different kinds of 'time' to be distinguished: reading time and acting time see reading time and acting time
title a name given to a book, painting, play, etc. The title of this play is "Othello".
tone writer's or speaker's attitude towards his or her theme, character(s), and especially towards the reader or listener, as reflected in the text. Tone can, for example, be playful, humorous or solemn, arrogant or modest cf. the burial scene and the christening in Francis Bret Harte's The Luck Of Roaring Camp
tragedy (n.) tragic (adj.) a form of drama in which the main character passes through a series of misfortunes towards his / her downfall. According to Aristotle, tragedy centres around a tragic hero who, because of his tragic flaw, suffers a reversal of fortune from happiness to misery. The protagonist may be good or evil, but the tragedy that befalls him / her is usually partly of his / her own making William Shakespeare, Othello Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
trimeter line containing three feet Emily Dickinson: " Lífe and Déath, and Gíants ..."
trochee two-syllable foot with falling stress ' _ : ác/cent
type a literary character who represents a typical class of persons or type of behaviour, rather than being a fully realized individual
understatement the deliberate presentation of something as being much less important, valuable, etc. than it really is "Rockefeller wasn't exactly a poor man." Mark Twain: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
unities, the the unities derive from Aristotle; the three principles of dramatic composition are unity of action, time and place. These unities require that the action of a drama should be unified, i.e. without subplots, that the action should not last longer than 24 hours and should be confined to one place. compare European Renaissance drama
utopia (n.) utopian (adj.) a fictional text dealing with an ideal society or world. The term derives from Thomas More's Utopia (1516) Thomas More, Utopia (1516) Plato, Republic
verbal irony when a writer (speaker) says something that they do not really mean, the stylistic technique of reversal or transformation of the literal meaning with a more or less distinct contradiction between the literal and the intended meaning in Shakespeare's Julius Cesar Antony repeatedly insists that "Brutus is a honourable man." In speech, tone of voice makes ironic intent obvious: "That's just wonderful!" can clearly mean "That is terrible!"
verse arrangement of words in a rhythmic pattern, which may depend on the length of syllables (as in Greek or Latin verse), or on stress, as in English. Classical Greek verse depended upon quantity, a long syllable being regarded as occupying twice the time taken up by a short syllable.
Rhyme (repetition of sounds in the endings of words) was introduced to W European verse in late Latin poetry, and alliteration (repetition of the same initial letter in successive words) was the dominant feature of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Both these elements helped to make verse easily remembered in the days when it was spoken rather than written.
In English verse syllables are either stressed (strong) or unstressed (weak), and are combined in feet, examples of which are: iamb (unstressed/stressed); trochee (stressed/unstressed); spondee (stressed/stressed); pyrrhic (unstressed/unstressed); anapaest (unstressed/unstressed/stressed); and dactyl (stressed/unstressed/unstressed) The Spenserian stanza (in which Spenser wrote The Faerie Queene) has nine iambic lines rhyming ababbcbcc. In English, the sonnet has 14 lines, generally of ten syllables each; it has several rhyme schemes.
Blank verse, consisting of unrhymed five-stress lines, as used by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Milton, develops an inner cohesion that replaces the props provided by rhyme and stanza. It became the standard meter for English dramatic and epic poetry. Free verse, or vers liber, avoids rhyme, stanza form, and any obvious rhythmical basis
zeugma figure of speech in which an adjective or verb is applied to two nouns where it should apply to only one (“See Pan with flocks, with fruits Pomona crowned” - Pan is not crowned with flocks), or where the sense is different with each (“She left in a huff and a taxi”). The latter device, also called syllepsis, is often used in literature to make a comic or satirical point Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1714): "Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take - and sometimes tea."
M. H. Abrams,
A Glossary of Literary Terms,
New York, 1971
Kathleen Morner/Ralph Rausch,
NTC's Dictionary of Literary Terms,
Lincolnwood (Illinois), 1991
Neil Porter et al.,
Student's Glossary of Literary Terms,
Berlin, 1992
R. Beck et al. Terminologie der Literaturwissenschaft,
Ismaning, 1998
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