Literary Terms 1.doc

  1. ) A discourse is a lengthy piece of writing or speech about a specific topic. More generally, a discourse is a domain of language use and meaning production. Scientific discourses differ from literary discourses, but both employ academic conventions and language. An example of political discourse is the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. The piece is a lengthy description about the corruption of capitalism and the presence of class struggle.
  2. 62) Epithet is a word or phrase that describes the attributes of a person or thing. It is often used as a substitute for the actual noun. It may often be an abusive insult, but not necessarily. “High John the Conqueror” is an epithet for a type of root. “Man’s best friend” is an epithet that refers to dogs.
    • Epitaph is a short speech or piece of writing celebrating someone’s life. An epitaph usually appears as a commemorative inscription on a person’s tomb or headstone.
    • Epigraph is a quotation at the beginning of a literary work, typically related in theme to those which will be presented in the text. The epigraph from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart comes from W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” The title is also an allusion to Yeats’ poem.
    • Epigram is a witty, short remark or saying. An example would be, “I have nothing to declare but my genius,” as Oscar Wilde famously quipped at a customs agent.
  3. 63) Hamartia is a defect in a protagonist’s character. It is often referred to as a tragic flaw. An example of hamartia is Oedipus Rex’s attempts to avoid the prophecy of killing his father and marrying his mother, but eventually failing. Hubris is excessive pride. An example of this excessive pride is Achilles hunting down Hector in The Iliad and then riding around with his dead body behind his chariot.
  4. 64) Intertextuality is a relationship that exists between different texts that may be extrapolated by the writer or interpreter. These relationships are not always apparent, although at times, they may be explicit. The texts initially seem very different, but after close examination, show similarities. An example of intertextuality is the relationship between Homer’s Odyssey and the Cohen brothers’ movie O Brother Where Art Thou? Both works follow a main character named Ulysses through his trials of escape and reconnection with his family.
  5. 65) Malapropism is the misuse of a word through confusion of a word that sounds similar. The results typically allow for humor. An example arises from “Da Ali G Show” in which Ali remarks, “Lets talk about a very tattoo subject…,” actually meaning taboo. The term alludes to a character in British playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals from 1775.
  6. 66) Magic realism is an artistic or literary style that depicts mythological subjects in a realistic manner. The term commonly applies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude because of the altered reality persistent through out the novel. For example, it is entirely possible for a shower of yellow flowers to descend in the middle of the day from the sky. A bag of bones can speak in the night. All of these fantastic occurrences contribute to a sense of the more-than-human world.
  7. 67) Metafiction is a form of fiction, which emphasizes the nature of fiction, meaning the techniques and conventions used to write the genre. An example of metaficiton would be a novel about someone reading a novel.
  8. 68) Soliloquy is an extended piece spoken by a character alone, usually on stage (thus, drama). The technique is typically used in theater to convey ideas to an audience. An example of a soliloquy is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” monologue. Although it is artificial, the technique allows the audience particular insight into the psyche of the speaker.
  9. 69) Stream of consciousness narration is the writing style conveying the author’s train of thought. This style often rapidly lists emotions that the writer or narrator is feeling at the time. An example of the technique is in REM’s song “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” because of the rapid fire of self-conscious lyrics. The narration technique can be associated with a specific period in English literature, namely the Modernist movement. Writers like Virginia Woolf and William James (who heralded the term) sought to plumb the psychological depths of their characters or subjects. It is one technique associated with the literary avant-garde.
  10. 70) Stock Characters typically rely on cultural archetypes or names for their personality. These characters are often narrowly defined. Stock characters often add humor in literature. An example is Feste, the fool, in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
  11. 71) Pathos is a mode of persuasion that appeals to the audience’s emotions (usually sadness). The term can also refer to dramatic performances by actors. An example of the technique is Daniel Day Lewis’s recent performance in There Will Be Blood because of the wrenching nature of the performance. It can also simply mean sadness, as in “That play was powerful in its use of pathos.”
  12. 72) A round character is one that is complex and realistic; protagonists would ideally be round characters. A flat character is a minor character with a lack of personality, usually used to advance a story. An example of a round character is Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. A flat character is typically a stock character, such as a sidekick.
  13. 73) Liminality is the quality of the second stage of a ritual or initiation process. It is also a word that describes the quality of being between worlds, states, places, and so on. It is a change to participants, usually in social status. An example of liminality is graduating college, which involves moving from the status of a student to a graduate.
  14. 74) An apologia is a formal defense or justification of a belief, theory, or policy. This defense is usually written. Plato wrote an apologia defending Socrates at his trial.
  15. 75) Pathology is any condition that is different from the norm. It is a term usually relating to medical sciences, but can be deployed more broadly to refer to normative assumptions and deviations from the norm. An example is reading race-based crime statistics as a function of deterministic inevitability.
  16. 76) Tone is the character of something as an indicator or view of the person from whom it originated. In literature, authors create tones to evoke particular moods in readers. The tone indicates how a character or setting is described. For example, tone can be used in poetry to convey a dark, depressed emotion.
  17. 77) Mood is the state of mind that somebody or someone exhibits at a particular time. In literature, the author evokes moods in the reader(s). Moods are less specific than emotions. An example of a mood is in A Street Car Named Desire Stanley consistently exhibits an irritated mood towards Blanche.
  18. 78) Autodidact is a person who has learned through self-education or self-directed study. Socrates and Benjamin Franklin are considered autodidacts because they were self-taught. Often individuals, like Frederick Douglass, because of societal conditions, were forced to teach themselves.
  19. 79) Anaphora is the deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive verses, clauses, lines, or paragraphs. It is a repetitive device in which the same phrase is recycled at the beginning of two or more lines. Anaphora is used to emphasize a point being made, often for special rhetorical effect in oral delivery. A strong example of this is Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940: “We shall go on to 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….” Slight variations are possible syntactically, but the emphasis remains unchanged.
  20. 80) An ideology is a set of beliefs, values, and related ideas that provide a schema of a better society and a plan of action. An example of a political ideology would be liberalism or Communism.
  21. 81) A parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. The childhood story of the little bunny Foo Foo is one example. He hopped through the forest and picked up the field mice and bopped them on the head. He was given three chances to stop by the good fairy, but he didn’t. The moral of the story in the song was “hare today, goon tomorrow.” It taught children that if they treat others with disrespect, nothing good will come of it.
  22. 82) Weltanshauung is a term derived from German and deployed in interdisciplinary forums. It suggests a personal or communal picture of the world and a philosophy of what is or should be.
  23. 83) Trickster Figure is found mainly in mythology, and in the study folklore and religion. A trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays pranks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and norms of behavior. A coyote is a main animal used in Native American folklore. A more modern example (and not from a myth) is Bugs Bunny from the Warner Brother’s cartoon’s.
  24. 84) A frame narrative is a narrative technique whereby a main story is composed, at least in part, for the purpose of organizing a set of shorter stories, each of which is a story within a story—or for surrounding a single story within a story. One form of a frame narrative is a dream vision. L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland incorporate this dream vision into their stories. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales has a frame narrative based on a pilgrimage, and there are numerous shorter stories within the initial premise.
  25. 85) Free Verse, which is also called open-form poetry, refers to poems characterized by their nonconformity to established patterns of meter, rhyme, and stanza. Free verse uses elements such as unregulated speech patterns, grammar, emphasis, and breath pauses for line breaks; it usually does not rhyme. Walt Whitman is a noted free-verse writer. This is an example from “I dream’d in a dream”:
    • I dream'd in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the
    • whole of the rest of the earth,
    • I dream'd that was the new city of Friends,
    • Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it led
    • the rest,
    • It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
    • And in all their looks and words.
  26. 86) Verisimilitude is the appearance or semblance of truth. Realistic fiction demands verisimilitude; otherwise, it would not be true-to-life and fail as a mimetic process. An example is if a writer were to make up a story of what you did one day and added details to make it seem more true, even though it is a lie.
  27. 87) Roman à Clef (Fr.) is a novel that represents historical or famous events and characters under the guise of fiction. Primary Colors is an example because it seemed to be closely related to Bill Clinton. Infants of the Spring by Wallace Thurman thinly veils Harlem literary society in the 1920s.
  28. 88) Caesura is pause within a line of poetry that contributes to the rhythm of the line. A caesura can occur anywhere within a line and need not be indicated by punctuation. In scanning a line, caesuras are indicated by a double vertical line (||). An example is “An Essay on Man” by Alexander Pope:
    • Know then thyself //, presume not God to scan;
    • The proper study of Mankind // is Man.
    • Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
    • A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
    • 89) Dystopia is a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding, whereas utopia is the ideally perfect state, especially in its social and political and moral aspects. An example of dystopia is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. An example of Utopia is Plato’s The Republic.
  29. 90) Burlesque is a form of indirect satire that imitates a serious literary work or genre but applies the imitated form to inappropriate subject matter. High burlesque combines an elevated literary form with trivial subject matter; while low burlesque combines an undignified form with a serious or lofty subject. The satirical newspaper The Onion gives examples of high burlesque by elevating and exaggerating the importance of trivial matters. Pope wrote an epic poem about some writers he considered sell-outs and phonies; this would be another example of high burlesque. Making a limerick out of a major social issue (for example, poverty, homophobia, economic or natural disasters) is an example of low burlesque.
  30. 91) Cacophony describes language that is discordant (unpleasant to hear) and difficult to pronounce, such as this line from John Updike’s "Player Piano": "never my numb plunker fumbles." Cacophony ("bad sound") may be unintentional in the writer’s sense of music, or it may be used consciously for deliberate dramatic effect. Euphony, on the other hand, represents a “good sound.” It refers to language that is smooth and musically pleasant to the ear; nursery rhymes, for instance, often involve euphonic patterns: “Sing a song of sixpence . . . .”
  31. 92) Carpe Diem, in Latin, means "seize the day." This is a very common literary theme, especially in lyric poetry, which emphasizes that life is short, time is fleeting, and that one should make the most of present pleasures. Robert Herrick’s poem "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" employs the carpe diem theme.
  32. GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
    • Old time is still a-flying :
    • And this same flower that smiles to-day
    • To-morrow will be dying.
    • The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
    • The higher he's a-getting,
    • The sooner will his race be run,
    • And nearer he's to setting.
    • That age is best which is the first,
    • When youth and blood are warmer ;
    • But being spent, the worse, and worst
    • Times still succeed the former.
    • Then be not coy, but use your time,
    • And while ye may go marry :
    • For having lost but once your prime
    • You may for ever tarry.
  33. 93) A cliché is an idea or expression that has become tired and trite from overuse, its freshness and clarity having worn off. Clichés often anesthetize readers, and are usually a sign of weak writing. An example is the expression, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Themes can also be clichéd. For example, to suggest that Shakespeare’s plays are about “appearance versus reality” is a clichéd interpretation.
  34. 94) Colloquial language refers to a type of informal diction that reflects casual, conversational language and often includes slang expressions. Some examples are words such as “gonna” and “ya’ll,” and phrases such as “dead as a doornail.” Unless they are for research purposes, colloquial language has no place in formal academic prose.
  35. 95) Enjambment is, in poetry, when one line ends without a pause and continues into the next line for its meaning. This is also called a run-on line. The transition between the first two lines of Wordsworth’s poem “My Heart Leaps Up” demonstrates enjambment:
  36. My heart leaps up when I behold
    A rainbow in the sky.
  37. On the other hand, an end-stopped line is a poetic line that has a pause at the end, usually by means of punctuation such as a period or a semi-colon. The first line of Keats’s “Endymion” is an example of an end-stopped line; the natural pause coincides with the end of the line, and is marked by a period:
  38. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
  39. 96) An epiphany occurs in fiction when a character suddenly experiences a deep realization about him- or herself. It is a truth which is grasped in an ordinary rather than a melodramatic moment. For example, when a character suddenly realizes that life is meaningless, he experiences an existential crisis that doubles as an epiphany.
  40. 97) Hubris is excessive pride or self-confidence that leads a protagonist to disregard a divine warning or to violate an important moral law. This was considered one of the greatest sins in Greece and was a crime in Athens. An example in The Odyssey is when Odysseus blinds Polyphemus (the Cyclops) and says “Tell you’re father Poseidon, I, Odysseus, blinded you.” Hubris can be used outside of literary contexts; for example, some commentators suggested the fall of Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York was the result of personal hubris.
  41. 98) Foreshadowing is a literary technique that may be used in other genres, including film and television. As the prefix “fore” suggests, to foreshadow is to send the reader subtle clues about what will transpire later on in the text. In the film Malèna by Guiseppe Tornatore, the protagonist (an aptly-named Renato Amoroso) watches a gang of boys torture an ant on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass and sunlight. This act foreshadows the public humiliation and beating of Malèna Scordia, the object of Renato’s amorous fantasy, at the end of the film. The symbol of the magnifying glass also prompts the audience to be aware of the ways the (male) gaze operates, whether in admiration or for victimization.
  42. 99) In medias res is a Latin phrase that translates as “in the middle of things.” Many writers choose not to start their narratives in chronological or logical sequence. Starting in medias res is a technique associated with the genre of epic. The Iliad by Homer is an example of an epic that does not begin with the expected introduction and exposition; instead, readers find themselves thrust into the action. They must glean the details of the setting, characters, and antecedent action through the writer’s skilful descriptions. Starting in media res amplifies the excitement and tension inherent in a text.
  43. 100) A pun is a literary and rhetorical device which has reach beyond the textual realm; in other words, we often use puns to create humor in everyday life. A pun may appear in noun or verb form. Puns function by the logic of similarity; either the reader recognizes a word that is similar and finds the resonance amusing, or else the writer evokes a range of meanings associated with a word that prove humorous (or merely poignant) because of the lack of clarity. There are numerous forms. For instance, a student who missed the final exam does not agree with the professor’s choice to give him a zero. He may state, “I beg to defer.” This usage oscillates between “I beg to differ” (a polite statement that shows disagreement) and the usage we see here, wherein “defer” means “to put off [the exam] to a later date.” A recent article by a writer named Norman D. Plummer for The Chronicle of Higher Education has as its title, “Fallow, the Yellow Brick Road.” Plummer puns the imperative verb “follow” with the adjective “fallow,” which means “infertile, dry, useless, spent, non-viable.” Yet another example: Christian yoga enthusiasts have appropriated the spiritual and athletic practice (whose origins are decidedly non-Christian) by renaming “sun salutations” (surya namaskara from the original Sanskrit) to “Son salutations” (which puns on the idea of Jesus as the son of God). By doing this, the Christian yogis and yoginis do not feel they are engaging in a practice with questionable symbolism (that is, saluting a cosmic object, which would fall under idolatry).
  44. 101) Tragicomedy is a hybrid genre that combines elements of tragedy and comedy. The effect of tragicomedy is to create a sense of the unpredictability of life, which has both positive and negative traits (“ups and downs”). One trait of tragedy is a “fall,” or the demise of the main character from a height or position that is relatively high and noble. Comedy seeks to refresh and lighten the pessimistic tone of tragedy. Sometimes, tragicomedies work in specific schools or modes of writing such as the Theater of the Absurd. For instance, in Samuel Beckett’s canonical play Waiting for Godot, Estragon and Vladimir (two bums) are tragic because their desire to encounter Godot is not fulfilled. However, their games and antics are humorous. We derive a fuller understanding of complex human existence through the braiding together of pain and pleasure.
    102) A discipline is a field of scholarly inquiry. It has its own methodologies and conventions.
  45. 103) An anagram emerges when the letters in a word, phrase, or sentence are rearranged to convey a new, unexpected, or secret meaning. For instance, SATAN is an anagram of SANTA. INCEST is an anagram of INSECT. The latter example emerges in A.S. Byatt’s nineteenth-century thriller Angels and Insects. Anagrams may be complex or simple, but they compel us to understand that meaning exists even in the apparently simple act of changing a letter’s position.
  46. 104) Anti-hero (usually spelled with a hyphen):
    Anti-heroes may initially be puzzling because they are protagonists that do not overtly embody typical heroic ideals. The main character from French existentialist writer Albert Camus’ The Stranger (L’étranger) does not cry at his mother’s funeral, murders an innocent man, treats his girlfriend poorly, and shows no remorse for his crimes. Despite his unsavoury qualities, he is still the protagonist. We may feel pity for him as well as revulsion, but he remains the central and representative consciousness of the novel. Similarly, an individual like Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s cult classic The Catcher in the Rye is hardly a model young man, but his capacity to cut through artifice garners praise in many readers’ eyes. Anti-heroes prompt us to rethink our definitions of conventional heroism and the complexities of characterization.
  47. 105) Jeremiad (n.) Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was known for his angry laments about the status quo. He issued threats about the imminent demise of society based on its appetites for sin and tendency toward unchecked abuses of power. The literary term alludes to this figure in the Christian tradition, but can be used more generally to signify a prolonged, mournful lamentation or an angry attack on circumstances surrounding the writer. For example, Henry David Thoreau offered nineteenth-century Americans a jeremiad in his text Walden. In it, he critiqued the materialism and frivolity of a society that was uprooted from its spiritual moorings. A jeremiad seeks change as much as it strives to chastise, criticize, and upbraid.
  48. 106) A Pyrrhic victory (the adjective may be used on its own as “Pyrrhic”): This term usually means a victory at great—even excessive—cost. To say something is “pyrrhic” is to imply that its costs may outweigh its benefits. The term alludes to the victory of King Pyrrhus against the Romans; this was a battle that incurred tremendous losses. A sense of ambivalence is what usually generates meaning whenever we consider the true costs of victory.
    Brian Moore’s Black Robe is a novel detailing the quest of French Jesuit priests attempting to convert the Native tribes of New France (in present-day Quebec). One zealous priest declares that a great number of conversions will justify unscrupulous means. With this attitude, even though the priests manage to shepherd large numbers into their flock, their victory comes in the wake of torture, illness, abandonment, and crushing despair. We could declare their victory a Pyrrhic one.
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Literary Terms 1.doc