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A Glossary of Literary

Robert Harris

Version Date: January 4, 2002


To find a particular term, use your
browser's Find command (on the Edit menu in Netscape, for example). Note: Terms
already in the Handbook of Rhetorical Devices have been deleted from this file.

Adventure novel. A
novel where exciting events are more important than character development and
sometimes theme. Examples:

H. Rider
Haggard, King Solomon's Mines

Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel

Dumas, The Three Musketeers

Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Allegory. A figurative work in
which a surface narrative carries a secondary, symbolic or metaphorical meaning.
In The Faerie Queene, for example, Red Cross Knight is a heroic knight in the
literal narrative, but also a figure representing Everyman in the Christian
journey. Many works contain allegories or are allegorical in part,
but not many are entirely allegorical. A good example of a fully allegorical
work is

Spenser, The Faerie Queene

Apologue. A moral fable, usually
featuring personified animals or inanimate objects which act like people to
allow the author to comment on the human condition. Often, the apologue
highlights the irrationality of mankind. The beast fable, and the fables of
Aesop are examples. Some critics have called Samuel Johnson's Rasselas an
apologue rather than a novel because it is more concerned with moral philosophy
than with character or plot. Examples:

Orwell, Animal Farm

Kipling, The Jungle Book

Autobiographical novel. A novel
based on the author's life experience. Many novelists include in their books
people and events from their own lives because remembrance is easier than
creation from scratch. Examples:

Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

Blank Verse. Unrhymed iambic

Burlesque. A work designed to
ridicule a style, literary form, or subject matter either by treating the
exalted in a trivial way or by discussing the trivial in exalted terms (that is,
with mock dignity). Burlesque concentrates on derisive imitation, usually in
exaggerated terms. Literary genres (like the tragic drama) can be burlesqued, as
can styles of sculpture, philosophical movements, schools of art, and so forth.
See Parody, Travesty.

Caesura. A pause, metrical or
rhetorical, occurring somewhere in a line of poetry. The pause may or may not be
typographically indicated.

Canon. In relation to literature,
this term is half-seriously applied to those works generally accepted as the
great ones. A battle is now being fought to change or throw out the canon for
three reasons. First, the list of great books is thoroughly dominated by DWEM's
(dead, white, European males), and the accusation is that women and minorities
and non-Western cultural writers have been ignored. Second, there is pressure in
the literary community to throw out all standards as the nihilism of the late
20th century makes itself felt in the literature departments of the
universities. Scholars and professors want to choose the books they like or
which reflect their own ideas, without worrying about canonicity. Third, the
canon has always been determined at least in part by political considerations
and personal philosophical biases. Books are much more likely to be called
"great" if they reflect the philosophical ideas of the critic.

Children's novel. A novel written
for children and discerned by one or more of these: (1) a child character or a
character a child can identify with, (2) a theme or themes (often didactic)
aimed at children, (3) vocabulary and sentence structure available to a young
reader. Many "adult" novels, such as Gulliver's Travels, are read by children.
The test is that the book be interesting to and--at some level--accessible by
children. Examples:

Twain, Tom Sawyer

L. M.
Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Christian novel. A novel either
explicitly or implicitly informed by Christian faith and often containing a plot
revolving around the Christian life, evangelism, or conversion stories.
Sometimes the plots are directly religious, and sometimes they are allegorical
or symbolic. Traditionally, most Christian novels have been viewed as having
less literary quality than the "great" novels of Western literature. Examples:

Sheldon, In His Steps

Lloyd C.
Douglas, The Robe

Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis

Lagerkvist, Barabbas

Marshall, Christy

C. S.
Lewis, Perelandra

G. K.
Chesterton, The Man Who was Thursday

Thoene, In My Father's House

Coming-of-age story. A type of
novel where the protagonist is initiated into adulthood through knowledge,
experience, or both, often by a process of disillusionment. Understanding comes
after the dropping of preconceptions, a destruction of a false sense of
security, or in some way the loss of innocence. Some of the shifts that take
place are these:

to knowledge

to experience

false view
of world to correct view

to realism

responses to mature responses


Austen Northanger Abbey

Conceit. An elaborate, usually
intellectually ingenious poetic comparison or image, such as an analogy or
metaphor in which, say a beloved is compared to a ship, planet, etc. The
comparison may be brief or extended. See Petrarchan Conceit. (Conceit is an old
word for concept.) See John Donne's "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," for
example: "Let man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this, / The Intelligence that
moves, devotion is."

Detective novel. A novel focusing
on the solving of a crime, often by a brilliant detective, and usually employing
the elements of mystery and suspense. Examples:

Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Christie, Murder on the Orient Express

Sayers, Strong Poison

Dystopian novel. An anti-utopian
novel where, instead of a paradise, everything has gone wrong in the attempt to
create a perfect society. See utopian novel. Examples:

Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Huxley, Brave New World

End-stopped. A line that has a
natural pause at the end (period, comma, etc.). For example, these lines are end

My mistress' eyes are nothing like
the sun.

Coral is far more red than her lips
red. --Shakespeare

Enjambed. The running over of a
sentence or thought into the next couplet or line without a pause at the end of
the line; a run-on line. For example, the first two lines here are enjambed:

Let me not to the marriage of true

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration

Or bends with the remover to
remove. . . . --Shakespeare

Epic. An extended narrative poem
recounting actions, travels, adventures, and heroic episodes and written in a
high style (with ennobled diction, for example). It may be written in hexameter
verse, especially dactylic hexameter, and it may have twelve books or twenty
four books. Characteristics of the classical epic include these:

The main
character or protagonist is heroically larger than life, often the source and
subject of legend or a national hero

The deeds
of the hero are presented without favoritism, revealing his failings as well as
his virtues

action, often in battle, reveals the more-than-human strength of the heroes as
they engage in acts of heroism and courage

setting covers several nations, the whole world, or even the universe

episodes, even though they may be fictional, provide an explanation for some of
the circumstances or events in the history of a nation or people

The gods
and lesser divinities play an active role in the outcome of actions

All of the
various adventures form an organic whole, where each event relates in some way
to the central theme

Typical in epics is a set of
conventions (or epic machinery). Among them are these:

begins with a statement of the theme ("Arms and the man I sing")

to the muse or other deity ("Sing, goddess, of the wrath of Achilles")

begins in medias res (in the middle of things)

(of participants on each side, ships, sacrifices)

and descriptions of significant items (who made a sword or shield, how it was
decorated, who owned it from generation to generation)

simile (a long simile where the image becomes an object of art in its own right
as well as serving to clarify the subject).

use of epithets ("Aeneas the true"; "rosy-fingered Dawn"; "tall-masted ship")

Use of
patronymics (calling son by father's name): "Anchises' son"

formal speeches by important characters

Journey to
the underworld

Use of the
number three (attempts are made three times, etc.)

episodes in the story are later recounted





Jerusalem Delivered

Paradise Lost

Epistolary novel. A novel
consisting of letters written by a character or several characters. The form
allows for the use of multiple points of view toward the story and the ability
to dispense with an omniscient narrator. Examples:

Richardson, Pamela

Richardson, Clarissa

Burney, Evelina

C. S.
Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Hannah W.
Foster, The Coquette

Euphemism. The substitution of a
mild or less negative word or phrase for a harsh or blunt one, as in the use of
"pass away" instead of "die." The basic psychology of euphemistic language is
the desire to put something bad or embarrassing in a positive (or at least
neutral light). Thus many terms referring to death, sex, crime, and excremental
functions are euphemisms. Since the euphemism is often chosen to disguise
something horrifying, it can be exploited by the satirist through the use of
irony and exaggeration.

Euphuism. A highly ornate style of
writing popularized by John Lyly's Euphues, characterized by balanced sentence
construction, rhetorical tropes, and multiplied similes and allusions.

Existentialist novel. A novel
written from an existentialist viewpoint, often pointing out the absurdity and
meaninglessness of existence. Example:

Camus, The Stranger

Fantasy novel. Any novel that is
disengaged from reality. Often such novels are set in nonexistent worlds, such
as under the earth, in a fairyland, on the moon, etc. The characters are often
something other than human or include nonhuman characters. Example:

J. R. R.
Tolkien, The Hobbit

Flashback. A device that allows the
writer to present events that happened before the time of the current narration
or the current events in the fiction. Flashback techniques include memories,
dreams, stories of the past told by characters, or even authorial sovereignty.
(That is, the author might simply say, "But back in Tom's youth. . . .")
Flashback is useful for exposition, to fill in the reader about a character or
place, or about the background to a conflict.

Foot. The basic unit of meter
consisting of a group of two or three syllables. Scanning or scansion is the
process of determining the prevailing foot in a line of poetry, of determining
the types and sequence of different feet.

Types of feet: U (unstressed); /
(stressed syllable)

Iamb: U /

Trochee: / U

Anapest: U U /

Dactyl: / U U

Spondee: / /

Pyrrhic: U U

See also versification, below.

Frame. A narrative structure that
provides a setting and exposition for the main narrative in a novel. Often, a
narrator will describe where he found the manuscript of the novel or where he
heard someone tell the story he is about to relate. The frame helps control the
reader's perception of the work, and has been used in the past to help give
credibility to the main section of the novel. Examples of novels with frames:

Shelley Frankenstein

Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter

Free verse. Verse that has neither
regular rhyme nor regular meter. Free verse often uses cadences rather than
uniform metrical feet.

Gothic novel. A novel in which
supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terror pervades the action.
The setting is often a dark, mysterious castle, where ghosts and sinister humans
roam menacingly. Horace Walpole invented the genre with his Castle of Otranto.
Gothic elements include these:

prophecy, especially mysterious, obscure, or hard to understand.

and suspense

emotion, sentimentalism, but also pronounced anger, surprise, and especially

Supernatural events (e.g. a giant, a sighing portrait, ghosts or their
apparent presence, a skeleton)

portents, dream visions

frightened, screaming women

threatened by powerful, impetuous male

Setting in
a castle, especially with secret passages

metonymy of gloom and horror (wind, rain, doors grating on rusty hinges, howls
in the distance, distant sighs, footsteps approaching, lights in abandoned
rooms, gusts of wind blowing out lights or blowing suddenly, characters trapped
in rooms or imprisoned)

vocabulary of the gothic (use of words indicating fear, mystery, etc.:
apparition, devil, ghost, haunted, terror, fright)


Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

Beckford, Vathek

Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho

Shelley, Frankenstein

Daphne du
Maurier, Rebecca

Heroic Couplet. Two lines of
rhyming iambic pentameter. Most of Alexander Pope's verse is written in heroic
couplets. In fact, it is the most favored verse form of the eighteenth century.

/ u / u
/ u / u /

'Tis hard to say,
if greater want of skill

/ u / u
/ u / u /

Appear in writing
or in judging ill. . . .


[Note in the second line that "or"
should be a stressed syllable if the meter were perfectly iambic. Iambic= a two
syllable foot of one unstressed and one stressed syllable, as in the word
"begin." Pentameter= five feet. Thus, iambic pentameter has ten syllables, five
feet of two syllable iambs.]

Historical novel. A novel where
fictional characters take part in actual historical events and interact with
real people from the past. Examples:

Sir Walter
Scott, Ivanhoe

Sir Walter
Scott, Waverly

Fenimore Cooper, Last of the Mohicans

Lloyd C.
Douglas, The Robe

Horatian Satire. In general, a
gentler, more good humored and sympathetic kind of satire, somewhat tolerant of
human folly even while laughing at it. Named after the poet Horace, whose satire
epitomized it. Horatian satire tends to ridicule human folly in general or by
type rather than attack specific persons. Compare Juvenalian satire.

Humanism. The new emphasis in the
Renaissance on human culture, education and reason, sparked by a revival of
interest in classical Greek and Roman literature, culture, and language. Human
nature and the dignity of man were exalted and emphasis was placed on the
present life as a worthy event in itself (as opposed to the medieval emphasis on
the present life merely as preparation for a future life).

Humours. In medieval physiology,
four liquids in the human body affecting behavior. Each humour was associated
with one of the four elements of nature. In a balanced personality, no humour
predominated. When a humour did predominate, it caused a particular personality.
Here is a chart of the humours, the corresponding elements and personality

blood...air...hot and moist: sanguine, kind, happy, romantic

phlegm...water...cold and moist: phlegmatic, sedentary, sickly, fearful

bile...fire...hot and dry: choleric, ill-tempered, impatient, stubborn

bile...earth...cold and dry: melancholy, gluttonous, lazy,

The Renaissance took the doctrine
of humours quite seriously--it was their model of psychology--so knowing that
can help us understand the characters in the literature. Falstaff, for example,
has a dominance of blood, while Hamlet seems to have an excess of black bile.

Hypertext novel. A novel that can
be read in a nonsequential way. That is, whereas most novels flow from beginning
to end in a continuous, linear fashion, a hypertext novel can branch--the reader
can move from one place in the text to another nonsequential place whenever he
wishes to trace an idea or follow a character. Also called hyperfiction. Most
are published on CD-ROM. See also interactive novel. Examples:

Joyce, Afternoon

Moulthrop, Victory Garden

Interactive novel. A novel with
more than one possible series of events or outcomes. The reader is given the
opportunity at various places to choose what will happen next. It is therefore
possible for several readers to experience different novels by reading the same
book or for one reader to experience different novels by reading the same one
twice and making different choices.

Invective. Speech or writing that
abuses, denounces, or attacks. It can be directed against a person, cause, idea,
or system. It employs a heavy use of negative emotive language. Example:

I cannot
but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little
odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.

Irony. A mode of expression,
through words (verbal irony) or events (irony of situation), conveying a reality
different from and usually opposite to appearance or expectation. A writer may
say the opposite of what he means, create a reversal between expectation and its
fulfillment, or give the audience knowledge that a character lacks, making the
character's words have meaning to the audience not perceived by the character.
In verbal irony, the writer's meaning or even his attitude may be different from
what he says: "Why, no one would dare argue that there could be anything more
important in choosing a college than its proximity to the beach." An example of
situational irony would occur if a professional pickpocket had his own pocket
picked just as he was in the act of picking someone else's pocket. The irony is
generated by the surprise recognition by the audience of a reality in contrast
with expectation or appearance, while another audience, victim, or character
puts confidence in the appearance as reality (in this case, the pickpocket
doesn't expect his own pocket to be picked). The surprise recognition by the
audience often produces a comic effect, making irony often funny.

An example of dramatic irony (where
the audience has knowledge that gives additional meaning to a character's words)
would be when King Oedipus, who has unknowingly killed his father, says that he
will banish his father's killer when he finds him.

Irony is the most common and most
efficient technique of the satirist, because it is an instrument of truth,
provides wit and humor, and is usually at least obliquely critical, in that it
deflates, scorns, or attacks.

The ability to detect irony is
sometimes heralded as a test of intelligence and sophistication. When a text
intended to be ironic is not seen as such, the effect can be disastrous. Some
students have taken Swift's "Modest Proposal" literally. And Defoe's
contemporaries took his "Shortest Way with the Dissenters" literally and jailed
him for it. To be an effective piece of sustained irony, there must be some sort
of audience tip-off, through style, tone, use of clear exaggeration, or other

Juvenalian Satire. Harsher, more
pointed, perhaps intolerant satire typified by the writings of Juvenal.
Juvenalian satire often attacks particular people, sometimes thinly disguised as
fictional characters. While laughter and ridicule are still weapons as with
Horatian satire, the Juvenalian satirist also uses withering invective and a
slashing attack. Swift is a Juvenalian satirist.

Lampoon. A crude, coarse, often
bitter satire ridiculing the personal appearance or character of a person.

Literary quality. A judgment about
the value of a novel as literature. At the heart of this issue is the question
of what distinguishes a great or important novel from one that is less
important. Certainly the feature is not that of interest or excitement, for pulp
novels can be even more exciting and interesting than "great" novels. Usually,
books that make us think--that offer insight into the human condition--are the
ones we rank more highly than books that simply titillate us.

Metaphysical Poetry. The term
metaphysical was applied to a style of 17th Century poetry first by John Dryden
and later by Dr. Samuel Johnson because of the highly intellectual and often
abstruse imagery involved.

Chief among the metaphysical poets
are John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Andrew Marvell, and Henry
Vaughan. While their poetry is widely varied (the metaphysicals are not a
thematic or even a structural school), there are some common characteristics:

Argumentative structure. The poem often engages in a debate or persuasive
presentation; the poem is an intellectual exercise as well as or instead of an
emotional effusion.

Dramatic and colloquial mode of utterance. The poem often describes a dramatic
event rather than being a reverie, a thought, or contemplation. Diction is
simple and usually direct; inversion is limited. The verse is occasionally
rough, like speech, rather than written in perfect meter, resulting in a
dominance of thought over form.

3. Acute
realism. The poem often reveals a psychological analysis; images advance the
argument rather than being ornamental. There is a learned style of thinking and
writing; the poetry is often highly intellectual.

Metaphysical wit. The poem contains unexpected, even striking or shocking
analogies, offering elaborate parallels between apparently dissimilar things.
The analogies are drawn from widely varied fields of knowledge, not limited to
traditional sources in nature or art. Analogies from science, mechanics,
housekeeping, business, philosophy, astronomy, etc. are common. These "conceits"
reveal a play of intellect, often resulting in puns, paradoxes, and humorous
comparisons. Unlike other poetry where the metaphors usually remain in the
background, here the metaphors sometimes take over the poem and control it.

Metaphysical poetry represents a
revolt against the conventions of Elizabethan love poetry and especially the
typical Petrarchan conceits (like rosy cheeks, eyes like stars, etc.).

Meter. The rhythmic pattern
produced when words are arranged so that their stressed and unstressed syllables
fall into a more or less regular sequence, resulting in repeated patterns of
accent (called feet). See feet and versification.

Mock Epic. Treating a frivolous or
minor subject seriously, especially by using the machinery and devices of the
epic (invocations, descriptions of armor, battles, extended similes, etc.). The
opposite of travesty. Examples:

Pope, The Dunciad

Pope, Rape of the Lock

Multicultural novel. A novel
written by a member of or about a cultural minority group, giving insight into
non-Western or non-dominant cultural experiences and values, either in the
United States or abroad. Examples:

Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Amy Tan,
The Kitchen God's Wife

Carter, The Education of Little Tree

Craven, I Heard the Owl Call My Name

Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Potok, The Chosen

Bashevis Singer, The Penitent

Walker, The Color Purple

Mystery novel. A novel whose
driving characteristic is the element of suspense or mystery. Strange,
unexplained events, vague threats or terrors, unknown forces or antagonists, all
may appear in a mystery novel. Gothic novels and detective novels are often also
mystery novels.

Novel. Dare we touch this one with
a ten foot pole? Of course we dare, provided that you accept the caveat that
novels are so varied that any definition is likely to be inadequate to cover all
of them. So here is a place to start: a novel is an extended prose fiction
narrative of 50,000 words or more, broadly realistic--concerning the everyday
events of ordinary people--and concerned with character. "People in significant
action" is one way of describing it.

Another definition might be "an
extended, fictional prose narrative about realistic characters and events." It
is a representation of life, experience, and learning. Action, discovery, and
description are important elements, but the most important tends to be one or
more characters--how they grow, learn, find--or don't grow, learn, or find.

Compare the definition of a
romance, below, and you will see why this definition seems somewhat restrictive.

Novella. A prose fiction longer
than a short story but shorter than a novel. There is no standard definition of
length, but since rules of thumb are sometimes handy, we might say that the
short story ends at about 20,000 words, while the novel begins at about 50,000.
Thus, the novella is a fictional work of about 20,000 to 50,000 words. Examples:

James, Daisy Miller

Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

James, Turn of the Screw

Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Novel of manners. A novel focusing
on and describing in detail the social customs and habits of a particular social
group. Usually these conventions function as shaping or even stifling controls
over the behavior of the characters. Examples:

Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

Parody. A satiric imitation of a
work or of an author with the idea of ridiculing the author, his ideas, or work.
The parodist exploits the peculiarities of an author's expression--his
propensity to use too many parentheses, certain favorite words, or whatever. The
parody may also be focused on, say, an improbable plot with too many convenient
events. Fielding's Shamela is, in large part, a parody of Richardson's Pamela.

Persona. The person created by the
author to tell a story. Whether the story is told by an omniscient narrator or
by a character in it, the actual author of the work often distances himself from
what is said or told by adopting a persona--a personality different from his
real one. Thus, the attitudes, beliefs, and degree of understanding expressed by
the narrator may not be the same as those of the actual author. Some authors,
for example, use narrators who are not very bright in order to create irony.

Petrarchan Conceit. The kind of
conceit (see above) used by Italian Renaissance poet Petrarch and popular in
Renaissance English sonnets. Eyes like stars or the sun, hair like golden wires,
lips like cherries, etc. are common examples. Oxymorons are also common, such as
freezing fire, burning ice, etc.

Picaresque novel. An episodic,
often autobiographical novel about a rogue or picaro (a person of low social
status) wandering around and living off his wits. The wandering hero provides
the author with the opportunity to connect widely different pieces of plot,
since the hero can wander into any situation. Picaresque novels tend to be
satiric and filled with petty detail. Examples:

Defoe, Moll Flanders

Miguel de
Cervantes, Don Quixote

Fielding, Jonathan Wild

Pseudonym. A "false name" or alias
used by a writer desiring not to use his or her real name. Sometimes called a
nom de plume or "pen name," pseudonyms have been popular for several reasons.

First, political realities might
make it dangerous for the real author to admit to a work. Beatings,
imprisonment, and even execution are not unheard of for authors of unpopular

Second, an author might have a
certain type of work associated with a certain name, so that different names are
used for different kinds of work. One pen name might be used for westerns, while
another name would be used for science fiction.

Lastly, an author might choose a
literary name that sounds more impressive or that will garner more respect than
the author's real name. Examples:

Clemens used the name Mark Twain

Mary Ann
Evans used the name George Eliot

Swift used the name Lemuel Gulliver (once)

Pulp fiction. Novels written for
the mass market, intended to be "a good read,"--often exciting, titillating,
thrilling. Historically they have been very popular but critically sneered at as
being of sub-literary quality. The earliest ones were the dime novels of the
nineteenth century, printed on newsprint (hence "pulp" fiction) and sold for ten
cents. Westerns, stories of adventure, even the Horatio Alger novels, all were
forms of pulp fiction.

Regional novel. A novel faithful to
a particular geographic region and its people, including behavior, customs,
speech, and history. Examples:

Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Hardy, Return of the Native

Rhyme. The similarity between
syllable sounds at the end of two or more lines. Some kinds of rhyme (also
spelled rime) include:

Couplet: a
pair of lines rhyming consecutively.

Eye rhyme:
words whose spellings would lead one to think that they rhymed (slough, tough,
cough, bough, though, hiccough. Or: love, move, prove. Or: daughter, laughter.)

rhyme: two syllable rhyme consisting of stressed syllable followed by

rhyme: similarity between terminally stressed syllables.

Ridicule. Words intended to
belittle a person or idea and arouse contemptuous laughter. The goal is to
condemn or criticize by making the thing, idea, or person seem laughable and
ridiculous. It is one of the most powerful methods of criticism, partly because
it cannot be satisfactorily answered ("Who can refute a sneer?") and partly
because many people who fear nothing else--not the law, not society, not even
God--fear being laughed at. (The fear of being laughed at is one of the most
inhibiting forces in western civilization. It provides much of the power behind
the adolescent flock urge and accounts for many of the barriers to change and
adventure in the adult world.) Ridicule is, not surprisingly, a common weapon of
the satirist.

Roman a clef. [French for "novel
with a key," pronounced roh MAHN ah CLAY] A novel in which historical events and
actual people are written about under the pretense of being fiction. Examples:

Behn, Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister

Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Romance. An extended fictional
prose narrative about improbable events involving characters that are quite
different from ordinary people. Knights on a quest for a magic sword and aided
by characters like fairies and trolls would be examples of things found in
romance fiction. Examples:

Miguel de
Cervantes, Don Quixote

Sir Philip
Sidney, The Arcadia

In popular use, the modern romance
novel is a formulaic love story (boy meets girl, obstacles interfere, they
overcome obstacles, they live happily ever after). Computer software is
available for constructing these stock plots and providing stereotyped
characters. Consequently, the books usually lack literary merit. Examples:

Romance series

Sarcasm. A form of sneering
criticism in which disapproval is often expressed as ironic praise. (Oddly
enough, sarcastic remarks are often used between friends, perhaps as a somewhat
perverse demonstration of the strength of the bond--only a good friend could say
this without hurting the other's feelings, or at least without excessively
damaging the relationship, since feelings are often hurt in spite of a close
relationship. If you drop your lunch tray and a stranger says, "Well, that was
really intelligent," that's sarcasm. If your girlfriend or boyfriend says it,
that's love--I think.)

Satire. A literary mode based on
criticism of people and society through ridicule. The satirist aims to reduce
the practices attacked by laughing scornfully at them--and being witty enough to
allow the reader to laugh, also. Ridicule, irony, exaggeration,
and several other techniques are almost always present. The satirist may insert
serious statements of value or desired behavior, but most often he relies on an
implicit moral code, understood by his audience and paid lip service by them.
The satirist's goal is to point out the hypocrisy of his target in the hope that
either the target or the audience will return to a real following of the code.
Thus, satire is inescapably moral even when no explicit values are promoted in
the work, for the satirist works within the framework of a widely spread value
system. Many of the techniques of satire are devices of comparison, to show the
similarity or contrast between two things. A list of incongruous items, an
oxymoron, metaphors, and so forth are examples. See "The Purpose and Method of
Satire" for more information.

Science fiction novel. A novel in
which futuristic technology or otherwise altered scientific principles
contribute in a significant way to the adventures. Often the novel assumes a set
of rules or principles or facts and then traces their logical consequences in
some form. For example, given that a man discovers how to make himself
invisible, what might happen? Examples:

H. G.
Wells, The Invisible Man

Huxley, Brave New World

Arthur C.
Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Sentimental novel. A type of novel,
popular in the eighteenth century, that overemphasizes emotion and seeks to
create emotional responses in the reader. The type also usually features an
overly optimistic view of the goodness of human nature. Examples:

Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield

Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling

Sterne, A Sentimental Journey

Day, The History of Sandford and Merton

Sequel. A novel incorporating the
same characters and often the same setting as a previous novel. Sometimes the
events and situations involve a continuation of the previous novel and sometimes
only the characters are the same and the events are entirely unrelated to the
previous novel. When sequels result from the popularity of an original, they are
often hastily written and not of the same quality as the original. Occasionally
a sequel is written by an author different from that of the original novel. See
series. Examples:

Twain, Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad

Twain, Tom Sawyer Detective

Mitchell, Gone With the Wind

Ripley, Scarlett

Series. Several novels related to
each other, by plot, setting, character, or all three. Book marketers like to
refer to multi-volume novels as sagas. Examples:

Trollope, Barsetshire novels

C. S.
Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia novels

L. M.
Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea novels

Fenimore Cooper, The Leatherstocking Tales

Setting. The total environment for
the action of a fictional work. Setting includes time period (such as the
1890's), the place (such as downtown Warsaw), the historical milieu (such as
during the Crimean War), as well as the social, political, and perhaps even
spiritual realities. The setting is usually established primarily through
description, though narration is used also.

Sonnet. A fourteen line poem,
usually in iambic pentameter, with a varied rhyme scheme. The two main types of
sonnet are the Petrarchan (or Italian) and the Shakespearean. The Petrarchan
Sonnet is divided into two main sections, the octave (first eight lines) and the
sestet (last six lines). The octave presents a problem or situation which is
then resolved or commented on in the sestet. The most common rhyme scheme is
A-B-B-A A-B-B-A C-D-E C-D-E, though there is flexibility in the sestet, such as
C-D-C D-C-D.

The Shakespearean Sonnet,
(perfected though not invented by Shakespeare), contains three quatrains and a
couplet, with more rhymes (because of the greater difficulty finding rhymes in
English). The most common rhyme scheme is A-B-A-B C-D-C-D E-F-E-F G-G. In
Shakespeare, the couplet often undercuts the thought created in the rest of the

Spenserian Stanza. A nine-line
stanza, with the first eight lines in iambic pentameter and the last line in
iambic hexameter (called an Alexandrine). The rhyme scheme is A-B-A-B B-C-B-C C.
Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene is written in Spenserian stanzas.

Style. The manner of expression of
a particular writer, produced by choice of words, grammatical structures, use of
literary devices, and all the possible parts of language use. Some general
styles might include scientific, ornate, plain, emotive. Most writers have their
own particular styles.

Subplot. A subordinate or minor
collection of events in a novel or drama. Most subplots have some connection
with the main plot, acting as foils to, commentary on, complications of, or
support to the theme of, the main plot. Sometimes two opening subplots merge
into a main plot.

Symbol. Something that on the
surface is its literal self but which also has another meaning or even several
meanings. For example, a sword may be a sword and also symbolize justice. A
symbol may be said to embody an idea. There are two general types of symbols:
universal symbols that embody universally recognizable meanings wherever used,
such as light to symbolize knowledge, a skull to symbolize death, etc., and
constructed symbols that are given symbolic meaning by the way an author uses
them in a literary work, as the white whale becomes a symbol of evil in Moby

Tone. The writer's attitude toward
his readers and his subject; his mood or moral view. A writer can be formal,
informal, playful, ironic, and especially, optimistic or pessimistic. While both
Swift and Pope are satirizing much the same subjects, there is a profound
difference in their tone.

Travesty. A work that treats a
serious subject frivolously-- ridiculing the dignified. Often the tone is mock
serious and heavy handed.

Utopian novel. A novel that
presents an ideal society where the problems of poverty, greed, crime, and so
forth have been eliminated. Examples:

More, Utopia

Butler, Erewhon

Bellamy, Looking Backward

Verisimilitude. How fully the
characters and actions in a work of fiction conform to our sense of reality. To
say that a work has a high degree of verisimilitude means that the work is very
realistic and believable--it is "true to life.".

Versification. Generally, the
structural form of a verse, as revealed by scansion. Identification of verse
structure includes the name of the metrical type and the name designating number
of feet:

1 foot

Dimeter: 2

3 feet

Tetrameter: 4 feet

Pentameter: 5 feet

6 feet

Heptameter: 7 feet

8 feet

9 feet

The most common verse in English
poetry is iambic pentameter. See foot for more information.

Western. A novel set in the western
United States featuring the experiences of cowboys and frontiersmen. Many are
little more than adventure novels or even pulp fiction, but some have literary
value. Examples:

Walter Van
Tilburg Clark, The Ox-Bow Incident

Wister, The Virginian


Literary Terms

· Poetry Lesson

Carla Beard: Who knows why we call it figurative
Student: Because you have to figure out what it means!

Peggy Smith: Cut out newspaper headlines and titles
of articles- especially from the sports section. Paste them on a posterboard and
number them. Have students identify the figure of speech by number and explain
in concrete terms what the line is saying. Some examples from today's Plain
Dealer: "Buckeyes clip ice-cold Gophers", "New Crop of Garden Catalogs", "The
Heat is Back on Steel Makers". These are pretty lame, but usually there are some
good pickings in the daily newspaper.

Animal related






of View


Rhythm &

Stream of


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