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From Acrostic to Dada  -  From Dialogue to Myth  -  From Narrative to Zeugma


Acrostic: a verse or arrangement of words in which certain letters in each line, such as the first or last, when taken in order spell out a word, motto, etc. Etymology: Gr akrostichos < akros (see acro-) + stichos, line of verse.
Act: (From Latin "Thing done") A division in the Action of a Play, often further divided into Scenes. Frequently these divisions correspond with changes in the development of the play. On the stage the divisions of the action may be evidenced by exits and entrances of actors, changes of scenery, lighting effects or by closing the stage with a curtain. Elizabethan dramatists copied the five-act structure from Seneca and other rom,an playrights, and this became the standard form for all plays till Ibsen and Cekhov experimented with four-act plays in the late nineteenth century. Nowadays playwrights are more free to organize their works and the three-acts plays are most common.
Adonis: in classical mythology, a young man of remarkable beauty; a handsome young man loved by Aphrodite: he is killed by a wild boar.
Alexandrine: prosody: an iambic line having normally six feet; a line of poetry containing regularly six iambic feet (12 syllables) with a caesura after the third. iambic hexameter. Etymology: Fr alexandrin: so called from being used in OF poems on Alexander (the Great)
Alienation Effect: also called a-effect or distancing effect, German Verfremdungseffekt or V-effekt; idea central to the dramatic theory of the German dramatist-director Bertolt Brecht. It involves the use of techniques designed to distance the audience from emotional involvement in the play through jolting reminders of the artificiality of the theatrical performance.
is a narrative in which an abstract and, sometimes, complex moral message is made more concrete and simple by the means of characters and incidents that represent abstract qualities and problems. A story in which people, things, and happenings have a hidden or symbolic meaning: allegories are used for teaching or explaining ideas, moral principles, etc. A narrative using symbolic names or characters that carries underlying meaning other than the one most apparent. The stories are usually long and complex, and are meant to explain or teach a moral idea or lesson to the reader. The ideas are presented in a concrete and imaginative manner, and incidents usually represent political, spiritual, or romantic situations. The characters are types (Mr. Stingy Cheapo) or they are moral characteristics (Kindness, Jealousy). One character can represent a whole bunch of people. For example, in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, Dante symbolizes mankind and is guided by the poet Virgil through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. During this journey, he learns about the punishments of sin, and the process of salvation. There are also allegories in the story Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne in which the character Faith is used to represent good fighting evil. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Spenser's "The Faerie Queen" are famous allegories in English. Allegories can also be found in parables and fables. In fables, inanimate objects or animals take on human characteristics in order to point out their weaknesses and desired traits. There is usually a short, simple, commonly cliched lesson (that your parents love to quote for you) which is stated at the end. A famous example is Aesop's fables about the hare and the tortoise (slow and steady wins the race) and the one about the grapevine. A parable is a concise story using everyday situations making a point through comparisons. In the Bible, Jesus uses parables to simplify ideas for his disciples. For example, he compares the kingdom of God to the mustard seed. He says it is the smallest seed planted in the ground, yet when it grows, it becomes the largest garden plant providing shade and comfort. [Pearl Chang, '99]
Alliteration: the use, within a line or phrase, of words beginning with the same consonant oraccented vowel sound,e.g. "safe and sound"; "spick and span". This technique is used to give emphasis or create a pleasant, singing effect. Originated in the early 17th century from medieval Latin alliterato; used for poetic effect; the repetition of the initial sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables. It can also be referred to as head rhyme or initial rhyme. ( Example: "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" -Adrienne Rich pg. 471 "Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool" "We'll go on prancing, proud and unafraid" and "Hymn To God the Father" -John Donne pg. 505 "Shall shine as he shines now . . ." [Jessica Sharron, '99]
Allusion: an indirect or implied reference to another work of literature, historical event, famous quotation, etc. The desired effect is to enhance the meaning of the author's work by the reference. This can only be achieved by the level of the reader's knowledge of the work being alluded to.
For example: in the novel Animal Farm, there is a revolution which takes place when the animals overthrow their human owners. The leader of the animals is a monarchic pig name Napoleon. The story alludes to the Bolshevik Revolution during World War I, allowing for the reader to better see the level of power a single ruler can reach. [Kristin Pesceone, '99]
Ambiguity: In literary criticism ambiguity refers to the exploitation for artistic purposes of language which has usually two but possibly multiple meanings. Ambiguity gives a state of doubt and indistinction to words or expressions that make them capable of being interpreted and understood in more than one way. It should be noted that ambiguity is not necessarily negative in literature and literary criticism.
Examples: In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, during the discussion between Jane and Mr. Rochester that eventually ends in him asking her to marry him, it is ambiguous as to whether Mr. Rochester is referring to Blanche Ingram, or some other woman whom he holds such deep affection for.
In this very same novel, there is another example of ambiguity in much a similar situation. When St. John asks Jane to be his wife and come with him on his mission, it is ambiguous as to whether he truly loves her or whether he wants her along for some other reason. [Joel Carlson, '99]
Amoretti: "little cupids".
(rhetoric), a figure of speech that adds importance to increase its rhetorical effect.
a comparison or similarity between two things that are alike in some way. Anti-Climax: a sudden drop in tension, often amusing. It was used as adevice for satire and ridicule by many of the Augustan poets.
An analogue is a piece of writing that is similar in some aspect to another. When one work is like another because it is intentionally derived from it, it is not called an analogue. The second work is just called a source. The plays Antigone by Sophocles and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare are analogues because they are both tragedies written in verse in which the hero sets out to make peace for the death of a loved one, but ultimately dies himself. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin and "Astronomer's Wife" by Kay Boyle can also be thought of as analogues because both are short stories which deal with a woman's liberation from her husband, although the results of the stories are quite different. [Erin Hyun, '99]
Anapest: In poetry, a foot composed of two short, unstressed syllables followed by a long, stressed one. An example of anapestic meter is Lord Byron's "The Destruction of Sennacherib."
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in ipurple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee. [Nora Quiros, '99]
Anaphora: In rhetoric, an anaphora (Greek: "carrying back") is a rhetorical device that consists of repeating a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses, thereby lending them emphasis. In contrast, an epistrophe (or epiphora) is repeating words at the clauses' ends. See also other figures of speech involving repetition. One author well-known for his use of anaphora is Charles Dickens. Some of his best-known works constantly portray their themes through use of this literary tool.
Anecdote: A very brief story or tale told by a character in a piece of literature. The story usually consists of an interesting biographical incident. This is seen in The Canterbury Tales. It is also seen in the beginning of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five when the author is speasking of how he came to write the succeeding story. [Micah Bedrosian, '99]
Aphorism: [French aphorisme, from Old French, from Late Latin aphorismus, from Greek aphorismos, from aphorizein, to delimit, define : apo-, apo- + horizein, to delimit, define; see horizon.] A terse saying embodying a general truth, as “Time flies.” — aphorist, n. — aphorismic, aphorismical, aphoristic, adj. A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage. See Synonyms at saying. A brief statement of a principle. See also apophthegm, apothegm, axiom, maxim - a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits. Usually an aphorism is a concise statement containing a subjective truth or observation cleverly and pithily written. Aphorisms can be both prosaic or poetic, sometimes they have repeated words or phrases, and sometimes they have two parts that are of the same grammatical structure. The word aphorism (literally "distinction" or "definition", from the Greek: aphorismós ap-horizein "from-to bound") denotes an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and easily memorable form. The name was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates. The term came to be applied later to other sententious statements of physical science and later still to statements of all kinds of philosophical, moral or literary principles.
The Aphorisms of Hippocrates were the one of the earliest collections, although the earlier Book of Proverbs is similar. Hippocrates includes such notable and often invoked phrases as:"Life is short, [the] art long, opportunity fleeting, experience misleading, judgment difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals cooperate."
The aphoristic genre developed together with literacy, and after the invention of printing, aphorisms were collected and published in book form. The first noted published collection of aphorisms is Adagia by Erasmus of Rotterdam. Other important early aphorists were François de La Rochefoucauld, Blaise Pascal and Carl William Brown.
Apostrophe: When the narrator suddenly breaks his story to directly address someone or a personified abstraction which may or may not be present. Milton provides an example in his Paradise Lost:
"Hail, holy light, offspring of Heaven first born." [Nathan Westhoff, '99]
11.Aside: An aside is a short speech made by a character in a play--it is is heard only by the audience; the rest of the characters cannot hear it. In many instances an aside is a way for a playwright to voice his or her character's thoughts and feelings.
In Shakespeare's Othello, the villianous Iago, spying on Cassio and Desdemona, speaks this aside:
"He takes her by the palm. Ay, well said, whisper! With as little a web as this I will ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. Ay, smile upon her, do! I will gyve thee in thine own courtship...."
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the king, weighed down by conscience, speaks this aside:
"How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
The harlot's cheek is, beautied with plast'ring art,
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word:
O heavy burthen!" [Leah Porter, '99]
Assonance: a vowel sound repeated in literary work. This echoing effect is used to enhance the tone and feeling the author is trying to convene in the work.
In Walt Whitmn’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” the last four lines has assonance from the words “tired,” “sick,” “rising,” “gliding,” “myself,” “night,” “time to time,” and “silence.”
In the “Stopping by Woods,” the lines
“The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.”
The e sound is echoed in “sweep,” “easy,” and “downy” and the ow sound in “sound and downy.” [Alisso Ko, '99]
Autobiography: A biography about a person written by that person. It is usually written and narrated in the first erson and recounts the life, or significant details from the life, of the author.
Two famous examples of autobiographies are Bad as I Want to Be by Dennis Rodman, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X. Borh of these novels recount the authors' lives in first-person narrative. [Phillip Tadlock, '99]
Ballad: (Latin word "ballare " meaning "to dance") an anonymous poem in short stanzas often sung to a traditional tune, and telling a popular story. It is in common language and has often lines which are repeated at the end ofeach verse. Banquo: the reputed ancestor of the Stuarts, who was well known during the first years ofJames I's reign.
Beast fable: a short story, either in verse or prose, which teaches a lesson (or a moral and in which animals are endowed with the mentality and speech ofhuman beings.
Becket Thomas: martyr and Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1170 he was murdered in the Cathedral of Canterbury by four knights inspired by some rash words ofKing Henry II, after some years ofdissension with the King.
Bildungsroman: (German educational novel) a type of novel that deals with the psychological and emotional development of a youth protagonist, tracing his orher life from childhood to maturity through adolescence.
Biography: The story of a person's life written by someone other than the subject of the work. A biographical work is supposed to be somewhat factual. However, since the biographer may be prejudiced in favor of or against the subject of the biography, critics, and the sometimes the subject of the biography himself, may come forward to challenge the accuracy of the material. [Mike Isenberg, '99]
Blank Verse: poetry written in meter, usually iamgic pentameter, but without a rhyme shceme. It is commonly used in narraive and dramatic poetry. For example, from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gies and him that takes. [Kristin Pesceone, '99]
Cacaphony/Euphony: A dissonant, unpleasant comgination of sounds/a harmonious, pleasant combination of sounds.
I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils ["Elegy for Jane" by Theodore Roethke]
A toad the power mower caught,
Chewed and clipped of a leg, with a hobbling hop has got ["The Death of a Toad" by Richard Wilbur]
The word plum is delicious
pout and push, luxury of
self-love, and savoring murmur
full in the mouth and falling
like fruit. ["The Word Plum" by Lelen Chasin][Elena Allen, '99]
Canto: is a section of a long narrative poem.
Carpe Diem: A descriptiove term for literature that urges readers to live for the moment. It come from the Latin phrase that means "seize the day". This theme was widely used in 16th and 17th century poetry. It is best ememplified by a familiar stanza from Robert Herricks "To the Virgins to make Much of Time".
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying. [Eric Frey, '99]
Catastrophe: A catastrophe is any sudden disaster that has occured. It is the scene in a tragic drama that includes the protagonist's death or moral destruction. One such tragedy is Oedipus the King by Sophocles. In Shakespeare's tragedies such as Othello, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet, the catastrophe is always included in Act 5.[Ezter Takacs, '99]
Character: In the literary realm the term Character refers to any individual, object, animal, or force created by the author as a basis for his/her particular piece of work. Character is not only the person it is also the behavior and distinctive quality which places the character into a group. An author's task when composing characters for his/her story, play, etc., is to establish an initial personality, i.e. persona to the character. Once characteristics are formed, the reader/audience adheres to them and cast judgement. For example in the classic piece of work Huck Finn, Twain portrays Huck with certain distinctive qualities which are either liked or disliked by the reader. Thus creating protagonists and antagonists, which are the basis for any literary piece of work. Without conflict or contradicting characters the interest of the work will be lost. [Samantha Shelton, '99] So the character is the author's creation, through the medium of words, of a personality who takes on actions, thoughts, expressions, and attitudes unique and appropriate to that personality, and consistent with it. Character might be thought of as a reasonable facsimile of a human being, with all the qualities and changes (whims, or any set of unusual or unexpected events that have an effect on a person) of a human being. Different types of characters: first-person narrator: is one of the characters and is inside the story. Third-person narrator: the narrator is outside the story, for instance, has nothing to do with the events presented in it. It ca be: Objective: he\she mainly observes people and events and reports what he\she sees and hears (E. Hemingway's novels are an example of objective narrator); Omniscient (all-knowledge): When the speaker describes not only the action and dialogue of the work, but also seems to know and report everything that goes on in the characters' innermost feelings and thoughts. Flat character. a simple character with little depth, built around a single quality, who always behaves in the same way without changing or developing throughout the narrative. In the theatre a stock character represents one personality trait (for example; the jealous husband, the villain etc.) Round character. a character who has a real psychological identity, develops his\her own personality during the narrative and changes his\her ways of thinking. Contrasting character: When the novelist tends to represent at least two characters, sometimes a few, who possess different or even contrasting features. In this way the novel is enriched with situation in which the two characters react in a totally
different way and, ofcourse, with totally different results.
Classicism: A movement to preserve and improve upon the attributes found in Greek and Roman works. The movement encompasses the many areas of art: music, visual arts, and literature. Often classicism involves the philosophies of Greek philosophers, so the movement involves much of ancient form.
There were three basic revivals of classicism. The first was during the Renaissance, wherein architecture and philosophy became Greco-Roman inspired. The second revival took place during the 18th and 19th centuries, when Pompeii was (re)discovered. This period is generally called "neoclassicism," and the Greco-Roman strain was mostly prevalent in literature (Goethe), music (Haydn, Mozart), and art (the Museum des Beaux-Arts in France). The third revival was the early 20th-century, where a renewed interest in abstracted classical art is found in Pablo Picasso, and modernized Greek literature is evident in the works of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot.
An example of classicism in the literature studied this year comes from Gulliver's Travels, Book III. On the sorcerer-populated island of Glubbdubdrib, Gulliver calls up Aristotle and Homer, who sneer at modern philosophy. The Travels were published in 1726, around the time of the neoclassicism revival, and this passage reflects the then-presumably prevalent attitude that ancient philosophy is moral and decent and a good thing to study. [Christa Young, '99]
Climax: In a work of literature, the most decisive and critical scene or event is the climax. The climax is the major turning point of the work; it is the culmination of the rising action, conflicts, and complications of the story.
In "Oedipus Rex," the climax occurs when Oedipus discovers the truth of the prophecies and oracles. This was the major turning point in the play which caused Oedipus to change from a glorified and honored king to a shamed and destroyed outcast. [Nicki Roberts, '99]
Comedy: A comedy is literary work which is amusing and ends happily. This work can be a play or a novel, even a movie. Modern comedies are usually funny, while Shakespearean comedies just end well. Shakespearean comedies accomplish their comedic effect by using misunderstandings or mistaken identities. Modern comedies throw their characters into peculiar situations, and must then deal with those situations. Witty and clever lines are dispensed to make the piece entertaining for readers or viewers.
A good example of a Shakespearean comedy could be Twelfth Night. It cleverly shows it's comedic air by disguising the Viola as a boy, a case of mistaken identity. [Jarrod Armour, '99]
Conceit: An elaborate poetic image or a far-fetched comparison of very dissimilar things. A witty or ingenious turn of phrase. An artistic device or effect.
Conclusion: The final outcome of main characters in a drama or novel that is based on logical events from the story. To tie the loose ends of the plot lines of the major characters together. The ending of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a good example:
"....and, as Heter Prynne had no selfish ends, nor lived in any measure for her own profit and enjoyment, people brought all their sorrows, perplexities, and besought her counsel, as one who had herself gone through mighty trouble." [Nathan Westhoff, '99]
Concrete Poetry: A poem that visibly resembles the object which it describes. This is accomplished by arranging the words or lines of the poem so that they form the desired shape or pattern. Examples are "Easter Wings" by George Herbert and "Women" by May Swenson. [Doug Yuen, '99]
Conflict: Conflict occurs when the main character is opposed by some other character or force in a work of literature. The conflict can also be an internal struggle of the character versus his conscience.
Examples can be found in every work read this year. For instance Gulliver was in conflict with the Lilliputions and the giants of Brobdignagg, and Jane came into conflict with Miss Read and Mr. Brocklehurst. [Mark Kobal, '99]
Connotation and Denotation: connotation: an association that comes along with a particular word. Connotations relate not to a word's actual meaning, or denotation, but rather to the ideas or qualities that are implied by that word. A good example is the word "gold." The denotation of gold is a malleable, ductile, yellow element. The connotations, however, are the ideas associated with gold, such as greed, luxury, or avarice. Another example occurs in the Book of Genesis. Jacob says: “Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward" (Gen 49:17). In this passage, Dan is not literally going to become a snake. However, describing Dan as a "snake" and "viper" forces the reader to associate him with the negative qualities that are commonly associated with reptiles, such as slyness, danger, and evil. Dan becomes like a snake, sly and dangerous to the riders. Writers use connotation to make their writing more vivid and interesting to read. See A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Jennifer Lance, Student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
denotation: the exact meaning of a word, without the feelings or suggestions that the word may imply. It is the opposite of “connotation” in that it is the “dictionary” meaning of a word, without attached feelings or associations. Some examples of denotations are:
1. heart: an organ that circulates blood throughout the body. Here the word "heart" denotes the actual organ, while in another context, the word "heart" may connote feelings of love or heartache.
2. sweater: a knitted garment for the upper body. The word "sweater" may denote pullover sweaters or cardigans, while “sweater” may also connote feelings of warmness or security.
Denotation allows the reader to know the exact meaning of a word so that he or she will better understand the work of literature. See Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, A Glossary of Literary Terms, A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, Webster’s Dictionary. Shana Locklear, Student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Consonance: This is one of those great literary terms to use when you are doing an AP write and you are trying to think of a sophisticated way to say that the words in the piece sound nice and harmonious with each other. It will come up most commonly with poetry or prose-like pieces of writing when words have a close correspondence of sounds. More specifically, it means the repetition of consonants (letters of the alphabet) or a consonant pattern, especially at the end of words. (Kind of like alliteration, but instead of the repeating sound in the beginning, the repetition is at the end.) Usually, it sounds good and the word is also commonly used to describe music as in agreement, or accord. So you want some examples?
"I listened, motionless and still,
And as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more."
In these four lines from the "Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth, there is consonance at the end of line 1 and 2 (hill.. still), and then line 3 and 4 (bore... more). :) :) [Pearl Chang, '99]
Couplet: two consecutive lines of verse, especially when rhyming. The "heroic couplet" consists of two rhymed lines in iambic pentameter.
Dactyl: A dactyl (Gr. δάκτυλος dáktulos, “finger”) is a type of meter in poetry. A metrical FOOT. In quantitative verse, such as Greek or Latin, a dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, as determined by syllable weight. In accentual verse, such as English, it is a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables -- the opposite is the anapaest (two unstressed followed by a stressed syllable). Dactylic metres are not very common in English Verse.
Dada: (Fr. "hobby-horse") Adeliberately meaningless title for an anarchical literary and artistic movement begun in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich by the Romanian poet Tristan Tzara with the french sculptor Hans Harp and the pacifist H. Ball. The purpose of Dada was a nihilistic revolt against all bourgeois ideas of order and rationality. By the early 1920s it was overtaken by surrealism which connected many dadaist techniques to psychological theory.

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