Saturday, August 27, 2011

An abecedarius is an acrostic in which the first letter of every word, strophe or verse follows the order of the alphabet. Abecedarius is also a generic term for an alphabet book, which dates back to Biblical writings such as the Psalms, which used successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet as the first letter of each stanza.
A Bear Climbed Down
East From Great Height
In Jest Killing Lame
Millipedes Never Offending
Pretty Queens Realizing
Somewhere That Umbrellas
Visit Well-tuned Xylophones
Yearly Zimmerman

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:
  • George Orwell, Animal Farm
  • Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
An anachronism—from the Greek ανά (ana: up, against, back, re-) and χρόνος (chronos: time)—is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other. The item is often an object, but may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material, a custom, or anything else so closely associated with a particular period in time that it would be incorrect to place it outside its proper domain.
A bestiary, or Bestiarum vocabulum is a compendium of beasts. Bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals, birds and even rocks. The natural history and illustration of each beast was usually accompanied by a moral lesson. This reflected the belief that the world itself was the Word of God, and that every living thing had its own special meaning. For example, the pelican, which was believed to tear open its breast to bring its young to life with its own blood, was a living representation of Jesus. The bestiary, then, is also a reference to the symbolic language of animals in Western Christian art and literature.

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.
  • John Gay, The Beggar's Opera (1728), burlesques Italian opera by trivializing it
  • Henry Fielding, Tom Thumb the Great (1730), burlesques heroic drama by trivializing it
  • Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1711-14), burlesques the eighteenth century upper crust social mores by treating them with the machinery of epic poetry

A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humour or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes an emotion, all humor is "black humor," and that there is no such thing as "non-black humor" 
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, lines 21-32, where he compares his and his love's souls first to gold (which can be hammered to such a thinness that a small lump can cover the dome of a building) and then to a drawing compass whose foot in the center allows the other to draw a perfect circle. Romantic, isn't it: 

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
    Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
    Like gold to aery thinness beat,

If they be two, they are two so
    As stiff twin compasses are two ;  
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
    To move, but doth, if th' other do.  

And though it in the centre sit,
    Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,  
    And grows erect, as that comes home.
couplet (KUP-let): a style of poetry defined as a complete thought written in two lines with rhyming ends. The most popular of the couplets is the heroic couplet. The heroic couplet consists of two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter usually having a pause in the middle of each line. One of William Shakespeare’s trademarks was to end a sonnet with a couplet, as in the poem “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day”:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long as lives this, and this gives life to thee.
By using the couplet Shakespeare would often signal the end of a scene in his plays as well. An example of a scene’s end signaled by a couplet is the end of Act IV of Othello. The scene ends with Desdemona’s lines:
Good night. Good night. Heaven me such uses send.
Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend.
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
  • Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
  • Dorothy Sayers, Strong Poison
  • denouement (day-noo-mon): literally meaning the action of untying, a denouement is the final outcome of the main complication in a play or story. Usually the climax (the turning point or "crisis") of the work has already occurred by the time the denouement occurs. It is sometimes referred to as the explanation or outcome of a drama that reveals all the secrets and misunderstandings connected to the plot. In the drama Othello, there is a plot to deceive Othello into believing that his wife, Desdemona, has been unfaithful to him. As a result of this plot, Othello kills his wife out of jealousy, the climax of the play. The denounement occurs soon after, when Emilia, who was Desdemona's mistress, proves to Othello that his wife was in fact honest, true, and faithful to him. Emilia reveals to Othello that her husband, Iago, had plotted against Desdemona and tricked Othello into believing that she had been unfaithful. Iago kills Emilia in front of Othello, and she dies telling Othello his wife was innocent. As a result of being mad with grief, Othello plunges a dagger into his own heart. Understanding the denouement helps the reader to see how the final end of a story unfolds, and how the structure of stories works to affect our emotions 
elegy (EL-e-je): a type of literature defined as a song or poem, written in elegiac couplets, that expresses sorrow or lamentation, usually for one who has died. This type of work stemmed out of a Greek work known as a"elegus," a song of mourning or lamentation that is accompanied by the flute. Beginning in the 16th century, elegies took the form we know today. Two famous elegies include Thomas Gray’s "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" and Walt Whitman’s "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d". Gray’s elegy is notable in that it mourned the loss of a way of life rather than the loss of an individual. His work, which some consider to be almost political, showed extreme discontent for strife and tyranny set upon England by Oliver Cromwell. This work also acted as an outlet for Gray’s dissatisfaction with those poets who wrote in accordance with the thoughts and beliefs of the upper class. In his elegy, Gray mourned for his country and mourned for its citizens. Whitman, inspired by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, wrote his elegy in its classic form, showing sorrow for the loss of an individual.
 Epizeuxis is the repetition of words in immediate succession, for vehemence or emphasis.
§  "O horror, horror, horror." (Macbeth)
§  "Words, words, words." (Hamlet)
§  "Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain." (Kay)

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, through the implication or claim that the novel represents a true account of events, written by someone other than the author. In the 16th through the 18th centuries, frames were sometimes used to help protect the author and publisher from persecution for the ideas presented. Examples of novels with frames:
  • Mary Shelley Frankenstein
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter

flashback (flash-BAK): “an interruption of the chronological sequence (as of a film or literary work) of an event of earlier occurrence” (Merriam, 288). A flashback is a narrative technique that allows a writer to present past events during current events, in order to provide background for the current narration. By giving material that occurred prior to the present event, the writer provides the reader with insight into a character's motivation and or background to a conflict. This is done by various methods, narration, dream sequences, and memories (Holman et al, 197). For example, in the Book of Matthew, a flashback is used when Joseph is the governor ofEgypt. Upon seeing his brothers after many years, Joseph “remembered his dreams” of his brothers and how they previously sold him into slavery (NIV, 69). Another example would be the ballad of  “The Cruel Mother.” Here, a mother is remembering her murdered child. As she is going to a church, she remembers her child born, grow, and die. Later she thinks back to further in her past to remember how her own mother was unkind to her (Kennedy et al, 626-627). Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” uses flashback to relate Willy Loman’s memories of the past. At one point, Willy is talking with his dead brother while playing cards with Charley, reliving a past conversation in the present. This shows a character that is mentally living in the present with the memories and events of the past (Roberts et al, 1232). By understanding flashbacks, the reader is able to receive more details about the current narration by filling in the details about the past. 
genre (ZHAHN-ruh): a type of literature. We say a poem, novel, story, or other literary work belongs to a particular genre if it shares at least a few conventions, or standard characteristics, with other works in that genre. For example, works in the Gothic genre often feature supernatural elements, attempts to horrify the reader, and dark, foreboding settings, particularly very old castles or mansions. Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher" belongs to the Gothic genre because it takes place in a gloomy mansion that seems to exert supernatural control over a man who lives in it. Furthermore, Poe attempts to horrify the reader by describing the man's ghastly face, the burial of his sister, eerie sounds in the house, and ultimately the reappearance of the sister's bloody body at the end of the story. Other genres include the pastoral poem, epic poem, elegy, tragic drama, and bildungsroman. An understanding of genre is useful because it helps us to see how an author adopts, subverts, or transcends the standard practices that other authors have developed.
Gothic (goth-IK): a literary style popular during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. This style usually portrayed fantastic tales dealing with horror, despair, the grotesque and other “dark” subjects. Gothic literature was named for the apparent influence of the dark gothic architecture of the period on the genre. Also, many of these Gothic tales took places in such “gothic” surroundings. Other times, this story of darkness may occur in a more everyday setting, such as the quaint house where the man goes mad from the "beating" of his guilt in Edgar Allan Poe's “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In essence, these stories were romances, largely due to their love of the imaginary over the logical, and were told from many different points of view. This literature gave birth to many other forms, such as suspense, ghost stories, horror, mystery, and also Poe's detective stories. Gothic literature wasn't so different from other genres in form as it was in content and its focus on the "weird" aspects of life. This movement began to slowly open may people's eyes to the possible uses of the supernatural in literature. 
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
  • James Fenimore Cooper, Last of the Mohicans
  • Lloyd C. Douglas, The Robe
Hokku (発句 lit. "starting verse"?) is the opening stanza of a Japanese orthodox collaborative linked poem, renga, or of its later derivative, renku (haikai no renga). From the time of Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694), the hokku began to appear as an independent poem, and was also incorporated in haibun (in combination with prose), and haiga (in combination with a painting). In the late 19th century,Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), renamed the stand-alone hokku to haiku, and the latter term is now generally applied retrospectively to all hokku appearing independently of renku or renga, irrespective of when they were written, although this approach has been challenged. The term 'hokku' continues to be used in its original sense, as the opening verse of a linked poem.
irony (i-RAH-nee):  a literary term referring to how a person, situation, statement, or circumstance is not as it would actually seem. Many times it is the exact opposite of what it appears to be. There are many types of irony, the three most common being verbal irony, dramatic irony, and cosmic irony. Verbal irony occurs when either the speaker means something totally different than what he is saying or the audience realizes, because of their knowledge of the particular situation to which the speaker is referring, that the opposite of what a character is saying is true. Verbal irony also occurs when a character says something in jest that, in actuality, is true. InJulius Caesar, Marc Antony’s reference to Brutus being an honorable man is an example of verbal irony. Marc Antony notes all of the good deeds Julius Caesar did for his people while, more than once, he asks the rhetorical question, “Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?” Antony uses this rhetorical question to try to convince his audience that Caesar is not ambitious, presenting Brutus as a dishonorable man because of his claim that Caesar was ambitious. Dramatic irony occurs when facts are not known to the characters in a work of literature but are known by the audience. In The Gospel According to St. John, the Pharisees say of Jesus, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” This is dramatic irony for the reader already knows, according to the author, that Jesus is the Savior of the world and has already done much good for the people by forgiving their sins and healing the sick and oppressed. The Pharisees are too blinded to see what good actually has come out of Nazareth. Cosmic irony suggests that some unknown force brings about dire and dreadful events. Cosmic irony can be seen in Shakespeare’s Othello. Iago begs his wife to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief so he can use this as conclusive proof that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona. At the end of the play, when Othello tellsIago’s wife about the handkerchief, she confesses that Iago put her up to stealing it. Iago winds up being at Cassio’s mercy. The very handkerchief Iago thought would allow him to become lieutenant and bring Cassio to ruins was the handkerchief that brought Iago to ruins and exalted Cassio even higher than his position of lieutenant. Irony spices up a literary work by adding unexpected twists and allowing the reader to become more involved with the characters and plot. 

Idyll or idyl (pronounced /ˈaɪdəl/ or /ˈɪdəl/) (from Greek eidyllion, little picture) is a short poem, descriptive of rustic life, written in the style of Theocritus' short pastoral poems, the Idylls.
Unlike Homer, Theocritus did not engage in heroes and warfare. His idylls are limited to a small intimate world, and describe scenes from everyday life. Later imitators include the Roman poets Virgil and Catullus, Italian poet Leopardi, and the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Idylls of the King). Goethe called his poem Hermann and Dorothea - which Schiller considered the very climax in Goethe's production - an idyll.

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. Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope are Juvenalian satirists.
 Jeremiad is a long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in poetry, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society's imminent downfall.
The word is an eponym, named after the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, and comes from Biblical works attributed to him, the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations. The Book of Jeremiah prophesies the coming downfall of the Kingdom of Judah, and asserts that this is because its rulers have broken the covenant with the Lord.
The Lamentations, similarly, lament the fall of the kingdom of Judah after the conquest prophesied by Jeremiah has occurred:
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.

Kigo (季語 "season word") (plural kigo) is a word or phrase associated with a particular season, used in Japanese poetry. Kigo are used in the collaborative linked-verse forms renga and renku, as well as in haiku, to indicate the season referred to in the stanza. They are valuable in providing economy of expression.
KENNING: A form of compounding in Old English, Old Norse, and Germanic poetry. In this poetic device, the poet creates a new compound word or phrase to describe an object or activity. Specifically, this compound uses mixed imagery (catachresis) to describe the properties of the object in indirect, imaginative, or enigmatic ways. The resulting word is somewhat like a riddle since the reader must stop and think for a minute to determine what the object is. Kennings may involve conjoining two types of dissimilar imagery, extended metaphors, or mixed metaphors. Kennings were particularly common in Old English literature and Viking poetry. The most famous example is hron-rade or hwal-rade ("whale-road") as a poetic reference to the sea. Other examples include "Thor-Weapon" as a reference to a smith's hammer, "battle-flame" as a reference to the way light shines on swords, "gore-bed" for a battlefield filled with motionless bodies, and "word-hoard" for a man's eloquence. In Njal's Saga we find Old Norse kennings like shield-tester for warrior, or prayer-smithy for a man's heart, or head-anvil for the skull. In Beowulf, we also find Anglo-Saxon banhus ("bone-house") for body, goldwine gumena ("gold-friend of men") for generous prince, beadoleoma ("flashing light") for sword, and beaga gifa ("ring-giver") for a lord.
Kennings are less common in Modern English than in earlier centuries, but some common modern examples include "beer-goggles" (to describe the way one's judgment of appearances becomes hazy while intoxicated) and "surfing the web" (which mixes the imagery of skillful motion through large amounts of liquid, amorphous material with the imagery of an interconnected net linked by strands or cables), "rug-rats" (to describe children), "tramp-stamps" (to describe trashy tattoos), or "bible-thumpers" (to describe loud preachers or intolerant Christians).


Lampoon. A crude, coarse, often bitter satire ridiculing the personal appearance or character of a person.
A limerick is a kind of a witty, humorous, or nonsense poem, especially one in five-line anapestic or amphibrachic meter with a strict rhyme scheme (aabba), which is sometimes obscene with humorous intent. The form can be found in England as of the early years of the 18th century. It was popularized by Edward Lear in the 19th century, although he did not use the term.
The following example of a limerick is of unknown origin.
The limerick* packs laughs anatomical                   *(pronounced "lim'rick" to preserve meter)
In space that is quite economical,
    But the good ones I've seen
    So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

motif (moh-TEEF): a recurring object, concept, or structure in a work of literature. A motif may also be two contrasting elements in a work, such as good and evil. In the Book of Genesis, we see the motif of separation again and again throughout the story. In the very first chapter, God separates the light from the darkness. Abraham and his descendants are separated from the rest of the nation as God's chosen people. Joseph is separated from his brothers in order that life might be preserved. Another motif is water, seen in Genesis as a means of destroying the wicked and in Matthew as a means of remitting sins by the employment of baptism. Other motifs in Genesis and Matthew include blood sacrifices, fire, lambs, and goats. A motif is important because it allows one to see main points and themes that the author is trying to express, in order that one might be able to interpret the work more accurately.
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:
  • Alexander Pope, The Dunciad
  • Alexander Pope, Rape of the Lock

narrative (na-RAH-tiv): a collection of events that tells a story, which may be true or not, placed in a particular order and recounted through either telling or writing. One example is Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." In this story a madman resolves to kill his landlord because he fears the man's horrible eye. One night he suffocates the landlord and hides the body beneath the floorboards of the bedroom. While fielding questions from the police in the bedroom where the body is hidden, the madman thinks he hears the heart of the victim beating beneath the floorboards. Scared that the police hear the heartbeat too, the madman confesses. This is a narrative because of two things, it has a sequence in which the events are told, beginning with murder and ending with the confession, and it has a narrator, who is the madman, telling the story. By understanding the term "narrative,” one begins to understand that most literary works have a simple outline: the story, the plot, and the storyteller. By studying more closely, most novels and short stories are placed into the categories of first-person and third-person narratives, which are based on who is telling the story and from what perspective. Other important terms that relate to the term "narrative,” are "narrative poetry," poetry that tells a story, and "narrative technique" which means how one tells a story.
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.

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 works.
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:
  • Samuel Clemens used the name Mark Twain
  • Mary Ann Evans used the name George Eliot
  • Jonathan Swift used the name Lemuel Gulliver (once)
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.
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: "These lines make up a couplet with a rhyme. / Just don't expect the lines to be sublime."
  • 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.)
  • Feminine rhyme: two syllable rhyme consisting of stressed syllable followed by unstressed.
  • Masculine 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.
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:
  • Mark Twain, Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad
  • Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Detective
  • Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
  • Alexandra Ripley, Scarlett
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. Some novels include frames that supply an extended description of the setting (where a character is looking back to an earlier era, an "editor" is describing the characters or the context of the tale).
theme (theem): a common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work. A theme is a thought or idea the author presents to the reader that may be deep, difficult to understand, or even moralistic. Generally, a theme has to be extracted as the reader explores the passages of a work. The author utilizes the characters, plot, and other literary devices to assist the reader in this endeavor. One theme that may be extracted by the reader of Mark Musa’s interpretation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy Volume I: Inferno is the need to take account of one’s own behavior now, for it affects one's condition in the afterlife. One example of this theme can be found in Canto V - “...when the evil soul appears before him, it confesses all, and he [Minos], who is the expert judge of sins, knows to what place in Hell the soul belongs: the times he wraps his tail around himself tells just how far the sinner must go down” (7-12). In addition, Dante’s use of literary techniques, such as imagery, further accentuates the theme for the consequences of not living right, for he describes “the cries and shrieks of lamentation” (III:22), “…the banks were coated with a slimy mold that stuck to them like glue, disgusting to behold and worse to smell” (XVIII:106-108) and many other terrifying examples of Hell. In truly great works of literature, the author intertwines the theme throughout the work and the full impact is slowly realized as the reader processes the text. The ability to recognize a theme is important because it allows the reader to understand part of the author’s purpose in writing the book. 

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.
unreliable narrator (un-re-LIE-ah-bel nar-ra-AY-tor): one who gives his or her own understanding of a story, instead of the explanation and interpretation the author wishes the audience to obtain. This type of action tends to alter the audience’s opinion of the conclusion. An author quite famous for using unreliable narrators is Henry James. James is said to make himself an inconsistent and distorting “center of consciousness” in his work, because of his frequent usage of deluding or deranged narrators. They are very noticeable in his novella The Turn of the Screw, and also in his short story, “The Aspern Papers.” The Turn of the Screw is a story based solely on the consistency of the Governess’s description of the events that happen.  Being aware of unreliable narrators are essential, especially when you have to describe the characters and their actions to others, since the narrator, unreliable as they are, abandons you without the important guidance to make trustworthy judgments.
Utopian novel. A novel that presents an ideal society where the problems of poverty, greed, crime, and so forth have been eliminated. Examples:
  • Thomas More, Utopia
  • Samuel Butler, Erewhon
  • Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward
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:
  • Monometer: 1 foot
  • Dimeter: 2 feet
  • Trimeter: 3 feet
  • Tetrameter: 4 feet
  • Pentameter: 5 feet
  • Hexameter: 6 feet
  • Heptameter: 7 feet
  • Octameter: 8 feet
  • Nonameter: 9 feet
The most common verse in English poetry is iambic pentameter.
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."
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
  • Owen Wister, The Virginian
WELTSCHMERZ (German "world-woe"): According to Shipley's Dictionary of World Literature (623), Jean Paul (1763-1825) coined this German phrase to refer to the sentimental pessimism one feels--the sorrow, disillusionment, and discontent one accepts as a part of existence--especially when comingled with egotism, arrogant pride, and cynicism. This attitude is especially prevalent in certain post-Napoleonic German and Italian existential writers including Musset, Leopardi, Platen, and Heine--but it also typifies some English poets/poems such as the poetic speaker in Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (Shipley 632).

XANADUISM: Academic research that focuses on the sources behind imaginative works of literature and fantasy. John Livingstone Lowes, in his publication The Road to Xanadu(1927), inspired the name, which in turn goes back to Coleridge's visionary poem "Kubla Khan" (i.e., "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree . . ."). More recently, the term has been used in a pejorative sense to describe scholarship involving dubious scrutiny of amorphous, difficult-to-prove sources, especially simplistic studies lacking any redeeming theoretical perspectives.
XENIA: The Greek term for the Laws of Hospitality. The custom in classical Greece and other ancient cultures that, if a traveler comes to a strange town, he can ask for food, shelter, and gifts to help him on his journey. In Greek tradition, the host was considered responsible for his guest's comfort and safety, and a breach of those laws of hospitality was thought to anger Zeus (Roman Jupiter), the king of the gods.

YAHOO: A coarse, filthy, smelly, bestial, barbaric, bipedal creature only vaguely resembling a human. Jonathan Swift coined the term in Gulliver's Travels, applying it to a race of humanoid brutes in contrast with the civilized race of intelligent horses, the Houyhnhnms. The term has since become a popular allusion. Mark Twain and other writers use it to refer to bumpkins, louts, or yokels. One wonders what the internet search engine Yahoo thus implies about its users. The term yahoo has also become a popular outcry or exclamation when a speaker is engaged in something boisterous.
YEOMAN (Middle English yeman, probably a contraction of "young man"): In early Middle English, the term referred to freemen or freeholders, lower-class peasants who had obtained their freedom from serfdom, and as members of the new bourgeoisie were thus free to join guilds, purchase lands, or work as day laborers for hire. The term later came to mean in particular an attendant servant or lesser official who serves in a royal or noble household for paid wages rather than feudal obligations. The yeoman in the General Prologue to Chaucer'sCanterbury Tales appears to be such a servant hired to aid the Knight.
ZOHAR (Hebrew, "splendor"): A medieval commentary on the Pentateuch appearing in several books written in Aramaic and Hebrew, widely considered the most important work of Kabala. It first appeared in 13th century Spain, published by Moses de Leon, who claimed it was the work of a legendary second century Rabbi, Shimon bar Yochai.
ZENO'S PARADOX: The name comes from Zeno of Elea (born c. 495-480 BCE). Zeno proposed four paradoxes in order to challenge accepted notions of space and time as defined in various philosophical circles. The term "Zeno's Paradox" is usually applied to the paradox of the arrow or the paradox of Hercules and the tortoise, but the other two paradoxes are often lumped under the same designation. To illustrate a sample paradox, Zeno asks the audience to imagine the great athlete Achilles engaged in a race with a tortoise. The tortoise is given a head start of twelve feet or so in front of Achilles, and the race-track is a hundred yards long. When the race begins, Achilles begins charging ahead with a speed much faster than the tortoise's crawl. However, to reach the half-way point between his starting position and the tortoise's position, Achilles must spend half of his time reaching the midway point before he has covered half the distance. Then again, before Achilles can ever travel a quarter of the distance to the tortoise (the half-way point to the half-way point), he must spend half of his time covering that distance. Then again, according to traditional definitions of space and time, he must spend half his time traveling to reach the half-way point to that half-way distance, and so on, ad infinitum. No matter how fast Achilles runs, by the normal definitions of spatial and temporal distance, Achilles will never be able to catch up with the turtle because an endless series of "half-way" points must be crossed first. In fact, any movement at all should be impossible because Achilles must cross an endless number of "halfway" points before any motion can take place at all, each movement taking an infinitely smaller slice of time to do. Zeno's paradoxes perplexed mathematicians and logicians for millennia. It wasn't until Cantor developed the theory of infinite sets that the paradoxes could be fully resolved--but that idea only came about in the 1860s and 1870s. In literature, postmodern writers such as Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, and postmodern films like Run Lola Run all use allusions to Zeno's Paradox to convey ideas about the absurdity of time and distance.