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430 Cards in this Set

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In rhetoric, logic, and philosophy, a belief or proposition is said to be a posteriori if it can only be determined through observation
In rhetoric, logic, and philosophy, an argument is said to be a priori if its truth can be known or inferred independently of any direct perception. Logic, geometry, and mathematics are usually held as such
The center of the Irish Dramatic movment founded in 1899 by W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, built with the express purpose of presenting Irish plays performed by Irish actors. It opened in 1904 and began showing plays by almost every Irish playwright of renown.
(Latin, "from the egg"): This phrase refers to a narrative that starts "at the beginning" of the plot, and then moves chronologically through a sequence of events to the tale's conclusion. This pattern is the opposite of a tale that begins in medias res.
Ablative Case
Words in this case typically indicate source, origin, separation, or causation, though certain prepositions or special verbs will require an object to be in the ablative. For instance, "He came from Mantua" would require the word Mantua to be in the ablative of origin. Likewise, "He left Mantua at 2:00 pm" would require the word Mantua to be in the ablative of separation. "Because of rain, he left," would require a synthetic speaker to use an ablative of causation for the word rain.
Jacob Grimm's term for the way in which Old English strong verbs formed their preterites by a vowel change. This is also called gradation. An example would be the principal parts of Old English strong verbs such as I sing, I sang, and I sung.
Literature, poetry, pamphlets, or propaganda written in the nineteenth century for the express purpose of condemning slaveholders, encouraging the release and emancipation of slaves, or abolishing slavery altogether. This might take the form of autobiographical writings (in the case of many slave narratives) or fictional accounts such as Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. They rely heavily on pathos for rhetorical technique.
Also called "the aloft" and sometimes used interchangeably with "the Heavens," this term refers to the gallery on the upper level of the frons scenae. In Shakespeare's Globe Theater, this area contained the lords' rooms, but the center of this location was also used by the actors for short scenes. On the other hand, in most indoor theaters like the Blackfriars Theater, musicians above the stage would perform in a curtained alcove here.
Language that describes qualities that cannot be perceived with the five senses. For instance, calling something pleasant or pleasing is abstract, while calling something yellow or sour is concrete. The word domesticity is abstract, but the word sweat is concrete. The preference for abstract or concrete imagery varies from century to century. Philip Sidney praised concrete imagery in poetry in his 1595 treatise, Apologie for Poetrie. A century later, Neoclassical thought tended to value the generality of abstract thought. In the early 1800s, the Romantic poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley once again preferred concreteness. In the 20th century, the distinction between concrete and abstract has been a subject of some debate. Ezra Pound and T. E. Hulme attempted to create a theory of concrete poetry. T. S. Eliot added to this school of thought with his theory of the "objective correlative." Contrast with concrete diction / concrete imagery.
Verse that makes little sense grammatically or syntactically but which relies on auditory patterns create its meaning or poetic effects; Dame Edith Sitwell popularized the term, considering this verse form the equivalent of abstract painting (Deutsche 7). Sitwell's poems from her collection Façade are samples of this genre, including her poem "Hornpipe." A sample from this poem appears below:

Sky rhinoceros-glum
Watched the courses of the breakers' rocking-horses and with Glaucis
Lady Venus on the settee of the horsehair sea! (qtd. in Deutsche 7)
A type of catachresis known as the "mixed metaphor." The term is often used in a derogatory manner. See discussion and examples under catachresis.
A "normal" line of poetry with the expected number of syllables in each line, as opposed to a catalectic line (which is missing an expected syllable) or a hypercatalectic line (which has one or more extra syllables than would normally be expected, perhaps due to anacrusis). See discussion under catalectic.
The use of acatalectic lines in poetry--see discussion under catalectic.
1) A recognizable manner of pronouncing words--often associated with a class, caste, ethnic group, or geographic region. Thus, Americans might be able to discern a Boston accent or a Texas accent by sound alone, or they might place a foreign speaker's origin by noting a French or Russian accent. (2) The amount of stress given to a syllable--an important component of meter. (3) Any diacritical mark. Click here to view diacritical marks.
having a metric system based on stress rather than syllables or quantity; "accentual poetry is based on the number of stresses in a line"; "accentual rhythm"
From Greek "headless," acephalous lines are lines in normal iambic pentameter that contain only nine syllables rather than the expected ten. The first syllable, which is stressed, "counts" as a full metric foot by itself. All acephalous lines by definition are catalectic.
(From Greek acron + onyma; "tip or end of a name"): A word formed from the initial letters in a phrase.
the word is pronounced aloud by using the names of the actual letters--such as the IRS (Internal Revenue Service),
A poem in which the first or last letters of each line vertically form a word, phrase, or sentence. Apart from puzzles in newspapers and magazines, the most common modern versions involve the first letters of each line forming a single word when read downwards. An acrostic that involves the sequential letters of the alphabet is said to be an abecedarius or an abecedarian poem.
An acrostic that involves the sequential letters of the alphabet is said to be an abecedarius or an abecedarian poem.

Acrostics may have first been used as a mnemonic device to aid with oral transmission. In the Old Testament, some of the Hebrew Psalms include acrostic devices. Chaucer also wrote acrostics such as his "ABC" (Prior a nostre dame) in his younger days.
A major division in a play. Often, individual acts are divided into smaller units ("scenes") that all take place in a specific location. Originally, Greek plays were not divided into acts. They took place as a single whole interrupted occasionally by the chorus's singing. In Roman times, a five-act structure first appeared based upon Horace's recommendations. This five-act structure became a convention of drama (and especially tragedy) during the Renaissance. (Shakespeare's plays have natural divisions that can be taken as the breaks between acts as well; later editors inserted clear "act" and "scene" markings in these locations.) From about 1650 CE onward, most plays followed the five-act model. In the 1800s, Ibsen and Chekhov favored a four-act play, and in the 1900s, most playwrights preferred a three-act model, though two-act plays are not uncommon.
A real or fictional event or series of such events comprising the subject of a novel, story, narrative poem, or a play, especially in the sense of what the characters do in such a narrative. Action, along with dialogue and the characters' thoughts, form the skeleton of a narrative's plot.
A diacritical mark indicating primary stress.
In contrast with the composite monster, mythologists and folklorists use the label additive monster to describe a creature from mythology or legend that has an altered number of body parts rather than body parts from multiple animals added together. For instance, the Scandinavian Ettin, a troll or giant with two heads, is an additive monster. Sleipnir, the magical horse in Norse mythology, is a regular horse, except it has eight legs. Deities and demons in the Hindu pantheon often have multiple arms or eyes. The term has also been loosely applied to fantastic creatures that have modified limbs as well. For instance, the gyascutis is a fantastic medieval beast that resembles a sheep, except its limbs vary in length. Its front legs are drastically shortened, and its hind legs are drastically lengthened, which allows it to remain level as it grazes on the incline of steep hills.
In linguistics, John Algeo defines this as an early instance of a historical sound change in progress (311). This is the opposite of a retarded pronunciation, in which an older pronunciation lingers in a dialect even after a newer pronunciation appears in other regions.
Any novel in which exciting events and fast paced actions are more important than character development, theme, or symbolism. Examples include Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, or Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan of the Apes.
(also called ash in Anglo-Saxon): A letter in the Old Norse runic alphabet indicating the sound /æ/ as in the word <at>. Aesc lends its name to the letter ash commonly used in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts
An effect of tone, diction, and presentation in poetry creating a sense of an experience removed from irrelevant or accidental events. This sense of intentional focus seems intentionally organized or framed by events in the poem so that it can be more fully understood by quiet contemplation. Typically, the reader is less emotionally involved or impassioned--reacting to the material in a calmer manner.
James Algeo defines an affix as "a morpheme added to a baseor stem to modify its meaning" (311). If an affix is attached to the beginning of a stem (or base word), the affix is called a prefix. If an affix is attached to the end of a stem, the affix is called a suffix. From Old English, Modern English speakers gain prefixes like un- (unlike, undo, unafraid). From Latin, we gain prefixes like re- (redo, replay, reactivate). From Old English, we gain suffixes such as -dom (kingdom, freedom). From Latin, we gain suffixes such as -ician (beautician, mortician) and -orium (pastorium, i.e., a Baptist parsonage). From Greek -izein, we gain the popular verb ending -ize (criticize, harmonize, pasteurize, even neologisms like finalize).
Making words by adding an affix to another base word or stem. For instance, the affix -ly can be added to the base word (or stem) quick to create the word quickly. This process is affixation. See also affix. Contrast with declension.
A sound stop with a fricative release. Affricatives involve a stop plus a movment through a fricative position (i.e., the blade of the tongue initially moves up in the position of a stop, but then move through a fricative or spirant position rather than remaining in the "stop" position).The affricatives include two different sounds. The first sound is found in judge, gem, soldier, and spinach. The second affricative sound is that sound found in church, butcher, itch, niche, and cello.
A family of languages separate from Indo-European languages. The two main branches of Afro-Asiatic are Hamitic and Semitic. Other examples of non-Indo-European languages can be found elsewhere on this website.
from Latin, "glued to"): In a now outdated linguistic classification, an agglutinative language was any language with complicated but (for the most part) regular derivational forms (Algeo 311)--especially those based on single-syllable morphemes. This term or classifaction first appeared in 1836 in the linguistic theories of Wilhelm von Humboldt. Agglutinative languages were thought to include Turkish, Basque, Hungarian, and many Tibeto-Burman languages. These were were originally thought to be more "advanced" or "developed" than isolating languages like Chinese in which every word was formed by one monosyllable. On the other hand, agglutatinative languages were thought to be more primitive than incorporative or inflective languages such as Eskimo and Latin, respectively. Modern historical, linguistic, and anthropological findings have largely demolished the earlier arguments. The primary problem is that this classification depends upon the assumption that primitive languages tend to be formed from monosyllables, and advanced languages were thought to become gradually polysyllabic. However, many language like Chinese may have grown more monosyllabic over a process of thousands of years, for instance, disproving this idea.
The conviction that farming is an especially virtuous occupation in comparison with trade, craftsmanship, manufacturing, or other means of commerce. Romans like Hesiod and Virgil, for instance, praised the simple, hard-working ethics of the Roman farmer. (See the Eclogues for an example.) Jefferson dreamed of a future America composed primarily of gentlemen-farmers who lived off the fruits of their plantations without the need for outside trade in his Queries. The agrarian ideal manifested equally strong in Romantic writings as one form of the American Dream motif.
Having different parts of a sentence agree with each other in grammatical number, gender, case, mood, or tense. In British grammar books, agreement is also called concord.
The Greek term for the great shame felt by a hero after failure.
A stock character in Greek drama, the alazon is a stupid braggart who is easily tricked by the clever eiron who tells the alazon what he wants to hear.
(Provençal "dawn"): A medieval lyric or morning serenade about the coming of dawn. The alba's refrain typically ends with the word "dawn." The theme can be religioius, but more frequently the theme focuses on two lovers parting with the coming of day. Cf. the more common term used in English, the closely related aubade.
A stanza written in alcaics is written in the meter created by the Greek poet Alcaeus. This stanza-form was later used with slight changes by the poet Horace. An example in English appears in Tennyson's imitation, as appears below:

O mighty-mouhted inventor of harmonies,
O skill'd to sing of Time or eternity,
God-gifted organ-voice of England,
Milton, a name to resound for ages.
The medieval and Renaissance precursor to modern chemistry, characterized by mystical philosophy and attempts to turn "base" metals such as lead and tin into "noble" metals such as gold and silver. The tenets of alchemy were based on the theory of the four elements (see elements, the four), in which all matter was composed of varying proportions of four substances--air, earth, water, and fire. Each element had a corresponding type of spirit associated with it--sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders. While alchemical beliefs were taken seriously as a matter of pseudo-scientifical inquiry in early centuries, by the end of the medieval period, the practice was often synonymous with chicanery and con-artistry. Chaucer's "Canon Yeoman's Tale" focuses on the deceptions of false alchemical practitioners, and Shakespeare's The Tempest borrows heavily from alchemical lore in its depiction of the island's magical spirits. In later, more enlightened times, alchemical beliefs became a subject of mockery. Alexander Pope's mock epic, The Rape of the Lock, employs the traditional alchemical spirits, but alters their purpose so that their primary duties involve protecting young girls' virginity from the advances of handsome rakes, for instance.
A twelve-syllable line written in iambic hexameter. Alexandrines were especially popular in French poetry for drama between 1500-1800 CE, but their invention dates back to the late 1100s. The earliest medieval examples include Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne à Jérusalem and Roman d'Alexandre (from which the name alexandrine comes). Racine in particular makes good use of it in Andromaque. Classical French Alexandrines are a bit different from modern English ones in that a strong stress falls on the on the sixth and last syllables with a "wandering" unstressed syllable that can appear in-between the strong stresses on each side of the caesura. An example of an English Alexandrine appears in the second line of Alexander Pope's couplet:

A needless Alexandrine ends the song
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.

The form has been less popular in English, and Pope actually mocks it in his Essay on Criticism. However, Spenser uses an Alexandrine to good effect as part of his spenserian stanza. Robert Bridges speaks of his "loose Alexandrines" in The Testament of Beauty, which consists of unrhymed, metrically irregular twelve-syllable lines (though in many cases, the twelve-syllables are the result of elision).
the act of reading a story as an allegory.
The word derives from the Greek allegoria ("speaking otherwise"). The term loosely describes any writing in verse or prose that has a double meaning. This narrative acts as an extended metaphor in which persons, abstract ideas, or events represent not only themselves on the literal level, but they also stand for something else on the symbolic level. An allegorical reading usually involves moral or spiritual concepts that may be more significant than the actual, literal events described in a narrative. Typically, an allegory involves the interaction of multiple symbols, which together create a moral, spiritual, or even political meaning. The act of interpreting a story as if each object in it had an allegorical meaning is called allegoresis.
While presenting a reader with only two alternatives may result in the logical fallacy known as false dichotomy or either/or fallacy, creating a parallel sentence using two alternatives in parallel structure can be an effective device rhetorically and artistically. Alliosis is the rhetorical use of any isocolon parallel sentence that presents two choices to the reader, e.g., "You can eat well, or you can sleep well." For more information, see schemes.
Repeating a consonant sound in close proximity to others, or beginning several words with the same vowel sound. For instance, the phrase "buckets of big blue berries" alliterates with the consonant b. Coleridge describes the sacred river Alph in Kubla Khan as "Five miles meandering with a mazy motion," which alliterates with the consonant m.
Many texts of Old English and Middle English prose use the same techniques as alliterative verse. Aelfric (c. 955-1010 CE) and Wulfstan (d. 1023) wrote many treatises using skillful alliteration. The Herefordshire texts known collectively as the "The Katherine Group" (Hali Meiohad, Sawles Warde, Seinte Katerine, Seinte Marherete, Seinte Iuliene) are some examples in Middle English.
The general increase or surge in alliterative poetry composed in the second half of the 14th century in England. Alliteration had been the formalistic focus in Old English poetry, but after 1066 it began to be replaced by the new convention of rhyme, which southern courtly poets were using due to the influence of continental traditions in the Romance languages like Latin and French. Between 1066 and 1300, hardly any poetic manuscripts using the alliterative form survive. There are two theories to explain this absence. In either case, during this time, Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and other important medieval poems were written using alliterative techniques.
A traditional form of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse poetry in which each line has at least four stressed syllables, and those stresses fall on syllables in which three or four words alliterate (repeat the same consonant sound). Alliterative verse largely died out in English within a few centuries of the Norman Conquest. The Normans introduced continental conventions of poetry, including rhyme and octosyllabic couplets. The last surge of alliterative poetry in the native English tradition is known as the alliterative revival during the Middle English period.
A different pronunciation of a morpheme. For instance, consider the -s plural morpheme. The standard /s/ sound (as in <elks>) becomes a /z/ sound in some allomorphs (such as <boxes>.) However, the same grapheme <s> is used to represent each sound.
A predictable change in the articulation of a phoneme. For example, the letter t in the word top is aspirated, but the letter t in stop is unaspirated.
A casual reference in literature to a person, place, event, or another passage of literature, often without explicit identification. Allusions can originate in mythology, biblical references, historical events, legends, geography, or earlier literary works. Authors often use allusion to establish a tone, create an implied association, contrast two objects or people, make an unusual juxtaposition of references, or bring the reader into a world of experience outside the limitations of the story itself. Authors assume that the readers will recognize the original sources and relate their meaning to the new context. For instance, if a teacher were to refer to his class as a horde of Mongols, the students will have no idea if they are being praised or vilified unless they know what the Mongol horde was and what activities it participated in historically. This historical allusion assumes a certain level of education or awareness in the audience, so it should normally be taken as a compliment rather than an insult or an attempt at obscurity.
Also called "the above" and sometimes used interchangeably with "the Heavens," this term refers to the gallery on the upper level of the frons scenae. In Shakespeare's Globe theater, this area contained the lords' rooms, but the center of this location was also used by the actors for short scenes. On the other hand, in most indoor theaters like the Blackfriars Theater, musicians above the stage would perform in a curtained alcove here.
An acrostic poem of thirteen lines in which each line consists of two words, each word beginning with sequential letters in the alphabetic pattern ABCDEF, etc. Deutsche noteas that many poets like Paul West take liberties such as using Greek or Russian letters and introducing -ex compounds.
The adjective alphabetic refers to any writing system in which each unit or letter represents a single sound in theory. English writing is theoretically alphabetic--but in actual point of fact is so riddled with exceptions and oddities that it hardly counts--as discussed here.
A word formed from the initial letters of other words (or syllables) pronounced with the letters of the alphabet--such as the IRS, CIA, the VP, or VIP. See further discussion under acronym.
(from the Altai mountains): A non-Indo-European language family including Turkish, Tungusic, and Mongolian.
A literary character or narrator who is a thinly disguised representation of the author, poet, or playwright creating a work. Some scholars suggest that J. Alfred Prufrock is an alter ego for T. S. Eliot in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," or that the wizard Prospero giving up his magic in A Midsummer Night's Dream is an alter ego of Shakespeare saying farewell to the magic of the stage. Contrast with persona.
The closest approximation the Icelandic Vikings had to a government/court system/police--a gathering of representatives from the local things to decide on policy, hear complaints, settle disputes, and proclaim incorrigible individuals as outlaws (see below). The thing was a gathering for each local community in Iceland, but the althing was a gathering for the entire island's male population.
This adjective refers to any sound made by the tongue's approaching the gum ridge. Examples include the sounds /n/, /l/, /z/ and /s/.
This adjective refers to any sound made by the tongue's approaching the gum ridge and the hard palate. Examples include the consonant sounds found in the beginning of the words Jill, Chill, and shall and the beginning and ending sounds of the word rouge.
(from Latin, ab manus, "by hand", plural amanuenses): A servant, secretary, or scribe who takes dictation for an author who speaks aloud. Many works of literature--especially from Roman and medieval times--result from the labor of such a scribe. For instance, the illiterate Margery Kempe had two friars who served as amanuenses to write down her Book of Margery Kempe. Many Roman poets kept slaves who worked as their personal amanuenses, and so on.
Loosely the term is equivalent to atmosphere or mood, but more specifically, ambiance is the atmosphere or mood of a particular setting or location. Ambiance is particularly vital to gothic literature and to the horror story, and to many young college students' dates. See atmosphere, mood and setting.
In common conversation, ambiguity is a negative term applied to a vague or equivocal expression when precision would be more useful. Sometimes, however, intentional ambiguity in literature can be a powerful device, leaving something undetermined in order to open up multiple possible meanings. When we refer to literary ambiguity, we refer to any wording, action, or symbol that can be read in divergent ways. As William Empson put it, ambiguity is "any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language" (qtd. in Deutsch 11).
A semantic change in which a word gains increasingly favorable connotation. For instance, the Middle English word knight used to mean "servant" (as German Knecht still does). The word grew through amelioration to mean "a servant of the king" and later "a minor nobleman." Similar amelioration affected the Anglo-Saxon word eorl, which becomes Modern English earl. The opposite term, pejoration, is a semantic change in which a word gains increasingly negative connotations.
A theme in American literature, film, and art that expresses optimistic desires for self-improvement, freedom, and self-sufficiency. Harry Shaw notes that the term can have no clear and fixed expression because "it means whatever its user has in mind a particular time" (12). In general, it has connotations of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in Thomas Jefferson's phrasing. One expression of this is the materialistic "rags-to-riches" motif of many nineteenth-century novels. Here, a young pauper through hard work, cleverness, and honesty, rises in socio-economic status until he is a powerful and successful man. An example here would be the stories by Horatio Alger. Other expressions of this theme focus on more more abstract qualities like freedom or self-determination. Many critics have argued that this dream is in many ways a myth in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, given America's frequent discriminatory treatment of immigrants and its continuing economic trends in which an ever smaller number of wealthy people acrue an ever larger percentage of material wealth with each generation, i.e., "the rich get richer and the poor get babies." Other events, such as the loss of the American frontier, segregation and exclusion of minorities, McCarthyism in the 1950s, unpopular wars in Vietnam in the 1960s, and gradual ecological devastation over the last hundred years, together have inspired literary works that criticize or question the American Dream--often seeing it as ultimately selfish or destructive on one or more levels. Examples of these writing would be Miller's Death of A Salesman, Ellison's Invisible Man, and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
The English language as it developed in North America, especially in terms of its diction and the spelling and grammatical differences that distinguish it from British English.
An expression that is characteristic of America or one which first developed in America.
American Sign Language--a language composed of hand-signs for the deaf.
n classical poetry, a three-syllable poetic foot consisting of a light stress, heavy stress, and a light stress--short on both ends. Amphibrachs are quite rare in English, but they can be found in special circumstances, especially when the poet manipulates the caesura to create an unusual effect. See caesura. An example of an English word forming an amphibrach is crustacean. An amphibrach is the reverse-form of an amphimacer.
A three-syllable foot consisting of a heavy, light, and heavy stress. Poetry written in amphimacers is called cretic meter. Amphimacer is rarely used in English poetry, but it is quite common in Greek. An example of an English phrase forming an amphimacer is deaf-and-dumb. An amphimacer is the reverse-form of an amphibrach.
An open-air theater, especially the unroofed public playhouses in the suburbs of London. Shakespeare's Globe and the Rose are two examples.
Placing an event, person, item, or verbal expression in the wrong historical period. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Shakespeare writes the following lines:

Brutus: Peace! Count the clock.
Cassius: The clock has stricken three (Act II, scene i, lines 193-94).
Of course, there were no household clocks during Roman times, no more than there were DVD players! The reference is an anachronism, either accidental or intentional. Elizabethan theater often intentionally used anachronism in its costuming, a tradition that survives today when Shakespeare's plays are performed in biker garb or in Victorian frippery. Indeed, from surviving illustrations, the acting companies in Elizabethan England appeared to deliberately create anachronisms in their costumes. Some actors would dress in current Elizabethan garb, others in garb that was a few decades out of date, and others wore pseudo-historical costumes from past-centuries--all within a single scene or play.
Poetry or song-verse modeled on the poetry of the Greek poet Anacreon--i.e., carpe diem poetry praising hedonistic pleasures of wine, women, and song, written in trochaic tetrameter. Here is a typical example of Anacreon's poetry in Stanley's translation:

Fruitful earth drinks up the rain;
Trees from earth drink that again;
The sea drinks the air, the sun
Drinks the sea, and him the moon.
Is it reason then, d'ye think,
I should thirst when all else drink?
The addition of an extra unstressed syllable or two at the start of a line of verse--but these additions are not considered part of the regular metrical count. Deutsch points out an example of anacrusis in the last line of this stanza by Blake, where the article the is an unstressed addition:

Innocence doth like a rose
Bloom on every maiden's cheek;
Honour twines around her brows,
The jewel health adorns her neck
(Greek "doubling"): Repeating the last word of a clause at the beginning of the next clause. As Nietzsche said, "Talent is an adornment; an adornment is also a concealment." Extended anadiplosis is called gradatio. For instance, in The Caine Mutiny the captain declares: "Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard. Standard performance is sub-standard. Sub-standard performance is not allowed." Biblically speaking, St. Paul claims, "We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope, and hope maketh man not ashamed." Samuel Johnson writes, "Labour and care are rewarded with success, success produces confidence, confidence relaxes industry, and negligence ruins the reputation which diligence had raised" (Rambler No. 21). On a more mundane level, the character of Yoda states in Star Wars, Episode I: "Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hatred; hatred leads to conflict; conflict leads to suffering." Gradatio creates a rhythmical pattern to carry the reader along the text, even as it establishes a connection between words. Anadiplosis and gradatio are examples of rhetorical schemes.
(Greek for "recognition"): A term used by Aristotle in the Poetics to describe the moment of tragic recognition in which the protagonist realizes some important fact or insight, especially a truth about himself, human nature, or his situation. Aristotle argues that the ideal moment for anagnorisis in a tragedy is the moment of peripeteia, the reversal of fortune. Critics often claim that the moment of tragic recognition is found within a single line of text, in which the tragic hero admits to his lack of insight or asserts the new truth he recognizes. This passage is often called the "line of tragic recognition." See further discussion under tragedy.
In fourfold interpretation, the anagogical reading is the fourth type of interpretation in which one reads a religious writing in an eschatological manner, i.e., the interpreter sees the passage as a revelation concerning the last days, the end of time, or the afterlife.
(Greek: "writing back or anew"): When the letters or syllables in a name, word or phrase are shuffled together or jumbled to form a new word. For instance, in Tanith Lee's short story, "Bite-Me-Not, or Fleur De Fleu," the predatory vampire's name is Feroluce--an anagram of his demonic predecessor, Lucifer. Similarly in the film Angelheart, the devil travels using the anagram Louis Cipher, i.e., Lucifer as a moniker, and in film-makers' spin-offs of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula uses the name Alucard as a disguise. (An anagram that functions by merely writing a name backwards is known more specifically as an ananym.) Authors who love wordplay love using anagrams. For instance, Samuel Butler's utopian satire Erewhon is an anagram of "Nowhere." Critics have suggested Hawthorne's short story "The Minister's Black Veil" involves an anagram on veil and evil. Anagrams were quite popular in the Renaissance.
(also spelled analog): A story that contains similar characters, situations, settings, or verbal echoes to those found in a different story. Sometimes analogues reveal that one version was adopted from or inspired by another, or that both tales originate in a lost, older text. When one version is clearly the ancestor of another, literary scholars refer to it as a "source." For instance, Romeo and Juliet and Westside Story are analogues, with Romeo and Juliet being a loose source for the other. The character of Utnapishtim in the Babylonian flood legend is an analogue for the character of Noah in the Hebrew Bible. In other cases, analogues appear that probably have no direct connection to each other. Grettir's Saga, which includes a wrestling bout between the strongest Icelander and an evil spirit, is often thought of as an analogue to Beowulf, in which a hero with the strength of thirty men wrestles with the monster Grendel. Grettir dives under an ocean-side waterfall and does battle with a Troll-wife, just as Beowulf dives into a lake and does battle with Grendel's mother. These two pairs of scenes are analogues to each other. Most of Chaucer's stories in The Canterbury Tales have analogues with varying degrees of correspondence; often these are of French or Italian origin.
The modification of grammatical usage from the desire for uniformity. For instance, a child who states, "I broked the toy" or a man who says "I knowed the truth" is merely attempting to regularize the past tense of these verbs through linguistic analogy. Cf. hypercorrection.
A language is analytic if it requires a certain word order to make grammatical sense--often this requires extensive use of prepositions and auxiliary verbs. For instance, take the sentence, "The dog bit the boy." We know in modern English that dog is the subject and boy is the direct object because of word order, the common analytical pattern being subject-verb-object. Examples of analytic languages include French, Spanish, Modern English (but not Old English) and Italian. The opposite type of language uses declensions (special endings stuck on the ends of words) to show what case each word has. This type is called an inflected or synthetic language. Click here for more information about case.
Comparison using more and most instead of -er and -est.
Another term for inexact rhyme. See below
A foot or unit of poetry consisting of two light syllables followed by a single stressed syllable. Some words and phrases in English that constitute anapests include the following examples: understand, interrupt, comprehend, anapest, New Rochelle, contradict, "get a life," condescend, Coeur d'Alene, "in the blink of an eye," and so on. Anapestic meter consists of lines of poetry that follow this pattern of "light stress, light stress, heavy stress" pattern. For example: "The Assyrian came dówn like a wólf on the fóld." (Lord Byron, "The Destruction of Sennacherib.") or "Oh he flies through the air with the greatest of ease." See extended discussion under meter. Click here to download a PDF handout that contrasts anapests with other types of metrical feet.
(Greek, "carried again," also called epanaphora): The intentional repetition of beginning clauses in order to create an artistic effect. For instance, Churchill declared, "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on the end. We shall fight in France. We shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost shall be." The repetition of "We shall. . ." creates a rhetorical effect of solidarity and determination. A well-known example is the Beatitudes in the Bible, where nine statements in a row begin with "Blessed are." ("Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.") Anaphora is the opposite of epistrophe, in which the poet or rhetorician repeats the concluding phrase over and over for effects. Often the two can be combined effectively as well. For instance, Saint Paul writes to the church at Corinth, "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they the ministers of Christ? I am more." Here, artful use of anaphora and epistrophe combined help Paul make his point more emphatically. Both anaphora and epistrophe are examples of rhetorical schemes. They serve to lend weight and emphasis.
Deliberately creating a sentence fragment by the omission of a clause: "If only you came with me!" If only students knew what anapodoton was! Good writers never use sentence fragments? Ah, but they can. And they do. When appropriate. Anapodoton is an example of a rhetorical scheme.
In linguistics, anaptyxis is the appearance of an intrusive vowel sound between two consonants when that vowel is unexpected historically or when it shouldn't be there according to the normal rules of language development. For instance, many speakers insert a schwa sound between the /l/ and /m/ in the word elm or the word film. The adjective form of this word is anaptyctic. Note that some linguists prefer to call this phenomenon svarabhakti (from the Sanskrit term), and thus they refer to the intrusive vowel as a svarabhakti vowel. Compare with the rhetorical device epenthis.
Inverted order of words or events as a rhetorical scheme. Anastrophe is specifically a type of hyperbaton in which the adjective appears after the noun when we expect to find the adjective before the noun. For example, Shakespeare speaks of "Figures pedantical" (LLL 5.2.407).
A branch of Indo-European languages spoken in Asia Minor, including Hittite.
A female anchorite. These women were eremites or hermits in the medieval period who would request permission from the local pastor to be walled up alive in a small cell attached to the side of the church. There the anchoress would live out the rest of her days, relying upon the charity of the local community to provide food and water through a small opening. The practice was a common one in the medieval period. Such hermits were considered especially holy for giving up worldly concerns, and they were often highly respected as spiritual counselors. Male anchoresses are called anchorites, and the enclosures they dwell in are called anchorholds. The medieval writer Julian of Norwich was one such anchoress.
In medieval times, an enclosure in the wall of a church where an anchorite or anchoress would be sealed up alive as a gesture of faith.
An eremite or hermit in the medieval period who requests permission from the local pastor to be sealed up in a small cell attached to the side of the church, where the anchorite would live out the rest of his days relying upon the charity of the local community to provide food and water through a small opening. The practice was a common one in the medieval period. Such hermits were considered especially holy for giving up worldly concerns, and they were often highly respected as spiritual counselors. Female anchorites are called anchoresses, and the enclosures they dwell in are called anchorholds.
(Latin ancilla: "helper" or "maid"): Less important characters who are not the primary protagonist or antagonist, but who highlight these characters or interact with them in such a way as to provide insight into the narrative action. Typical ancillary characters include foils, choric characters, deuteragonists, soubrettes, tritagonists, and stock characters. See character for more information.
A short narrative account of an amusing, unusual, revealing, or interesting event. A good anecdote has a single, definite point, and the setting, dialogue, and characters are usually subordinate to the point of the story. Usually, the anecdote does not exist alone, but it is combined with other material such as expository essays or arguments. Writers may use anecdotes to clarify abstract points, to humanize individuals, or to create a memorable image in the reader's mind. Anecdotes are similar to exempla. See exemplum.
The dialects of Old English spoken in Mercia and Northumbria. Not to be confused with the word "Anglican."
The Protestant Church in England that originated when King Henry VIII broke his ties to the Vatican in Rome (the Catholic Church).
The sub-branch of West Germanic including English and Frisian.
The dialect of Norman French that developed in England after William the First conquered England. Scholars abbreviate this as AN. See also Battle of Hastings.
(1) Historically, the term refers to a group of Teutonic tribes who invaded England in the fifth and sixth centuries following the departure of Roman legions in 410 CE. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes, came from the northern parts of Europe and gave their name (Angle-Land) to England, driving the native Celtic peoples into the farthest western and northern regions of Britain. We can also refer to the time-period of 410 CE up until about 1066 CE as the "Anglo-Saxon" historical period in Britain. In linguistics, the term Anglo-Saxon is also used to refer to Old English, the language spoken by these tribes and the precursor of Middle English and Modern English. See Old English. (2) In colloquial usage, the term Anglo-Saxon is often used to distinguish people of "English" ethnicity in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States--hence acronyms like "WASP" (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).
The exchange of information among animals, especially as contrasted with human language and meta-language (Algeo 312).
Another term for a chronicle, a brief year-by-year account of events.
See discussion under character, below.
Using a different part of speech to act as another. This might involve treating a verb like a noun, or a noun like a verb, or an adjective like a verb, and so on. Thus, e. e. cummings might speak of how "he sang his didn't, he danced his did." A television advertisement might exhort its listeners to "Gift him with Sports Illustrated magazine for Christmas" (as opposed to give him Sports Illustrated for Christmas). Rabelais might state, "I am going in search of the great perhaps" and when the priest Angelo is doing an effective job of controlling the city, we hear that "Lord Angelo dukes it well" in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (III, iii), and so on. Anthimeria allows poets to step into an extra-verbal realm to suggest and hint at that which cannot be put easily in words without a loss of magic.
from Grk. anther+logos, "flower-words"): Literally implying a collection of flowers, the term anthology refers to a collection of poetry, drama, or verse. English majors may be familiar with the ubiquitous Norton Anthology of British Literature, for instance. The first collection of poetry thus labeled was The Anthology, a collection of some 4,500 Greek poems dating between 490 BCE and 1,000 CE.
(also called bathos): a drop, often sudden and unexpected, from a dignified or important idea or situation to one that is trivial or humorous. Also a sudden descent from something sublime to something ridiculous. In fiction and drama, this refers to action that is disappointing in contrast to the previous moment of intense interest. In rhetoric, the effect is frequently intentional and comic. For example: "Usama Bin Laden: Wanted for Crimes of War, Terrorism, Murder, Conspiracy, and Nefarious Parking Practices."
Medieval satire that points out (in humor or anger) the failings and hypocrisies of bad monks, friars, and nuns in particular and the secular clergy and church officers more generally. Examples from The Canterbury Tales include Chaucer's depiction of the Monk and Prioress in "The General Prologue" and the content of "The Summoner's Tale."
A protagonist who is a non-hero or the antithesis of a traditional hero. While the traditional hero may be dashing, strong, brave, resourceful, or handsome, the antihero may be incompetent, unlucky, clumsy, dumb, ugly, or clownish. Examples here might include the senile protagonist of Cervantes' Don Quixote or the girlish knight Sir Thopas from Chaucer's "Sir Thopas." In the case of the Byronic and Miltonic antihero, the antihero is a romanticized but wicked character who defies authority, and becomes paradoxically ennobled by his peculiar rejection of virtue. In this sense, Milton presents Satan in Paradise Lost as an antihero in a sympathetic manner. The same is true of Heathcliffe in Emily Bronté's Wuthering Heights. Compare with the picaro.
(Greek, "turning about"): A rhetorical scheme involving repetition in reverse order: "One should eat to live, not live to eat." Or, "You like it; it likes you." The witches in that Scottish play chant, "Fair is foul and foul is fair." One character in Love's Labor's Lost uses antimetabole when he asks "I pretty, and my saying apt? Or I apt, and my saying pretty?" (I, ii). Antimetabole often overlaps with chiasmus. This device is also called epanados. See schemes.
Literature that vilifies Jews or encourages racist attitudes toward them. Much of the religious literature produced in medieval and Renaissance Europe unfortunately engaged in anti-Semitism to one degree or another. This is due to a series of sociological causes too lengthy to discuss here. Typical allegations accused Jews of killing and cannibalizing Christians, secretly poisoning wells, spreading plague and leprosy among non-Jewish neighbors, kidnapping Christian children, defiling communion wafers, and engaging in various economic crimes.
(plural: antitheses): Using opposite phrases in close conjunction. Examples might be, "I burn and I freeze," or "Her character is white as sunlight, black as midnight." The best antitheses express their contrary ideas in a balanced sentence. It can be a contrast of opposites: "Evil men fear authority; good men cherish it." Alternatively, it can be a contrast of degree: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for all mankind." Antithesis is an example of a rhetorical scheme. Contrast with oxymoron.
A figure, event, or symbol in the New Testament thought to be prefigured by a different figure, event, or symbol in the Old Testament. See extended discussion under typology.
(also spelled apheresis; plural: aphaeareses, adj. apheretic): Rhetorically deleting a syllable--unaccented or accented--from the beginning of a word to create a new term or phrasing. For instance, in King Lear, we hear that, "the king hath cause to plain" (3.1.39). Here, the word complain has lost its first syllable. In Hamlet 2.2.561, Hamlet asks, "Who should 'scape whipping" if every man were treated as he deserved. Note that the e- in escape has itself cleverly escaped from its position! Aphaeresis is an example of a rhetorical scheme or trope. The adjective form is apheretic. Contrast with the more precise linguistic term aphesis.
Linguistically, the omission of an unaccented syllable from the front of a word. Contrast with the more general rhetorical term, aphaearesis.
From the Greek word apocalypsis ("unveiling"), an apocalypse originally referred to a mystical revelation of a spiritual truth, but has changed in twentieth-century use to refer specifically to mystical visions concerning the end of the world. The most famous Apocalypse in the Christian tradition is the book commonly known to Protestants as Revelation in the New Testament. Attributed to John of Patmos, legend states that John wrote it in exile about the year 70 AD, though surviving manuscripts are much later in date. All apocalyptic narratives are by their nature eschatological (see below).
Poetic use of apocope to create a rhyming word at the end of a line or to balance the number of syllables to stay within metrical restraints (see meter). (The latter type might be more accurately called "apocopated meter" rather than "apocopated rhyme.") For example, in Keats' poem "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," the poetic speaker refers to "a lady in the meads" instead of "a lady in the meadows," and he speaks of an "elfin grot" instead of an "elfin grotto." Clever poets use this formalistic device in a way that connects with the thematic content.
Deleting a syllable or letter from the end of a word. In The Merchant of Venice, one character says, "when I ope my lips let no dog bark," and the last syllable of open falls away into ope before the reader's eyes (1.1.93-94). In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare proclaims, "If I might in entreaties find success--/ As seld I have the chance--I would desire / My famous cousin to our Grecian tents" (4.5.148). Here the word seldom becomes seld. Apocope is an example of a rhetorical scheme. Note that some scholars modernize this word and refer to it as apocopation. Contrast with syncope.
Another term for a moral fable--especially a beast fable.
Denying one's intention to talk or write about a subject, but making the denial in such a way that the subject is actually discussed. For instance, a candidate for the senate might start his speech declaring, "I don't have time to list the seventeen felony counts my opponent faces, or the lurid rumors of my opponent's sexual behavior with sixteen-year old girls, or the evidence that he is engaged in tax evasion. Instead, I am going to talk about my own qualities that I would bring to the senate if you vote for me . . ."
(Greek: "impassable path"): The deliberate act of talking about how one is unable to talk about something. For instance, "I can't tell you how often writers use aporia." The term dubitatio refers to a subtype of aporia in which a speaker or writer pauses and deliberately reveals his doubt or uncertainty (genuine or feigned) about an issue. The aporia in the case of dubitatio is both that pause and the act of intentionally discussing that ambiguous reaction. This rhetorical ploy can make the audience feel sympathy for the speaker's dilemma, or it can help characterize the speaker as one who is open-minded and sincerely struggling with the same issues the audience faces.

More recently, literary deconstructionists like Jacques Derrida have high-jacked or modified the rhetorical term aporia, and they use it to suggest a "gap" or a lacuna that exists between what the text attempts to say and what it is forced to mean due to the constraints of language. Aporia is an example of a rhetorical trope. See also apophasis, above. Contrast with aposiopesis, below.
Breaking off as if unable to continue, stopping suddenly in the midst of a sentence, or leaving a statement unfinished at a dramatic moment. Sometimes the interruption is an artificial choice the author makes for a dramatic effect. For instance, Steele writes, "The fire surrounds them while -- I cannot go on." He leaves the horrific outcome of the conflagration to the readers' imaginations.
Not to be confused with the punctuation mark, apostrophe is the act of addressing some abstraction or personification that is not physically present: For instance, John Donne commands, "Oh, Death, be not proud." King Lear proclaims, "Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend, / More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child / Than the sea-monster." Death, of course, is a phenomenon rather than a proud person, and ingratitude is an abstraction that hardly cares about Lear's opinion, but the act of addressing the abstract has its own rhetorical power. An apostrophe is an example of a rhetorical trope.
Designed to ward off evil influence or malevolent spirits by frightening these forces away. In many cultures, elaborate artwork depicting monsters would be created to have an apotropaic affect. For instance, the fierce "celestial dogs" (Fu dogs) carved outside the entrance to Tibetan temples would keep evil spirits from entering the holy ground, and Amerindian shamans would wear frightening, grotesque "medicine masks" when they visited sick members of their tribe to terrify the evil spirits making them sick. It has been suggested that the presence of gargoyles and grotesques on medieval cathedrals is a remnant of older pagan practices, in which monstrous apotropaic figures would be carved on the front of ships and over the entrances to buildings to ward off evil influences.
A stage that projects out into the auditorium area. This enlarges the square footage available for actors to walk and move upon. This feature was not common in the days of classical Greco-Roman theater, but it was a common architectural trait in Elizabethan times and remains in use in some modern theaters. An apron stage is also known as a thrust stage.
The Oxford Companion to the Bible discusses Chaldean Aramaic as a Northwest Semitic language closely related to Classical Hebrew. Classical Hebrew developed as an offshoot of proto-Canaanite around 1,000 BCE. and it was commonly used as a vernacular until about 500 BCE. Aramaic slowly replaced Classical Hebrew as a language of the common people. It was originally written in the 22 letters of the Phoenician alphabet, and it became common in territory controlled by the Chaldeans. It differed somewhat in its definite articles and its vocabulary from Classical Hebrew, but it had many close cognates (such as Hebrew shalom and Aramaic shelam, "peace"). After the year 500 BCE, Aramaic gradually became the vernacular language used in the Palestinian region and especially in Galilee. Jeremiah 10:11 is written in Aramaic, as is Ezra 4:8-6:18 and 7:12-26 (c. 450 BCE). The original book of Daniel was probably written in Aramaic as well, though only Daniel 2:4b-7:28 remain in the original tongue. Genesis 31:47 contains an Aramaic place-name--indicating this section is a late revision to early Genesis texts. Many of Christ's quotations in the New Testament are in Aramaic, such as "Talitha cum" (Mark 5:41) and "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani" (Mark 15:34; cf. Matt: 27:46 with variant readings in the Hebrew). See J. A. Emerton's entry in Metzer and Coogan, 45-46.
A word, expression, spelling, or phrase that is out of date in the common speech of an era, but still deliberately used by a writer, poet, or playwright for artistic purposes.
The analysis of a piece of literature through the examination of archetypes and archetypal patterns in Jungian psychology. See archetype below.
An original model or pattern from which other later copies are made, especially a character, an action, or situation that seems to represent common patterns of human life. Often, archetypes include a symbol, a theme, a setting, or a character that some critics think have a common meaning in an entire culture, or even the entire human race. These images have particular emotional resonance and power. Archetypes recur in different times and places in myth, literature, folklore, fairy tales, dreams, artwork, and religious rituals. Using the comparative anthropological work of Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough, the psychologist Carl Jung theorized that the archetype originates in the collective unconscious of mankind, i.e., the shared experiences of a race or culture, such as birth, death, love, family life, and struggles to survive and grow up. These would be expressed in the subconscious of an individual who would recreate them in myths, dreams, and literature.
An official in classical Athens. The holder of this office arranged the production of tragedies and comedies at annual festivals honoring Dionysus. Each year was named after the officiating eponymous archon. Contrast with the choragos, the individual who paid for a tragedy's performance and thus won the lead-spot in the chorus.
A theater arrangement in which viewers sit encircling the stage completely. The actors enter and exit by moving along the same aisles the audience uses. This often encourages interaction between cast and audience. Frequently this type of stage is situated outdoors. This type of theatrical arrangement is also called theater in the round.
The Greek term arête implies a humble and constant striving for perfection and self-improvement combined with a realistic awareness that such perfection cannot be reached. As long as an individual strives to do and be the best, that individual has arête. As soon as the individual believes he has actually achieved arête, however, he or she has lost that exalted state and fallen into hubris, unable to recognize personal limitations or the humble need to improve constantly.
A statement of a poem's major point--usually appearing in the introduction of the poem. Spenser presents such an argument in the introduction to his eclogues, Coleridge presents such in his marginalia to The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, and Milton most famously presents such in Book One of Paradise Lost, where he proclaims he will "assert eternal providence / And justify the ways of God to man." Cf. thesis.
In Renaissance drama, a hanging tapestry or a curtain that covered a part of the frons scenae. It hid the discovery space and may have draped around the stage's edge to hide the open area underneath. In Hamlet, Hamlet stabs Polonius through such an arras.
In classical metrical analysis, Greeks referred to the stressed syllable in a metrical foot as a thesis, and the unstressed syllable in a metrical foot as an arsis. Unfortunately, the Roman analysts used the exact opposite terminology, with the thesis being their unstressed foot and the arsis being the stressed foot. This results in much confusion to modern students.
Related to the legends of King Arthur and his knights. A large body of ancient and recent literature is Arthurian in whole or part, including these examples:

Celtic myths (such as the Welsh "Raid on Annwfn")
The Mabinogion
Legends of the Grail King and the Fisher King
Historical documents about the battle at Mons Badis, General Arturius, and other sixth-century subjects some scholars claim are evidence of a historical basis for later legends
Welsh/Latin annals attributed to the so-called "Nennius" (i.e., medieval Latin writings mistakenly attributed to this person in outdated scholarship)
Oral legends transmitted by Breton conteurs in France between 1100-1175
Not to be confused with what linguists call grammatically synthetic (inflected) languages, artificial languages are deliberately "made up" by a small number of individuals for some specific purpose rather than developing naturally over a period of centuries. Examples of artificial languages designed for international use include Esperanto, Volapük, and Neo-Latin. Examples of artificial languages designed for fiction include Tolkien's Elvish and the Klingon language used by Star Trek enthusiasts. Contrast with synthetic languages.
The Enlightenment's desire for and obsession with standardization and regulation of the English language--i.e., making grammatical rules (often based artificially on Latin grammar or mathematical principles, or based on creating style and spelling guidebooks for "correctness" of usage, and so on). A. C. Baugh quotes Samuel Johnson's definition of the word and argues that it and argues this term sums up Enlightenment desires for prescriptivist grammar (Baugh 257-58).
(also spelled aesc or asc when referring to runes): The letter used in Old English to indicate the sound /æ/ as in the modern English word <at>. The name comes from the Old Norse rune aesc.
In drama, a few words or a short passage spoken by one character to the audience while the other actors on stage pretend their characters cannot hear the speaker's words. It is a theatrical convention that the aside is not audible to other characters on stage. Contrast with soliloquy. The aside is usually indicated by stage directions.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov originally posited Asimov's three laws in his short stories collected in I, Robot. These laws were mathematical limitations or hardwired parameters for robotic behavior as follows:

(1) The First Law: Robots must not harm a human being or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm.
(2) The Second Law: Robots must obey direct commands from human beings, unless those commands would conflict with the First Law.
(3) The Third Law: Robots must preserve their own existence, unless doing so would conflict with the Second or First Law.
In linguistics, Algeo defines this as any of the words whose historical /æ/ sound becomes the vowel /a/ in Eastern New England and in British pronunciation (313).
(adjective form, aspirated): A puff of breath made along with a consonant sound while vocalizing.
Algeo defines linguistic assimilation as "The process by which two sounds become more alike" (313). We can see this in the word spaceship, where the /s/ sound represented by the <c> often assimilates or blurs to match the sound represented by the <sh>. Assimilation also occurs when the <-ed> endings of words are pronounced /t/ after unvoiced sounds but /d/ after voiced sounds (313).
A declension of Old English nouns. At one point, this declension had a thematic vowel appearing in front of its inflectional suffixes. The a-stem declension ultimately became the source of the genitive 's and plural s in Modern English. Contrast with the n-stem.
A typographical symbol (*) that linguists use to show a hypothetical, abnormal, or nonoccurring form. For instance, *dwo is a hypothetical reconstruction of the Indo-European word for two. It probably existed, but it survives in no written examples. On the other hand, *thinked is nonoccurring preterite or participle that could theoretically exist instead of thought.
The artistic elimination of conjunctions in a sentence to create a particular effect.
Algeo defines this as "An Indo-European verb stem formed without a thematic vowel" (313). The letter m in Modern English verb am is a remnant of an Indo-European athematic verb ending.
(Also called mood): The emotional feelings inspired by a work. The term is borrowed from meteorology to describe the dominant mood of a selection as it is created by diction, dialogue, setting, and description. Often the opening scene in a play or novel establishes an atmosphere appropriate to the theme of the entire work. The opening of Shakespeare's Hamlet creates a brooding atmosphere of unease. Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher establishes an atmosphere of gloom and emotional decay. The opening of Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 establishes a surreal atmosphere of confusion, and so on. Compare with ambiance, above.
(also called a dawn song): A genre of poetry in which a short poem's subject is about the dawn or the coming of the dawn, or it is a piece of music meant to be sung or played outdoors at dawn. Examples include Browning's "The year's at the spring / And day's at the morn" from Pippa Passes or Shakespeare's "Hark! hark! the lark." Some poems, such as John Donne's "Busy old sun," share traits with the dawn song. Troilus and Criseyde also contains an example of the genre within its larger narrative. Cf. the Provençal equivalent, an alba.
A dawn-song or aubade, but specifically one sung by a friend watching over a pair of lovers until dawn to prevent any interruption to their love-making or to cover up the noise of the love-making. Contrast with aubade, above.
The Latin word auctor is the source for the modern English word author, but the medieval word carries a special resonance and seriousness the modern word lacks. The terms differ in intellectual connotation. Thus, when Chaucer writes of "mine auctor," he suggests his source is especially authoritative because that writer incorporates non-original (but valuable) ideas into his own work. The power of an auctor comes not from his novelty or originality; instead, the author takes conventional, authoritative ideas, and uses these concepts to supplement his own thinking in an original manner. The auctor, thus, uses established, valuable material to supplement his original ideas without slavishly regurgitating them.
The person(s) reading a text, listening to a speaker, or observing a performance.
Descriptive language that evokes noise, music, or other sounds.
The German term for the philosophical movement called in English "the Enlightenment" or the Neoclassical movement.
(alias AUREATE TERMS): The use of unusual words from Latin as a conscious stylistic flourish in Middle English. Also such words themselves. Compare with Renaissance inkhorn terms.
A family of Pacific and Indian ocean languages separate from the Indo-European family. These include the native tongues of Madagascar, Hawaii, and thousands of Pacific islands. Malay and Polynesian are two Austronesian languages.
The voices or speakers used by authors when they seemingly speak for themselves in a book. (In poetry, this might be called a poetic speaker). The use of this term makes it clear in critical discussion that the narration or presentation of a story is not necessarily to be identified with the biographical and historical author. Instead, the authorial voice may be another fiction created by the author. It is often considered poor form for a modern literary critic to equate the authorial voice with the historical author, but this practice was common in the nineteenth century. However, twentieth-century critics have pointed out that often a writer will assume a false persona of attitudes or beliefs when she writes, or that the authorial voice will speak of so-called biographical details that cannot possibly be equated with the author herself. In the early twentieth-century, New Critics also pointed out that linking the authorial voice with the biographical author often unfairly limited the possible interpretations of a poem or narrative.
In contrast with the autobiography, an autobiographical novel is a semi-fictional narrative based in part on the author's life experience, but these experiences are often transposed onto a fictional character or intermixed with fictional events. Examples include Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel and James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
A non-fictional account of a person's life--usually a celebrity, an important historical figure, or a writer--written by that actual person.
While fans and collectors in pop culture uses the term to refer to a celebrity's signature of his or her name, literary scholars use the term more loosely to refer to any lines of text written in the author's own hand--including marginal notes , bills, and doodling as well as actual, complete literary texts. It is possible that a few pages of the play Sir Thomas More are written in Shakespeare's hand, and thus are Shakespeare's autograph.
("Sacramental Act"): A drama of one act symbolizing the sacrament of Eucharist in Spanish literature between 1200 and 1600 CE. The play might overtly involve religious, mythical, historical, or allegorical subjects--but ultimately it would contain some hidden relationship to communion. Conventionally, the play terminated with praise of the Eucharist. Calderòn de la Barca wrote several fine examples.
Another term for rhetorical climax. See climax, rhetorical, below.
from Middle Welsh odl): The term in Welsh poetry has come to acquire several meanings. In its earliest usage, an awdl meant a stave bearing the rhyme in any poem. Next, it came to mean a series of monorhymes or a poem in monorhyme by a bard. Even later, the term came to mean a poem written in awdl meter. By the late Renaissance, the term meant a lengthy poem written in cynghanedd and in one of the strict meters. In modern Wales, the creation of an effective awdl is considered the apogee of a bard's achievement. See also bard, cynghanedd, monorhyme, and strict meter.
A fanciful monster, silly creature, or a leering face drawn in the margins of a medieval manuscript. We get our modern word baboon from this French term for the little grotesque creatures that illuminators drew and doodled. Typically, the babuin is engaged in silly antics, such as playing or interacting with the letters on the page, chasing other babuins, or even engaging in copulatory and scatological activities.
A three-syllable foot of poetry consisting of a light stress followed by two heavy stresses. This verse pattern was not unknown in Greek verse, but is fairly rare in English verse. An example of a phrase that corresponds in meter to the Bachic foot is "a strong king." The bachic foot is also called a bachius, and poetry written in bacchic feet is said to be written in bachic meter. See meter.
Poetry in which each foot is a three-syllable foot consisting of three heavy stresses. It is rare in English.
Another term for a bachic foot.
(1) The process of creating a new word when speakers (often mistakenly) remove an affix or other morpheme from a longer word. For instance, English speakers created the verb burgle by mistakenly thinking the word burglar as an agent noun derived from a verb. (2) Linguists call any word formed by this previously described process a "back-formation." For extended discussion see Algeo on pages 260-62.
A vowel made with the topmost portion of the tongue in the back of the oral cavity. These include the vowel sounds found in ooze, oomph, go, law, and father. For a list of IPA phonetic transcriptions for vowels in PDF format, click here.
In the jargon of Shakespearean scholars, a "bad quarto" is a copy of the play that a disloyal actor would recreate from memory and then submit for publication in a rival publishing house without the consent of the author. These bad quartos are often grossly inaccurate, but may contain useful stage directions not included in the original. See quartos, folios, and octavos, below.
In common parlance, song hits, folk music, and folktales or any song that tells a story are loosely called ballads. In more exact literary terminology, a ballad is a narrative poem consisting of quatrains of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter. Common traits of the ballad are that (a) the beginning is often abrupt, (b) the story is told through dialogue and action (c) the language is simple or "folksy," (d) the theme is often tragic--though comic ballads do exist, and (e) the ballad contains a refrain repeated several times.
A French verse form consisting most often of three eight-line stanzas having the same rhyme pattern, followed by a four-line envoy. In a typical ballade, the last lines of each stanza and of the envoy are the same. Among the most famous ballades are Chaucer's "Ballade of Good Advice" and Rossetti's translation of François Villon's "Ballade of Dead Ladies," which asks in each stanza and in the envoy, "Mais ou sont les nieges d'antan?" ("But where are the snows of yesteryear?") The ballade first rose to prominence in the 14th and 15th centuries, popularized by French poets like Guillaume de Machaut and Eustache Deschampes. It was perfected in the 16th century by François Villon, but it later fell into disrepute when 17th century poets like Moliere and Boileau mocked its conventions. See envoy, ballad.
Traditionally, ballad measure consists of a four-line stanza or a quatrain containing alternating four-stress and three-stress lines with an ABCB or ABAB rhyme scheme. Works written in ballad measure often include such quatrains. As an example, the opening stanza to "Earl Brand" illustrates the pattern. Note also the bits of Scottish dialect in phrases such as "hae" for have and "awa" for away.

Rise up, rise up, my seven brave sons,
And dress in your armour so bright;
Earl Douglas will hae Lady Margaret awa
Before that it be light.
An eighteenth-century comic drama featuring lyrics set to existing popular tunes. The term originated to describe John Gay's The Beggar's Opera of 1728.
An east-European branch of the Indo-European language family--usually grouped with the Slavic languages as "Balto-Slavic."
A branch of Indo-European including the Slavic and Baltic languages.
(Welsh Bardd, Irish Bard): (1) An ancient Celtic poet, singer and harpist who recited heroic poems by memory. These bards were the oral historians, political critics, eulogizers, and entertainers of their ancient societies. They were responsible for celebrating national events such as heroic actions and victories. (2) The word in modern usage has become a synonym for any poet. Shakespeare in particular is often referred to as "the Bard" or "the Bard of Avon" in spite of the fact he wrote in the Renaissance, long after the heyday of Celtic bards. The modern day has seen a sort of revival of bardic performance since 1822, when the ancient bardic performance contests were revived in Wales. These contests are called in Welsh Eisteddfodau (singular Eisteddfod). In modern Welsh, the term bardd refers to any participant who has competed in an Eisteddfod. See also skald and rhapsodoi.
A free or bound morpheme, to which other meaningful sounds can be added to form words. Examples of base morphemes include base in basic, or frame in reframe.
(Grk, "depth"): Not to be confused with pathos, bathos is a descent in literature in which a poet or writer--striving too hard to be passionate or elevated--falls into trivial or stupid imagery, phrasing, or ideas. Alexander Pope coined the usage to mock the unintentional mishaps of incompetent writers, but later comic authors and poets used bathos intentionally for mirthful effects. One of the most common types of bathos is the humorous arrangement of items so that the listed items descend from grandiosity to absurdity. In this technique, important or prestigious ideas precede an inappropriate or inconsequential item. For instance, "In the United States, Usama bin Laden is wanted for conspiracy, murder, terrorism, and unpaid parking tickets." Many modern humorists like Lewis Grizzard make liberal use of bathos, but the technique is common in older literature as well. Famous examples appear in Lord Byron's mock-epic Don Juan and Alexander Pope's satires. See rhetorical schemes for more information.
This battle in 1066 CE marks the rough boundary between the end of the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) period from about 450-1066 CE and the beginning of the Middle English period from about 1066-1450. No other historical event except perhaps the Great Vowel Shift (c. 1400-1450 CE) has had such a potent influence on the development of English.

The battle took place between Duke William the Bastard (later known as King William I or "William the Conqueror") and the last claimant to the Anglo-Saxon throne, King Harold. William felt that King Edward the Confessor (who died childless in the twenty-fourth year of his reign) had promised him the throne of England. Duke William, leading a band of Norman and Picardian mercenaries, traveled from his dukedom in Normandy (northwestern France) to southeast England by sailing across the English channel after receiving the Pope's blessing. After William defeated Harold and pillaged southeast England, the citizens of London surrendered. He continued conquering sections of England until the 1080s, but 1066 was the decisive moment in history that positioned him for inevitable expansion and increasingly centralized control. William rapidly deposed or killed all Anglo-Saxon noblemen, priests, bishops, and archbishops, replacing them with French-speaking officials, favoring those knights who had fought for him previously.

As a result of this, by 1100, England became bilingual, with the aristocracy speaking Norman French and the common peasantry speaking Anglo-Saxon. The two languages began to merge, with Anglo-Saxon losing declensions, becoming analytic rather than synthetic in grammatical structure, and incorporating thousands of French and Latin loan-words. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, still largely tribal in nature, were replaced by a complex but highly centralized monarchy operating by French feudal standards. See also Norman and Norman Invasion.
A short, simple narrative with speaking animals as characters designed to teach a moral or social truth. Examples include the fables of Aesop and Marie de France, Kipling's Jungle Books and Just So Stories, George Orwell's Animal Farm, Richard Adams' Watership Down, and Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, and Chaucer's "Nun's Priest's Tale." Contrast with fable, below
A heavy stress or accent in a line of poetry. The number of beats or stresses in a line usually determines the meter of the line. See meter.
The term for a recurring folklore motif in which circumstances cause two characters in a story to end up having sex with each other because of mistaken identity--either confusion in a dark room or deliberate acts of disguise in which one character impersonates another. This folklore motif appears in various jokes, fabliaux, and in various works of literature as well. Examples include the switch played upon Angelo in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and the sexual confusion at miller Simkin's house in Chaucer's "The Reeve's Tale." See also cradle-trick
A motif from Celtic literature that appears in diverse works such as the Middle Irish Briciu's Feast and the Middle English Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this situation is one, according to Marie Boroff, "in which an unknown challenger proposes that one of a group of warriors volunteer to cut off his head, the stroke to be repaid in kind at some future date; the hero accepts this challenge, and at the crucial moment of reprisal is spared and praised for his courage" (See viii, Introduction to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Trans. Marie Boroff, NY: W. W. Norton Company, 1967.)
("The Fair Unknown," from Breton French le bel inconnu): A motif common to fairy tales, folklore and medieval Romance in which the protagonist's identity remains unknown until some suitably dramatic moment. This anonymity may result from a child being raised as an orphaned commoner until the revelation of an heirloom proves the child is noble-born, or it may result from a hero's intentional disguise in order to penetrate certain social circles, as in the case of a boy who disguises himself so that he can work in the kitchens near the knights, later becoming a page, and then ultimately becoming a knight himself. In a third definition, le bel inconnu might be a famous, prestigious knight who is so doughty in combat that no one will face him willingly (e.g., Lancelot). This knight must then enter the jousting lists disguised so that his opponents will not refuse the match. The motif appears in tales such as Lybeaus Desconus, a romance written in tail-rhyme by Thomas Chester, a fourteenth-century poet. In that romance, a young knight named Guinglian, the son of Sir Gawain, assumes the name Lybeaus Desconus (i.e., "the fair unknown") to hide his illustrious ancestry. See motif, fairy tale, romance.
(Anglo-Saxon: "vow"; becomes Modern English "boast"): A ritualized boast or vow made publicly by Anglo-Saxon warriors known as thegns before the hlaford in a mead-hall the night before a military engagement. A typical warrior's boast might be that he would be the first to strike a blow in the coming battle, that he would kill a particular champion among the enemy, that he would not take a single step backward in retreat during the battle, that he would claim a renowned sword from an enemy warrior as booty, and so on. This vow or boast was often accompanied by stories of his past glorious deeds. While later Christianized medieval culture (and perhaps modern American culture) might disdain boasting as a sign of arrogance or sinful pride, the pagan Anglo-Saxons valued such behavior. The beot was not so much a negative sign of arrogance as a positive sign of determination and character. Examples of the beot can be seen throughout Beowulf such as when Beowulf vows to fight Grendel without using any weapons. See also fame/shame culture, thegn, hlaford, mead-hall, and Anglo-Saxon.
(Old Norse Ber-sirk, "bear-skin"; becomes Modern English "berserk"): The Icelandic, Scandinavian, and Norwegian sagas give accounts of fearsome Viking warrior-shamans who could entrance themselves and enter a frenzied hypnagogic state. During this period of rabid ferocity, the berserker no longer felt the pains of cold, injury, or fear. The berserkers simply became immune to such effects in their altered state of consciousness. In the Ynglinga Saga and other legends, they would enter combat either naked or wearing nothing but bear-skins, howling and roaring, biting the edges of their shields until blood flowed from their tongue and gums. (Thus we get the modern term "going berserk" to describe an insane frenzy.) In combat, they were apparently equally likely to attack both friend and foe, so the other Vikings kept their distance from them. The name berserker comes from the bearskin garments worn by these shamans, who believed that through their magic they absorbed the spirit, stamina, and strength of the bear into their own bodies, being effectively possessed by the soul of the bear. At the end of their trance, they were not expected to be able to recall their actions, since it was the bear-spirit fighting rather than the Viking himself. The tradition of the berserker gradually died out after Viking althings and jarls elected to accept Christianity, at which point such pagan practices become socially unacceptable. See saga and Viking.
A typical protagonist or anti-hero from the science fiction stories of Alfred Bester, such as Ben Reich in The Demolished Man, or Gully Foyle of The Stars My Destination. These complex characters embody traits of the Nietzchean ubermensch, and they combine both positive and negative qualities. They are rarely predictable, and they can alternately destroy or save the world, engage in heroic self-sacrifice or selfish rapine.
BESTIARY: A medieval treatise listing, naming, and describing various animals and their attributes, often using an elaborate allegory to explain the spiritual significance in terms of Christian doctrine. The bestiaries are examples of didactic literature, in that each animal's behavior ultimately points to a moral. The oldest bestiaries adapt material from Pliny and classical sources, though by the early 1200s, French bestiaries had doubled or tripled the entries found in Pliny by adding new materials. Later, thirteenth-century additions were made to Latin versions, usually derived from the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville (570-636 CE).
In phonetics, a sound such as /p/, /b/, or /m/ that requires both the upper and lower lip to articulate.
(Germ. "formation novel"): The German term for a coming-of-age story. Also called an Erziehungsroman. For more information, see coming-of-age story.
(Greek, bios+graphe "life writing"): A non-fictional account of a person's life--usually a celebrity, an important historical figure, or a writer. If a writer uses his or her own life as the basis of a biography, the work is called an autobiography. Contrast with a memoir.
The ethnic dialect associated with Americans of African ancestry is often called black vernacular or "Black English." It is also known a "African American Vernacular English," and abbreviated AAVE in scholarly texts. Click here for more information.
(also called unrhymed iambic pentameter): Unrhymed lines of ten syllables each with the even-numbered syllables bearing the accents. Blank verse has been called the most "natural" verse form for dramatic works, since it supposedly is the verse form most close to natural rhythms of English speech, and it has been the primary verse form of English drama and narrative poetry since the mid-sixteenth Century. Such verse is blank in rhyme only; it usually has a definite meter. (Variations in this meter may appear occasionally.) The Earl of Surrey first used the term "blank verse" in his 1540 translation of The Aeneid of Virgil.
Making a neologism by taking two or more existing expressions and shortening at least one of them. Examples include such as smog (from smoke and fog), motel (from motor and hotel), and brunch (from breakfast and lunch), workaholic (from work and alcoholic) or Lewis Carroll's chortle (chuckle and snort). Contrast with compounding.
The spatial grouping and movement of characters on stage. Typically, good blocking ensures that all characters are visible to the audience, that the stage is not cluttered with a clump of actors in any one area, and that important action or actors remain positioned in such a way as to emphasize their centrality to the story. The best blocking arranged characters in a symbolic manner. The term should not be confused with blocking agent (see below).
A person, circumstance, or mentality that prevents two potential lovers from being together romantically. The blocking agent was a common generic trait for classical Roman comedies and for many of Shakespeare's plays. It remains a feature even in modern genres such as Harlequin romances. The term should not be confused with blocking (see above).
OE fae∂u): The custom among certain Germanic tribes like the Anglo-Saxons or the Vikings of seeking vengeance against another tribe or family if a member of that tribe or family injured or killed an individual belonging to one's own tribe or family. See also wergild and peace-weaver.
A metrical devise in some alliterative-verse poetry, especially that of the Pearl Poet and that of fourteenth-century poems like Sir Tristrem. The first short line of a group of rhyming lines is known as the "bob" and the subsequent four are a quatraine called the "wheel." The bob contains one stress preceded by either one or occasionally two unstressed syllables (i.e., the bob is only two or three syllables long). Each line of the wheel contains three stresses. Together, the bob-and-wheel constitutes five lines rhyming in an ABABA pattern. Since it matches the alliterative pattern of the first part of the stanza, but also fits the rhyme scheme of the last five lines, the "bob" serves as a structural bridge between the alliterative sections and the rhyming sections of the poem. It is easier to understand by looking at an example. Click here for a sample to view. See also alliteration and rhyme.
The monarchial government, including all its citizens, its army, and its king. Political theory in the Elizabethan period thought of each kingdom as a "body," with the king functioning as its head. Events affecting the body politic, such as political turmoil, warfare, and plague, would be mirrored in the macrocosm, the microcosm, and the Chain of Being (see below).
Having to do with the philosophy of Boethius, i.e., a philosophy of predestination suggesting all events appearing evil, misfortunate, disastrous, or accidental are none of these things. Rather, such events are illusions that only appear this way to humans because we are limited in our perceptions while bound by time. In actuality, such events serve a higher beneficial purpose that must remain unknown to us as long as we are trapped by the limits of the physical universe. The term comes from the philosopher Boethius, who formulated an argument concerning it in his immensely influential work, Consolatio Philosophiae (The Consolation of Philosophy), which he wrote in 524 AD while awaiting his execution in prison on unjust charges. To give the reader an idea of how popular this book was in the Middle Ages, over five hundred manuscripts of it survive today; in comparison, Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales only survives in about eighty-two manuscripts. A common intellectual party-game in medieval times may have been to take turns reciting lines of the Consolatio by memory.
A morpheme used exclusively as part of a larger word rather than one that can stand alone and retain independent meaning. Examples include the morpheme ept in the word inept, or the morpheme gruntle in the word disgruntled. This term is the opposite of a free morpheme, which can function by itself as a word, such as the morphemes it and self in the word itself.
In medieval manuscripts, a border is, as Kathleen Scott puts it, "A type of book decoration placed around one to four sides of the justification [writing space] in order to distinguish and decorate main divisions of the text; usually more elaborate on the first page and/or Table of Contents page; also used around miniature frames" (Scott 370).
French, "city-dwelling"): The French term bourgeoisie is a noun referring to the non-aristocratic middle-class, while the word bourgeois is the adjective-form. Calling something bourgeois implies that something is middle-class in its tendencies or values. Marxist literary critics use the term in a specialized sense to indicate the comfortable, well-to-do class of consumers that have more status than the proletariat, the lower-class workers who perform the "real" work of a civilization in actually producing goods and materials. In another sense--one particularly useful for medieval historians--the term bourgeoisie encompasses the city-dwelling yeomen in the late medieval period who were no longer tied to agricultural work as enfeoffed serfs. These city-dwellers--including craftsmen, guildsmen, traders, and skilled laborers--worked on a capitalistic model in which goods and services would be provided in exchange for cash. Though to a modern American this arangement seems normal enough, it was a revolutionary concept in a feudal society where transactions took place in barter, where most male citizens would swear loyalty to a liege lord in exchange for land or protection, and where serfs were bound to a section of land as the "property" of their feudal overlord. It was also a departure from the traditional "Three Estates" theory of government sanctioned by the church. The increasing number of bourgeois workers in cities and the diminishing number of serfs working in rural areas marked the transition from feudalism to modernity. Indeed, many of these so-called "middle class" citizens were fantastically wealthy--far richer in terms of their liquid assets than the knights and minor nobility who were their social "betters." The aristocrats attempted to distinguish themselves by the use of heraldic symbols, last-names, and sumptuary laws that made it illegal for "commoners" (no matter how rich) to wear particular types of clothing or jewelry.
Greek, "as the ox turns while plowing"): A method of writing in which the text is read alternately from left to right on odd numbered lines and then read right to left in even numbered lines. Some early Greek texts are written in this manner, including Solon's laws. This contrasts with English convention (left-to-right), Hebrew convention (right to left), and various Oriental conventions (top to bottom).
A later editor's censorship of sexuality, profanity, and political sentiment of an earlier author's text. Editors and scholars usually use this term in a derogatory way to denote an inferior or incomplete text. A text censored in this way is said to be bowdlerized. The term comes from the name of Reverend Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) who produced The Family Shakespeare (1815-18). He removed whatever he considered "unfit to be read by a gentleman in the company of ladies."
In linguistics, the idea that language began when humans imitated animal noises or other natural sounds. Contrast with the yo-he-ho theory.
A theatrical structure common to modern drama in which the stage consists of a single room setting in which the "fourth wall" is missing so the audience can view the events within the room. Contrast with the theater in the round and apron stage.
Not to be confused with the Great Vowel Shift, the Bradshaw Shift is a suggested alteration to the order of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, one which differs radically from the manuscript tradition.

Chaucer never completed The Canterbury Tales, and he left us today ten fragments that can be organized in various ways to make a larger narrative. These fragments are bits of narrative linked together by internal signs--such as pieces of conversation or passages referring to an earlier story or the story about to come next. The fragments are usually designated with Roman numerals (i.e., I-X) in modern editions of the text, but the Chaucer Society uses alphabetical designations to refer to these fragments (i.e., Fragments A-I). Only between Fragments IX-X and (in the case of the Ellesmere family between Fragments IV-V) do we find explicit indication of an order. Consequently, modern editions differ in the order the tales are presented.
One of the four groupings of Welsh tales in The Mabinogion. Tradition divides The Mabinogion into a series of loosely connected narratives revolving around one or more characters.

(1) First Branch: Pwyll
(2) Second Branch: Branwen
(3) Third Branch: Manawydan
(4) Fourth Branch: Math vab Mathonwy

Collectively, these are famously called "The Four Branches of the Mabinogi."
A Celtic language spoken in the northwestern part of France. Not to be confused with a Briton with an -i (i.e., a British person). See further discussion under "Bretons" below.
(also spelled Breton lay): Another term for a lai. See lai.
The Celtic inhabitants of Brittany ("Little Britain") in northeast France who speak the Breton language. The term is related to British "Briton." The Bretons may be responsible for carrying Arthurian legends into France, where they influenced Chretien de Troyes and other continental writers. They also produced the lais that influenced Marie de France. Click here for a map of the regions where Breton is spoken.
A mark in the shape of a bowl-like half circle that indicates a light stress or an unaccented syllable.
An expression or word that developed in Britain after the American colonies separated politically from Britain's rule.
The English language in the British isles, especially in contrast with Canadian, Australian, or U.S. English.
An inhabitant of Britain--especially a Celtic one. Do not confuse it with a Breton, a Celtic inhabitant of Brittany in France. Note that while all the English, the Scottish, and the Welsh are often called Britons or Brits, none of them are Bretons. Additionally, only the folks in Southeastern portions of Britain are English. Calling a Scotsman or a Welshman an "Englishman" is a good way for ignorant American travelers to have their jaws broken in a rowdy pub.
Imprecise phonetic transcription for general comparative purposes.
Individuals in medieval warfare who have sworn a military partnership with each other, agreeing to ransom each other from imprisonment if one of the two is captured by the enemy, swearing to abide by the rules established in their company, vowing loyalty to one another, and agreeing to share their plunder amongst themselves in a predetermined way. Chaucer's Palamon and Arcite in "The Knight's Tale" appear to swear brothership-in-arms with each other, but that vow of loyalty falls apart when both are lovestruck by the sight of Emilye. For further discussion of this medieval practice, consult Maurice H. Keen's books and articles on chivalry.
(also spelled Brittanic): One of the two branches of the Celtic family of languages descended from Proto-Indo-European. Brythonic includes Celtic languages such as Cornish, Breton, and Welsh. The Brythonic language branch is also referred to as "P-Celtic" because it tends to use a <p> in certain words where a <q> or <c> appears in Goidelic cognates. Contrast with the related Goidelic or Q-Celtic branch, which includes Manx, Irish Gaelic, and Scots Gaelic.
A work that ridicules a topic by treating something exalted as if it were trivial or vice-versa. See also parody and travesty.
(also called stage business): The gestures, expressions, and general activity (beyond blocking) of actors on-stage. Usually, business is designed to illicit laughter. Such activity is often spontaneous, and may vary from performance to performance. Cf. blocking, above.
Originally called kothorni in Greek, the word buskins is a Renaissance term for the elegantly laced boots worn by actors in ancient Greek tragedy. The buskins later became elevator shoes that made the actor wearing them unusually tall to emphasize the royal status or importance of the character. Contrast with soccus.
An antihero who is a romanticized but wicked character. Conventionally, the figure is a young and attractive male with a bad reputation. He defies authority and conventional morality, and becomes paradoxically ennobled by his peculiar rejection of virtue. In this sense, Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost is presented in a sympathetic manner as an antihero, as are many of Lord Byron's protagonists (hence the name). From American pop culture, the icon of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause is a good example. Other literary examples are Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights and the demonic Melmoth in Melmoth the Wanderer. Byronic heroes are associated with destructive passions, sometimes selfish brooding or indulgence in personal pains, alienation from their communities, persistent loneliness, intense introspection, and fiery rebellion.
(Greek, "bad sound"): The term in poetry refers to the use of words that combine sharp, harsh, hissing, or unmelodious sounds. It is the opposite of euphony.
(Dutch cadel and/or French cadeau, meaning "a gift; a little something extra"): A small addition or "extra" item added to an initial letter. Common cadels include pen-drawn faces or grotesques. Examples include the faces appearing in the initial letters of the Lansdowne 851 manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
The melodic pattern just before the end of a sentence or phrase--for instance an interrogation or an exhortation. More generally, the natural rhythm of language depending on the position of stressed and unstressed syllables. Cadence is a major component of individual writers' styles. A cadence group is a coherent group of words spoken as a single rhythmical unit, such as a prepositional phrase, "of parting day" or a noun phrase, "our inalienable rights."
(plural: caesurae): A pause separating phrases within lines of poetry--an important part of poetic rhythm. The term caesura comes from the Latin "a cutting" or "a slicing." Some editors will indicate a caesura by inserting a slash (/) in the middle of a poetic line. Others insert extra space in this location. Others do not indicate the caesura typographically at all.
An expression formed by individually translating parts of a longer foreign expression and then combining them in a way that may or may not make literal sense in the new language. Algeo provides the example of the English phrase trial balloon, which is a calque for the French ballon d'essai (Algeo 323).
In medieval manuscripts, this is (as Kathleen Scott states), "Decorative work, usually developing from or used to make up an important or introductory initial, or developing from ascenders at the top of the page and descenders at the bottom of the justified text; a series of strokes made by holding a quill constant at one angle to produce broader and narrower lines, which in combination appear to overlap one another to form strap-work" (Scott 370).
A bibliographical term referring to a leaf which is substituted for one removed by the printers because of an error. For instance, the first quarto of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida has a title page existing in both cancelled and uncancelled states, leaving modern readers in some doubt as to whether the play should be considered a comedy, history, or tragedy.
(from Grk kanon, meaning "reed" or "measuring rod"): Canon has three general meanings. (1) An approved or traditional collection of works. Originally, the term "canon" applied to the list of books to be included as authentic biblical doctrine in the Hebrew and Christian Bible, as opposed to apocryphal works (works of dubious, mysterious or uncertain origin). Click here for more information. (2) Today, literature students typically use the word canon to refer to those works in anthologies that have come to be considered standard or traditionally included in the classroom and published textbooks. In this sense, "the canon" denotes the entire body of literature traditionally thought to be suitable for admiration and study. (3) In addition, the word canon refers to the writings of an author that generally are accepted as genuine, such as the "Chaucer canon" or the "Shakespeare canon."
A hymn or religious song using words from any part of the Bible except the Psalms.
A sub-division of an epic or narrative poem comparable to a chapter in a novel. Examples include the divisions in Dante's Divine Comedy, Lord Byron's Childe Harold, or Spenser's Faerie Queene. Cf. fit.
In general, the term has three meanings. (1) It refers generally to the words of a Provençal or Italian song. (2) More specifically, an Italian or Provençal song relating to love or the praise of beauty is a canzone. (3) Poems in English that bear some similarity to Provençal lyrics are called canzones--such as Auden's unrhymed poem entitled "Canzone," which uses the end words of the first twelve-line stanza in each of the following stanzas.
A narrative, usually autobiographical in origin, concerning colonials or settlers who are captured by Amerindian or aboriginal tribes and live among them for some time before gaining freedom. An example would be Mary Rowlandson's A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, which details her Indian captivity among the Wampanoag tribe in the late seventeenth century. Contrast with escape literature and slave narrative.
(also called the Four Pagan Virtues): In contrast to the three spiritual or Christian virtues of fides (faith), spes (hope), and caritas (love) espoused in the New Testament, the four cardinal virtues consisted of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. Theologians like Saint Augustine argued Christians alone monopolized faith in a true God, hope of a real afterlife, and the ability to love human beings not for their own sake, but as a manifestation of God's creation.
Literally, the phrase is Latin for "seize the day," from carpere (to pluck, harvest, or grab) and the accusative form of die (day). The term refers to a common moral or theme in classical literature that the reader should make the most out of life and should enjoy it before it ends. Poetry or literature that illustrates this moral is often called poetry or literature of the "carpe diem" tradition. Examples include Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," and Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time." Cf. Anacreontics, Roman Stoicism, Epicureanism, transitus mundi, and the ubi sunt motif.
The inflectional form of a noun, pronoun, or (in some languages) adjective that shows how the word relates to the verb or to other nouns of the same clause. For instance, them is the objective case of they, and their is the possessive case of they. Common cases include the nominative, the accusative, the genitive, the dative, the ablative, the vocative, and the instrumental forms. Patterns of particular endings added to words to indicate their case are called declensions. Click here for expanded information.
A dialect spoken by specific hereditary classes in a society. Often the use of caste dialect marks the speaker as part of that particular class.
(Grk. "misuse"): A completely impossible figure of speech or an implied metaphor that results from combining other extreme figures of speech such as anthimeria, hyperbole, synaesthesia, and metonymy. The results in each case are so unique that it is hard to state a general figure of speech that embodies all of the possible results. It is far easier to give examples. For instance, Hamlet says of Gertrude, "I will speak daggers to her."
In poetry, a catalectic line is a truncated line in which one or more unstressed syllables have been dropped. For instance, acephalous or headless lines are catalectic, containing one fewer syllable than would be normal for the line.
In poetry, a catalectic line is shortened or truncated so that unstressed syllables drop from a line. If catalexis occurs at the start of a line, that line is said to be acephalous or headless. See catalectic..
Creating long lists for poetic or rhetorical effect. The technique is common in epic literature, where conventionally the poet would devise long lists of famous princes, aristocrats, warriors, and mythic heroes to be lined up in battle and slaughtered.
The "turning downward" of the plot in a classical tragedy. By tradition, the catastrophe occurs in the fourth act of the play after the climax. (See tragedy.) Freytag's pyramid illustrates visually the normal charting of the catastrophe in a plotlin
This phrase comes from printing; it refers to a trick printers would use to keep pages in their proper order. The printer would print a specific word below the text at the bottom of a page. This word would match the first word on the next page.
According to Aristotle, catharsis is the marking feature and ultimate end of any tragic artistic work. He writes in his Poetics (c. 350 BCE): "Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; . . . through pity [eleos] and fear [phobos] effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions" (Book 6.2).
Another term for tail-rhyme or rime couée. See discussion under tail-rhyme.
A follower of Charles I of England (ruled c. 1625-49) in his struggles with the Puritan-dominated parliament. The term is used in contrast with Roundheads, his Puritan opponents. Cavaliers were primarily wealthy aristocrats and courtiers. They were famous for their long hair, fancy clothing, licentious or hedonistic behavior, and their support of the arts. See Cavalier drama and Cavalier poets, below. Ultimately, Cromwell led the Roundheads in a coup d'état and established a Puritan dictatorship in England, leading to the end of the English Renaissance and its artistic, scientific, and cultural achievements. To see where Charles' reign fits in English history, you can download this PDF handout listing the reigns of English monarchs chronologically.
A form of English drama comprising court plays that the Queen gave patronage to in the 1630s. Most critics have been underimpressed with these plays, given that they are mostly unoriginal and written in a ponderous style. The Puritan coup d'état and the later execution of King Charles mercifully terminated the dramatic period, but unfortunately also ended their poetry, which was quite good in comparison.
A group of Cavalier English lyric poets who supported King Charles I and wrote during his reign. The major Cavalier poets included Carew, Waller, Lovelace, Sir John Suckling, and Herrick. They largely abandoned the sonnet form favored for a century earlier, but they still focused on the themes of love and sensuality and their work illustrates "technical virtuosity" as J. A. Cuddon put it (125). They show strong signs of Ben Jonson's influence.
A diacritical mark used in several languages, such as the ç in French.
The hollow area beneath a Renaissance stage--known in Renaissance slang as "hell" and entered through a trapdoor called a "hellmouth." The voice of the ghost comes from this area in Hamlet, which has led to scholarly discussion concerning whether or not the ghost is really Hamlet's father or a demon in disguise.
A branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Celtic includes Welsh and Breton. Celtic languages are geographically linked to western Europe, and they come in two general flavors, goidelic (or Q-celtic) and brythonic (or P-celtic).
A literary movement involving increased interest in Welsh, Scottish, and Irish culture, myths, legends, and literature.. It began in the late 1700s and continues to this day. Thomas Gray's Pindaric ode The Bard (1757) and Ieuan Brydydd's publication of Some Specimens of the Poetry of the Ancient Welsh Bards (1764) mark its emergence, and Charlotte Guest's translation of The Mabinogion in 1839 marks its continued rise. Matthew Arnold's lectures on Celtic literature at Oxford helped promote the foundation of a Chair of Celtic at that school in 1877. The Celtic Revival influenced Thomas Love Peacock, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and W. B. Yeats, and probably lead to the creation of the Abbey Theatre. A continuing part of the Celtic Revival is the Irish Literary Renaissance, a surge of extraordinary Irish talent in the late nineteenth and twentieth century including Bram Stoker, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and Seamus Heaney.
The act of hiding, removing, altering or destroying copies of art or writing so that general public access to it is partially or completely limited. Contrast with bowdlerization. Click here to download a PDF handout discussing censorship in great detail. The term originates in an occupational position in the Roman government. After the fifth century BCE, Rome commissioned "censors." These censors at first were limited to conducting the census for tax estimations, but in latter times, their job was to impose moral standards for citizenship, including the removal of unsavory literature. See also the Censorship Ordinance of 1559 and the Profanity Act of 1606.
This law under Queen Elizabeth required the political censorship of public plays and all printed materials in matters of religion and the government. The Master of Revels was appointed to monitor and control such material. All of Shakespeare's early works were written under this act. We can see signs of alteration in his early works to conform to the requirements of the censors. Contrast with the Profanity Act of 1606.
One of the two main branches of Indo-European languages. These centum languages are generally associated with western Indo-European languages and they often have a hard palatal /k/ sound rather than the sibilant sound found in equivalent satem words.
An elaborate cosmological model of the universe common in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The Great Chain of Being was a permanently fixed hierarchy with the Judeo-Christian God at the top of the chain and inanimate objects like stones and mud at the bottom. Intermediate beings and objects, such as angels, humans, animals, and plants, were arrayed in descending order of intelligence, authority, and capability between these two extremes.
(French, "song of deeds"): These chansons are lengthy Old French poems written between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries glorifying Carolingian noblemen and their feudal lords. The chansons de geste combine history and legend. They focus on religious aspects of chivalry rather than courtly love or the knightly quests so common in the chivalric romance.
(French, "song to people"): Old French songs or poems in dialogue form. Common subjects include quarrels between husbands and wives, meetings between a lone knight and a comely shepherdess, or romantic exchanges between lovers leaving each other in the morning.
Any representation of an individual being presented in a dramatic or narrative work through extended dramatic or verbal representation. The reader can interpret characters as endowed with moral and dispositional qualities expressed in what they say (dialogue) and what they do (action).
An author or poet's use of description, dialogue, dialect, and action to create in the reader an emotional or intellectual reaction to a character or to make the character more vivid and realistic. Careful readers note each character's attitude and thoughts, actions and reaction, as well as any language that reveals geographic, social, or cultural background.
In the Renaissance, experimental revivals and new word formations that were consciously designed to imitate the sounds, the "feel," and verbal patterns from an older century--a verbal or grammatical anachronism. Spenser uses many Chaucerisms in The Fairie Queene.
As summarized by Baugh, a proposed method for indicating long vowels and standardizing spelling first suggested by Sir John Cheke in Renaissance orthography. Cheke would double vowels to indicate a long sound. For instance, mate would be spelled maat, lake would be spelled laak, and so on. Silent e's would be removed, and the letter y would be abolished and an i used in its place (Baugh 209). It did not catch on.
(from Greek, "cross" or "x"): A literary scheme involving a specific inversion of word order. It involves taking parallelism and deliberately turning it inside out, creating a "crisscross" pattern.
Twentieth- and twenty-first-century writings and poetry by Mexican-American immigrants or their children--usually in English with short sections or phrases in Spanish.
An idealized code of military and social behavior for the aristocracy in the late medieval period. The word "chivalry" comes from Old French cheval (horse), and chivalry literally means "horsemanship."
(often Latinized as choragus): A sponsor or patron of a play in classical Greece. Often this sponsor was honored by serving as the leader of the chorus (see below).
Another term for trochee
Any character in any type of narrative literature that serves the same purpose as a chorus in drama by remaining detached from the main action and commenting upon or explaining this action to the audience.
(1) A group of singers who stand alongside or off stage from the principal performers in a dramatic or musical performance. (2) The song or refrain that this group of singers sings. In ancient Greece, the chorus was originally a group of male singers and dancers (choreuti) who participated in religious festivals and dramatic performances by singing commenting on the deeds of the characters and interpreting the significance of the events within the play.
A novel that focuses on Christianity, evangelism, or conversion stories. Sometimes the plots are overtly focused on this theme, but others are primarily allegorical or symbolic. Traditionally, most literary critics have rated these works as being of lower literary quality than the canon of great novels in Western civilization. Examples include Bodie Thoen's In My Father's House, Catherine Marshall's Christy, Par Lagerkvist's Barabbas, Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis, and Lloyd C. Douglas's The Robe.
In literary studies, the term christological has been commandeered to refer to (1) an object, person, or figure that represents Christ allegorically or symbolically, or (2) any similar object, person, or figure with qualities generally reminiscent of Christ.
A history or a record of events. It refers to any systematic account or narration of events that makes minimal attempt to interpret, question, or analyze that history.
(Greek: "logic of time"): The order in which events happen, especially when emphasizing a cause-effect relationship in history or in a narrative.
Medieval law courts were divided into civil courts that tried public offenses and ecclesiastical courts that tried offenses against the church. Summoners were minor church officials whose duties included summoning offenders to appear before the church and receive sentence.
A five-line stanza with varied meter and rhyme scheme, possibly of medieval origin but definitely influenced after 1909 by Japanese poetic forms such as the tanka. Most modern cinquains are now based on the form standardized by an American poet, Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1918), in which each unrhymed line has a fixed number of syllables--respectively two, four, six, eight, and two syllables in each line--for a rigid total of 22 syllables.
A type of artistic structure in which a sense of completeness or closure does not originate in coming to a "conclusion" that breaks with the earlier story; instead, the sense of closure originates in the way the end of a piece returns to subject-matter, wording, or phrasing found at the beginning of the narrative, play, or poem.
A semantic change caused because one word sounds similar to another.
The term in Western culture is usually used in reference to the art, architecture, drama, philosophy, literature, and history surrounding the Greeks and Romans between 1000 BCE and 410 BCE. Works created during the Greco-Roman period are often called classics.
A funny poem of closed-form with four lines rhyming ABAB, usually about a famous person from history or literature.
A hackneyed or trite phrase that has become overused. Clichés are considered bad writing and bad literature.
Cliché rhymes are rhymes that are considered trite or predictable. They include love and dove, moon and June, trees and breeze.
A sound common in some non-Indo-European languages in Polynesia made by clucking the tongue or drawing in air with the tongue rather than expelling it from the lungs--such as the sound represented by the letter combination tsk-tsk.
A melodramatic narrative (especially in films, magazines, or serially published novels) in which each section "ends" at a suspenseful or dramatic moment, ensuring that the audience will watch the next film or read the next installment to find out what happens.
(From Greek word for "ladder"): The moment in a play, novel, short story, or narrative poem at which the crisis reaches its point of greatest intensity and is thereafter resolved.
Also known as auxesis and crescendo, this refers to an artistic arrangement of a list of items so that they appear in a sequence of increasing importance. See rhetorical schemes for more information. The opposite of climax is bathos.
To form a word by abbreviating a longer expression, or a word formed by the same process. For instance, the word auto (as in "auto shop") is a clipped form of automobile.
Reading a piece of literature carefully, bit by bit, in order to analyze the significance of every individual word, image, and artistic ornament.
Poetry written in a a specific or traditional pattern according to the required rhyme, meter, line length, line groupings, and number of lines within a genre of poetry.
(Latin clausura, "a closing"): Closure has two common meanings. First, it means a sense of completion or finality at the conclusion of play or narrative work--especially a feeling in the audience that all the problems have been resolved satisfactorily.

Secondly, some critics use the term "closure" as a derogatory term to imply the reduction of a work's meanings to a single and complete sense that excludes the claims of other interpretations.
(1) A fool or rural bumpkin in Shakespearean vocabulary. Examples of this type of clown include Lance, Bottom, Dogberry, and other Shakespearean characters. (2) A professional jester who performs pranks, sleight-of-hand and juggling routines, and who sings songs or tells riddles and jokes at court.
In bilingual or multilingual speech, rapidly changing from the vocabulary, grammar, and patterns of one language to another--often in mid-sentence.
Cognates are words that (1) match each other to some degree in sound and meaning, (2) come from a common root in an older language, but (3) did not actually serve as a root for each other.
A noun such as team or pair that technically refers to a collective group of individuals or individual items. What makes them tricky in grammar? They can be singular or plural (e.g., one team, two teams, or one pair, two pairs.)
In twentieth-century Jungian Psychology, this term refers to a shared group of archetypes (atavistic and universal images, cultural symbols, and recurring situations dealing with the fundamental facts of human life) passed along to each generation to the next in folklore and stories or generated anew by the way must face similar problems to those our ancestors faced.
The frequency or tendency some words have to combine with each other. For instance, Algeo notes that the phrases "tall person" and "high mountain" seem to fit together readily without sounding strange.
A word or phrase used everyday in plain and relaxed speech, but rarely found in formal writing. (Compare with cliché, jargon and slang.)
American and British historians use this term somewhat differently. American scholars usually use the term "colonial period" to refer to the years in the American colonies before the American Revolution against the British Monarchy--usually dating it from 1607 (when Jamestown was founded) to 1787 (when Congress ratified the Federal Constitution). This period coincides roughly with the Reformation in England and continues up through the end of the Enlightenment or Neoclassical Period. American writers from the colonial period include Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Anne Bradstreet.
The term refers broadly and generally to the habit of powerful civilizations to "colonize" less powerful ones. On the obvious level, this process can take the form of a literal geographic occupation, outright enslavement, religious conversion at gun-point, or forced assimilation of native peoples.
(from Greek: komos, "songs of merrimakers"): In the original meaning of the word, comedy referred to a genre of drama during the Dionysia festivals of ancient Athens. The first comedies were loud and boisterous drunken affairs, as the word's etymology suggests. Later, in medieval and Renaissance use, the word comedy came to mean any play or narrative poem in which the main characters manage to avert an impending disaster and have a happy ending.
A modern form of comedy dramatizing the meaninglessness, uncertainty, and pointless absurdity of human existence. A famous example is Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Cf. existentialism.
A Renaissance drama in which numerous characters appear as the embodiment of stereotypical "types" of people, each character having the physiological and behavioral traits associated with a specific humor in the human body. The majority of the cast consists of such stock characters. (See "humors, bodily" for more information.)
A form of comedy consisting of five or three acts in which the attitudes and customs of a society are critiqued and satirized according to high standards of intellect and morality. The dialogue is usually clever and sophisticated, but often risqué. Characters are valued according to their linguistic and intellectual prowess.
An outgrowth of the eighteenth-century ballad operas, in which new or original music is composed specially for the lyrics. (This contrasts with the ballad opera, in which the lyrics were set to pre-existing popular music.)
A humorous scene, incident, character, or bit of dialogue occurring after some serious or tragic moment. Comic relief is deliberately designed to relieve emotional intensity and simultaneously heighten and highlight the seriousness or tragedy of the action. Macbeth contains Shakespeare's most famous example of comic relief in the form of a drunken porter.
A novel in which an adolescent protagonist comes to adulthood by a process of experience and disillusionment. This character loses his or her innocence, discovers that previous preconceptions are false, or has the security of childhood torn away, but usually matures and strengthens by this process.
(Latin: "companionship" or "band"): The term describes the tribal structure of the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic tribes in which groups of men would swear fealty to a hlaford (lord) in exchange for food, mead, and heriot, the loan of fine armor and weaponry. The men who swore such an oath were called thegns (roughly akin to modern Scottish "thane"), and they vowed to fight for their lord in battle.
A genre of Italian farce from the sixteenth-century characterized by stock characters, stock situations, and spontaneous dialogue. Typically, the plot is an intrigue plot and it involves a soubrette who aids two young lovers in foiling the rigid constraints of their parents. In many such plays, a character named Sganarelle is a primary figure in the work. Often there is a zani, or foolish-servant, who provides physical comedy in contrast to the anguish of the young lovers. In the end, the couple achieves a happy marriage.
Also called common meter, common measure consists of closed poetic quatrains rhyming ABAB or ABCB, in which the lines of iambic tetrameter (eight syllables) alternate with lines of iambic trimeter (six syllables). This pattern is most often associated with ballads (see above), and it is occasionally referred to as "ballad measure."
Another term for common measure (see above).
The linguistic term for an eponym--a common word that is derived from the proper name of a person or place. For instance, the sandwich gained its name from its inventor, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. The word lynch comes from Captain William Lynch, who led bands of vigilantes to hang hoboes and bums residing near Pittsylvania County.
The second aspect of Aristotle's requirements for a tragedy. By completeness, Aristotle emphasizes the logic, wholeness, and closure necessary to satisfy the audience.
(in architecture, often called a chimera after the Greek monster): The term is one mythologists use to describe the fantastical creatures in Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and medieval European legends in which the beast is composed of the body-parts of various animals.
A typesetter in a Renaissance print shop. To speed the printing process, most of Shakespeare's plays appear to have been set by multiple compositors. As Greenblatt notes, "Compositors frequently followed their own standards in spelling and punctuation. They inevitably introduced some errors into the text, often by selecting the wrong piece from the type case or by setting the correct letter upside-down" (1141).
A term from linguistics used to describe the creation of a new word ("neologism") that comes about by taking two common words and sticking them together to create a brand new concept.
In addition to trial by ordeal, compurgation was the medieval law practice among Christianized Anglo-Saxon tribes to determine innocence. A man accused of a crime would publicly swear to his innocence. The judge then gave the defendant thirty days to to collect a number of "oath-helpers" who would also swear to his innocence (or at least his good character).
(also called a metaphysical conceit): An elaborate or unusual comparison--especially one using unlikely metaphors, simile, hyperbole, and contradiction. Before the beginning of the seventeenth century, the term conceit was a synonym for "thought" and roughly equivalent to "idea" or "concept."
Language that describes qualities that can be perceived with the five senses as opposed to using abstract or generalized language. For instance, calling a fruit "pleasant" or "good" is abstract, while calling a fruit "cool" or "sweet" is concrete.
Poetry that draws much of its power from the way the text appears situated on the page. The actual shape of the lines of text may create a swan's neck, an altar, a geometric pattern, or a set of wings, which in some direct way connects to the meaning of the words. Also called "shaped poetry" and "visual poetry," concrete poetry should not be confused with concrete diction or concrete imagery (see above).
In its more restricted literary sense, a conflation is a version of a play or narrative that later editors create by combining the text from more than one substantive edition. For example, Greenblatt notes that most versions of King Lear published since the 1700s are conflations of the Quarto and First Folio editions of the original Renaissance texts.
The opposition between two characters (such as a protagonist and an antagonist), between two large groups of people, or between the protagonist and a larger problem such as forces of nature, ideas, public mores, and so on.
Five ancient Chinese writings commonly attributed to Confucius, though it is likely they are actually compilations of traditional material predating him. The five classics include the I Ching (The Book of Changes), the Shu Ching (The Book of History), the Shih Ching, (The Book of Odes), the Record of Rites (Li Chi), and the Spring and Autumn Annals.
The inflection of a verb to show its person, number, mood, or tense.
The extra tinge or taint of meaning each word carries beyond the minimal, strict definition found in a dictionary. For instance, the terms civil war, revolution and rebellion have the same denotation; they all refer to an attempt at social or political change.
A special type of alliteration in which the repeated pattern of consonants is marked by changes in the intervening vowels. As M. H. Abrams illustrates in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, examples include linger, longer, and languor or rider, reader, raider, and ruder.
A speech sound that is not a vowel.
Uninflected use of the verb be to indicate habitual or frequent action. This grammatical structure is characteristic of Black Vernacular. An example would be as follows: "What you be doing on Thursdays?" "I be working every afternoon."
Literature written "at the present moment." Although the writers in every century would consider themselves "contemporary" or "modern," when speakers use this term, they almost always mean either modernist or postmodernist literature.
A unique or original symbol an author creates within the context of an individual work or an author's collected works.
The squeezing together of sounds or words--especially when one word blurs into another--during fast or informal speech. Contractions such as I'm (I am), he's (he is), and they're (they are) are common in verbal communication, but they are often considered too loose for more formal writing.
A thematic principle involving situational irony in which a punishment's nature corresponds exactly to the nature of a crime. Much of Dante's Inferno revolves around elaborate contrapasso.
Another term for a minimal pair.
A specific text upon which a modern edition is based.
A common feature that has become traditional or expected within a specific genre (category) of literature or film. In Harlequin romances, it is conventional to focus on a male and female character who struggle through misunderstandings and difficulties until they fall in love.
A conventional linguistic trait is an arbitrary one learned from others, not one determined by some natural law or genetic inheritance. Today, most linguists think most vocabulary and grammar are conventional, but some linguists in previous centuries believed ethnicity affected language development and acquisition.
A religious play performed outdoors in the medieval period that enacts an event from the Bible, such as the story of Adam and Eve, Noah's flood, the crucifixion, and so on. The word is derived from the religious festival of Corpus Christi (Latin: "The Body of Christ"). See also cycle and mystery play.
An integral part of the medieval and Renaissance model of the universe known as the "Chain of Being." The idea was that different links on the Chain of Being were interconnected and had a sort of sympathetic correspondence to each other.
Another term for situational irony--especially situational irony connected to a fatalistic or pessimistic view of life. See discussion under irony, below.
The Greek word for the elevator-shoes worn by important actors on stage. See discussion under buskins.
One of the most important collections of Old and Middle English texts.
The Middle English manuscript that includes Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Legend of Saint Erkenwald.
The Old English manuscript that includes The Passion of Saint Christopher, The Wonders of the East, and The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle, Beowulf, and the Old English translation of Judith.
A technique of determining stylistic qualities of a piece of writing by counting the numbers of words in paragraphs or sentences, and determining the average number of modifiers, average word lengths, and so on.
Two lines--the second line immediately following the first--of the same metrical length that end in a rhyme to form a complete unit. Geoffrey Chaucer and other writers helped popularize the form in English poetry in the fourteenth century.
In medieval convention, a court of love is an assemblage of women presided over by a queen or noblewoman. At this mock-court, various young knights or courtiers are summoned to court and put on "trial" by the ladies for their crimes against love.
(Medieval French: fin amour or amour courtois): Possibly a cultural trope in the late twelfth-century, or possibly a literary convention that captured popular imagination, courtly love refers to a code of behavior that gave rise to modern ideas of chivalrous romance. The term itself was popularized by C. S. Lewis' and Gaston Paris' scholarly studies, but its historical existence remains contested in critical circles.
A sub-category of the "bed-trick," this is a folk motif in which the position of a cradle in a dark room leads one character to climb into bed with the wrong sexual partner. It appears prominently in Chaucer's "The Reeve's Tale." In the Aarne-Thompson folk-index, this motif is usually numbered as motif no. 1363.
A native language combining the traits of multiple languages, i.e., an advanced and fully developed pidgin.
Another term for rhetorical climax.
plural: crises): The turning point of uncertainty and tension resulting from earlier conflict in a plot. At the moment of crisis in a story, it is unclear if the protagonist will succeed or fail in his struggle. The crisis usually leads to or overlaps with the climax of a story, though some critics use the two terms synonymously.
Careful analysis of an essay's structure and logic in order to determine the validity of an argument. Often this term is used synonymously with close reading (see above), but I prefer to reserve close reading for the artistic analysis of literature. Click here for more information about critical reading. Cf. close reading.
In long couplets, especially hexameter lines, sufficient room in the line allows a poet to use rhymes in the middle of the line as well as at the end of each line. Swinburne's "Hymn to Proserpine" illustrates its use:
Related to the dead, the grave, the underworld, or the fertility of the earth. In Greek mythology, the Greeks venerated three categories of spirits: (1) the Olympian gods, who were worshipped in public ceremonies--often outdoors on the east side of large columned temples in the agora, (2) ancestral heroes like Theseus and Hercules, who were often worshipped only in local shrines or at specific burial mounds, (3) cthonic spirits,
cthonic spirits
(a) earth-gods and death-gods like Hades, Hecate, and Persephone; (b) lesser-known (and often nameless) spirits of the departed; (c) dark and bloody spirits of vengeance like the Furies and Nemesis, and (d) (especially in Minoan tradition) serpents, which were revered as intermediaries between the surface world of the living and the subterranean realm of the dead.
(also spelled Cthulu and Kutulu, pronounced various ways): Strongly influential in pulp science fiction and early twentieth-century horror stories, the Cthulhu mythos revolves around a pantheon of malign alien beings worshipped as gods by half-breed cultists. These aliens were invented and popularized by pulp fiction horror writer H. P. Lovecraft.
A symbol widely or generally accepted as meaning something specific within an entire culture or social group, as opposed to a contextual symbol created by a single author that has meaning only within a single work or group of works.
(1) A loose school of science fiction authors including William Gibson, Bruce Stirling, Rudy Rucker, and Neal Stephenson who rose in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. (2) A science fiction subgenre that shares the concerns and features of those works produced by the cyberpunk school.
In general use, a literary cycle is any group of closely related works. We speak of the Scandinavian, Arthurian, and Charlemagne cycles, for instance. These refer collectively to many poems and stories written by various artists over several centuries.
A Welsh professional storyteller. The equivalent Irish term is an ollamh. Cf. bard and sceop.
A syllabic verse form in ancient Welsh poetry. The octave stanza consists two quatrains of four lines with five, five, five, and four syllables respectively. The rhyme scheme is AAAx AAAx, with X's indicating unrhymed lines.
A syllabic verse form in ancient Welsh poetry in which some lines are composed of nine syllables. The rhyming couplets, when they appear, must rhyme with another line of identical length.
(pronounced kun HAN neth): A Welsh term that loosely denotes sound similarities peculiar to Welsh poetry, especially alliteration and internal rhyme. Typically, the consonants in one word or line repeat in the same pattern at the beginning and end of the next word or line--but the vowel sounds between the consonants change slightly.
A king, another term for an Anglo-Saxon hlaford.
A Welsh verse form consisting of an octave stanza of six rhyming or alliterating seven-syllable lines plus a couplet. The second line of the couplet rhymes with the first six lines. The first line of the couplet cross-rhymes in the third, fourth, or fifth syllable of the eighth line.
The alphabet used to write Russian, Serbian, and Bulgarian. The name comes from the Greek missionary Saint Cyril, who traveled from Byzantium to convert Slavic races to Christianity.
A fourteenth-century metrical form of Welsh poetry consisting of rhyming couplets with each line having seven syllables. The genre is associated with the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym.
In Welsh prosody, the term refers to a form of light verse consisting of a single couplet with seventeen syllables. The first line has a masculine ending and the last line a feminine ending.
A type of Welsh verse consisting of a sestet stanza in which the syllable count is eight, eight, seven, eight, eight, and seven respectively. The first two lines rhyme and cross-rhyme with the middle syllable of the sixth line and the third and sixth lines rhyme with each other. Rime coueé or tail-rhyme has a similar scheme.
A foot consisting of three syllables where the first is long or stressed and the second two are short or unstressed e.g. as in 'MURmuring'.
Dactylic Hexameter
Meter used in Greek epic poetry. Homer wrote the Odyssey and the Iliad in unrhymed dactylic hexameters. See meter. A more recent example is Evangeline by Longfellow.
Dactylic Meter
A front stressed meter comprised of three syllables per foot. See meter.
Dada Poetry
Poetry which attempts to deny sense and reason. Dada comes from the French for 'hobby-horse' - a word originally selected at random from the dictionary. Dada was the forerunner of surrealist poetry.
Dead Metaphor
A metaphor which has lost its meaning due to overuse e.g. 'to beat about the bush' or 'one fell swoop'. See metaphor.
Decasyllabic Line
A line with ten syllables e.g. iambic pentameter. See meter.
Form of literary criticism developed by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida which stated that literary texts (including poems) have no fixed or definitive meaning but, instead, are full of contradictions and inconsistencies and are open to a variety of interpretations.
The appropriate adherence to traditional poetic form and content.
Descriptive Verse
Verse which paints a picture e.g. the first 3 stanzas of Thomas Hardy's early poem Domicilium - which describes the cottage at Higher Bockhampton where he was born.
Dialect Verse
Verse which employs national or regional dialects e.g. Robert Burns (Scottish), William Barnes (Dorset), Tennyson (Lincolnshire - see Northern Farmer)
A book explaining the meaning of words, organised in alphabetical order.
Didactic Verse
Verse which attempts to instruct or educate - as opposed to pure poetry. An example of didactic verse is Alexander Pope's Essay on Man which is a moral treatise. Satirical verse is often indirectly didactic as, in ridiculing something, it attempts to show us an alternative way to go.
A line of poetry consisting of two metrical feet. Dimeters are comparatively rare but an example of an iambic dimeter is The Robin by Thomas Hardy. An example of a dactylic dimeter is The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson.
Greek measure consisting of two metrical feet, which are taken as a single unit.
Poem of lamentation.
Two spondees combined into a single unit.
Dissociation of
Term invented by T.S. Eliot to describe (what he saw as) the split between thought and feeling which occurred in English poetry after the metaphysical poets.
The deliberate use of inharmonious syllables/words/phrases in order to create a harsh-toned effect. Walt Whitman employs dissonance in his poem To a Locomotive in Winter.
A two line Greek stanza. The distich is particularly associated with Greek elegiac verse and consists of one line of dactylic hexameter and one line of dactylic pentameter.
Distributed Stress
When uncertainly occurs regarding which of two consecutive syllables is stressed. This is sometimes called hovering accent.
Disyllabic Foot
A foot with two syllables - as in iambic and trochaic meter.
Greek lyric poem (possibly invented by Arion) sung in honour of the God Bacchus. Alexander's Feast by John Dryden is a more recent example.
Poor quality poetry. The Scottish poet William McGonagall is famous for his doggerel and enjoys the dubious distinction of being regarded as the world's worst poet.
Double Dactyl
Difficult light verse form invented by the American poet Anthony Hecht, consisting of two quatrains where the first three lines are two dactyls e.g. 'Higgledy-piggledy' and the fourth is a dactyl and a macron. The last word of each quatrain must also rhyme.
Double Rhymes
Double or disyllabic rhymes occur when the final two syllables of different words chime together - as in 'spender' and 'slender'.
Dramatic Monologue
Poem narrated by an imaginary character (not the poet) in the manner of a speech from a play. Dramatic monologue poems were particularly developed during the 19th century by poets such as Tennyson, Hardy and most notably Robert Browning (e.g. My Last Duchess). The technique was then used to great effect by Eliot (e.g. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock) and Pound.
Dymock Poets
Group of poets including Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Wilfred Gibson, Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater and Lascelles Abercrombie. They gathered together in the Gloucestershire village of Dymock to write and discuss poetry in the years immediately preceding the 1st World War.
See also Georgian Poets.
Echo Verse
Type of verse where the final syllable of each line is repeated as an 'echo' on the line below e.g. Herbert's poem Heaven.
Short pastoral poem originally written by Virgil who was imitating the idylls of Theocritus. Eclogues may also express religious or ethical themes. A modern example of the form is Eclogue from Iceland by Louis MacNeice. The eclogue is sometimes known as the bucolic.
Egotistical Sublime
Term coined by John Keats to describe (what he saw as) Wordsworth's self-aggrandising style.
Welsh bardic festival where poets and musicians competed for prizes. See Welsh forms.
Poetry (or other literature) written about works of art e.g. Musée des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden or Pictures from Brueghel by William Carlos Williams
Classical Greek verse form composed of alternating lines of dactylic hexameter and dactylic pentameter.
Elegiac Stanza
A quatrain written in iambic pentameters and rhyming a-b-a-b.
Poem written to lament the dead e.g. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray. Such a poem would employ a mournful or elegiac tone. Other examples of elegy include: Lycidas by Milton, In Memoriam by Tennyson, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd by Whitman (for Abraham Lincoln) and In Memory of W. B. Yeats by Auden. A more modern example of elegy is V by Tony Harrison.
The suppression of a vowel or syllable for metrical purposes. E.g. 'The sedge has wither'd from the lake' from La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Keats. The elision, in this case, ensures that the line remains octosyllabic. Modern poets no longer use elision. See also synalepha.
Elizabethan Poets
Group of poets including Shakespeare, Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir Philip Sidney and Ben Jonson who were writing during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603).
Omission from a sentence of words needed to complete its construction, but without a loss of sense.
Emotive Language
Language which is charged with emotion e.g. love, hate, fear etc. Sometimes associated with inferior poetry - especially that produced by angst-ridden teenagers.
Encomiastic Verse
Poems written to praise or glorify people, objects or abstract ideas e.g. Wordsworth's Ode to Duty.
End Stopped Line
A line of verse which ends with a grammatical break such as a coma, colon, semi-colon or full stop etc. Compare this with enjambment - see below.
Poem of Welsh Celtic origin. There are 8 separate englyn forms including the cyrch, the milwr, the unodl union, the unodl crwc, the proest dalgon, the lleddfbroest, the proest gadwynog and the penfyr. The example below is a 30 syllable englyn arranged in lines of 10, 6, 7 and 7 - where the rhyme scheme is announced by the sixth syllable of the first line:

At the remote, unmanned level crossing
The driver puts his hand
On the steering wheel and
Carries out what he had planned.
The continuation of a sentence or phrase across a line break - as opposed to an end-stopped line.
Short stanza concluding a ballade or sestina. See Ballade.
Epic Simile
Extended or elaborate simile; sometimes known as the Homeric simile. See simile.
Epic Verse
Poetry written on a grand scale and usually narrative in nature e.g. The Odyssey by Homer. English examples of epic verse include The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser or Paradise Lost by John Milton. Epic verse is not widely read today. The novel has now superseded it as the major narrative form in literature.
Short, pithy poem - usually of a humorous nature. Ben Jonson wrote a series of epigrams e.g.

He that fears death, or mourns it, in the just,
Shows in the resurrection little trust.
The concluding section of a poem or literary work e.g. Epilogue to Asolando by Robert Browning. See also prologue.
Poem written in the form of a letter e.g. Epistle To Dr Arbuthnot by Pope.
A short poem written to be carved on a gravestone. W.B.Yeats wrote his own epitaph e.g.

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!
A poem written to celebrate a marriage. One of the best known epithalamions was written by Edmund Spenser in 1594 on the occasion of his marriage to Elizabeth Boyle. See also prothalamion.
Adjective expressing quality or attribute. Homer frequently linked adjectives and nouns to create epithets e.g. 'swift-footed Achilles' or 'rosy-fingered dawn'.
Greek metrical foot containing one short/unstressed syllable and three long/stressed syllables. Variations include: first, second, third or fourth epitrites, depending on the position of the unstressed syllable.
The third stanza of a Pindaric ode. See ode.
In quantitative verse, the rule that two short syllables equal one long syllable. See mora.
Erotic Poetry
Explicit poetry dealing with sex or sexual love e.g. the work of Sappho or Anacreon, Venus and Adonis by Shakespeare or Rossetti's collection The House of Life. Love poetry, by contrast, deals with the more spiritual side of love.
Pleasing sound; usually of words or phrases
An improvised poem e.g. Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg by Wordsworth. See also impromptu.
Eye Rhyme
See spelling rhyme.
An improvised poem e.g. Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg by Wordsworth. See also impromptu.
Eye Rhyme
See spelling rhyme.