Literary terms and definitions year 1.

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Literary terms and definitions. 1. Old English Literature: (Anglo-Saxon literature): literature written in Old English. 

The most famous work of Anglo-Saxon literature period is “Beowulf”.

It falls broadly into two styles or fields of reference, the heroic Germanic and Christian.

Almost all Old English were anonymous.

2. Epic poem: traditionally, an epic poem is a long, serious, poetic narrative about a significant event, often featuring a hero. 

Before the development of writing, epic poems were memorized and played an important part in maintaining a record of the great deeds and history of the culture. Later, they were written down and the tradition for this kind of poem continued.

Epics often feature the following: 1.A hero who embodies the values of a culture or an ethnic group. 2.Hero is a legendary figure and performs deeds requiring incredible courage and strength. 3.Something vital that depends on the success of hero’s actions. 4.A broad setting, sometimes encompassing the entire world. 5.Intervention by supernatural beings. 6.The poet uses formal diction and serious tone.

 3.


Elegy: a sad poem, usually written to praise end express sorrow for someone who is dead. Although a speech at the funeral is an elegy to someone you have loved and lost to the grave. 

Elegy is a form of poetry natural to the reflective mind. It may treat of any subject, but it must treat of no subject for itself, but always and exclusively with reference to the poet. As he will feel regret for the past or desire for the future, so sorrow and love became the principal themes of the elegy. Elegy presents everything as lost and gone or absent and future.

“Deor’s Lament”

4. Prosopopoeia: is a rhetorical device in which a speaker or writer communicates to the audience by speaking as another person or object. 

It is used mostly to give another perspective on the action being described.

This term also refers to a figure of speech in which an animal or an inanimate object is ascribed human characteristics or is spoken of anthropomorphic language.

“Sonnet 129” W. Shakespeare

5. Dream vision: also called “dream allegory”; a conventional device, used in narrative verse, employed especially by medieval poets,, that presents a story as told by one who falls asleep and dreams the events of the poem.

A narrative poem, especially in medieval literature; in which the main character falls asleep and experiences event having allegorical, didactic, or moral significance..

“The Dream of the Rood”

6. Alliteration: the repetition of identical or similar sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables. 

The use of the same consonant (consonantal alliteration) or of a vowel, not necessarily the same vowel (vocalic alliteration), at the beginning of each word or each stressed syllable in a line of verse. Present in medieval literature. 1.It was used to give a rhythm and to unify the lines. 2.“Beowulf” “Brave bold Beowulf won the battle”

7. Kenning: a conventional poetic phase used for or in addition to the usual name of a person or thing, especially in Anglo-Saxon verse, as in “Beowulf”: ‘treasure giver’ – king. 

It usually consists of two words.

It replaces a regular word with a more abstract compound.

8. Caesura: a pause dividing each line, with each part having two accented syllables to help maintain the rhythm of the lines. 


9. Run-on line: (enjambment) – an incomplete syntax at the end of the line. 

The meaning runs over from one poetic line to the next, without terminal punctuation.

10. End- stopped line: a feature in poetry in which the syntactic unit (phrase, clause or sentence) corresponds to the length of a line. 11. Peace weaver: a female character who is married to a member of an enemy tribe for the purpose of establishing peace between feuding groups. 

It was hoped that relating two tribes the animosity between them would be eased as individuals would be reluctant to kill their own flesh and blood.


12. Cup- bearer: was an officer of high rank in royal courts whose duty it was to serve the drinks at the royal table. On account of the constant fear of plots and intrigues, a person must be regarded as thoroughly trustworthy to hold the position. 

He must guard against poison in the king's cup and was sometimes required to swallow some of the wine before serving it. His confidential relations with the king often gave him a position of great influence. The position of cup bearer is greatly valued and given to only a select few throughout history.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

13. Morality play: is a genre of Medieval and early Tudor theatrical entertainment. In their own time, these plays were known as interludes, a broader term given to dramas with or without a moral.

Morality plays are a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a Godly life over one of evil.

The plays were most popular in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. Having grown out of the religiously based mystery plays of the Middle Ages, they represented a shift towards a more secular base for European theatre.

Morality plays typically contain a protagonist who represents either humanity as a whole or a smaller social structure. Supporting characters are personifications of good and evil. This alignment of characters provides the play’s audience with moral guidance. Morality plays are the result of the dominant belief of the time period, that humans had a certain amount of control over their post-death fate while they were on earth.

In Everyman, perhaps the archetypal morality play, the characters take on the common pattern, representing broader ideas. Some of the characters in Everyman are God, Death, Everyman, Good-Deeds, Angel, Knowledge, Beauty, Discretion, and Strength. The personified meanings of these characters are hardly hidden. The premise of Everyman is that God, believing that the people on earth are too focused on wealth and worldly possessions, sends Death to Everyman to remind him of God's power and the importance of upholding values.

The emphasis put on morality, the seemingly vast difference between good and evil, and the strong presence of God makes Everyman one of the most concrete examples of a morality play. At the same time, most morality plays focus more on evil, while Everyman focuses more on good, highlighting sin in contrast.


14. Miracle play: also called Saint’s Play, one of three principal kinds of vernacular drama of the European Middle Ages (along with the mystery play and the morality play). A miracle play presents a real or fictitious account of the life, miracles, or martyrdom of a saint. 15. Mystery play: play focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song. They told of subjects such as the Creation, Adam and Eve, the murder of Abel, and the last judgment. 16. Psychomachia: probably the first and most influential "pure" medieval allegory. 

the poem describes the conflict of vices and virtues as a battle.

Christian faith is attacked by and defeats pagan idolatry to be cheered by a thousand Christian martyrs.

The word may be used more generally for the common theme of the "battle between good and evil"


17. Medieval romance: romance or chivalric romance is a type of prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic

stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of aknight-errant portrayed as having heroic qualities, who goes on a quest, yet it is "the emphasis on love and courtly manners distinguishes it from the chanson de geste and other kinds of epic, in which masculine military heroism predominates." 

Unlike the later form of the novel and like the chansons de geste, the genre of romance dealt with traditional themes. These were distinguished from earlier epics by heavy use of marvelous events, the elements of love, and the frequent use of a web of interwoven stories, rather than a simple plot unfolding about a main charakter.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

18. Chivalry: The medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood. 

A code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood which developed between 1170 and 1220.

10 commandments of chivalry: 1. Believe the church’s teaching and observe all the Church’s directions. 2.Defend the church. 3.Respect and defend all weaknesses. 4.Love your country. 5.Don’t die before the enemy. 6.Show no mercy to enemies. Do not hesitate to fight. 7.Perform all feudal duties as long as do not conflict with the laws of God. 8.Never lie or go back on one’s word. 9.Be generous to everyone. 10.

Always and everywhere be right and good, against enemies and justice.

19. Courtly love: a medieval European literary conception of love that emphasized nobility and chivalry. Medieval literature is filled with examples of knights setting out on adventures and performing various services for ladies because of their “courtly love”. 

an idealized and often illicit form of love celebrated in the literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in whicha knight or courtier devotes himsel f to a noblewoman who is usually married and feigns indifference to preserve her reputation.

a highly stylized code of conduct between lovers, often the subject of medieval literature.

Literary fiction.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

20. Pentagle: five pointed star that appears on Gawain’s shield. 

It represents 5 ways in which Gawain is virtuous: these are in the dexterity of his 5 fingers.

Pentagle is an appropriate representation of these 5 areas of virtue because each of the 5 fields of the pentagle transition with each other. 1.Generosity 2.Courtesy

3.Fellowship 4.Charity 5.Chastity 21. Warrior vs. Knight: 

Warrior: “Beowulf” 1.Pagan 2.Seeks for fame 3.Is not afraid of death 4.Doesn’t make mistakes 5.Material things are the most important for him 6.Has unnatural strength

Knight: “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” 1.Christian 2.Protects the good name of King 3.Is afraid of death 4.Might make mistakes 5.Material things are not important for him 6.Shows weaknesses

22. Exaggeration: representing something beyond normal bounds so that it becomes ridiculous. 23. Reversal: presenting something in the opposite of the normal order. 24. Incongruity: presenting things that are out of place or are absurd in relation to its surroundings. 25. Parody: imitating the techniques and/or style of any person, place or thing in a ‘funny’ way. 26. Allegory: As a literary device, an allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor. Allegory has been used widely throughout history in all forms of art, largely because it can readily illustrate complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners. 

Writers or speakers typically use allegories as literary devices or as rhetorical devices that convey hidden meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, and/or events, which together create the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the author wishes to convey.

27. Chinese- box narrative: a frame narrative, a novel or drama that is told in the form of a narrative inside a narrative (and so on), giving views from different perspectives. 

A frame story (also known as a frame tale or frame narrative) is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories. The frame story leads readers from a first story into another, smaller one (or several ones) within it.

28. Ars Moriendi: “The Art of Dying” – theme of death in medieval art and literature.

29. Danse Macabre: “Dance of death”: an artistic genre of late-medieval literature allegory on the universality of Death; no matter one’s position in life, the Dance of death unites all. 30. Platonic love: an element of courtly love; 

Love fully connected with feelings between two people without an element of sexuality.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

31. Humanism: a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition. The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. In modern times, humanist movements are typically aligned with secularism, and today humanism typically refers to a non-theistic life stance centred on human agency and looking to science rather than revelation from a supernatural source to understand the world. 32. Renaissance: “rebirth” – a name of commonly applied to the period of European history following the Middle Ages; 

It is usually said to begun in Italy in the late 14th century and to have continued, both in Italy and other countries of western Europe through 15th and 16th century.

33. Renaissance tragedy: revived the classical Greek tragedy and fusing Elizabethan drama and storyline complexities with a more morbid ending (in which the protagonist usually dies, compare to Greek tragedy where he lives with blame). 

It was most prominent in England where famous playwrights such as W/Shakespeare pioneered the form.

Most plays of this type deal with monarchies, as monarchs are born into their situations, and do not choose them.

34. Subplot: a secondary or subordinate plot, as in a play, novel or other literary work. 

it may be connected to main plots, in either time, place or thematic significance.

Subplots usually involve supporting characters, these besides the protagonist.

35. Tragedy: a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with serious or somber theme, typically involving a great person with a destiny to experience downfall or utter destruction, as though character flaw or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or an unyielding society. 36. Tragic hero: a protagonist of a tragedy. 

usually a person of a noble birth. It is a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy who has a destiny for downfall, suffering or defeat.

A literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that combined with fate and external forces brings to tragedy.

37. Hubris: motif in Greek tragedy that consists of pride of a tragic hero; it can be noticed in “Dr Faustus” by Marlowe. 

“I am better than that” his desire of knowledge, magic and something beyond human nature.

38. Hamatria: a mistake made by a character that leads him to become a tragic hero. 

It can be seen in “Dr Faustus” by Marlowe, when Faustus signs the pact with devil and believes that he’ll get some benefits from that.

39. Soliloquy: a special kind of monologue on the stage when an actor talks about his feelings, his inner thoughts, beliefs and tells these to the audience – other characters cannot hear it, only audience hears it. 

“Hamlet” – “To be or not to be”

40. Supernatural elements: unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature; of , relating to, or seeming to come from magic, God, etc. 


41. Sonnet: a poem, properly expressive of a single complete thought, idea, or a sentiment, usually of 14 lines, with rhymes arranged according to one of the certain definite schemes, being in the strict or Italian form divided into a major group of 8 lines (the octave) followed by a minor group of 6 lines (the sestet), and in common English sonnet form into 3 quatrains followed by a couplet. 42. Italian sonnet: a sonnet consisting of an octave rhyming /abba abba/ and a sestet rhyming in any various patterns /cde cde/ or /cdc dcd/, called also a Petrarchan sonnet. 43. English sonnet: a sonnet consisting of 3 quatrains and a couplet with a rhyme scheme of /abab cdcd efef gg/, called also a Shakespearean sonnet. 44. Sonnet cycle: a group of sonnets, addressed to a particular person, theme, and designed to be read both as a collection of fully realized individual poems and as a single poetic work comprising all the individual sonnets. 45. Theatrum mundi: early modern ‘commonplace’ or literary topos, wherein the world is linked to the stage; 

the formula is always morally inflected, it’s most usual sense is that human life is as vain and empty as a comedy.

46. Prologue: an introductory speech, often in a verse, calling attention to the theme of the play; preface of a play, poem or novel. 

“Henry V”.

47. Comedy: a play, movie etc., of light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; 

a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstances, resulting in successful or happy conclusion.


48. Romantic comedy: a low genre of drama which uses simple language, trivial topics and is meant for lower classes. 

It has a humorous central plot usually a love story.

It also contains elements of tragedy.

49. Tragic potential: tragic situation of a character in comedy e.g. Hermia’s situation at the beginning of MSND or Lysander and Demetrius fighting in the forest (without fairies and magic they could have killed each other). 50. Comic relief: inclusion of humorous character, scene or witty dialogue in an otherwise serious work, often to relieve tension . 

Used to lose tension in tragedy.

51. Synecdoche: a figure of speech in which one part of something stays as the whole concept. 

E.g. in prologue of “Henry V” soldier represents a whole army, one tree represents the whole forest etc.

52. Satire:a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and viceare held up to scorn, d erision, or ridicule. 

a literary genre comprising such compositions.

the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing,or deriding vice, folly, etc.

53. Play-within-the-play: a dramatic technique in which an addition play is performed during the performance of the main play. 

It destroys the 4th wall between actors and audience because it is an insight to how the theatre works.

E.g. MSND “Pyrramus and Thisbe”

54. Aside: stage whisper performed by the character of a play to comment the play; only audience hears that. 

MSND Puck.

55. Comedy of manners: a kind of comedy representing the complex and sophisticated code of behavior, current in fashionable circles of society where appearances count more than true moral character. 

It’s plot is usually about intrigues of lust and greed, self interested cynicism of characters, masked by decorum behavior.

It tends to reward its cleverly unscrupulous character rather than punish their immorality unlike satire.

“Country love” Wycherley.

56. Metaphysical poetry: type of poetry that is highly philosophical.

Its aim is to surprise the reader with comparisons. Its topic usually contain love, life, existence.

It’s abstract and complex.

In this kind of poetry mind, soul and body are the same.

57. Metaphysical conceit: associated with the Metaphysical poets of the 17th century, is a more intricate and intellectual device. It usually sets up an analogy between one entity’s spiritual qualities and an object in the physical world and sometimes controls the whole structure of the poem. 58. Ode: type of lyrical stanza glorifying an event or a person describing nature intellectually and emotionally. 

It captures poets’ interests or serves as inspiration.

“Ode to the west wind”

59. Ballad: a form of verse, often a narrative set to music; a narrative poem often of folk origin and intended to be sung, consisting of simple stanzas and usually having a chorus. 

“We are seven”

60. Novel: a literary genre; extended fictional narrative story, written in prose, focusing on a few primary characters but also involving secondary characters. 

“Wuthering heights”

61. Self-conscious novel: a type of novel which contains rules that author directs his words to the reader about the fact that his story is a fiction. 62. Gothic novel: a literary genre type of novel, the scenery of which takes place in dark medieval castles, full of rooms; this kind of novel has mysterious and horror atmosphere. 63. Sublime: elevated or lofty in thought, language, etc.: Paradise Lost is sublimepoetry. 64. Mock- heroic novels: are typically satires or parodies that mock common Classical stereotypes of heroes and heroic literature. Typically, mock-heroic works either put a fool in the role of the hero or exaggerate the heroic qualities to such a point that they become absurd. 

“Rape of the lock”

65. Iambic pentameter: is a commonly used type of metrical line in traditional English poetry and verse drama. The term describes the rhythm that the words establish in that line, which is measured in small groups of syllables called "feet". The word "iambic" refers to the type of foot that is used, known as the iamb, which in English is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The word "pentameter" indicates that a line has five of these "feet". 66. Pantheism: is the belief that all of reality is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanentgod. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god. 67. Libertine comedy: one devoid of most moral or sexual restraints, which are seen as unnecessary or undesirable, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals and forms of behaviour

sanctified by the larger society. Libertinism is described as an extreme form of hedonism. Libertines put value on physical pleasures, meaning those experienced through the senses. 68. Sex comedy: or more broadly sexual comedy is a genre in which comedy is motivated by sexual situations and love affairs. Although "sex comedy" is primarily a description of dramatic forms such as theatre and film, literary works such as those of Ovid and Chaucer may be considered sex comedies. 69. Puritanism: the beliefs and practices of Puritans the beliefs and practices of people who follow very strict moral and religious rules about the proper way to behave and live. 70. Christian Epic, so its narrative encompasses not merely an individual nation, but an entire religion, a religion that sought and largely succeeded in conquering the "civilized" world. With its Christian background in mind, we note that the poem is concerned with the presentation of religious themes, characters, and stories. 

“Paradise lost”

71. Restoration literature: roughly homogeneous styles of literature that center on a celebration of or reaction to the restored court of Charles II. It is a literature that includes extremes, for it encompasses both Paradise Lost and the Earl of Rochester's Sodom, the high-spirited sexual comedy of The Country Wife and the moral wisdom of The Pilgrim's Progress. It saw Locke's Treatises of Government, the founding of the Royal Society, the experiments and holy meditations of Robert Boyle, the hysterical attacks on theaters from Jeremy Collier, and the pioneering of literary criticism from John Dryden and John Dennis. The period witnessed news become a commodity, the essay developed into a periodical art form, and the beginnings oftextual criticism. 72. Neoclassicism: is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome. 73. Augustan literature: is a style of British literature produced during the reigns ofQueen Anne, King George I, and George II in the first half of the 18th century and ending in the 1740s, with the deaths of Alexander Pope andJonathan Swift, in 1744 and 1745, respectively. It was a literary epoch that featured the rapid development of the novel, an explosion in satire, the mutation of drama from political satire into melodrama and an evolution toward poetry of personal exploration. In philosophy, it was an age increasingly dominated by empiricism, while in the writings of political economy, it marked the evolution of mercantilism as a formal philosophy, the development of capitalism and the triumph of trade. 74. Enlightenment (Age of reason): a philosophical movement which dominated the world of ideas in Europe in the 18th century. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, and came to advance ideals such as liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state.

75. Decorum: was a principle of classical rhetoric, poetry and theatrical theory that was about the fitness or otherwise of a style to a theatrical subject. The concept of decorum is also applied to prescribed limits of appropriate social behavior within set situations. 76. Formal realism: a dominant trend of Victorian novels; formal realism observes and documents contemporary life and everyday scenes. 

in formal realism there’s no space for magical elements.

Such prose of formal realism has a purpose to present real life (the novel was to be about life)

1st or 3rd person narration

“Robinson Crusoe”

77. Misogyny: is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, hostility, male supremacist ideas, belittling of women, violence against women, andsexual objectification of women. Misogyny can be found occasionally within ancient texts relating to various mythologies. In addition, various influential Western philosophers and thinkers have been described as misogynistic. 78. Misantrophy: is the general hatred, distrust or contempt of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope or misanthropist is someone who holds such views or feelings.
Literary terms and definitions year 1.

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