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Handbook for English Majors


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A metrical foot consisting of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.
Repetition of the beginning of two or more successive lines, clauses or verses, especially for rhetorical or poetic effect.
Blank verse
Consists of lines of iambic pentameter (lines of five iambic feet) which are unrhymed.
A pair of rhymed lines.
A metrical foot consisting of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.
The omission of an unstressed vowel or syllable in a verse to achieve a uniform metrical pattern.
The carrying on of the sense of a line or couplet into the next line or couplet. Enjambed lines are occasionally referred to as run-on lines because the pressure of the incomplete syntactic unit toward closure carries on over the end of the verse-line.
Feminine rhyme
Rhyme consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.
A group of syllables taken as a unit of poetic meter.
Free verse
A form of poetry without regular meter, free verse usually has a more controlled rhythm than ordinary prose, usually possesses irregular line lengths, and often lacks rhyme.
A metrical foot consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.
The pattern of measured sound units recurring more or less regularly in lines of verse.
A four-line stanza
Slant ryhme
A rhyme in which the rhyme-sounds are similar but not identical. In its most common form, a slant rhyme shares the same vowel sound but slightly different ending consonant sounds.
A lyric poem written in a single stanza, which generally consists of fourteen iambic pentameter lines linked by an intricate rhyme scheme.
A metrical foot consisting of two successive syllables with approximately equal strong stresses.
A grouping of the verse-lines in a poem, set off by space in the printed text.
A metrical foot consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.
A narrative poem often composed in quatrains with alternating four-stress and three-stress iambic lines, the second and fourth lines rhyming.
A narrative characterized by a change in fortune for the better. Comedies typically explore common human failings.
A formal lyric poem lamenting a death, generally of a friend or public figure, or reflecting seriously on a solemn subject.
A long narrative poem addressing in elevated language a historical or mythological subject on a grand scale. Epics are generally characterized by conventions such as the invocation of the Muse, the in medias res beginning, and epic similes.
Printed alone on the title page or first page of the work, a quotation used to set the tone or theme of a literary work.
Any short poem in which the speaker expresses private thoughts and intense emotions as opposed to narrating a tale.
Anonymously created stories which arise from specific cultural groups and explain history, traditions, creation, and humanity.
A meditative form of the lyric poem that is generally long, serious and addressed to a person, abstract entity, or object.
A comic and exaggerated imitation usually intended to criticize a style or an author's work.
A literary work composed of elements borrowed either from various other writers or from a particular earlier writer.
An elaborately conventional mode of writing expressing the author's nostalgic image of the peace and simplicity of the life of shepherds and other rural folk in an idealized rural setting.
A fictional work in verse or prose involving idealized characters, high adventure, love, mysterious circumstances, and often unbelievable triumphs. Unlike epic, romance emphasizes private tests or love and virtue as opposed to public acts of heroism with history or mythological resonance. Romance lacks realism's emphasis on the plausible and factual.
A serious drama involving a change of fortune from better to worse for a character of elevated status or great virtue who experiences a confict between two imperatives. Tragedies often include hamartia, anagorisis, peripeteia, and catharsis.
A literary work characterized by irony, wit, and sometimes sarcasm intended to highlight human vices often in an implicit effort to initiate change or reform. Like comedy, satire generates laughter; unlike comedy, it is not meant to purely entertain, but to provoke a moral response.
The point of recognition that leads to a reversal of fortune in narrative. The moment when the protagonist comes to know what has previously been hidden. Anagorisis is often the climax of the plot.
German term signifying a "novel of formation." A novel that follows the development of the protagonist from childhood (or adolescence) into adulthood.
Often rendered as "purgation" or "purification," catharsis traditionally refers to the psychological effect of tragedy on the audience, as an emotional cleansing that explains the benefit an audience feels while witnessing the events of tragedy.
A group of singers distinct from the principal performers in a drama or musical, and the song or refrain that they sing.
Refers to the final scene of resolution where the action or intrigue ends in success or failure for the protagonist, the mystery is solved, or the misunderstanding cleared away.
Deus ex machina
A "god from a machine" lowered to the stage by mechanical contrivance to solve the problems of the play all at once. The term has come to mean any forced and improbable device by which a hard-pressed author makes shift to resolve the plot.
Direct discourse
A type of exposition in which a character's utterances or thoughts are integrated into another utterance or thought through a back-shift of tenses and a shift from first-person to third-person pronouns.
Free indirect discourse
A type of exposition representing a character's utterances or thoughts. Does not include a tag clause introducing and qualifying the represented utterances and thoughts. Free indirect discourse manifests at least some features of the character who is speaking.
A character whose qualities or actions emphasize those of the protagonist (or lesser character) by providing strong contrast.
The technique or device by which some situation or event is hinted at in advance.
Framed narrative
A narrative in which another narrative is embedded; a narrative functioning as a frame for another narrative by providing a setting or context for it.
An "error of judgement" leading to the protagonist's downfall.
Implied author
The author's second self, mask, or persona as reconstructed from the text; the implicit image of an author that remains different from either the "real" author or the narrator.
In medias res
Latin phrase that means "into the middle of things." This term refers to a method of starting a narrative (more specifically, an epic) with an important situation or event in the middle of the story's action, rather than with the first situation or event in time, thus gaining the reader's attention before the explanation of proceding details.
The reversal from one state of affairs to its opposite, strictly speaking, as the result of an action that produces the opposite of its intended result, usually involving a downfall in a tragedy. Peripeteia often coincides with anagorisis.
Point of view
Point of view describes the agent of perception (who sees). Point of view may or may not coincide with the agent of narration (who speaks).
The main character; the character constituting the chief focus of interest.
Unreliable narrator
In a text with an unreliable narrator the reliability of the textual account is undermined by the norms and behavior of the narrator. Unreliable narrators might falsify the fictional account for selfish reasons, or an unreliable narrator might by naive or ill-informed.
A literary work in which objects, persons, actions, and sometimes settings systematically stand for ideas outside the work itself; such works possess a literal level of meaning connected to religious, political or moral ideas. In allegory the literal object stands for a specific abstract trait. In this respect, it is distinct from symbolism.
The repetition of the same sound, usually a consonant, in any sequence of neighboring words within a passage. Generally alliteration refers to the repetition of initial sounds.
A figure of speech that makes a brief reference to a historical, mythological or cultural figure, event, or object.
A figure of speech in which the speaker addresses an absent or dead person, an abstraction, or an object. Many apostrophes imply a personification of the object or abstract quality addressed.
Repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds in a passage.
Word choice.
The character of the writer or speaker as reflected in speech or writing. Ethos (along with pathos and logos) is one of the rhetorical devices a writer/speaker can use to develop a persuasive argument. Ethos is used to establish authority through stressing experience, character, or ability.
A bold overstatement or extravagant exaggeration, used either for serious or comic effect.
Language that evokes sensation as opposed to an abstract idea.
Invocation of the Muse
A conventional way of opening a longer poem. The poet calls upon (invokes) the power of a deity to speak through him or her and to help tell the tale; in classical tradition, poets typically invoke a Muse, one of the nine sister goddesses presiding over various departments of the arts and sciences.
A broad term referring to an incongruity between appearance and reality. In verbal irony, the contradiction is between what is literally said and what is meant. In dramatic irony, the contradiction is between what the audience knows and what a character or characters know.
In argument, an appeal to reason invoking the facts, statistics, and evidence in order to convince an audience of a particular position. An appeal to logos is one of the three major rhetorical devices for creating a persuasive argument.
The substitution of the name of one thing with the name of something else closely associated with it.
A direct comparison that does not use "like" or "as."
A combination of contradictory or incongruous words expressed in a paradox.
An appeal to emotion. Pathos may refer to a scene or passage designed to evoke feelings of tenderness, pity, or sympathetic sorrow from the audience. In a rhetorical context, pathos is one of three devices for creating a persuasive argument; in this sense, pathos refers to any appeal to the reader/audience's emotions.
The attribute of human qualities to inanimate objects or abstract ideas.
A comparison using "like" or "as."
A speech delivered while the speaker is alone, calculated to inform the audience of the character's thoughts.
An object or event that signifies something, or has a range of reference, beyond itself.
A figure of speech that uses a part of something to signify the whole.
The attitude towards the subject and audience implied in a literary work.

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