From "Haiku" to "Novel".
A Japanese verse form comprising three lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively. Expresses a single idea, image or feeling. Used e.g. by E. Pound, R. Frost or W. B. Yeats. J. Kirkup's haiku "Evening": "In the amber dusk / Each island dreams its own night. / The sea swarms with gold".
(From Greek: error). An error of judgement arising from ignorance or moral shortcoming. Defined by Aristotle in Poetics. Aristotle's tragic hero is a man whose misfortune comes to him not through vice or depravity, but by some error. E.g. In Sophocles's Odepius Rex, Oedipus kills his father from impulse and marries his mother out of ignorance.
Also called "approximate", "imperfect", "near", "para" or "slant rhyme". A form of consonance. A rhyme of the final consonant sound in accented syllables without the correspondence of the vowel sound. Used e.g. by G. M. Hopkins, W. Owen or W. B. Yeats.
The principal male/female characters in a work of literature. The term carries not connotations of virtuousness or honour. An evil man/woman might be the central characters, e.g. Macbeth or Lady Macbeth.
A verse form comprising rhymed decasyllables, mostly in iambic pentameters rhymed in pairs. Used e.g. by E. Spenser, W. Shakespeare or A. Pope.
(From Greek: overcasting). A figure of speech containing en exaggeration for emphasis. Common in Tudor and Jacobean drama and in heroic drama. E.g. the phrase "as old as the hills".
A metrical foot comprising one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed. The iamb, like the anapaest, produces a rising rhythm. The most common feet in English prosody. E.g. A. Tennyson's "Ulysses": "Tò stríve, tò seék, tò fínd, ànd nót tò yiéld".
A literary movement prominent immediately before the First World War. Image-based poetry which emphasizes a hard and clear image, mimetic treatment of the theme and complete freedom in subject matter. Imagist poems are condensed, short and written in the language of everyday speech. Originally inspired by T. E. Hulme, initiated and promoted by E. Pound. E.g. T. E. Hulme's "Above the Dock": "Above the quiet dock in midnight, / Tangled in the tall mast's corded height, / Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away / Is but a child's balloon, forgotten after play".
Also called internal monologue. A technique capturing the thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind. Unlike with the stream of consciousness, the interior monologue is expressed in the words of the character talking to himself. Some scholars however identify the two methods, e.g. M. H. Abrams's Glossary of Literary Terms.
A rhyme of two or more words within a single line of verse. E.g. P. B. Shelley's "The Cloud": "I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers / From the seas and the streams...".
(From Greek: dissimulation). A rhetorical device involving a tension or conflict between what is said and what is meant. Typically saying one thing but meaning its very opposite. Irony includes: verbal irony, structural irony, dramatic irony, cosmic irony, romantic irony or non-verbal irony. E.g. J. Swift's A Modest Proposal.
A type of light verse comprising usually five predominantly anapaestic lines rhyming aabba. Used e.g. by A. C. Swinburne, R. Kipling or M. Twain. E.g. "There was a young person of Mullion, / Intent upon marrying bullion; / By some horrible fluke / She jilted a duke / And had to elope with a scullion".
(From Greek: single, simple, meagre). A figure of speech containing an understatement for emphasis. The opposite of hyperbole. E.g. "not bad" meaning "very good".
The use of detail peculiar to a particular region and environment to add interest and authenticity to a narrative. Includes description of the locale, dress, customs, music and others. When it becomes and essential and intrinsic part of the work then it is more properly termed regionalism. Local colour writer was e.g. T. Hardy.
In ancient Greece a song performed to the accompaniment of a lyre. In poetry, a short poem expressing personal and subjective feeling and thoughts of a single speaker.
The term was coined by Franz Roh to describe early twentieth century German painting. In literature, magic realism includes mingling of the realistic and the fantastic or bizarre, time and perspective shifts, labyrinthine narratives and plots, use of dreams, myths and fairy stories, the element of surprise or abrupt shock, the horrific and the inexplicable and others. Used e.g. by A. Carter, J. Fowles or S. Rushdie.
A single monosyllabic rhyme at the end of a line. The most common type of rhyme.
(From Greek: carrying from one place to another). A figure of speech describing one thing in terms of another. Unlike in simile, the comparison is implicit. The basic figure in poetry.
(From Greek: measure). The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in verse. In English the following metres are the commonest: iambic, trochaic, anapaestic, dactylic, and spondaic (in this order). Metres according to the number of feet per line are the following: monometre (1), dimetre (2), trimetre (3), tetrametre (4), pentametre (5), hexametre (6), heptametre (7) and octametre (8).
(From Greek: name change). A figure of speech substituting the name of an attribute of a thing for the thing itself. E.g. "The Crown" for the monarchy.
(From Greek: imitative). Imitation, or direct representation of reality. A mimetic method simply describes things as they are without adding or concealing anything.
A general tendency of the end of the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries. In literature, Modernism was prominent in 1920s. Includes a breaking away from established rules, traditions and conventions, fresh ways of looking at man's position and function in the universe, experiments in form and style, concern with language and writing itself and others.
One of the dominant ideas in a work of literature. A part of the main theme. A motif may be a character, a recurrent image or a verbal pattern.
(From Greek: anything uttered by word of mouth). A fictional story which conveys a psychological truth. A myth is concerned with creation a gives a non-scientific explanation of the natural order and cosmic forces. Usually involves the element of the supernatural. E.g. W. B. Yeats's A Vision, J. Joyce Ulysses or D. H. Lawrence's The Plumed Serpent.
The speaker presenting a story or poem. Not identical with the author. Plato and Aristotle distinguished the following types of narrator: the speaker who uses his own voice, the speaker who assumes the voice of another person and the speaker who combines both.
Distinguished with respect to the author's presence or absence in the text. In authorial narration, the author remains outside the fictional world, but emerges by addressing the reader or commenting on the action. In figural narration, the reader has the illusion of being present of the scene in one of the characters. In neutral narration, the point of observation does not lie in any of the characters, but the perspective gives the reader feeling of being an imaginary witness of the events.
The term applies to works of literature which use realistic methods and subjects to convey the belief that everything that exists is a part of nature and can be explained by natural and material causes, and not by supernatural, spiritual or paranormal causes. Naturalism is distinguished from realism in that it concentrates on depicting the social or natural environment and dwells particularly on its deficiencies and on the shortcomings of human beings. Incorporates the ideas of determinism, heredity and Darwinian survival of the fittest. Used e.g. in the novels of E. Zola, T. Dreiser or F. Norris.
(From Italian: tale, piece of news). An extended piece of fiction between 60-70,000 and 200,000 words long and typically including characters, action and incident and a plot.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers, 1999.
Vodičková, Milena, John Back. An Introduction to Literature. Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého, 2000.