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From "Dactyl" to "Grotesque, the".



(From Greek: finger). A metrical foot comprising one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones (like finger joints). The dactyl, like the trochee, produces a falling rhythm. Not commonly used because it is not the natural rhythm of English speech. E.g. R. Browning's "The Lost Leader": "Júst fòr à | hándfùl òf | sílvèr hè | léft ùs, / Júst fòr à | ríbànd tò | stíck ìn hìs | cóat — ...".


In general, a period of art or literature which, as compared with the excellence of a former age, is in decline. Specifically used to denote the late nineteenth century symbolist movement in France, especially French poetry. The movement emphasizes the autonomy of art, art for art's sake, and the the superior outsider position of the artist in society. Decadence includes personal experience, self-analysis, perversity, elaborate and exotic sensations, disenchantment, world-weariness, sadness and despair. E.g. O Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Deux Ex Machina

(From Latin: god out of the machine). Originally in Greek drama the intervention of a god who was lowered on to the stage by a mechanism so that he could get the hero out of difficulties or untangle the plot. Now applied in any literary genre to any unanticipated intervention which resolves a difficult situation.


Also called "pyrrhic". A metrical foot comprising two unstressed syllables.


Derived from the name of the Greek god Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of vegetation and wine. Also associated with permissiveness. Dionysian is supposed to signify "stormy" and "turbulent". E.g. D. H. Lawrence was a Dionysian writer.

Dramatic monologue

A poem comprising one imaginary speaker addressing an imaginary audience. Used e.g. by R. Browning ("My Last Duchess"), T. S. Eliot ("The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock") or R. Frost.



(From Greek: lament). In Classical literature any poem composed of elegiac distichs, also called "elegiacs", on various serious subjects. Since sixteenth century a poem of mourning for an individual or a lament for some tragic event. E.g. J. Milton's Lycidas, P. B. Shelley's Adonais or A. Tennyson's In Memoriam.


(From Greek: leaving out). A figure of speech leaving out a word or a group of words to achieve more compact expression. E.g. T. S. Eliot's Waste Land: "Elizabeth and Leicester / Beating oars / The stern was formed / A gilded shell / Red and Gold...".


(From French: in-striding). Running on of the sense beyond the second line of one couplet into the first line of the next. E.g. J. Keats's Endymion: "Who, of men, can tell / That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell / To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail, / The earth its dower or river, wood, and vale...".


A long narrative poem about the grand deeds of warriors and heroes. Epic embodies the history and aspirations of a nation in a lofty manner. It incorporates myth, legend and folk tale. Epics typically include a central figure of superhuman qualities, perilous journeys, various misadventures, a strong element of the supernatural, lengthy repetitions, elaborate greetings, digressions, long speeches, vivid and direct descriptions. Epics are either primary, also called oral or primitive (e.g. Gilgamesh, Iliad and Odyssey or Beowulf), or secondary, also called literary (e.g. Milton's Paradise Lost, E. Spenser's The Faerie Queene or J. Joyce's Finnegans Wake).


(From Greek: inscription). A short witty statement in verse or prose. Originally an inscription on a monument or statue. Used e.g. by J. Donne, A. Pope or R. Burns.


(From Greek: manifestation). Originally the festival commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi. The feast is observed on 6th January and is also called "Twelfth Night" or the festival of the "Three Kings". More generally, epiphany denotes a manifestation of God's presence in the world. In literature, epiphany is defined by J. Joyce as "a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phrase of the mind itself". Used e.g. by J. Joyce in Dubliners.


A rhetorical device which repeats a word or a group of words at the end of successive clauses. Identical rhyme.

Epistolary novel

A novel in the form of letters. Popular in the eighteenth century. E.g. S. Richardson's Pamela.


(From Greek: at the bridal chamber). A song or poem sung outside the bride's room on her wedding night. As a literary form used by Sappho for the first time. Used e.g. by E. Spenser, J. Dryden or A. Marvell.


An adjective or a phrase expressing some quality characteristic of a person or thing. E.g. "Richard the Lionheart".


The substitution of a rough, unpleasant or potentially offensive expression for a milder one. E.g. "to pass away" for "die".


The opposite of cacophony. A rhetorical device using sounds pleasing to the ear to achieve the effect of harmony and beauty. Usually accompanied by the use of rhyme, assonance, alliteration etc.


In ancient Rome, exegetes were originally professional interpreters of omens and dreams. In literature, exegesis is an explanation covering critical analysis and the elucidation of difficulties in the text.


Usually applied to drama. The beginning of a play which introduces some essential information about the plot and the events to come. Also may include information on what has already happened.


A rhyme giving to the eye the impression of an exact rhyme, but not in fact possessing identical sounds. E.g. "come | home; forth | worth".



(From Latin: discourse, or, story). A short narrative in prose or verse pointing a moral. A fable presents animals or inanimate things as characters. The form was perfected by Jean La Fontaine. E.g. G. Orwell's Animal Farm.

Fancy and Imagination

Imagination is supposed to be the superior faculty and the transubstantiator of experience. Fancy is supposed to be a kind of assistant to imagination. Fancy is described by T. S. Coleridge as a mode of memory "emancipated from the order of time and space", while imagination is the mediator of this experience.

Feminine Rhyme

Also called "double rhyme". A rhyme of two or more syllables. E.g. "daughters - waters".


A scene or episode in a play, narrative or poem which is inserted to show events that happened at an earlier time.

Flat Character

Defined in E. M. Forster's Anatomy of Criticism as an unrealistic, one-dimensional character with either simply good or simply bad personality. A flat character does not undergo any development and at the end he remains exactly the same as he was at the beginning. E.g. most of C. Dickens's characters are flat.


A group of syllables forming a metrical unit. Feet are measured in terms of long and short, or stressed and unstressed, syllables.

Free Verse

Also called "verse libre" in French. A poem in free verse has no regular metre or line length and depends on natural speech rhythms and the counterpoint of stressed and unstressed syllables. Perfected by W. Whitman. Used by many modern poets, e.g. E. Pound, T. S. Eliot or D. H. Lawrence.



A French term for a kind, a literary type or class. The classical genres were epic, tragedy, lyric, comedy and satire. Novel and short story would be now added.

Gothic Novel

The term derives from the frequent setting of Gothic novels in a gloomy Middle Age castle. A Gothic novel exploits mystery and terror, supernatural phenomena and dark and irrational side of human nature. Usually set somewhere in the past, in dark and desolate landscapes and decaying mansions with dark dungeons, secret passages and stealthy ghosts. Typically includes dark forests, ruined abbeys, torture chambers, wicked tyrants, malevolent witches and heroes in the direst of imaginable straits. Inaugurated by Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764). E.g. A. Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, M. G. Lewis's The Monk or M. Shelley's Frankenstein.

Grotesque, the

Subcategory of the comic. Includes a certain rate of the tragic, but the comic overweights.

Works Cited

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.

Other Sources

Flajšarová, Pavlína, Ema Jelínková. Semináře: Úvod do literatury. ZS 2002/03.



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