From "Satire" to "Zeugma".
A literary art of diminishing or derogating a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn or indignation. Usually practised as a corrective of human vice, errors and folly. The aim of Horatian satire is to amuse rather than to improve (e.g. A. Pope's Rape of the Lock). In Juvenalian satire, the speaker is a serious moralist using a dignified style to criticise errors and vices (e.g. W. M. Thackeray's Vanity Fair, E. Waugh's A Handful of Dust or G. Orwell's Animal Farm).
A speculative narrative of short story, novella or novel length. Science fiction may be rooted in reality, but is fantastic. It is typically concerned with technological change, scientific experiment, social, geological or ecological change, trips to other worlds, exploration of space or arrival of alien beings. Science fiction narratives may take the form of utopia or dystopia. E.g. M. Shelley's Frankenstein, H. G. Well's The Time Machine or G. Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
A stanza comprising seven lines of varying metre and rhyme.
The last six lines of the Italian sonnet following the octave. Like the final couplet in the Shakespearean sonnet, the sestet usually resolves the proposition made in the preceding stanza(s).
A complex verse form comprising six stanzas of six lines and an envoi. The rhyming scheme requires that the same six end words occur in each stanza in a different order according to a fixed pattern. E.g. A. C. Swinburne's "Complaint of Lisa". Also used e.g. by E. Pound, T. S. Eliot or W. H. Auden.
A piece of fiction usually between 1,600 and 20,000 words long. A short story shares many of the characteristics of a novel, due to length constrains these are however not so complex or fully developed as they would be in a full-length novel. E. A. Poe defines a short story as a prose narrative on smaller scale concentrating on a unique or single effect. According to Poe, the main objective of a short story is achieving the totality of effect.
(From Latin: like). A figure of speech likening one thing to another to clarify the image. Unlike with metaphor, the comparison is explicit. Marked by the use of the words "like" or "as".
(From Italian: little sound, or, song). A verse form comprising fourteen lines, usually in iambic pentametre. The Petrarchan sonnet comprises an octave rhyming abbaabba and a sestet rhyming cdecde or cdcdcd. The Spenserian sonnet comprises three quatrains and a couplet, rhyming abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee. The Shakespearian sonnet comprises three quatrains and a couplet, rhyming abab, cdcd, efef, gg. In the latter two forms a different idea is expressed in each quatrain and the argument is concluded in the final couplet.
A verse form comprising eight pentametre lines and one hexametre or alexandrine line, rhyming ababbcbcc. Introduced by E. Spenser in The Faerie Queene.
A metrical foot comprising two stressed syllables. The spondee produces a heavy and slow effect.
(From Italian: standing, stopping place). A group of lines of verse. A stanza pattern is determined by the number of lines, the number of feet in each line and the metrical and rhyming schemes. The stanza is the unit of structure in a poem.
Notes incorporated in the script of a play to indicate the moment of a character's appearance and to specify the character's manner, style of delivery, movements etc. Elaborated in great detail and length e.g. by G. B. Shaw. Minimized e.g. by H. Pinter.
Defined in E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel as "a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence". According to Forster, the story is distinguished from the plot in that the latter is "a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality". The story is what is being told: e.g. "the king died and the queen died" is the story, while "the king died and the queen died of grief" is the plot.
Stream of Consciousness
A technique capturing the thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind. Unlike with the interior monologue, the stream of consciousness is not presented as the character's speech. The term was coined by William James to denote the flow of inner experiences. First used in literature by the minor French novelist Edouard Dujardin in 1888. The technique is exploited e.g. in J. Joyce's Ulysses, V. Woolf's Mrs Dalloway or W. Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.
(From Greek: turning). Originally the first part of a chorale ode in Greek drama which the Chorus chanted while moving from one side of the stage to the other. It was followed by the antistrophe, a reverse movement, and by the epode which the Chorus chanted when standing still. Strophe is a synonym for stanza. Also used to denote a unit or verse paragraph in free verse.
(From Latin: elevated). The sublime is used to denote great thoughts, noble feeling, lofty figures, diction and arrangement. According to E. Burke associated with the infinite, solitude, darkness and terror. E.g. J. Macpherson's fake Ossianic poems.
A type of verse measured by the number of syllables in each line. Most English poetry is accentual-syllabic, i.e. its rhythm arises from the number and alternation of its stressed and unstressed syllables as organized into feet. Syllabic verse is used e.g. in M. Moore's "Poetry".
(From Greek: to throw together). An object, animate or inanimate, which represents something else. Unlike with allegory, the symbol has a real existence. A symbol is implicit.
The use of a concrete image to express an abstract idea. Much used e.g. by W. B. Yeats.
(From Greek: taking up together). A figure of speech substituting the part for the whole. E.g. "give us this day our daily bread", "bread" meaning the meals taken each day.
(From Greek: the same saying). Repetition of redundant words or ideas. E.g. "I myself personally".
(From French: triplet). A stanza comprising three lines linked by rhyme. Also used to denote one of a pair of triples making up the sestet of a sonnet or to denote three consecutive rhyming lines. E.g. A. Tennyson's "Two Voices": "A still small voice spake unto me: / 'Thou art so full of misery, / Were it not better not to be"?
A central idea of a work of art, stated directly or indirectly. E.g. the theme of Shakespeare's Othello is jealousy.
The theory of three unities is defined in Aristotle's Poetics as the unity of time, place and action in a tragedy. The action involves the change of happiness to fall of a single character within a single day, at most twenty-four hours.
(From Greek: wailing song). Originally a choral ode. More generally used to denote a lamentation. E.g. A. Tennyson's In Memoriam.
(From Greek: goat song). Originally a form of ritual sacrifice in honour of Dionysus, the god of the fields and the vineyards. Defined in Aristotle's Poetics as the imitation of serious action in a dramatic form. According to Aristotle, a tragedy is complete in itself, uses language with pleasurable accessories and employs incidents arousing pity and fear so as to achieve catharsis of such emotions in the spectator.
Also called "multiple" or "polysyllabic rhyme". A rhyme of three syllables. E.g. "prettily - wittily".
Also called "choree". A metrical foot comprising one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed. The trochee, like the dactyl, produces a falling rhythm. The opposite of the iamb. When used as the basic foot, the effect can become monotonous. E.g. H. W. Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha: "Shoúld yòu ásk mè, whénce thèse stórìes"?
(From Greek: turn). In general any rhetorical or figurative device. Specifically used to denote a verbal amplification of the liturgical text.
(From Greek: not place). The term was first used to apply to a literary genre by Sir Thomas More in his Utopia (1516). Utopia is a piece of fiction concerned with an ideal non-existing place, an earthly paradise. The opposite of dystopia which is concerned with the vision of a doomed world. E.g. H. G. Wells's A Modern Utopia (utopia) or G. Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (dystopia).
(From Italian: rustic). Originally pastoral poetry. Villanelle is a complex verse form comprising five three-lined stanzas or tercets and a final quatrain. The first and third lines of the first tercet recur alternately in the following stanzas as a refrain and form a final couplet. Used e.g. by O. Wilde.
A literary movement prominent immediately before the First World War. The term derives from vortex, or whirl, the symbol of high energy and movement. Vorticism connects poetry with the cubist painting; the poetry resembles action and movement. Originally inspired by the painter and writer Wyndham Lewis's, editor of the magazine Blast, initiated and promoted E. Pound.
(From Greek: yoking, or, bonding). A figure of speech applying a verb or an adjective to two nouns, though appropriate only to one of them. E.g. W. Shakespeare's Henry V: "Kill the poys and the luggage".
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.