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Literary Terms

Literary Terms

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Published by tazzir
might be useful to students of literature
might be useful to students of literature

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Published by: tazzir on Jan 31, 2010
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Absurdist tradition
refers to twentieth-century works that depict the absurdity of the modern human condition,often with implicit reference to humanity's loss or lack of religious, philosophical, or cutural roots. The termmay be applied to any work of literature that stress an existential outlook, that one depicting the lonely,confused, and often anguished individual in an utterly bewildering universe. Conventions such as plot anddialogue are routinely flouted--as in the idea that a work of literature should be unified and coherent (in a linear  progression).
Allusion
: A figure of speech making casual reference to a famous historic or literary figure or event or work of literature. There is an allusion to Lewis's Narnia series and the fantasy world in Paterson's Bridge to Teribithia.
Alterity:
the condition of being radically different or unlike some other being, state or thing
Anaphora
: A repetition device wherein the same expression (word or words) is repeated at the beginning of twoor more lines, clauses, or sentences. "When Jamie saw him throw the baby, saw Van throw the little baby, sawVan throw his little sister Nin, then they moved" (7). E. B. White uses this rhetorical device in his chapter entitled "Escape" in which he enables the reader to develop a point of view of an inhabitant of the barn as hedescribes its smells.
Aporia:
a gap in logic or consciousness or a point at which a text is most explicitly indeterminate (seeindeterminacy) or self-contradictory, as in deconstruction. It is never completely solved or closed by the author or in the mind of the reader.
Archetype:
A symbol, usually an image, which recurs often enough in literature to be recognizable as anelement of one's literary experience as a whole. Carl Jung used the term "archetype" to refer to the generalized patterns of images that form the world of human representations in recurrent motifs, passing through the historyof all culture. Since archetypes are rooted in the collective unconscious, they may be conceived through the psychic activity of any individual, be it in the form of dreams, art works, the ancient monuments of religiousactivity, or the contemporary images of commercial advertising. Such archetypes as the "innocent babe," the"unheeded prophet," the "philosopher's stone," and many others which also have their source in the primitivedarkness of the unconscious, are repeated in numerous works of cultural creation.
Black comedy:
Black comedy or black humour, not to be confused with comedy about blacks, etc. The use of the morbid the absurd for darkly comic purposes. This is a substantial component of the theatre of the
absurd 
and the anti-novel. The notion of humor with a sadistic element might give further implications to this term.
 
Boydell
was an illustrator "Boydell's picture gallery" of Shakespearean drama. His pictures were famous and Iwas fortunate to be able to get a copy of Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare that had illustrations by Boyell in it. These illustrations were from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
Caldecott award:
An annual award presented by the American Library Association's Children's ServicesDivision to the illustrator of the most distinguished picture book published in the US the preceding year. Unlessalso the illustrator, the author is not recognized; the award is for illustrations, not text. The award is named after the British illustrator Randolph Caldecott, whose illustrations added narrative and detail to an previously ignoredart form.
Chronotope
: Mikhail Bakhtin describes this term as "the intrinisic connectedness of temporal and spatialrelationships that are artistically expressed in literature"(Discourse in the Novel 84). This is from the Greek "chronos"--time and "topos"--place, meaning literary a new "reality of timespace." In Bakhtin's theory, this termacquires a special meaning, namely, the indivisible unity of time and space. In fairy tales, time and space are beyond our experience while in fantasy the time/space relationship in that world create a contrast to reality. Atypical example can be seen in Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, specifically in the chronotope of  Narnia.
Community
: A group of people who share common experiences, goals and myths and who provide a context for an individual's identity. Jonas in The Giver works out his identity in opposition to his community. cf 
phalanxConnotation:
The atmosphere of a word-something about the word that goes beyond what the dictionarydelivers. The connotations of a word may include one's personal experiences with that word and other associations which cluster about the word.
Contract and Tutelage:
According to Jacques Donzelot in The Policing of Families, the family develops in tworegisters: contract and tutelage. Contract indicates the autonomy the family enjoys when it observes the acceptednorms of society. Tutelage, on the other hand, designates an external apparatus that infiltrates and intervenes inthe family when the family breaks the contract. Tutelage consists of number of institutions, such as prisons,social work, discipline. Both contract and tutelage are ways for the society to exert control over the family:contract is the positive dimension of this control, tutelage the negative. (See Donzelot, ThePolicing of Families 82-95 and D. A. Miller, The Novel and the Police 102-03).
DenmotationDiachronic/Synchronic timeDystopia:
Polar opposite of 
utopia
. A society in which social and/or technological trends have contributed to acorrupted or degraded state.
Empathy
: The imaginative projection into another's feelings, a state of total identification with another'ssituation, condition, and thoughts. The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, andvicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present withoutexplicitly articulating these feelings. Fern empathizes with Wilbur; Charlotte empathizes with Wilbur.
Existential idea of Freedom
: This concept of freedom is related to Jean-Paul Sartre's concept of existentialsim,in which the basic tenent is that "man is what he does." The burden of decision to act, the loneliness, and angst,the alienation, and often even the terror that an individual confronts in this world view, explains a character'sconflicting emotions regarding what it means to be free. Wilbur leaves his pen before he can fully accept thecomplete responsibility he finds he must take on for his survival, and so he returns to the barn, happy in thereassurance that some of his needs will be met for him.
Explication
: An explication is not a paraphrase, nor a summary, nor a rewording (though it may include succinct paraphrase), but a commentary revealing the meaning of the work. To this end it calls attention, as it proceeds, tothe connotations of words, the function of rhymes, the shifts in point of view, the development of contrasts/polarities, and any other contributions to the meaning. cf close reading or explication de texte
 
Free Indirect Discourse:
Moments in the narration where it is not clear whether the thoughts come from acharacter, the narrator or a combination of the two. In What Jamie Saw, "That very night-or was it earlymorning?-- some time of day or night that felt like it had no hour at all" (7). Free indirect discourse should not beconfused with direct discourse or with indirect discourse.
Illusion:
A perception, as of visual stimuli, that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it isin reality. Elizabeth has the illusion that Zeely is a Watutsi queen. See the excerpts from Hamilton's article on"Illusion and Reality."
Imagination:
Coleridge calls it "the shaping and modifying power" which enables a new reality to come into being. Shakespeare writes, "As imagination bodies forth / The forms of things unknown, the poets' pen / Turnsthem to shapes and gives to airy nothing / A local habitation and a name." Consider imagination in relation toElizabeth in Zeely
 
, Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
 
, and Jonas in The Giver, among other of our texts.
Intertext:
the text within a text. Myth is often used as an intertext in children's and young adult literature. Thesedo not have to be concrete myth sources, but can consist of mythical thinking, manifested in a myth-likeorganization of time-space relations, or the use of narrative components of myths. See Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising and Virginia Hamilton's works in general.
Irony:
One needs to distinguish between three kinds of irony.
Dramatic irony
, found only in dramaticnarratives, is not a figure but a kind of strategy; it established some important disparity betwen what the audienceknows and what one or more characters in the narrative know. The classic example here is Oedipus in OedipusRex. It raises the question about the disparity between appearance and reality.
Socratic irony
, is also a strategy, but between a person's real and assumed character. Swift uses it in Tale of the Tub, but for Socrates, it is anargumentative strategy.
Verbal irony
is a figure; its essence is a disparity between what is said, and what isintended, or really thought. The essence of verbal irony is ambiguity. When one is ironic about a subject, onerefuses to assent to the usual view of it, and at the same time one does not flatly condemn the usual view. We donot know, exactly, where the ironist stands.
Karass:
a term for a disparate group of people linked together without their knowledge. Your family and friendswould not be part of your 
karass
. You wouldn't choose its membership, and you may never know who is in it or what its purpose is. (see Paul Fkeischman's Whirligig)
Kenotype:
formed from the ancient Greek words kainos, meaning "new," and typos, meaning "form" or "imprint." "Kenotype," then, is literally a "new form," and in the system of culturological concepts it shouldstand beside "archetype," to which it offers a specific contrastive meaning. An example of a kenotype is thesubway (see the link to the archetype of the underworld?), the bicycle or the computer or the television. Parrot inthe Oven has many similies that use kenotypes are part of the comparison.
Litotes:
this is when you understate an idea in order to convey the opposite idea. This is normally done throughthe use of a negative negative before one of the words in order to express a strong affirmative. This style isevident in Karen Hess's Out of the Dust.
Magic:
Magic is referred to in The Secret Garden as a natural part of life's growth, that energy which cannot betouched or seen. In Harry Potter books, magic becomes an imaginative tool by which he and others confront thedark powers, magic is sometimes not understood. Magic is another kind of illusion. Magic as a continuum of imagination and infinite possibility is also used in C. S. Lewis's Narnia series.
Magical-realism:
Fiction that maintains a discourse appropriate to an objective and realistic narrative, whilerecounting fantastic or supernatural events alongside commonplace happenings. Magic realism provides much of the power in a number of South American writers, notably Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1967), but the technique has been used by Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie, Robert Kroetsch, Jack Hodgins and Peter Carey, among others.
Meontic and Mimetic Modes
: Art is involved with "experienced reality. --or to adopt Auerbach's rubric, wththe 'representation of reality'--the way it is involved idivded into two contrasted relationships. In the first, articimitates what is there in reality; in the second, it imitates what is not there. [. . .] ( Thomas McFarland,

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