Lecture 1 The 21st Century Literature

Literature is a term used to describe written and sometimes spoken material. Derived from the
Latin word litteratura meaning "writing formed with letters," literature most commonly refers to
works of the creative imagination, including poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, and in
some instances, song.


Simply put, literature represents the culture and tradition of a language or a people.

It's difficult to precisely define, though many have tried, but it's clear that the accepted definition
of literature is constantly changing and evolving.

For many, the word literature suggests a higher art form; merely putting words on a page
doesn't necessarily mean creating literature. A canon is the accepted body of works for a given
author. Some works of literature are considered canonical, that is, culturally representative of a
particular genre.


Works of literature, at their best, provide a kind of blueprint of human civilization. From the
writings of ancient civilizations like Egypt, and China, to Greek philosophy and poetry, from the
epics of Homer to the plays of Shakespeare, from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to Maya
Angelou, works of literature give insight and context to all the world's societies. In this way,
literature is more than just a historical or cultural artifact; it can serve as an introduction to a new
world of experience.

But what we consider to be literature can vary from one generation to the next. For instance,
Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick was considered a failure by contemporary reviewers.
However, it has since been recognized as a masterpiece and is frequently cited as one of the
best works of western literature for its thematic complexity and use of symbolism.

By reading Moby Dick in the present day, we can gain a fuller understanding of literary traditions
in Melville's time.


Ultimately, we may discover meaning in literature by looking at what the author writes or says,
and how he or she says it. We may interpret and debate an author's message by examining the
words she chooses in a given novel or work or observing which character or voice serves as the
connection to the reader.

In academia, this decoding of the text is often carried out through the use of literary theory using
a mythological, sociological, psychological, historical, or other approaches to better understand
the context and depth of a work.

but to affect him precisely as you wish. Henry VI.  Figurative Language is the creative use of words and phrases that offers a hidden meaning beyond any literal interpretation. and it affects us on a deeply personal level. my students have come to sessions seeking help with literary devices. not to affect your reader. who has not pleasure in a good novel. There are two kinds: literary techniques (which includes figurative language) and literary elements. See what their perspective on writing is! "The difficulty of literature is not to write. literary devices help readers to visualize. be it gentleman or lady.” --William Shakespeare. Unfold your own myth.  Literary Elements are components or pieces that make up a story or literary work." --Robert Louis Stevenson "The person. how things have gone with others. it is universal. interpret and analyze literary texts. Literary techniques also help readers to visualize. . and they also struggle with the many definitions. Literary Elements and Figurative Language?  Literary Devices are creative writing strategies used by an author to convey his or her message(s). but to write what you mean. literary elements and figurative language. Literary Terms. They have expressed confusion over the terms: literary devices. must be intolerably stupid.  Literary Techniques are words or phrases in texts of literature that writers use to achieve artistic or creative expression. When used well. What’s the Confusion all About? Over the years.” -- Rumi “I’ll call for pen and ink and write my mind.Whatever critical paradigm we use to discuss and analyze it. literary terms. understand and appreciate literature. Northanger Abbey. What are Literary Devices. “Don't be satisfied with stories. QUOTES ABOUT LITERATURE Here are some quotes about literature from literature giants themselves. literature is important to us because it speaks to us." --Jane Austen.

or foreshadowing would be considered literary techniques. they are a common feature of literary education at the primary and secondary level.A literary element. For example. For instance. There is no official definition or fixed list of terms of literary elements. whereas figurative language. theme. Literary elements aid in the discussion of and understanding of a work of literature as basic categories of critical analysis. the New York State Comprehensive English Regents Exam requires that students use and discuss literary elements relating to specific works in each of the three essays. they are popular concepts that are not limited to any particular branch of literary criticism. For the most part. plot. and a set of terms similar to the one below often appears in institutional student evaluation. irony. character A person or animal who takes part in the action of a story. description of the character's thoughts and feelings direct characterization . or other literary work static character one who does not change much in the coarse of a work dynamic character changes as a result of the story's events protagonist the main character in a work of literature antagonist the character in a work of literature that opposes the protagonist indirect characterization revealing the personality of a character by words of a character. This distinguishes them from literary techniques. or non-universal features of literature that accompany the construction of a particular work rather than forming the essential characteristics of all narrative. although they are most closely associated with the formalist method of professional literary criticism. play. character and tone are literary elements. or narrative element. however.[1] or element of literature[2] is a constituent of all works of narrative fiction—a necessary feature of verbal storytelling that can be found in any written or spoken narrative. literary elements could be said to be produced by the readers of a work just as much as they are produced by its author.

or specifically the build or height or age of a character motivation any force that drives or moves the character to behave in a particular way conflict a struggle or clash between opposing characters or forces internal conflict takes place within a character's mind external conflict character struggles against some outside force character vs character one character is in conflict with another character. or event that stands for itself and for something beyond itself as well. or that the character is amusing brave. internal foreshadowing the use of hints and clues to suggest what will happen later in a plot symbol Person. place.when the writer directly tells the reader a description of a character's looks and clothing. or lonesome. external character vs nature character in conflict with a natural force. or resembles theme the truth about life revealed in a work of literature . as. external character vs self character has to make a decision. then. metaphor an imaginative comparison between two unlike things in which one thing is said to be another thing simile a comparison between two unlike things using a word such as like. thing.

history. or an event from literature. religion. place. politics. mythology. or science dialect a way of speaking that is characteristic of a particular region or group of people alliteration the repetition of the same or very similar consonant sounds in words that are close together suspense the uncertainty or anxiety you feel about what will happen next in a story imagery language that appeals to the senses plot the series of related events that make up a story setting the time and place in which the events of a work of literature take place climax the most emotional or suspenseful moment in the story resolution when the characters problems are solved and the story ends point of veiw . sports. person.personification a figure of speech in which a nonhuman or nonliving thing or quality is talked about as if it were human or alive flashback an interruption in the action of a plot to tell what happened at an earlier time onomatopoeia the use of words whose sounds echo their sense (boom pow zap) allusion a reference to a statement.

however. Metaphor . Examples of literary devices There are many hundreds of terms that refer to a unique aspect of literature. As storytelling evolved over the millennia. literary devices have played a key role in our history. of course. such as theme or tone (though these two examples. for example. so too did the range and complexity of techniques available to authors. character. While many poems contain similes. we’ve chosen three popular literary devices to examine in depth. Many of the elements that authors use are so fundamental that they are not necessarily conscious choices. are not universal or necessary in the sense that not all works contain instances of them. Literary Techniques Literary elements are the universal constituents of literature and thus can be found in any written or oral story. Simile. We’ll also look at how these literary devices function in two popular works. Literary techniques. not all do. Other techniques.the vantage point at which a story is told LITERARY DEVICES What are Literary Devices? From the very first time humans began sharing stories. are more intentional. however. Plot and character. therefore. such as foreshadowing and red herrings. and look at examples and definitions of several popular literary terms. is a literary technique instead of a literary element. are necessary to story and are present in stories from every culture and time period. Along with the creation of storytelling came the development of narrative elements like plot. could be consciously constructed by the author). Literary Elements vs. We will explore the difference between literary elements and literary techniques. and tone. Simile and irony are examples of literary techniques. Scott Fitzgerald. Below. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Great Gatsby by F.

Common in all forms of literature. The Mother Goose rhyme “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is an example of alliteration due to the repetition of the letter “p”. One of the most famous examples of metaphor is from Shakespeare’s play As You Like It: All the world’s a stage. and is a primary characteristic of prose. and is often mistaken with simile. Alliteration Most common in poetry. Here. Point-of-view Point-of-view is a term for the narrative mode. red rose). metaphor is a way of comparing things by stating that one thing is the same or very similar to another seemingly unrelated object. the character Jaques states that the world is a stage. Jaques compares the lifetime of a human to acts in a play. though the repetition of “p” sound can also be described as consonance). There are many options. authors also sometimes choose to mix different points of view in the same novel. Alliteration is a special case of consonance. which we know not to be literally true. as the presence of alliteration made the oral stories easier to remember and retell through the generations. alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent words. the most common of which are first person singular and third person limited. which is the repetition of consonant sounds anywhere in the word (the “ck” sound from the previous Mother Goose rhyme is an example of consonance. It is the way in which the author narrates the story. respectively. though also present in some lines of prose and theater. Metaphor is a type of analogy. the use of metaphor often expands the way the reader or viewer understands the world around him or her. by extending the metaphor. whereas metaphor is an assertion of the comparison without modifiers or conjunctions. This was a very popular literary device in Old English storytelling. However. And one man in his time plays many parts. Here is a list of the types of point-of-view: . with birth and death being merely “entrances” and “exits”. Psychologically. His acts being seven ages. The difference between metaphor and simile is that a simile includes “like” or “as” in the comparison (for example: “O my luve’s like a red. as it does in this example. And all the men and women merely players. as it comes in the middle of the words rather than at the beginning. They have their exits and their entrances.

First person singular: This point-of-view uses an “I” character to narrate the story. Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles. end them? To die. One example of this is the 1993 novel The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides in which a group of unnamed young men from a small town observe and comment on a family with five sisters. in which the reader is encouraged to imagine himself or herself as the protagonist. yet being limited to only one person’s thoughts it can still provide psychological access to that character. or not to be. it also allows for the author to add descriptive and narrative details that the character doesn’t necessarily notice. there must be some uniting factor between the group of people narrating the story. but can access the thoughts of any character in the story. or it must be clear that the “you” character is. The narrator is not necessarily the protagonist.” This is a very difficult point of view to sustain. Third person limited: This point-of-view uses “he” or “she” to refer to the narrator of the story. the first person plural uses the pronoun “we” as the narrator. a way for the narrator to reflect back on his or her own actions. Lisbon we looked in vain for some sign of the beauty that must have once been hers. This point of view creates the most distance between the reader and any one character of the story. However. For example: Whenever we saw Mrs. though this is often the case as this point-of-view is the most intimate and allows for the most direct access to a character’s thoughts. For example: You are a deep sea explorer searching for the famed lost city of Atlantis. The most successful examples are the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Fear and excitement are now your companions. Third person omniscient: Here the author uses the pronouns “he” and “she”. It is less intimate than the first person point of view. Second person: Even less common is the novel narrated with “you. In this case. that is the question— Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune. First person plural: A relatively uncommon choice for point-of-view. Below is an excerpt from the most famous soliloquy from the play (and. to sleep— No more. indeed. perhaps the most famous soliloquy ever written). To be. This is your most challenging and dangerous mission. Literary Devices in Hamlet Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet is full of literary devices. in fact. to say we end . And by opposing. and by a sleep. as the reader must identify with the “you”.

and yet the plot revolves around the actions of his friend Jay Gatsby. and the comparable fortunes of the men who arrive at Jay Gatsby’s famous parties. yet the reader or viewer is able to connect the two concepts mentally. there’s the rub. To die. Must give us pause.” Fortune does not literally shoot arrows.” which functions as a metaphor for death. Hamlet is contemplating death. The soliloquy provides access to Hamlet’s motivation for whether or not to avenge his father’s death. what dreams may come. Literary Devices in The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby is famous for its use of a third person limited narrator who is not the protagonist. Aye. especially of the word “sleep. For in that sleep of death. There is much juxtaposition in the novel between West Egg and East Egg. such as the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and the “sea of troubles. we are able to find many literary devices at work. including readers’ knowledge of Jay and Daisy’s affair of which Daisy’s husband Tom is unaware (dramatic irony) and Daisy’s decision to stay with Tom at the end of the novel.The Heart-ache. Nick Carraway tells the story. Fitzgerald also uses irony throughout the novel. In just this short excerpt. and thus the mood is quite somber. perchance to Dream. both murder and suicide. This is a relatively uncommon method in which to narrate a novel. and there is no literal sea of troubles. When we have shuffled off this mortal coil. to sleep. In this excerpt. and the thousand Natural shocks That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To sleep. There are other metaphors in this excerpt. There are many instances of repetition. contrary to readers’ expectations (situational irony) .

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