GRE In Literature Literary Terms
|Alexandrine|| A line of iambic hexameter. The final line of a Spenserian stanza is an alexandrine.|
Example: Alexander Pope's "Essay on Criticism"
|Anthropomorphism|| Attributing human characteristics to plants or animals; differs from personification in that it is an intrinsic premise or major theme of the work.|
Examples: Orwell's "Animal Farm," Aslan in Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," the Greek god Zeus
|Apostrophe|| A speech addressed to someone not present, or to an abstraction. Its innate grandiosity lends itself well to parody.|
Example: John Donne, 'The Sun Rising,' : "Busy old fool, unruly sun/ Why dost thou thus,/ Through windows, and curtains call..."
|Bildungsroman|| A German term, meaning "novel of education." Typically follows a young person over a period of years, from naivete and inexperience to the first struggles with a harsher adult reality.|
Examples: Joyce, "Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man"; Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye"
|Caesura|| A break in the line of poetry, originated in Old English Verse.|
Example: Virgil, the Aeneid: "I sing of arms and the man//who first from the shores of Troy..."
|Decorum|| One of the Neoclassical periods of drama; the relation of style to content in the speech of dramatic characters. Characters' speech should match their social station.|
Example: Wilde's characters in "the Importance of Being Earnest"
|Doggerel|| Derogatory term used to describe poorly written poetry of little or no literary value.|
Example: Shakespeare used doggerel in dialogue between the Dromio twins in 'The Comedy of Erros' for comedic effect.
|Epithalamium|| A work, especially a poem, written to celebrate a wedding.|
Example: Edmund Spenser's "Epithalamium"
|Feminine vs. Masculine Rhyme||Feminine Rhyme follows the abab rhyme scheme, while Masculine follows aabbcc. Proper feminine rhyme had penultimate syllables stresses and final unstressed.|
Example of Feminine: Shakespeare, Sonnet 20, "a woman's face with nature's own hand."
Example of Masculine: Frost, "Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening"
|Georgic|| Poetry dealing with people laboring in the countryside, pushing plows, raising crops, etc. Less idyllic than a pastoral.|
Example: Virgil's 'Georgics'
|Hamartia|| Aristotle's term for what is properly called the "tragic flaw." Implies fate, whereas tragic flaw implies an inherent psychological issue.|
Example: Oedipus' hamartia is a hasty temper; Macbeth's hamartia is a lust for power.
|Homeric Epithet|| A repeated descriptive phrase that is attached to a character or object. Found in Homer's epics.|
Examples: "rosy-fingered dawn," "the ever-resourceful Odysseus"
|Hudibrastic||Term derived from Samuel Butler's "Hudibras." Generally, any deliberate, humorous, ill-rhymed couplets.|
|Litotes|| An understatement created through the use of a double negative, used for rhetorical effect.|
Examples: "not unattractive"/ "no ordinary city"
|Metonymy|| A phrase that refers to a person or object by a single important feature it is associated with.|
Examples: "Hollywood" for US Cinema, "The pen is mightier than the sword" (pen=words, sword=violence)
|Neoclassical Unities||Principles of dramatic structure derived from Aristotle's "Poetics." Re-emerged during the Neoclassical movement in the 17th and 18th centuries. The essential units are time, place, and action. |
Time: work should span only one day
Place: work should have one locale
Action: work should have only one plot, no subplots
|Pastoral Elegy|| Poem that is a lament for the dead (elegy) sung by a shepherd, who stands in for the author to give an elegy to another poet.|
Example: Milton, "Lycidas," Shelley's "Adonis" (written for Keats)
|Pathetic Fallacy|| Coined by John Ruskin. Ascribing emotion and agency to inanimate objects.|
Example: "The cruel crawling foam."
|Picaresque|| A novel, typically constructed along an incident to incident basis, that follows the adventures of a more or less scurrilous rogue whose primary concerns are finding food and staying out of jail.|
Examples: Twain, "Huck Finn," Defoe, "Moll Flanders" (rare female example)
|Skeltonics|| Humorous poetry using very short, rhymed lines and a pronounced rhythm. Popularized by John Skelton. Differs from doggerel in quality of expressed thought.|
Examples: Skelton, "How the Doughty Duke of Albany"
|Sprung Rhythm|| Created and used in the 1800s by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Fits a varying number of unstressed syllables into a line. Only the stressed syllables cound in scansion.|
Example: Hopkins, "Pied Beauty"
|Synaesthesia|| Phrases that suggest the interplay of the senses.|
Examples: "hot pink," "golden tones," Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale"
|Synechdoche|| Refers to a person or object by a part only or vise-versa.|
Examples: "All hands on deck!"; Eliot's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,' "I should have been a pair of ragged claws" stands in for wanting to be a crab/crawling creature