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Literature Vocabulary

Literature vocabulary is comprised of terms and concepts that are specific to the world of literature and literary works. This includes concepts that are used to make up the style, format or plot of different works.  

TermDefinition
Anachronism

In modern terms an anachronism is what's known as a "mis-fit" today. An anachronism is an object, event, custom or person that is paried with the incorrect time period.

Byline

Since the byline gives credit to the writer for his work, most writers usually prefer to seek work that promises them a byline. The alternative would be for the newspaper and/or agency to simply credit the content to the "staff" in general, or to publish the material anonymously. Writers may also sometimes have reason for seeking to avoid a byline, in the event that their work (for example) does not fit well with their desired public profile.

Cacophony

Cacophony is usually used to describe a mixture of sounds that is not pleasing to the ear; therefore, it generally has a negative connotation. Within certain genres or traditions of music, though, such as experimental, modern, and metal music, cacophony may be intentionally produced in order to create the specific aesthetic effect associated with the harshness and dissonance itself.  

Canon

The term canon is generally used in an exclusionary sense: that is, it is meant to differentiate between what is and is not a genuine part of a given canon. The canon can refer to either works that have been definitely written by a given author, as opposed to spuriously attributed to him. It can also refer to a collection of works that are considered central, as opposed to peripheral, to a given cultural tradition

Caption

The purpose of a caption is always to clarify the meaning of an image. For example, within the context of a scholarly paper, a caption is often used to explain what is represented in the data of a chart of graph. The title of a photograph or painting can also serve as a caption, insofar as it tells the viewer what the image is about. This can be especially valuable in more abstract works of art.

Catharsis

The term catharsis is important for understanding the emotional experience of the audience when experiencing a narrative work of art. In general, such a work is considered aesthetically good if it is able to bring themes and plots to a resolution in such a way that the audience is able to experience this emotional release. However, catharsis may sometimes intentionally be denied for the sake of that very aesthetic effect

Character Count

Character count is a relatively self-explanatory concept, referring as it does to the number of characters in a piece of text. The rise of computers surely contributed to the concept, however, insofar as it would be both difficult and pointless to manually tabulate a character count. Although it has some specialized uses, character count is generally far less commonly used than word count or page count.  

Cliche

Most people can recognize a cliche by the fact that they feel like groaning when they hear one. A cliche is a saying or phrase that has been so overused that it has lost all meaning. However, it is important to bear in mind that a cliche develops over time. When it was first invented, a cliche was probably just an aphorism; it only became a cliche because of thoughtless overuse by too many people. 

Content

The words within a given piece of text constitute the type of content for that piece of text. Content is generally produced by writers for the sake of a specified purpose. For example, a marketer may need content written about one of his products, and he may hire a writer to produce that content. The term content has become especially relevant within the context of the information economy, where it refers to the "product" delivered by a writer.

Copyright

The copyright establishes the property rights of an artist over his creative work. The copyright is to a creative work what a patent is to an invention, or the trademark is to a brand. The concept of copyright is based on a particular cultural vision of both authorship and of private property. The concept of copyright has become especially important in the modern era, due to the emergent individualistic understanding of the nature of creativity.

Couplet

A couplet consists of two lines of verse that rhyme with each other, and which have the same meter. Rhyme means that the last sounds in each line possess a certain aural consonance, like the one between the words them and gem. Meter means the lines have the same pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. The couplet has been important to poetry historically, although it is perhaps become less significant within modern prose or poetry.  

Denouement

The denouement is structurally important in a narrative work: it is the part where the various aspects of plot, character, and theme that have been developed over the course of the work are brought together and resolved in a coherent and emotionally satisfying way. A poor denouement is usually a sign of a poorly structured work, although it can on occasion be done on purpose as well for the sake of aesthetic effect. 

Dialogue

A dialogue is a conversation between people and/or characters. For example, within a novel, the dialogue sections would be the ones offset by quotation marks, where the characters speak in their own voices. Likewise, dialogue is crucial to all plays, with dialogue only being interrupted either by chorus or soliloquy. Dialogue enables the author to represent social situations and enable characters to speak for themselves. 

Discourse

A discourse occurs when a one or more persons formally expound on and/or discuss a given subject in an academic or systematic way. Within the cultural movement of postmodernism, though, discourse more commonly refers to the way that people talk about a given subject. For example, one can speak of capitalist discourse or feminist discourse: these are different frames of references that generally guide the possibilities of thought and discussion. 

Draft

Usually, when a writer creates a work, it does not all come out perfectly at the very first attempt. So, each version of the work is called a draft. The writer generally begins by putting some words down on the page, and then s/he revises or changes the content later on as s/he gains a clearer idea of what s/he is trying to achieve. The first draft would then refer to the initial attempt, and the final draft would refer to the completed work. 

Dystopia

When a writer or author evokes a dystopia, he is usually developing a future scenario that is based on an exacerbation of disturbing trends or themes that can be found within present-day society. As such, dystopia is especially prevalent within the genre of science fiction. For example, a writer may focus on the modern reliance on technology in order to develop the idea of a society where people are enslaved to robots. 

Edit

An edit is essentially a version of a work that is changed in some way from a previous version of the work. The edit could have been done to improve general quality. Or, it could have also be done to suit a specific purpose, such as when a song is edited for the purposes of airing it on the radio. The term edit is also often used as a verb, in which case it simply refers to the process of producing an edit. 

Electronic Submission

An electronic submission can be used to transmit a file from one person to another person in a secure way. Of course, this form of transfer of files arose in tandem with the Internet: before that, it would have been logistically difficult to transfer files in an electronic way, as opposed to manually delivering the document to the recipient. There was admittedly faxing in the past; this can be understood as a precursor to modern electronic submissions.

Embargo

The purpose of an embargo is to enable stakeholders to cooperate with each other regarding the release of information to the public. For example, if a government official tells a news agency about an upcoming announcement, then an embargo can both give the agency time to prepare reports and ensure that those reports will not be released before the official is prepared to make a public announcements. Such arrangements are mutually beneficial. 

Epithet

An epithet is generally used in order to attribute a certain trait to an entire group or category of people. In modern usage, the most common type of epithet has become, unfortunately, the racial slur. This is likely based on the fact that when one does attribute a characteristic to an entire group, one usually relies on prejudices in order to do so. An epithet could technically attribute something positive to people as well, although this is far less common.  

Exegesis

The purpose of conducting an exegesis is always to unearth layers of meaning within a text that may not be readily apparent to a reader who has not been trained in the relevant critical methods or background areas of knowledge. For example, the Bible is the paradigm of a work that can be subjected to exegesis; and a person with a working knowledge of Hebrew and Greek may notice meanings in the text that the lay reader may not.  

Fatal Flaw

When it is said that a character has a fatal flaw, the implication is that the character is perhaps admirable and successful in other ways, but there is something within his personality that will eventually lead to his downfall. The heroes of the ancient Greek dramas, for example, generally had tragic flaws. The tragic flaw is often a good trait that has turned bad as a result of being pushed to an extreme or being wrongly applied in some way. 

Free Verse

Free verse can be meaningfully contrasted against traditional verse and blank verse. Traditional verse generally follows formal rules of both rhyme and meter; and blank verse eschews rules of both rhyme and meter, in favor of a more natural pattern that follows the cadences of the spoken word. Free verse can be understood as inbetween these, in that it maintains traditional schemes of meter while doing away with traditional schemes of rhyme.  

Frontlist

The frontlist of a publishing house consists of the new books that they have printed and are offering for sale within a season. The more common term, though, is probably the backlist, which refers to books that the house has published in the past; and the term frontlist likely developed simply as a complement to the term backlist. The frontlist rotates over time, whereas the backlist is cumulative.  

Hook

As the name of the term suggests, the hook is designed to capture the reader's attention and draw him into the work that he is reading. This is always desirable, insofar as writing is a form of communication and its intended purpose is to make the reader pay attention to it. This has become especially important in recent times as a result of the wide range of material competing for attention through websites, social media, and so on.  

Hubris

Hubris is excessive pride; and it generally leads to tragedy, due to the fact that the person who has hubris generally either overestimates his own powers or underestimates the power of things outside of his control. Within the context of tragic drama, hubris is a common fatal flaw: the hero may been talented in many ways, but he overestimates himself and is thus overcome by fate. The ancient story of Oedipus would be a good example of this. 

Hyperbole

The purpose of a hyperbole is to produce an effect on the listener through the use of exaggeration. It could be understood as a kind of joke, insofar as its meaning and effect would be ruined if it is taken literally by the listener. Also, it is worth pointing out that the term hyperbole has a secondary meaning within the context of mathematics; this has nothing to do with the literary meaning that has been explicated here.

Hypothesis

The purpose of a hypothesis is to posit a testable proposition regarding the nature of the relationship between different variables. The criterion of falsification is a crucial element of the definition of a hypothesis. If a statement is formulated in such a way that it could never be shown to be false, then this would be not a hypothesis but rather a postulate. The hypothesis is thus a crucial part of the practice of science.

Jargon

Ideally, the purpose of jargon would be to enable professionals to develop a language that they can use in order to talk about relevant subjects with an adequate level of detail and rigor. For example, professionals use jargon in their CVs to increase career marketing. What can happen sometimes, though, is that the jargon merely serves the purpose of keeping outsiders from understanding specialized knowledge, even when that knowledge could be expressed in a more generic way. It is thus important to only use jargon when necessary. 

Loop Writing

The most characteristic element of the loop writing process is perhaps its emphasis on spontaneous writing. The student is simply to put all his thoughts down on the page, with no regard for conceptual biases or even grammatical correctness. This material is then to be revised later in order achieve greater quality. Spontaneous creativity, however, is at the very bottom of the entire process outlined by Elbow. This could potentially help overcome writer's block. 

Lyric

When a poet writes a lyric, he is primarily concerned with expressing his own subjectivity. This is different from the epic, where the poet aspires to speak on behalf of an entire culture or nation. Moreover, in modern usage, the term lyric has largely come to mean the words that are sung as a part of songs in popular genres such as blues and rock. Such songs perhaps have a genealogical connection with older lyric poetry.   

Monologue

In contradistinction with a dialogue, a monologue occurs when a character speaks at length by or to himself and not with or to other characters. In general, the monologue is used within the context of dramas or novels in order to provide the reader with a window into the character's own thoughts. More figuratively, a monologue could also said to be taking place if a person talks to someone else, but without letting them get a word in. 

Motif

A motif within a work of art is closely connected to the questions that the work is trying to explore or the message that the work is trying to communicate. The novelist Kundera, for example, has a habit of titling his works after key motifs that appear within them (such as immortality). The motif grants a kind of thematic coherence to the work, and its recurrences also help clarify the meaning of the motif itself.  

Narrative

In truth, any story at all, whether fictional or non-fictional, can be identified as a narrative. This universality of the concept of narrative is likely related to the fact that narrative interpretation is built into the very structure of the human experience of life itself. On the other hand, if modern artists attempt to break with the concept of narrative, then this is often because of the perception that life itself is becoming increasingly fragmented. 

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia essentially refers to the process of making a word on the basis of an actual sound heard out in the world. For example, a cuckoo is called a cuckoo because it makes that sound; and the same can be said with regard to the verb sizzle. It is possible that this is how some of the earliest words of human language were first created: through the imitation of Nature, or sounds actually heard over the course of experience. 

Pathos

Pathos refers to specifically using language in such a way that the speaker seeks to appeal to the emotional reactions of the audience. This can be contrasted with ethos, which appeals to the moral sensibilities of the audience, and logos, which appeals to the reason of the audience. In general, pathos is often a highly effective, but philosophically rather crude, way of getting the audience to sympathize with one's own perspective. 

Plot

Plot is known as the foundation of a novel or story which the characters and settings are built around. It is meant to organize information and events in a logical manner. When writing the plot of a piece of literature, the author has to be careful that it does not dominate the other parts of the story.

Pun

The definition of a pun is the use of a word, or of words which are formed or sounded alike, in such a way as to juxtapose, connect, or bring out two or more of the possible applications of the word or words, usually in a humorous way; a play on words.

Refrain

It's usually hard to refrain from doing something, because this word is used to describe habits, like smoking, or uncontrollable urges, like laughing. The Latin word refrēnāre is formed from the prefix re- "back" plus frēnāre "to hold a horse back with a bridle." There is a noun refrain, but that's a different and unrelated word.

Setting

In literature, the word ‘setting’ is used to identify and establish the time, place and mood of the events of the story. It basically helps in establishing where and when and under what circumstances the story is taking place.

Soliloquy

A soliloquy an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present (often used as a device in drama to disclose a character's innermost thoughts)

Stanza

Stanzas are the building blocks of formal poetry, like paragraphs in a story or verses in a song. They usually have the same number of lines each time, and often use a rhyming pattern that repeats with each new stanza.

Story Arc

A Story Arc (arc as in "over-arching storyline") is a sequence of series installments, TV episodes, comic issues, or a certain period of time in a Video Game that puts characters through their paces in response to a single impetus; basically, an ongoing storyline.

Subplot

In fiction, a subplot is a secondary strand of the plot that is a supporting side story for any story or the main plot. Subplots may connect to main plots, in either time and place or in thematic significance. Subplots often involve supporting characters, those besides the protagonist or antagonist.

Symbol

A symbol is literary device that contains several layers of meaning, often concealed at first sight, and is representative of several other aspects, concepts or traits than those that are visible in the literal translation alone. Symbol is using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning.

Synopsis

Synopsis is a noun meaning summary. Instead of reciting every line of the Shakespearean play you were assigned to read over the weekend, it might be more helpful for your classmates if you give them a synopsis of what happened.

Thesis

Thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should present the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in relation to the topic. Your thesis statement should tell your reader what the paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument focused. 

Travesty

A travesty is a cheap mockery, usually of something or someone serious, such as a travesty of justice.

Trope

A literary trope is the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.

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