Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: Persona Literally

A persona is a mask. In literature, a persona is a speaker created by a writer to tell a story or to speak in a poem. A persona is not a character in a story or narrative, nor does a persona necessarily directly reflect the author’s personal voice. A persona is a separate self, created by and distinct from the author, through which he or she speaks. See also narrator.

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Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: Prologue

The opening speech or dialogue of a play, especially a classic Greek play, that usually gives the exposition necessary to follow the subsequent action. Today the term also refers to the introduction to any literary work. See also drama, exposition.

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 9:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is:

Aesthetic distance

degree of emotional involvement in a work of art. The most obvious example of aesthetic distance (also referred to simply as distance) occurs with paintings. Some paintings require us to stand back to see the design of the whole painting; standing close, we see the technique of the painting, say the brush strokes, but not the whole. Other paintings require us to stand close to see the whole; their design and any figures become less clear as we move back from the painting.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: Soliloquy

A dramatic convention by means of which a character, alone onstage, utters his or her thoughts aloud. Playwrights use soliloquies as a convenient way to inform the audience about a character’s motivations and state of mind. Shakespeare’s Hamlet delivers perhaps the best known of all soliloquies, which begins: “To be or not to be.”

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: 

Character

Characterization A character is a person presented in a dramatic or narrative work, and characterization is the process by which a writer makes that character seem real to the reader. A hero or heroine, often called the protagonist, is the central character who engages the reader’s interest and empathy. The antagonist is the character, force, or collection of forces that stands directly opposed to the protagonist and gives rise to the conflict of the story. A static character does not change throughout the work, and the reader’s knowledge of that character does not grow, whereas a dynamic character undergoes some kind of change because of the action in the plot. A flat character embodies one or two qualities, ideas, or traits that can be readily described in a brief summary. They are not psychologically complex characters and therefore are readily accessible to readers. Some flat characters are recognized as stock characters; they embody stereotypes such as the “dumb blonde” or the “mean stepfather.” They become types rather than individuals. Round characters are more complex than flat or stock characters, and often display the inconsistencies and internal conflicts found in most real people. They are more fully developed, and therefore are harder to summarize. Authors have two major methods of presenting characters: showing and telling. Showing allows the author to present a character talking and acting, and lets the reader infer what kind of person the character is. In telling, the author intervenes to describe and sometimes evaluate the character for the reader. Characters can be convincing whether they are presented by showing or by telling, as long as their actions are motivated. Motivated action by the characters occurs when the reader or audience is offered reasons for how the characters behave, what they say, and the decisions they make. Plausible action is action by a character in a story that seems reasonable, given the motivations presented.

Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: Irony

A literary device that uses contradictory statements or situations to reveal a reality different from what appears to be true. It is ironic for a firehouse to burn down, or for a police station to be burglarized. Verbal irony is a figure of speech that occurs when a person says one thing but means the opposite. Sarcasm is a strong form of verbal irony that is calculated to hurt someone through, for example, false praise. Dramatic irony creates a discrepancy between what a character believes or says and what the reader or audience member knows to be true. Tragic irony is a form of dramatic irony found in tragedies such as Oedipus the King, in which Oedipus searches for the person responsible for the plague that ravishes his city and ironically ends up hunting himself. Situational irony exists when there is an incongruity between what is expected to happen and what actually happens due to forces beyond human comprehension or control. The suicide of the seemingly successful main character in Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem “Richard Cory” is an example of situational irony. Cosmic irony occurs when a writer uses God, destiny, or fate to dash the hopes and expectations of a character or of humankind in general. In cosmic irony, a discrepancy exists between what a character aspires to and what universal forces provide. Stephen Crane’s poem “A Man Said to the Universe” is a good example of cosmic irony, because the universe acknowledges no obligation to the man’s assertion of his own existence.

Published in: on January 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things, without using the word like or as. Metaphors assert the identity of dissimilar things, as when Macbeth asserts that life is a “brief candle.” Metaphors can be subtle and powerful, and can transform people, places, objects, and ideas into whatever the writer imagines them to be. An implied metaphor is a more subtle comparison; the terms being compared are not so specifically explained. For example, to describe a stubborn man unwilling to leave, one could say that he was “a mule standing his ground.” This is a fairly explicit metaphor; the man is being compared to a mule. But to say that the man “brayed his refusal to leave” is to create an implied metaphor, because the subject (the man) is never overtly identified as a mule. Braying is associated with the mule, a notoriously stubborn creature, and so the comparison between the stubborn man and the mule is sustained. Implied metaphors can slip by inattentive readers who are not sensitive to such carefully chosen, highly concentrated language. An extended metaphor is a sustained comparison in which part or all of a poem consists of a series of related metaphors. Robert Francis’s poem “Catch” relies on an extended metaphor that compares poetry to playing catch. A controlling metaphor runs through an entire work and determines the form or nature of that work. The controlling metaphor in Anne Bradstreet’s poem “The Author to Her Book” likens her book to a child. Synecdoche is a kind of metaphor in which a part of something is used to signify the whole, as when a gossip is called a “wagging tongue,” or when ten ships are called “ten sails.” Sometimes, synecdoche refers to the whole being used to signify the part, as in the phrase “Boston won the baseball game.” Clearly, the entire city of Boston did not participate in the game; the whole of Boston is being used to signify the individuals who played and won the game. Metonymy is a type of metaphor in which something closely associated with a subject is substituted for it. In this way, we speak of the “silver screen” to mean motion pictures, “the crown” to stand for the king, “the White House” to stand for the activities of the president.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: 
New historicism

An approach to literature that emphasizes the interaction between the historic context of the work and a modern reader’s understanding and interpretation of the work. New historicists attempt to describe the culture of a period by reading many different kinds of texts and paying close attention to many different dimensions of a culture, including political, economic, social, and aesthetic concerns. They regard texts not simply as a reflection of the culture that produced them but also as productive of that culture playing an active role in the social and political conflicts of an age. New historicism acknowledges and then explores various versions of “history,” sensitizing us to the fact that the history on which we choose to focus is colored by being reconstructed from our present circumstances.

Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is: Plot

An author’s selection and arrangement of incidents in a story to shape the action and give the story a particular focus. Discussions of plot include not just what happens, but also how and why things happen the way they do. Stories that are written in a pyramidal pattern divide the plot into three essential parts. The first part is the rising action, in which complication creates some sort of conflict for the protagonist. The second part is the climax, the moment of greatest emotional tension in a narrative, usually marking a turning point in the plot at which the rising action reverses to become the falling action. The third part, the falling action (or resolution) is characterized by diminishing tensions and the resolution of the plot’s conflicts and complications. In medias res is a term used to describe the common strategy of beginning a story in the middle of the action. In this type of plot, we enter the story on the verge of some important moment.

Published in: on January 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Literary Lingo

It’s time for some Literary Lingo.

Today’s word is:  Allegory

A figurative work in which a surface narrative carries a secondary, symbolic or metaphorical meaning. In The Faerie Queene, for example, Red Cross Knight is a heroic knight in the literal narrative, but also a figure representing Everyman in the Christian journey.  Many works contain allegories or are allegorical in part, but not many are entirely allegorical.

Published in: on January 5, 2011 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment