Adventure novel. A novel where exciting events are more important than character development and sometimes theme. Examples:
- H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines
- Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel
- Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
- Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
- Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene
- George Orwell, Animal Farm
- Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
Burlesque. A work designed to ridicule a style, literary form, or subject matter either by treating the exalted in a trivial way or by discussing the trivial in exalted terms (that is, with mock dignity). Burlesque concentrates on derisive imitation, usually in exaggerated terms. Literary genres (like the tragic drama) can be burlesqued, as can styles of sculpture, philosophical movements, schools of art, and so forth. See Parody, Travesty.
Caesura. A pause, metrical or rhetorical, occurring somewhere in a line of poetry. The pause may or may not be typographically indicated.
Canon. In relation to literature, this term is half-seriously applied to those works generally accepted as the great ones. A battle is now being fought to change or throw out the canon for three reasons. First, the list of great books is thoroughly dominated by DWEM's (dead, white, European males), and the accusation is that women and minorities and non-Western cultural writers have been ignored. Second, there is pressure in the literary community to throw out all standards as the nihilism of the late 20th century makes itself felt in the literature departments of the universities. Scholars and professors want to choose the books they like or which reflect their own ideas, without worrying about canonicity. Third, the canon has always been determined at least in part by political considerations and personal philosophical biases. Books are much more likely to be called "great" if they reflect the philosophical ideas of the critic.
Children's novel. A novel written for children and discerned by one or more of these: (1) a child character or a character a child can identify with, (2) a theme or themes (often didactic) aimed at children, (3) vocabulary and sentence structure available to a young reader. Many "adult" novels, such as Gulliver's Travels, are read by children. The test is that the book be interesting to and--at some level--accessible by children. Examples:
- Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer
- L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
- Charles Sheldon, In His Steps
- Lloyd C. Douglas, The Robe
- Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis
- Par Lagerkvist, Barabbas
- Catherine Marshall, Christy
- C. S. Lewis, Perelandra
- G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who was Thursday
- Bodie Thoene, In My Father's House
- ignorance to knowledge
- innocence to experience
- false view of world to correct view
- idealism to realism
- immature responses to mature responses
- Jane Austen Northanger Abbey
Detective novel. A novel focusing on the solving of a crime, often by a brilliant detective, and usually employing the elements of mystery and suspense. Examples:
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
- Dorothy Sayers, Strong Poison
- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun.Enjambed. The running over of a sentence or thought into the next couplet or line without a pause at the end of the line; a run-on line. For example, the first two lines here are enjambed:
Coral is far more red than her lips red. --Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true mindsEpic. An extended narrative poem recounting actions, travels, adventures, and heroic episodes and written in a high style (with ennobled diction, for example). It may be written in hexameter verse, especially dactylic hexameter, and it may have twelve books or twenty four books. Characteristics of the classical epic include these:
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove. . . . --Shakespeare
- The main character or protagonist is heroically larger than life, often the source and subject of legend or a national hero
- The deeds of the hero are presented without favoritism, revealing his failings as well as his virtues
- The action, often in battle, reveals the more-than-human strength of the heroes as they engage in acts of heroism and courage
- The setting covers several nations, the whole world, or even the universe
- The episodes, even though they may be fictional, provide an explanation for some of the circumstances or events in the history of a nation or people
- The gods and lesser divinities play an active role in the outcome of actions
- All of the various adventures form an organic whole, where each event relates in some way to the central theme
- Poem begins with a statement of the theme ("Arms and the man I sing")
- Invocation to the muse or other deity ("Sing, goddess, of the wrath of Achilles")
- Story begins in medias res (in the middle of things)
- Catalogs (of participants on each side, ships, sacrifices)
- Histories and descriptions of significant items (who made a sword or shield, how it was decorated, who owned it from generation to generation)
- Epic simile (a long simile where the image becomes an object of art in its own right as well as serving to clarify the subject).
- Frequent use of epithets ("Aeneas the true"; "rosy-fingered Dawn"; "tall-masted ship")
- Use of patronymics (calling son by father's name): "Anchises' son"
- Long, formal speeches by important characters
- Journey to the underworld
- Use of the number three (attempts are made three times, etc.)
- Previous episodes in the story are later recounted
- Homer, Iliad
- Homer, Odyssey
- Virgil, Aeneid
- Tasso, Jerusalem Delivered
- Milton, Paradise Lost
- Samuel Richardson, Pamela
- Samuel Richardson, Clarissa
- Fanny Burney, Evelina
- C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
- Hannah W. Foster, The Coquette
Euphuism. A highly ornate style of writing popularized by John Lyly's Euphues, characterized by balanced sentence construction, rhetorical tropes, and multiplied similes and allusions.
Existentialist novel. A novel written from an existentialist viewpoint, often pointing out the absurdity and meaninglessness of existence. Example:
- Albert Camus, The Stranger
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Foot. The basic unit of meter consisting of a group of two or three syllables. Scanning or scansion is the process of determining the prevailing foot in a line of poetry, of determining the types and sequence of different feet.
Types of feet: U (unstressed); / (stressed syllable)
Iamb: U /
Trochee: / U
Anapest: U U /
Dactyl: / U U
Spondee: / /
Pyrrhic: U U
See also versification, below.
Frame. A narrative structure that provides a setting and exposition for the main narrative in a novel. Often, a narrator will describe where he found the manuscript of the novel or where he heard someone tell the story he is about to relate. The frame helps control the reader's perception of the work, and has been used in the past to help give credibility to the main section of the novel. Examples of novels with frames:
- Mary Shelley Frankenstein
- Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter
Gothic novel. A novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terror pervades the action. The setting is often a dark, mysterious castle, where ghosts and sinister humans roam menacingly. Horace Walpole invented the genre with his Castle of Otranto. Gothic elements include these:
- Ancient prophecy, especially mysterious, obscure, or hard to understand.
- Mystery and suspense
- High emotion, sentimentalism, but also pronounced anger, surprise, and especially terror
- Supernatural events (e.g. a giant, a sighing portrait, ghosts or their apparent presence, a skeleton)
- Omens, portents, dream visions
- Fainting, frightened, screaming women
- Women threatened by powerful, impetuous male
- Setting in a castle, especially with secret passages
- The metonymy of gloom and horror (wind, rain, doors grating on rusty hinges, howls in the distance, distant sighs, footsteps approaching, lights in abandoned rooms, gusts of wind blowing out lights or blowing suddenly, characters trapped in rooms or imprisoned)
- The vocabulary of the gothic (use of words indicating fear, mystery, etc.: apparition, devil, ghost, haunted, terror, fright)
- Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto
- William Beckford, Vathek
- Anne Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho
- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
- Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
u / u / u / u / u /[Note in the second line that "or" should be a stressed syllable if the meter were perfectly iambic. Iambic= a two syllable foot of one unstressed and one stressed syllable, as in the word "begin." Pentameter= five feet. Thus, iambic pentameter has ten syllables, five feet of two syllable iambs.]
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
u / u / u / u / u /
Appear in writing or in judging ill. . . .
Historical novel. A novel where fictional characters take part in actual historical events and interact with real people from the past. Examples:
- Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe
- Sir Walter Scott, Waverly
- James Fenimore Cooper, Last of the Mohicans
- Lloyd C. Douglas, The Robe
Humanism. The new emphasis in the Renaissance on human culture, education and reason, sparked by a revival of interest in classical Greek and Roman literature, culture, and language. Human nature and the dignity of man were exalted and emphasis was placed on the present life as a worthy event in itself (as opposed to the medieval emphasis on the present life merely as preparation for a future life).
Humours. In medieval physiology, four liquids in the human body affecting behavior. Each humour was associated with one of the four elements of nature. In a balanced personality, no humour predominated. When a humour did predominate, it caused a particular personality. Here is a chart of the humours, the corresponding elements and personality characteristics:
- blood...air...hot and moist: sanguine, kind, happy, romantic
- phlegm...water...cold and moist: phlegmatic, sedentary, sickly, fearful
- yellow bile...fire...hot and dry: choleric, ill-tempered, impatient, stubborn
- black bile...earth...cold and dry: melancholy, gluttonous, lazy, contemplative
Hypertext novel. A novel that can be read in a nonsequential way. That is, whereas most novels flow from beginning to end in a continuous, linear fashion, a hypertext novel can branch--the reader can move from one place in the text to another nonsequential place whenever he wishes to trace an idea or follow a character. Also called hyperfiction. Most are published on CD-ROM. See also interactive novel. Examples:
- Michael Joyce, Afternoon
- Stuart Moulthrop, Victory Garden
Invective. Speech or writing that abuses, denounces, or attacks. It can be directed against a person, cause, idea, or system. It employs a heavy use of negative emotive language. Example:
- I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth. --Swift
An example of dramatic irony (where the audience has knowledge that gives additional meaning to a character's words) would be when King Oedipus, who has unknowingly killed his father, says that he will banish his father's killer when he finds him.
Irony is the most common and most efficient technique of the satirist, because it is an instrument of truth, provides wit and humor, and is usually at least obliquely critical, in that it deflates, scorns, or attacks.
The ability to detect irony is sometimes heralded as a test of intelligence and sophistication. When a text intended to be ironic is not seen as such, the effect can be disastrous. Some students have taken Swift's "Modest Proposal" literally. And Defoe's contemporaries took his "Shortest Way with the Dissenters" literally and jailed him for it. To be an effective piece of sustained irony, there must be some sort of audience tip-off, through style, tone, use of clear exaggeration, or other device.
Juvenalian Satire. Harsher, more pointed, perhaps intolerant satire typified by the writings of Juvenal. Juvenalian satire often attacks particular people, sometimes thinly disguised as fictional characters. While laughter and ridicule are still weapons as with Horatian satire, the Juvenalian satirist also uses withering invective and a slashing attack. Swift is a Juvenalian satirist.
Lampoon. A crude, coarse, often bitter satire ridiculing the personal appearance or character of a person.
Literary quality. A judgment about the value of a novel as literature. At the heart of this issue is the question of what distinguishes a great or important novel from one that is less important. Certainly the feature is not that of interest or excitement, for pulp novels can be even more exciting and interesting than "great" novels. Usually, books that make us think--that offer insight into the human condition--are the ones we rank more highly than books that simply titillate us.
Metaphysical Poetry. The term metaphysical was applied to a style of 17th Century poetry first by John Dryden and later by Dr. Samuel Johnson because of the highly intellectual and often abstruse imagery involved.
Chief among the metaphysical poets are John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Andrew Marvell, and Henry Vaughan. While their poetry is widely varied (the metaphysicals are not a thematic or even a structural school), there are some common characteristics:
- 1. Argumentative structure. The poem often engages in a debate or persuasive presentation; the poem is an intellectual exercise as well as or instead of an emotional effusion.
- 2. Dramatic and colloquial mode of utterance. The poem often describes a dramatic event rather than being a reverie, a thought, or contemplation. Diction is simple and usually direct; inversion is limited. The verse is occasionally rough, like speech, rather than written in perfect meter, resulting in a dominance of thought over form.
- 3. Acute realism. The poem often reveals a psychological analysis; images advance the argument rather than being ornamental. There is a learned style of thinking and writing; the poetry is often highly intellectual.
- 4. Metaphysical wit. The poem contains unexpected, even striking or shocking analogies, offering elaborate parallels between apparently dissimilar things. The analogies are drawn from widely varied fields of knowledge, not limited to traditional sources in nature or art. Analogies from science, mechanics, housekeeping, business, philosophy, astronomy, etc. are common. These "conceits" reveal a play of intellect, often resulting in puns, paradoxes, and humorous comparisons. Unlike other poetry where the metaphors usually remain in the background, here the metaphors sometimes take over the poem and control it.
Meter. The rhythmic pattern produced when words are arranged so that their stressed and unstressed syllables fall into a more or less regular sequence, resulting in repeated patterns of accent (called feet). See feet and versification.
Mock Epic. Treating a frivolous or minor subject seriously, especially by using the machinery and devices of the epic (invocations, descriptions of armor, battles, extended similes, etc.). The opposite of travesty. Examples:
- Alexander Pope, The Dunciad
- Alexander Pope, Rape of the Lock
- Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
- Amy Tan, The Kitchen God's Wife
- Forrest Carter, The Education of Little Tree
- Margaret Craven, I Heard the Owl Call My Name
- James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain
- Chaim Potok, The Chosen
- Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Penitent
- Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Novel. Dare we touch this one with a ten foot pole? Of course we dare, provided that you accept the caveat that novels are so varied that any definition is likely to be inadequate to cover all of them. So here is a place to start: a novel is an extended prose fiction narrative of 50,000 words or more, broadly realistic--concerning the everyday events of ordinary people--and concerned with character. "People in significant action" is one way of describing it.
Another definition might be "an extended, fictional prose narrative about realistic characters and events." It is a representation of life, experience, and learning. Action, discovery, and description are important elements, but the most important tends to be one or more characters--how they grow, learn, find--or don't grow, learn, or find.
Compare the definition of a romance, below, and you will see why this definition seems somewhat restrictive.
Novella. A prose fiction longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. There is no standard definition of length, but since rules of thumb are sometimes handy, we might say that the short story ends at about 20,000 words, while the novel begins at about 50,000. Thus, the novella is a fictional work of about 20,000 to 50,000 words. Examples:
- Henry James, Daisy Miller
- Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- Henry James, Turn of the Screw
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
- William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
Persona. The person created by the author to tell a story. Whether the story is told by an omniscient narrator or by a character in it, the actual author of the work often distances himself from what is said or told by adopting a persona--a personality different from his real one. Thus, the attitudes, beliefs, and degree of understanding expressed by the narrator may not be the same as those of the actual author. Some authors, for example, use narrators who are not very bright in order to create irony.
Petrarchan Conceit. The kind of conceit (see above) used by Italian Renaissance poet Petrarch and popular in Renaissance English sonnets. Eyes like stars or the sun, hair like golden wires, lips like cherries, etc. are common examples. Oxymorons are also common, such as freezing fire, burning ice, etc.
Picaresque novel. An episodic, often autobiographical novel about a rogue or picaro (a person of low social status) wandering around and living off his wits. The wandering hero provides the author with the opportunity to connect widely different pieces of plot, since the hero can wander into any situation. Picaresque novels tend to be satiric and filled with petty detail. Examples:
- Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
- Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
- Henry Fielding, Jonathan Wild
First, political realities might make it dangerous for the real author to admit to a work. Beatings, imprisonment, and even execution are not unheard of for authors of unpopular works.
Second, an author might have a certain type of work associated with a certain name, so that different names are used for different kinds of work. One pen name might be used for westerns, while another name would be used for science fiction.
Lastly, an author might choose a literary name that sounds more impressive or that will garner more respect than the author's real name. Examples:
- Samuel Clemens used the name Mark Twain
- Mary Ann Evans used the name George Eliot
- Jonathan Swift used the name Lemuel Gulliver (once)
Regional novel. A novel faithful to a particular geographic region and its people, including behavior, customs, speech, and history. Examples:
- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
- Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native
- Couplet: a pair of lines rhyming consecutively.
- Eye rhyme: words whose spellings would lead one to think that they rhymed (slough, tough, cough, bough, though, hiccough. Or: love, move, prove. Or: daughter, laughter.)
- Feminine rhyme: two syllable rhyme consisting of stressed syllable followed by unstressed.
- Masculine rhyme: similarity between terminally stressed syllables.
Roman a clef. [French for "novel with a key," pronounced roh MAHN ah CLAY] A novel in which historical events and actual people are written about under the pretense of being fiction. Examples:
- Aphra Behn, Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister
- Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
- Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
- Sir Philip Sidney, The Arcadia
- Harlequin Romance series
Satire. A literary mode based on criticism of people and society through ridicule. The satirist aims to reduce the practices attacked by laughing scornfully at them--and being witty enough to allow the reader to laugh, also. Ridicule, irony, exaggeration, and several other techniques are almost always present. The satirist may insert serious statements of value or desired behavior, but most often he relies on an implicit moral code, understood by his audience and paid lip service by them. The satirist's goal is to point out the hypocrisy of his target in the hope that either the target or the audience will return to a real following of the code. Thus, satire is inescapably moral even when no explicit values are promoted in the work, for the satirist works within the framework of a widely spread value system. Many of the techniques of satire are devices of comparison, to show the similarity or contrast between two things. A list of incongruous items, an oxymoron, metaphors, and so forth are examples. See "The Purpose and Method of Satire" for more information.
Science fiction novel. A novel in which futuristic technology or otherwise altered scientific principles contribute in a significant way to the adventures. Often the novel assumes a set of rules or principles or facts and then traces their logical consequences in some form. For example, given that a man discovers how to make himself invisible, what might happen? Examples:
- H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
- Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
- Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield
- Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling
- Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey
- Thomas Day, The History of Sandford and Merton
- Mark Twain, Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad
- Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Detective
- Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
- Alexandra Ripley, Scarlett
- Anthony Trollope, Barsetshire novels
- C. S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia novels
- L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea novels
- James Fenimore Cooper, The Leatherstocking Tales
Sonnet. A fourteen line poem, usually in iambic pentameter, with a varied rhyme scheme. The two main types of sonnet are the Petrarchan (or Italian) and the Shakespearean. The Petrarchan Sonnet is divided into two main sections, the octave (first eight lines) and the sestet (last six lines). The octave presents a problem or situation which is then resolved or commented on in the sestet. The most common rhyme scheme is A-B-B-A A-B-B-A C-D-E C-D-E, though there is flexibility in the sestet, such as C-D-C D-C-D.
The Shakespearean Sonnet, (perfected though not invented by Shakespeare), contains three quatrains and a couplet, with more rhymes (because of the greater difficulty finding rhymes in English). The most common rhyme scheme is A-B-A-B C-D-C-D E-F-E-F G-G. In Shakespeare, the couplet often undercuts the thought created in the rest of the poem.
Spenserian Stanza. A nine-line stanza, with the first eight lines in iambic pentameter and the last line in iambic hexameter (called an Alexandrine). The rhyme scheme is A-B-A-B B-C-B-C C. Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene is written in Spenserian stanzas.
Style. The manner of expression of a particular writer, produced by choice of words, grammatical structures, use of literary devices, and all the possible parts of language use. Some general styles might include scientific, ornate, plain, emotive. Most writers have their own particular styles.
Subplot. A subordinate or minor collection of events in a novel or drama. Most subplots have some connection with the main plot, acting as foils to, commentary on, complications of, or support to the theme of, the main plot. Sometimes two opening subplots merge into a main plot.
Symbol. Something that on the surface is its literal self but which also has another meaning or even several meanings. For example, a sword may be a sword and also symbolize justice. A symbol may be said to embody an idea. There are two general types of symbols: universal symbols that embody universally recognizable meanings wherever used, such as light to symbolize knowledge, a skull to symbolize death, etc., and constructed symbols that are given symbolic meaning by the way an author uses them in a literary work, as the white whale becomes a symbol of evil in Moby Dick.
Tone. The writer's attitude toward his readers and his subject; his mood or moral view. A writer can be formal, informal, playful, ironic, and especially, optimistic or pessimistic. While both Swift and Pope are satirizing much the same subjects, there is a profound difference in their tone.
Travesty. A work that treats a serious subject frivolously-- ridiculing the dignified. Often the tone is mock serious and heavy handed.
Utopian novel. A novel that presents an ideal society where the problems of poverty, greed, crime, and so forth have been eliminated. Examples:
- Thomas More, Utopia
- Samuel Butler, Erewhon
- Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward
Versification. Generally, the structural form of a verse, as revealed by scansion. Identification of verse structure includes the name of the metrical type and the name designating number of feet:
- Monometer: 1 foot
- Dimeter: 2 feet
- Trimeter: 3 feet
- Tetrameter: 4 feet
- Pentameter: 5 feet
- Hexameter: 6 feet
- Heptameter: 7 feet
- Octameter: 8 feet
- Nonameter: 9 feet
Western. A novel set in the western United States featuring the experiences of cowboys and frontiersmen. Many are little more than adventure novels or even pulp fiction, but some have literary value. Examples:
- Walter Van Tilburg Clark, The Ox-Bow Incident
- Owen Wister, The Virginian