Glossary of terms

Abstract diction: the language of ideas, concepts and generalisations.
Adjectival clause: A subordinate clause which functions as an adjective. In the following complex sentence, The student, who had just arrived from Australia, completed the assignment, the part enclosed by commas is an adjectival clause because it functions as an adjective in describing The student.
Adverbial clause: A subordinate clause which functions as an adverb. In the above sentence, because it was worth twenty percent of all coursework, is an adverb clause because it functions as an adverb by modifying the verb completed.
Alliteration: the repetition of identical consonants in proximity.
Allusion: A reference in a literary text to a person, event, place or to another well known text.
Anapestic foot (anapest): A foot with the pattern [uu´].
Anecdote: A short, uncomplicated account, usually oral, of a single incident, often entertainingly told.
Antagonist: Usually, but not always, a character whose interests are opposed to those of the main character or group of characters in a story.
Argument can be taken to be a process of argumentation, a connected series of statements intended to establish a position and implying response to another (or more than one) position, sometimes taking the form of an actual exchange in discussion and debate, and usually presenting itself in speech and/or writing as a sequence or chain of reasoning.Richard Andrews, Teaching and Learning Argument.
Assonance: the repetition of identical sounds in proximity.
Balanced syntax: Rhetoricians valued the ability to balance one's syntax through such devices as parallelism. In this passage, the structure of 'child...loved' (subject/verb) is balanced by the similar structure 'father found' (subject verb). When these balanced structures contain a contrast, we call the device antithesis. The well-known sentence from Julius Caesar, 'I have come to bury Caesar not to praise him,' is an example of Foil: A minor character used deliberately to contrast the major qualities of a major character. (In Act I of A Doll's House, Christine Linde's obvious self-reliance and independence is a foil for Nora's subservience and dependence on Torvald.
Blank verse: Unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Catharsis:  A much disputed term used by Aristotle. One version of The Poeticstranslates Aristotle thus: Tragedy is, then, an imitation of a noble and complete action, having the proper magnitude, it employs language that has been artistically enhanced by each of the kinds of linguistic adornment, applied separately in the various parts of the play; it is presented in dramatic, not narrative form, and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such pitiable and fearful incidents.” (Leon Golden, O.B. Hardison, Jr. Aristotle's POETICS: A Translation and Commentary for Students of Literature.) Commentators tend to be split between those who would translate 'catharsis' as a kind of purgation or purification (occurring in the viewing audience) or as a intense moment of recognition or clarification which occurs at a key point in the tragic hero's journey towards awareness. Take your pick.
Cautionary tale: a story that has a message recommending a particular form of conduct by showing the consequences of acting in the opposite way. A cautionary tale might show the merits of not drinking when driving by showing the tragic consequences of driving while drunk.
Character: A person in a narrative who is capable of being interpreted as having a particular personality and motivation.
Characterisation: The process whereby readers construct characters on the basis of evidence provided in a text.
Chronological time: The order followed by events as they actually happened.
Clause: A complex sentence contains a main clause (that part of the sentence which makes sense on its own and which contains a finite verb) and one or more subordinate clauses (the part which also contains a finite verb but which needs the main clause to make sense of it). The student completed the assignment (main clause) because it was worth twenty percent of all coursework. (subordinate clause)
Climax: The decisive moment in a story towards which events appear to be heading.
Complication: An expected problem or misfortune that interrupts the smooth flow of action of a story.
Compound sentence: A sentence formed by the ‘con-joining’ of one or more simple sentences using conjunctions such as and, but or then. The student completed the assignment and handed it in.
Concrete diction:  the language of striking particulars and sensuous detail.
Conflict: A situation where the interests of characters or groups of characters are opposed.
Connotation: the associated meanings or suggestions implied by a word.
Construction: The word construction highlights the fact that meanings are made and not just found in the act of reading or interpretation. When you construct a meaning, you are viewing something or someone in a particular way that is not neutral or ‘objective.
Content words have a meaning even when separated from other words.
Context of culture: The wider socio-cultural environment, whose values, attitudes and assumptions affect texts.
Context of situation: The immediate environment of a text which shapes its subject matter, purpose and function.
Conventional (public) symbol: A symbol whose meaning is fixed by the conventional usages within a culture.
Couplet: A two-line stanza (usually rhyming)
Couplet: A two-line stanza (usually rhyming)
Dactyllic foot (dactyl): A foot with the pattern ['uu].
Decorum: A Renaissance theory which stressed the importance of suiting the style of a text to its subject matter and genre. The idea of decorum, applied to a play, would stress the importance of suiting the language used by a character to the nature and motivation of that character.
Decorum: The extent to which the language in a narrative matches the personality of its narrator and characters.
Denotation: the primary or dictionary meaning of a word.
Denouement: The process of unravelling or winding down that occurs in the aftermath of a story's climax.
Diagetic sound effect: One made on the stage or just off it.
Dialogue: The representation of speech between characters in a literary work.
Discourse: A discourse is a recognisable category of language operates according to an identifiable set of rules or conventions.
Disposition: Our receptivity towards a person, way of acting and speaking, idea or ideological position.
Dramatic irony: Irony occurs in narrative when a character involved in the action is crucially unaware of what’s really going on. When this occurs the reader or viewer (in the case of play or movie) enjoys a feeling of superiority because of the perspective they occupy.
Dystopian fiction: Stories that are set in oppressive imagined societies.
Elucidate: The root of this word is the Latin word for light. To elucidate a text is to shed light on its meaning. It can be a useful word. But don’t let yourself be trapped into thinking that meanings are  hidden inside a text like the contents of a can of baked beans.
Epistolary novel: A novel cast in the form of an exchange of letters. Letters from the Inside, by John Marsden, is an example of this.
Exemplum:  A moralising story rather similar to a parable.
Exposition/Orientation: The provision of essential background information early in the narration of a story.
Fable: A short story, often with animals as characters, which teachers a moral lesson.
Fabliau: A down-to-earth, ribald mediaeval tale which usually pokes fun at the clergy and middle class.
Figurative image: An image denoting an object not present in the literal situation but which has been connected by a writer with an object that is present.
Figures of sound: the collective term for devices which exploit the sound qualities of language.
Finite verb: A verb becomes finite when it becomes linked to a subject (someone or something that initiates an action) in a sentence.
Flashback: A sudden insertion in a narrative of an account of an event that has occurred some time prior to the present action.
Flat (one-dimensional) character: A character who can be described in terms of a single motivational trait.
Floor-plan: A two-dimensional representation of a set, showing the location of stage properties for a particular scene.
Folktales: Stories that have been passed down orally within a culture, often concerned with legendary heroes and the supernatural.
Foreshadowing: A technique whereby a detail (of plot, setting, aspect of character, for example) is 'planted' near the beginning of a narrative in anticipation of something important that happens later.
Form: A collective term denoting the layout, diction, syntax, punctuation and structure of a text.
Formal criticism:  Criticism which evaluates a text on the basis of its formal qualities.
Fourth wall: The imagined wall, parallel with the front of the proscenium arch,  which separates the actors in a naturalistic or realistic piece of theatre from their audience.]
Function words are used to establish connections between content words.
Function: When you talk about the function of language or of a linguistic feature, you are referring to the work it is being asked to do.
Genre: A Genre is a recognisable text-type which can be described in terms of a specific set of purposes, functions, context, audience and such language features as structure, layout and style.
Hamartia: A term used by Aristotle (and some critics) to refer to the tragic protagonist's error of judgement. The term is sometimes roughly translated as tragic flaw, but it should be  kept in mind that a tragic error can be made without some kind of moral flaw being implied.
Hand prop: An object small enough to lend itself to be brought on and off the set by one of the actors.
Historical novel: A novel which uses an actual historical setting and in which at least some characters are actual historical figures. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, is an example of this.
Hyperbole:  Exaggeration or overstatement.
Hypermeter is the addition of an unstressed syllable either at the beginning or at the end of a line.
Iambic foot (iamb): A foot with the pattern [u´].
Ideology: A coherent and systematic way of thinking about the world or some aspect of the world.]
Ideology: A coherent and systematic way of thinking about the world or some aspect of the world.
Image: A word or phrase that powerfully evokes sensuous experience.
Inpoint: The precise point (line of dialogue, action, event, suggestion of setting) with which a scene begins.
Internal conflict: A situation where two parts of a single character are in conflict with each other.
Intertextuality: A recognition that texts (and the meanings we make of them) exist in the context of other texts.
Intonation: The rise and fall in pitch which is a feature of spoken English.
Irony: A term which has a number of distinct meanings. Commonly, however, irony is a device which enables a reader or viewer to see an object, event or person in an alternative light by inviting them to see things from a different point of view. Irony relies on the notion that there are more ways than one of viewing things...and that some ways of viewing things are somewhat more naive than others.
Juxtaposition: A structural device where one object is placed next to another one without their connection being spelled out.
Language function: When you talk about language function, you focus on the language itself. Function answers the question. 'What work or task is the language being asked to do. Is it being asked to inform, persuade, describe, entertain, amuse, mislead, relate, recount and so on, or is it serving a number of functions. (Most texts, in fact, are multifunctional.)
Language purpose: When you talk about language purpose, you focus on the speaker or writer. Purpose answers the question, 'What is the speaker or writer aiming to do?'
Literal image: An image which denotes an object actually present in the situation written about.
Literary text: A literary text is one whose craftedness manifests a love and mastery of language, which enlarges a reader's sense of what it means to be a human being, and which stimulates in its reader an enjoyment of and a sense of wonder at the power and resourcefulness of language.
Melodrama: A rather sensational form of drama relying on extreme appeals to emotion, implausible coincidences, two-dimensional character types and happy endings.
Metaphor: The general term for figurative images. A metaphor occurs when a literal object is simply identified with a figurative object. He was a bull of a man.
Metre: An artificial pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Metrical foot: The basic unit of a metre, described in terms of a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Metrical Irregularities: These refer to any deviations from the metrical norm. Irregularities can result from: a. More or less syllables than one might expect in a foot; b. An unexpected pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables within a foot.
Minimalism: An approach to scenic design which reduces objects on stage to bare essentials.
Minor sentence: A sentence without a finite verb, often used for stylistic effect.
Mode of discourse: A mode of discourse is a broad way of using language and is related to a particular function. Descriptions primarily describe persons and things. Narratives primarily tell stories. Arguments primarily put forward cases for certain positions.
Motif: Any recurrent element in literature.
Motivation: What makes a person act they way they do.
Narrator: The voice one can identify as telling a story.
Naturalism: A theatrical movement (specifically Nineteenth-Century) which attempted to make happenings on stage as close to 'real life' as possible.
Novel: A long narrative in fictional prose.
Observable events: Those  narrative events which can be experienced through the senses.
Octave: An eight-line stanza.
Octave: An eight-line stanza.
Omniscient narrator: A narrator who has the power to enter the minds of a range of characters and who has access to a wide range of information pertaining to the story.
Omniscient narrators can restrict themselves to accessing the thoughts of only one or two characters. In such cases, a writer is said to be adopting a limited omniscient perspective.
Onomatopoeia: words whose sounds echo their meanings, e.g. hiss, drone.
Outpoint: The precise point (line of dialogue, action, event, often a mini-climax) with which a scene ends.
Panorama: That component of narrative wherein a narrator provides links between scenes, background information, an overview of a stretch of action and an occasional commentary on the action.
Parable: A short story in which the characters tend to represent or symbolise certain moral qualities.
Paradox: A paradox is a statement which at first sight seems to be self-contradictory but which makes sense on deeper examination.
Paradox: A paradox is a statement which at first sight seems to be self-contradictory but which makes sense on deeper examination.
Participle: A general term referring to the -ing and -ed forms of a verb. These are often linked with auxiliariesto form finite verbs, e.g. was singing, has been conquered.
Pastiche: An approach to writing which incorporates or juxtaposes fragments from other sorts of texts, often for ironical effect.
Period production: A production where actors wear costumes which duplicate the kind of clothing worn in the period in which a play is set.
Personification: A figurative expression where a non-human literal object is given human characteristics. Defeat stared him in the face.
Phrase: A phrase is a group of related words that lack a finite verb.
Picaresque novel: An episodic novel which playfully follows the fortunes of likeable misfits. Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is an example of this.
Plot: The way the events of a story are organised.
Point of view: The perspective from which the events of a story are presented.
Position: Your position on something is the way you see  it. When a text encourages you to see something or someone in a particular way, it is said to be positioning you.
Positional criticism: Criticism which takes issue with a text because of the messages it contains.
Predicament: A difficult choice between undesirable alternatives, often presented to a character early in a narrative.
Prehistory: In narrative, events which have occurred prior to the point at which the narration proper begins.
Pre-recorded sound effect: A taped sound played through a sound system in the course of a play.
Presenting: A type of narrative strategy where the narrator simply shows characters talking and acting in situations without obviously directing the reader's judgement of their motives and values.
Private (personal) symbol: A symbol which has had a particular meaning attached to it by an individual user or writer.
Psychological events: Those narrative events which occur within a character's mind and heart.
Psychological time: The order of events as they are recalled or reconstructed in a person's mind.
Pun: A pun is a word or expression that suggests more than one meaning at the same time.
Pyrrhic foot: a foot with two unstressed syllables.
Quatrain: A four-line stanza.
Quatrain: A four-line stanza.
Reading Position: A term used by the linguist, Gunther Kress, to refer to the particular version of reality a given text would like us to adopt as readers.
Realism: A nineteenth-century tradition which aimed at avoiding overly contrived plotting and exaggerated acting, which addressed 'real' social situations and issues, and which attempted to suggest real conversation in its dialogue. To some extent, realism was a reaction against melodrama.
Resolution: A choice or event which sorts out a complication, one way or another.
Rhetoric: Defined by Aristotle as the art of '...discovering all the available means of persuasion in any given case.' In classical times, rhetoricians distinguished between invention (how one constructed one's argument), disposition (how one organised one's argument) and style (one's choice of diction and syntax).
Rhythm: In language, the product of a combintion of stress and unstressed syllables.
Rising action: The suspenseful part of a story leading up to its climax.
Round (two-dimensional) character: A character who is fully developed and who acts out of a complex set of motivations.
Satire: A literary work which comments disparagingly on some aspect of human behaviour.
Scansion: The process of marking the stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem.
Scene: A scene is a stretch of narrative action continuous in time and taking place in one general locale.
Set: In a theatre, a set is a visual three-dimensional construction designed to evoke a place or state.
Setting: Where and where the action of a narrative takes place.
Simile: A figurative expression where the literal object is compared to the figurative object by like or as. She ran like a cheetah.
Simple sentence: A simple sentence contains one finite verb: The student completed the assignment.
Social reality: All the things that we, as human beings, have added to the ‘natural’ world. Social reality includes cities, institutions (e.g. the legal system), systems of signs and symbols (including language), ways of conducting social relationships, systems of distributing power,  cultural artefacts, ways of raising children and so on.
Social reality: All the things that we, as human beings, have added to the ‘natural’ world. Social reality includes cities, institutions (e.g. the legal system), systems of signs and symbols (including language), ways of conducting social relationships, systems of distributing power, cultural artefacts, ways of raising children and so on.
Social setting: The portrayal in narrative fiction and non-fiction of the social reality or realities within which the characters act out their lives.
Spondee: a foot with two stressed syllables.
Stage action: The movements actors make on stage relative to the set and to one another.
Stage Directions: Often written in italics and enclosed in square brackets, stage directions contain instructions from a playwright on such things as how a set should be arranged, stage and hand properties, costuming, sound and lighting effects, actor interpretation and stage movement. Sometimes, for example with Shakespeare's plays, stage directions are added by editors.
Stage picture (or tableau): The picture created by the arrangement of actors on stage at any one instant.
Stage property: A large (usually furniture) object that remains part of a set for the duration of a scene.
Stanza: A verse paragraph with a regular metre and rhyme pattern.
Structure: The relationship of parts to a whole. That which gives something coherence or unity.
Style: A collective term denoting the typical diction, syntax and punctuation of a genre or writer.
Sub-text: The feelings and thoughts that remain unspoken in an exchange between two characters in a play. Sub-text refers to the rich inner world of thought and feeling that is only hinted at by the surface dialogue.
Symbol:  A concrete image or emblem which signifies a literal object which remains implicit.
Synesthesia: An image where one sensory experience is described in terms of another sense, He let out a red roar.
Syntax: the branch of grammar concerned with way words become ordered into larger groupings such as phrases, clauses and sentences.
Tabulation: When you tabulate you separate text into a number of items, list the items, and indent them from the left-hand margin.
Target: The aspect of human behaviour chosen for comment by a satirical work.
Telling: A type of narrative strategy where the narrator (perhaps intrusively) describes and often passes judgement on characters, situations and events. (This strategy is sometimes called editorial omniscience.)
Text: A text is any product of the purposeful shaping of language that can be read meaningfully.
Texture: The characteristics of style a reader is aware of any point in a narrative.
Theme (1): The central message or set of concerns dealt with in a literary work.
Theme (2): The cluster of central ideas or issues identified in the act of reading a text.
Tone group: The basic unit of spoken language, separated by other tone groups by a pause for breath, and containing one syllable containing a major stress (the nuclear syllable).
Tone is a characteristic of voice and is indicative of an attitude to a person, thing, institution, idea or set of ideas.
Trochaic foot (trochee): A foot with the pattern [´u].
Typeface: A typeface refers to a type design with its own name, for example, Palatino, Times, Helvetica.
Utopian fiction: Stories that are set in idealised societies.
Voice answers the question 'Who's speaking' behind or through a text or utterance. When a voice cannot readily be identified with the writer of a text, it can be termed a persona or mask.
World-view: A way a person makes sense of the world in terms of a set of answers to the 'big' questions about the ultimate meaningfulness of human existence. Often these answers are reflected in a set of myths. Some cultural commentators use the term grand narrative to refer to the underlying story a cultural group uses to explain itself to itself.

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