Introduction to Literature – 01 FOR ONE PARAGRAPH DEFINITION

character
The fictional representation of a person, which is likely to change, both as a presence in literature and as an object of critical attention, much as it changes in society. Also a kind of prose sketch briefly describing some recognizable type of person. Characters are very important because they are the medium through which the reader interacts with a piece of literature. They are used to form the plot of a story or create a mood by the attributes that are given to them.

comedy
Greek comedy was from the beginning associated with fertility rites and the worship of Dionysus. Comedy is a play (or other literary composition) written chiefly to amuse its audience by appealing to a sense of superiority over the characters depicted. A comedy will normally be closer to the representation of everyday life than a tragedy, and will explore common human failings rather than tragedy’s disastrous crimes. Its ending will usually be happy for the leading characters. In the Middle Ages the term was applied to narrative poems that end happily: the title of Dante’s Divine Comedy (c.1320) carries this meaning.

conflict
It involves two opposing forces: these forces may be embodied in two individuals, hero and villain, in one person and society within one individual, the protagonist when love and duty are at odds, etc. The events of the conflict form the plot, their decisive moment marks the climax of the play or story.

context
Those parts of a text preceding and following any particular passage, giving it a meaning fuller or more identifiable than if it were read in isolation. The context of any statement may be understood to comprise immediately neighbouring signs (including punctuation such as quotation marks), or any part of—or the whole of—the remaining text, or the biographical, social, cultural, and historical circumstances in which it is made (including the intended audience or reader).

critical approaches
Critical approaches reveal how or why a particular work is constructed and what the social and cultural implications are. These approaches are: deconstruction, feminist criticism, the new criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, reader-response criticism, structuralism, Marxist criticism, formalist and postcolonial criticism.

drama
The general term for performances in which actors impersonate the actions and speech of fictional or historical characters (or non-human entities) for the entertainment of an audience, either on a stage or by means of a broadcast; or a particular example of this art, i.e. a play. Drama is usually expected to represent stories showing situations of conflict between characters, although the monodrama is a special case in which only one performer speaks.

epic
A long narrative poem celebrating the great deeds of one or more legendary heroes, in a grand ceremonious style. The hero, usually protected by or even descended from gods, performs superhuman exploits in battle or in marvellous voyages, often saving or founding a nation. The action of epics takes place on a grand scale, and in this sense the term has sometimes been extendeded to long romances, to ambitious historical and to some large-scale film productions on heroic or historical subjects.

fiction
A vague and general term for imaginary stories, now usually applied to novels, short stories, novellas, romances, fables, and other narrative works in prose, even though most plays and narrative poems are also fictional. Fiction is always invented by an author.

figurative language
A novelty of language evidently – and yet not absurdly – estranged from the ordinary habit and manner of our daily talk and writing. It uses figures of speech e.g. metaphor, simile, personification, etc.

focalisation
The term used in modern narratology for ‘point of view’; that is, for the kind of perspective from which the events of a story are witnessed. Events observed by a traditional omniscient narrator are said to be non-focalised, whereas events witnessed within the story’s world from the constrained perspective of a single character are ‘internally focalised’. The nature of a given narrative’s focalisation is to be distinguished from its narrative ‘voice’, as seeing is from speaking.

iambic pentameter
A line of ten iambic feet. Poems in iambic pentameter may not rhyme. Those that are written in continuous lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter are said to be in blank verse.

literary period
A time and place characterised by an assemblage of interrelated cultural, social, ideological, technical, historical and other trends in which related groups of authors wrote.

metaphor
The most important and widespread figure of speech, in which one thing, idea, or action is referred to by a word or expression normally denoting another thing, idea, or action, so as to suggest some common quality shared by the two. In metaphor, this resemblance is assumed as an implicit identity (he is a pig or that pig) rather that an explicit statement (he is like a pig).

mimesis
The imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world, especially human actions, in literature and art. Considered by many as a basic principle in the creation of arts as representation of nature.

narrative focus
The character around whom the story moves – we often see only those events which this character witnesses – if we see events which do not involve the narrative focus, we are anxious about how the events will impact upon this character.

novel
Nearly always an extended fictional prose narrative, although some novels are very short, some are non-fictional, some have been written in verse, and some do not even tell a story.

oeuvre
The French word for a work, often used to refer instead to the total body of works produced by a given writer.

pastoral
A highly conventional mode of writing that celebrates the innocent life of shepherds and shepherdesses in poems, plays, and prose romances.

plot
The pattern of events and situations in a narrative or dramatic work, as selected and arranged both to emphasize relationships—usually of cause and effect—between incidents and to elicit a particular kind of interest in the reader or audience, such as surprise or suspense.

poetry
Language sung, chanted, spoken, or written according to some pattern of recurrence that emphasizes the relationships between words on the basis of sound as well as sense: this pattern is almost always a rhythm or metre, which maybe supplemented by rhyme or alliteration or both.

sonnet
Except for the curtal sonnet, which is of 10 lines, sonnet is a lyric poem comprising 14 rhyming lines of equal length: iambic pentameters in English, alexandrines in French, hendecasyllables in Italian with considerable variations in rhyme scheme.

tragedy
A serious play (or, by extension, a novel) representing the disastrous downfall of a central character, the protagonist.