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Literary Terms & Concepts
A New Handbook of Literary Terms by
A New Handbook of Literary Terms offers a lively, informative guide to words and concepts that every student of literature needs to know. Mikics’s definitions are essayistic, witty, learned, and always a pleasure to read. They sketch the derivation and history of each term, including especially lucid explanations of verse forms and providing a firm sense of literary periods and movements from classicism to postmodernism. The Handbook also supplies a helpful map to the intricate and at times confusing terrain of literary theory at the beginning of the twenty-first century: the author has designated a series of terms, from New Criticism to queer theory, that serves as a concise but thorough introduction to recent developments in literary study. Mikics’s Handbook is ideal for classroom use at all levels, from freshman to graduate. Instructors can assign individual entries, many of which are well-shaped essays in their own right. Useful bibliographical suggestions are given at the end of most entries. The Handbook’s enjoyable style and thoughtful perspective will encourage students to browse and learn more. Every reader of literature will want to own this compact, delightfully written guide.
Publication Date: 2007
in Literary Theory from 1900 to 1966
from The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory
Book: Topic Page
The word book has come to have many meanings, e.g., any collection of sheets of paper, wood, or other material sewn or bound together; a division of a written work (books of the Bible, books of Caesar's Gallic War); and statements of financial accounting (bookkeeping).
Commedia dell Arte: Topic Page
Popular form of comedy employing improvised dialogue and masked characters that flourished in Italy from the 16th to the 18th century.
Genre: Topic Page
Particular kind of work within an art form, differentiated by its structure, content, or style. For instance, the novel is a literary genre and the historical novel is a genre of the novel.
Letters: Topic Page
In literature, written messages, ranging from those addressed to the public and those sent from lover to lover, to business letters and thank-you notes. The common quality they share is a lively style, echoing the personality of the sender yet aimed at the mind and heart of the receiver.
Metaphor: Topic Page
Figure of speech using an analogy or close comparison between two things that are not normally treated as if they had anything in common.
Newbery Medal: Topic Page
The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to US literature for children.
Novel: Topic Page
In modern literary usage, a sustained work of prose fiction a volume or more in length. It is distinguished from the short story and the fictional sketch, which are necessarily brief.
Short story: Topic Page
Short work of prose fiction, usually consisting of between 500 and 10,000 words, which typically either sets up and resolves a single narrative point or depicts a mood or an atmosphere.
Symbolism (Literary Movement): Topic Page
A term specifically applied to the work of late-19th-century French writers who reacted against the descriptive precision and objectivity of realism and the scientific determinism of naturalism.
Detective fiction: Topic Page
Genre of novel or short story in which a mystery is solved mainly by the action of a professional or amateur detective. Where the mystery to be solved concerns a crime, the work may be called crime fiction.
Historical novel: Topic Page
A novel with a period in history as its setting, which includes historical events and characters.
Mystery: Topic Page
Or mystery story, literary genre in which the cause (or causes) of a mysterious happening, often a crime, is gradually revealed by the hero or heroine.
Pastoral: Topic Page
Literary work in which the shepherd's life is presented in a conventionalized manner. In this convention the purity and simplicity of shepherd life is contrasted with the corruption and artificiality of the court or the city. The pastoral is found in poetry, drama, and fiction, and many subjects.
Romance: Topic Page
In literature, tales of love and chivalric adventure, in verse or prose, that became popular in France about 1200 and spread throughout Europe.
From Columbia Encyclopedia
Term applied to certain American artists and writers who were popular during the 1950s. Essentially anarchic, members of the beat generation rejected traditional social and artistic forms.
Harlem Renaissance: Topic Page
Term used to describe a flowering of African-American literature and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City.
From The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
A school of poetry which flourished in England and America between 1912 and 1914 and emphasized the virtues of clarity, compression, and precision.
Magic Realism: Topic Page
A type of post-modernist fiction that mixes elements of fantasy, fable, and folklore with realistic narrative, imbuing it with a fabulous or dreamlike quality.
Modernism: Topic Page
Modernism is based on a concern with form and the exploration of technique as opposed to content and narrative. In literature, writers experimented with alternatives to orthodox sequential storytelling.
Romanticism: Topic Page
A late 18c and early 19c movement in art, literature and music, characterized by an emphasis on feelings and emotions, often using imagery taken from nature, and creating forms which are relatively free from rules and set orders.
Transcendentalism: Topic Page
Transcendentalism was a series of new ideas that flourished among writers and philosophers in New England during the 19th century.
From The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
Electronic poems typically include one or more of the following: multimedia, animation, sound effects or soundtracks, reader interaction in the form of choices or other participatory features, and automated behaviors.
From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
Interpreted broadly, the category of performance poetry might include any poem that is read, sung, recited, acted, or otherwise performed before an audience.