Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Literary Terminology List 2

When analyzing stories, certain key terms must be taken into account. In the previous list of literary terms, the variety of concepts presented are used not only to explain stories but also poems. In addition to this, a number of other words were included in the list that could be seen as pertinent to a class discussion on a text. 

This time round, however, the list will deal with key notions exclusively associated with stories. By looking at each main category, readers can evaluate works by authors and be able to elaborate on the stories themselves, either in writing or orally. It is therefore vital for anyone involved in the process of critically assessing literary works, to keep these terms in mind so as to be able to write or speak about them in an academic environment; heck, even over a cup of coffee with friends at a social gathering. 

Note to teachers: 
Naturally, teachers should hand this list to students and cover each concept at a time with concrete examples taken from stories. Start off with short stories (find a number of these here, whose length won't send your students into a tizzy), then ease into more challenging longer novels.


1) PLOT: a string of selected events put together in an artificial order.
    • Aristotelian plotline: (Gustav Freytag's model)
      • exposition: introduction of characters, setting, situation
      • rising action: all the events which lead to the climax
      • climax / turning point: point of greatest intensity. The protagonist's fate is determined at this moment.
      • falling action: all the events after the climax which lead to the resolution 
      • denouement: all the events after the resolution   
    • complication: obstacles to the protagonist which create conflict and suspense (contribute to the rising action)
    • crisis:point where all the complications reach a peak
    • resolution: end of the central conflict and its outcome
    • conflict: struggle between two or more opposing forces. Inner and outer conflicts exist in stories.
      • person vs. person (man vs. man):  external struggle between two or more individuals
      • person vs. self (man vs. self): internal struggle concerning emotion, choice and decision
      • person vs. nature (man vs. nature): external struggle between an individual and an animal or force of nature (for example, a storm)
      • person vs. society (man vs. society): external struggle against a man-made institution, social mores, conventions. This blends in with the conflict of person vs. person as characters who often represent institutions or follow conventions are the ones to lock horns with a protagonist 
  2) CHARACTERS:  people who inhabit the story (person or animal)
    • they are seen through:
      • physical traits (physical description)
      • dialogue (speech of the character or of other characters)
      • actions (of the character or of other characters)
      • attire
      • opinions (the character's thoughts, speech; other characters' thoughts and speech; tha narrator's thoughts and speech)
      • point of view (choice of narrator determines much of the story and character)
    • protagonist: main character of the story. Usually experiences conflict (see above).
    • antagonist:opposes the main character
    • flat character: one-dimensional; not well-developed
    • round character: seen from all sides, shows many characteristics, many details are provided about this character
    • static character: does not change throughout the story
    • dynamic character: changes by the end of the story
    • stock / stereotyped character: can be characterized in 1-2 sentences, fits a stereotype
When analyzing characters, also think about the following: 
  • motivation (cause of actions)
  • behavior (result of motivation)
  • consequences (result of actions)
  • responsibility (moral, legal, mental accountability)
  • expectations (character's assumptions of prospects)

3) SETTING: time and place in which the characters appear & the plot unravels itself; the environment in which the action of a fictional work takes place
 (time period, place, social / political / spiritual reality) 

Look for the sensory details given by the narrator that create the setting of the story:
  • sight
  • sound
  • taste
  • smell
  • touch

4) POINT OF VIEW / NARRATOR: angle the story is told from; speaker who tells the story
  • omniscient: all-knowing, all-seeing, can enter any character's mind
    • limited omniscient: a narrator whose knowledge is limited to one character
  • first person point of view: the narrator participates in the story and we see everything through their eyes (such stories have "I" or "we" references throughout)
  • third person point of view: narrator does not participate in the story as one of the characters, but is an outside voice (such stories have "he", "she", "it" or "they" references throughout). Third person can be divided into objective, subjective, limited and omniscient.
    • third person objective point of view: the narrator simply describes what is seen with an emphasis on facts
    • third person subjective point of view: the narrator states the thoughts and feelings of one or more characters in the story
    • third person omniscient point of view: the narrator has access to any thoughts, feelings or facts about any number of characters in the story
    • third person limited point of view: the narrator describes the thoughts and feelings of one character in the story, but cannot say anything that goes beyond the scope of that one character 
  • second person narrator: not often present in stories. Use of "you" references
  • reliable / unreliable narrator: readers can trust the facts they give or feelings they express if they are reliable, but cannot if they are unreliable. An unreliable narrator can be deliberately hiding information or lying to readers, or may be unaware of facts 
  • naive narrator: ignorant or childish narrator (Voltaire's Candide is a prime example)
  • dramatic monologue: extended speech of one character speaking to another person (mainly in poetry, but since its apogee in Romantic poems, is evident in other genres) 
  • stream of consciousness: mimics the thought processes of characters, not their actions or dialogue
  • multiple narrators may be used as well, thus complicating the story
  • alternating narrators also is a ploy authors use to switch a tale's point of view
5) THEME: subject with which a piece of writing is mainly concerned; issue that emerges from a work, for instance death, vanity, corruption, madness.
6) MORAL: lesson, conclusion drawn upon the themes
7) SYMBOLISM: something that is itself but also represents something else
  • universal symbol:embodies recognizable, widely known concepts (e.g. skull = death)
  • invested symbol: used by an author to mean something specific, not universally known
8) MISCELLANEOUS TECHNIQUES:  these techniques enrich the story and the reader's experience
  • allusion: something which refers to a famous historical figure, event, work of art, book, etc. often taken from the Bible, Greek mythology, literature, and the like.
    • for example: Like Hercules, he lifted the tree off the road. [allusion to the mythological figure of Hercules from ancient Greece.]
    • another example: At that moment the student pondered the "to be or not to be" of the situation. [allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet]
  • foreshadowing / to foreshadow: give a glimpse of what is to come, either directly or indirectly through atmosphere, syntax (author's choice of words), character flaw (a character's imperfection, phobia, problem)
  • flashback: device used to present a glimpse of what came before a particular moment in time. This may be achieved through 
    • narration (a character tells the story of what happened)
    • dream
    • memory
    • authorial sovereignty (the author simply tells us directly what happened before) 
  • irony: a contrast between 
    • what is stated and what is meant
    • what is expected to happen and what actually happens
      • verbal irony: the writer says one thing and means another
      • dramatic irony: readers or the audience of a play know something the character or actor does not
      • irony of situation (situational irony) : difference between the expected result and the actual result

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