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Vocabulary for Understanding and Analyzing Literature

Jeremy Fee

on 30 August 2011

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Transcript of Literature

Point of View

everything points to theme
(the big ideas, values, topics)

sometimes called "locale"
stock characters
Tone and

dramatic situation
in media res
plot = the artistic arrangement of ideas in the story
dramatic situation = a character is involved in some conflict
in media res = Latin for
"in the midst of things"
suspense = the pleasurable anxiety we feel that heightens our attention to the story
foreshadowing = clues or indications of events to come
flashback = a scene relived
in a character's memory
flashback = a scene relived in a character's memory
epiphany = moment of realization
participant or observer?
first person or third person?
omniscient narrator?
unreliable narrator?
stream of consciousness
flat versus round characters
static versus dynamic characters
name allusion
time and place
symbolic acts
name symbolism
color symbolism
symbolic objects
(more on poetry later...)
urban versus rural
animal symbolism
setting = the story's
time and place
When does the story take place?
How much time goes by in the story?
Where does the story take place?
Does the location change during the story?
big city/industry
country/small town
naturalism = fiction of grim realism
narrator = the one who presents
the story's perspective to the reader
For example, Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but Huck Finn functions as the narrator, not Mark Twain.
unnamed narrator?
Is the narrator a major character or a minor character?
Do textual clues cause you to doubt the narrator? Is the narrator biased, crazy, or untrustworthy?
omniscient = all knowing
Sometimes an author wants the character to represent a universal "everyman" or any person and thus never gives the narrator a name.
stream of consciousness = when an author presents the story as a procession of thoughts passing through the mind
name allusion = when a character's name references something or someone from history or previous literature
protagonist = main character,
often a heroic character
some stories contain anti-heroes as the protagonist
antagonist = usually the character opposite the protagonist, usually this character causes problems for the protagonist
motivation = the psychological inner thinking or drive of a character
stock characters = univeral concept characters such as "the jokester," "the evil stepmother" or "the mad scientist"
Are the characters flat (one-dimensional) or round (more like real people with deeper motivations and multiple-facets to their personalities)?
Are the characters static (never changing) or dynamic (go through emotional and/or psychological changes)?
hamartia = fatal flaw, usually analyzed for tragic heroes
allegory = a story in which persons, places, and things form a system of clearly labeled equivalents
Authors use things repeatedly as a clue to the importance and symbolic nature of those things
this includes cultural/social customs
even more than the literary elements, tone and style help point to the author's hidden purpose
tone = the writer's attitude
style = the individual traits or characteristics of a piece of writing that help to indicate tone
diction = word choice
minimalists = authors who write with a flat, laid-back, unemotional tone, in an appropriately bare, unadorned style
focus your analysis on how the author uses literary and rhetorical devices to highlight or argue for or against certain thematic topics/ideas/values
In both the novel and film versions of Fight Club, the narrator remains unnamed.
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