Dictionary of Literary Terms
This is a book of hard words alphabetically arranged and briefly explained. It cannot purport to fulfil the functions of a balanced expository guide to literary criticism or literary concepts. nor does it attempt to catalogue the entire body of literary terms in use. It offers instead to clarifY those thousand terms that are most likely to cause the student or general reader some doubt or bafllement in the context of literary criticism and other discussion of literary works. Rather than include for the sake of encyclopaedic completeness all the most common terms found in literary discussion. I have set aside several that I have
judged to be sufficiently well understood in common speech (anagram. biography. cliche and many more). or virtually self-explanatory (detective story. psychological criticism). along with a broad category of general concepts such as art. belief, culture. etc .• which may appear as literarycritical problems but which are not specifically literary terms. This policy has allowed space for the inclusion of many terms generated by the growth of academic literary theory in recent years. and for adequate attention to the terminology of classical rhetoric. now increasingly revived. Along with these will be found hundreds of terms from literary criticism. literary history. prosody. and drama. The selection is weighted towards literature and criticism in English. but there are many terms taken from other languages. and many more associated primarily with other literatures. Many of the terms that I have omitted from this dictionary are covered by larger or more specialist works; a brief guide to these appears on page 279.
In each entry I have attempted to explain succinctly how the term is or has been used. with a brief illustrative example wherever possible. and to clarifY any relevant distinctions of sense. Related terms are indicated by cross-reference. using an asterisk (*) before a term explained elsewhere in the dictionary. or the instruction see. I have chosen not to give much space to questions of etymology. and to discuss a term’s origin only when this seems genuinely necessary to clarify its current sense. My attention has been devoted more to helping readers to use the terms confidently for themselves. To this end I have displayed the plural forms. adjectival forms. and other derived words relevant to each entry. and have provided pronunciation guides for more than two hundred potentially troublesome terms. The simplified pronunciation system.