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Literary Terms Glossary
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The following is a list of literary terms; that is, those words used in discussion, classification, criticism, and analysis of poetry, novels and picture books.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W

* Ballad

A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many ballads were written and sold as single sheet broadsides. The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads. In the later 19th century it took on the meaning of a slow form of popular love song and the term is now often used as synonymous with any love song, particularly the pop or rock power ballad.

* Ballade

The ballade (pronounced /bəˈlɑːd/; not to be confused with the ballad) is a verse form typically consisting of three eight-line stanzas, each with a consistent metre and a particular rhyme scheme. The last line in the stanza is a refrain, and the stanzas are followed by a four-line concluding stanza (an envoi) usually addressed to a prince. The rhyme scheme is therefore usually 'ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC', where the capital 'C' is a refrain.

* Ballad stanza

In poetry, a Ballad stanza is the four-line stanza, known as a quatrain, most often found in the folk ballad. This form consists of alternating four- and three-stress lines. Usually only the second and fourth lines rhyme (in an a/b/c/b pattern). Assonance in place of rhyme is common. Samuel Taylor Coleridge adopted the ballad stanza in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, alternating eight and six syllable lines.

* Bard

In medieval Gaelic and British culture (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany and Cornwall) a bard was a professional poet, employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate the patron's ancestors and to praise the patron's own activities.

Originally a specific class of poet, contrasting with another class known as fili in Ireland and Highland Scotland, the term "bard", with the decline of living bardic tradition in the modern period, acquired generic meanings of an epic author/singer/narrator, comparable with the terms in other cultures: minstrel, skald/scop, rhapsode, udgatar, griot, ashik) or any poets, especially famous ones. For example, William Shakespeare is known as The Bard.

* Baroque

Baroque (pronounced /bəˈroʊk/ bə-rohk in American English or /bəˈrɒk/ in British English) is an artistic style prevalent from the late 16th century to the early 18th century in Europe. It is most often defined as "the dominant style of art in Europe between the Mannerist and Rococo eras, a style characterized by dynamic movement, overt emotion and self-confident rhetoric".

* Bathos

Bathos (Greek βάθος, meaning depth), strictly speaking, refers to the discovery or expression of humor in a linguistic phrase through some ironic combination of ideas, whether done deliberately through the use of an incongruous combination of ideas in order to provide a seemingly unintended humorous aspect, or unintentionally, providing fun for the critical reader. If bathos is overt, it may be described as Burlesque or mock-heroic. As used in English bathos originally referred to a particular type of bad poetry, but it is now used more broadly to cover any seemingly ridiculous artwork or lame performance. It should not be confused with pathos, a mode of persuasion within the discipline of rhetoric, intended to arouse emotions of sympathy and pity.

* Beast fable (beast epic)

The beast fable or beast epic, usually a short story or poem in which animals talk, is a traditional form of allegorical writing. It is a type of fable in which human behaviour and weaknesses are subject to scrutiny by reflection into the animal kingdom.

Important traditions in beast fables are represented by the Panchatantra and Kalila and Dimna (Sanskrit and Arabic originals), Aesop (Greek original), One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) and separate trickster traditions (West African and Native American). The medieval French Roman de Reynart is called a beast-epic, with the recurring figure Reynard the fox.

* Beast poetry

Beast poetry, in the context of European literature and Medieval studies, refers to a corpus of poems written in Latin from the 8th to the 11th century.

These poems draw upon an ancient literary tradition of anthropomorphic animals dating back into antiquity and exemplified by Aesop. They are the immediate foundation for the flowering of Reynard literature that occurred in the 12th century. Elements from beast poetry have been adapted into subsequent works ranging from the Canterbury Tales to contemporary movies made with computer animation.

* Beat Generation

The Beat Generation is a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired. Central elements of "Beat" culture included experimentation with drugs and alternative forms of sexuality, an interest in Eastern religion, a rejection of materialism, and the idealizing of exuberant, unexpurgated means of expression and being.

* Belles-lettres

Belles-lettres or belles lettres is a term that is used to describe a category of writing. A writer of belles-lettres is a belletrist. However, the boundaries of that category vary in different usages.

Literally, belles-lettres is a French phrase meaning "beautiful" or "fine" writing. In this sense, therefore, it includes all literary works — especially fiction, poetry, drama, or essays — valued for their aesthetic qualities and originality of style and tone (usually with regard to the language used, but sometimes even in terms of the visual typography employed), rather than for written as a means to informative, moral or some other end. The term thus can be used to refer to literature generally. The Nuttall Encyclopedia, for example, described belles-lettres as the "department of literature which implies literary culture and belongs to the domain of art, whatever the subject may be or the special form; it includes poetry, the drama, fiction, and criticism," while the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition describes it as "the more artistic and imaginative forms of literature, as poetry or romance, as opposed to more pedestrian and exact studies."

* Bestiary

A bestiary, or Bestiarum vocabulum is a compendium of beasts. Bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals, birds and even rocks. The natural history and illustration of each beast was usually accompanied by a moral lesson. This reflected the belief that the world itself was the Word of God, and that every living thing had its own special meaning. For example, the pelican, which was believed to tear open its breast to bring its young to life with its own blood, was a living representation of Jesus. The bestiary, then, is also a reference to the symbolic language of animals in Western Christian art and literature.

* Beta reader

A beta reader (also spelled betareader, or shortened to beta) is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described as "a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public."

The author or writer, who can be referred to as the alpha reader, may use several "betas" prior to publication. The term "beta" is an appropriation from the software industry which uses the terms "alpha" and "beta" for software that are internal works in progress and publicly released tests, respectively (though a "beta" version may still be tested internally). While the use of the concept and the term is commonest among fan fiction writers, it is growing in popularity with novelists, to the point where some have thanked their beta readers (sometimes even referring to them as such) in their acknowledgments. A beta reader, who may or may not be known to the author, can serve as proofreader of spelling and grammar errors or as a traditional editor, working on the "flow" of prose. In fiction, the beta might highlight plot holes or problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.

* Bibliography

Bibliography (from Greek βιβλιογραφία, bibliographia, literally "book writing"), as a practice, is the academic study of books as physical, cultural objects; in this sense, it is also known as bibliology (from Greek -λογία, -logia). On the whole, bibliography is not concerned with the literary content of books, but rather the "bookness" of books – how they were designed, edited, printed, circulated, reprinted and collected.

A bibliography, the product of the practice of bibliography, is a systematic list of books and other works such as journal articles. Bibliographies range from "works cited" lists at the end of books and articles to complete, independent publications. As separate works, they may be in bound volumes such as those shown on the right, or computerised bibliographic databases. A library catalog, while not referred to as a bibliography, is bibliographic in nature. Bibliographical works are almost always considered to be tertiary sources.

* Bildungsroman

The Bildungsroman (German pronunciation: [ˈbɪldʊŋs.ʁoˌmaːn]; German: "formation novel") is a genre of the novel which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. Change is thus extremely important. The genre is further characterized by a number of formal, topical and thematic features. The term coming-of-age novel is sometimes used interchangeably with Bildungsroman, but its use is usually wider and less technical.

* Biography

A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. A biography is more than a list of impersonal facts (education, work, relationships, and death), it also portrays the subject's experience of those events. Unlike a profile or curriculum vitae (résumé), a biography presents the subject's story, highlighting various aspects of his or her life, including intimate details of experiences, and may include an analysis of the subject's personality.

* Black comedy

Black humour (from the French humour noir) is a term coined by Surrealist theoretician André Breton in 1935, to designate the sub-genre of comedy and satire in which laughter arises from cynism and skepticism. Black humour is often a satire on the topic of death. Breton identified the originator of Black humour in Jonathan Swift, particularly in his pieces Directions to Servants (1731) A Modest Proposal (1729), A Meditation Upon a Broom-Stick (1710), and a few aphorisms.

* Blank verse

Blank verse is a type of poetry, distinguished by having a regular meter, but no rhyme. In English, the meter most commonly used with blank verse has been iambic pentameter (as used in Shakespearean plays).

The first known use of blank verse in the English language was by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey in his interpretation of the Æneid (c. 1554). He was possibly inspired by the Latin original, as classical Latin verse (as well as Greek verse) did not use rhyme; or he may have been inspired by the Italian verse form of Versi Sciolti , which also contained no rhyme. The play, Arden of Faversham (circa 1590 by an unknown author) is a notable example of end-stopped blank verse.

* Bloomsbury Group

The Bloomsbury Group or Bloomsbury Set was a group of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists who held informal discussions in Bloomsbury throughout the 20th century. This English collective of friends and relatives lived, worked or studied near Bloomsbury in London during the first half of the twentieth century. Their work deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality. Its best known members were Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey.

* Body (Element of an article)

- For the news story, details and elaboration are evident in the body of the news story and flow smoothly from the lead.
- Quotes are used to add interest and support to the story.
- The inverted pyramid is used with most news stories.

A feature article will follow a format appropriate for its type. Structures for feature articles may include, but are not limited to:

- chronological — the article may be a narrative of some sort.
- cause and effect — the reasons and results of an event or process are examined.
- classification — items in an article are grouped to help aid understanding
- compare and contrast — two or more items are examined side-by-side to see their similarities and differences
- list — A simple item-by-item run-down of pieces of information.
- question and answer — such as an interview with a celebrity or expert.

* Bombast (fustian)

Fustian (also called bombast) is a term for a variety of heavy woven, mostly cotton fabrics, chiefly prepared for menswear. It is also used to refer to pompous, inflated or pretentious writing or speech, from at least the time of Shakespeare. This literary use is because the cloth type was often used as padding, hence, the purposeless words are 'bombast'.

* Boulevard theatre

Boulevard theatre is a theatrical aesthetic which emerged from the boulevards of Paris's old city.

Starting from the second half of the 18th century, popular and bourgeois theatre alike took up residence on the boulevard du Temple, then nicknamed crime boulevard due to the many melodramas and murder stories shown there.

* Bouts-Rimés

Bouts-Rimés, literally (from the French) "rhymed-ends", is the name given to a kind of poetic game defined by Addison, in the Spectator, as

lists of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list.

* Bowdlerize

Thomas Bowdler (pronounced /ˈbaʊdlər/) (11 July 1754 – 24 February 1825) was an English physician who published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's work, edited by his sister Harriet, intended to be more appropriate for 19th century women and children than the original.

He similarly published an edited version of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His edition was the subject of some criticism and ridicule and, through the eponym bowdlerise (or bowdlerize), his name is now associated with censorship of literature, motion pictures and television programmes.

* Broadside

A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous (or near simultaneous) fire in naval warfare.

* Burlesque

Burlesque is a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration.

* Burletta

A burletta (Italian, meaning little joke), also sometimes burla or burlettina, is a musical term generally denoting a brief comic Italian (or, later, English) opera. The term was used in the 18th century to denote the comic intermezzos between the acts of an opera seria, but was sometimes given to more extended works; Pergolesi's La serva padrona was designated a 'burletta' at its London premiere in 1750.

* Burns stanza

The Burns stanza is a verse form named after the Scottish poet Robert Burns. It was not, however, invented by Burns, and prior to his use of it was known as the standard Habbie, after the poet Habbie Simpson (1550-1620). It is also sometimes known as the Scottish stanza or six-line stave.

* Buskin

A buskin is a knee- or calf-length boot made of leather or cloth which laces closed, but is open across the toes. It was worn by Athenian tragic actors, hunters and soldiers in Ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman societies.

The word buskin, only recorded in English since 1503 meaning "half boot", is of unknown origin, perhaps from Old French brousequin (in modern French brodequin) or directly from its Middle Dutch model brosekin "small leather boot". Figurative senses relating to tragedy are from the word being used (since 1570) to translate Greek kothurnos or Latin cothurnos, the high, thick-soled boot worn in Athenian tragedy; contrasted with sock (from Latin soccus), the low shoe worn by comedians.

* Byronic hero

The Byronic hero is an idealised but flawed character exemplified in the life and writings of Lord Byron, characterised by his ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb (who said it before becoming Byron's lover) as being "mad, bad, and dangerous to know". The Byronic hero first appears in Byron's semi-autobiographical epic narrative poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818).

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Published - February 2011







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