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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

* Gallows humor

Gallows humor is a type of humor that arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations; often in circumstances such that death is perceived as impending and unavoidable. It is similar to black comedy but differs in that it is made by the person affected.

Sigmund Freud in his 1927 essay Humour (Der Humor) puts forth the following theory of the gallows humor: "The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure". Some other sociologists elaborated this concept further. At the same time, Paul Lewis warns that this "liberating" aspect of gallows jokes depends on the context of the joke: whether the joke is being told by the threatened person themselves or by someone else.

* Gamebook

A gamebook (also sometimes referred to as choose your own adventure books or CYOA books, not to be confused with the series by that title) is a work of fiction that allows the reader to participate in the story by making choices that affect the course of the narrative, which branches down various paths through the use of numbered paragraphs or pages. The genre was mainly popular during the 1980s.

At the end of a text section, the reader is usually presented with a choice of narrative branches that they may follow, with each option containing a reference to the number of the paragraph that should be read next if the option is chosen. The reader may eventually reach a concluding paragraph which will bring the narrative to an end. In most gamebooks only one (or if more than this, a distinct minority) of the concluding paragraphs will end the narrative with a "successful" ending, with the others ending the narrative with a "failure" ending.

Gamebooks are usually written in the second person with the reader assuming the role of a fictional character. The titles are usually published in series containing several books, although individual gamebooks have also been published. While the books in many series are stand-alone narratives, others continue the narrative from the previous books in the series.

There are three types of gamebooks. The first is the branching-plot novel (an example of this is the Choose Your Own Adventure series of gamebooks), which require the reader to make choices but are otherwise like a regular novel. The second type is the role-playing game solitaire adventure (an example of this is the Tunnels and Trolls series of gamebooks), which combines the branching-plot novel with the rules of a role-playing game, allowing the game to be played without a Gamemaster but requiring the purchase of separate manuals. The third type is the adventure gamebook (an example of this is the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks), which combines the branching-plot novel with simple role-playing rules included with each book.

* Gather

Gather, gatherer, or gathering may refer to:

In anthropology and sociology:

  • Hunter-gatherer, a person or a society whose subsistence depends on hunting and gathering of wild foods
  • Bee (gathering), an old term which describes a group of people coming together for a task
  • Salon (gathering), a party associated with French and Italian intellectuals
  • Intensive gathering, the practice of cultivating wild plants as a step toward domestication
  • Rag gatherer, an archaic occupation, also known as rag picker

In the arts:

  • Global gathering, a music festival in the United Kingdom
  • Ricochet Gathering, a music event in the United States
  • Tribal Gathering, a music festival in the United Kingdom

Other uses:

  • Gather (sewing), an area where fabric is folded or bunched together with thread or yarn
  • Gather (knitting), a generic term for one of several knitting techniques to draw stitches closer together
  • Gather.com, a social networking website
  • Gather Restaurant, a notable restaurant in the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley, California.
  • The Gatherers, from Marvel comics
  • Gather (slang), means FOX
  • Gathering of Developers, sometimes called as 'Gathering'

* Genetic fallacy

The genetic fallacy is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context.

The fallacy therefore fails to assess the claim on its merit. The first criterion of a good argument is that the premises must have bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim in question. Genetic accounts of an issue may be true, and they may help illuminate the reasons why the issue has assumed its present form, but they are irrelevant to its merits.

According to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy, the term originates in Morris Cohen and Ernest Nagel's book Logic and Scientific Method.

* Genre (literary)

A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even (as in the case of fiction) length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.

The most general genres in literature are (in loose chronological order) epic, tragedy, comedy, novel, short story, and creative nonfiction.[citation needed] They can all be in the genres prose or poetry, which shows best how loosely genres are defined. Additionally, a genre such as satire, allegory or pastoral might appear in any of the above, not only as a sub-genre (see below), but as a mixture of genres. Finally, they are defined by the general cultural movement of the historical period in which they were composed. The concept of "genre" has been criticized by Jacques Derrida.

* Georgian Poetry

Georgian Poetry was the title of a series of anthologies showcasing the work of a school of English poetry that established itself during the early years of the reign of King George V of the United Kingdom.

Edward Marsh was the general editor of the series and the centre of the circle of Georgian poets, which included Rupert Brooke. It has been suggested that Brooke himself took a hand in some of the editorial choices.

The idea for an anthology began as a joke, when Marsh, Duncan Grant and George Mallory decided, one evening in 1912 to publish a parody of the many small poetry books that were appearing at the time. After some discussion it was decided to pursue the idea in all seriousness. Marsh and Brooke approached the poet and bookseller Harold Monro who had recently opened The Poetry Bookshop at Devonshire Street, London. He agreed to publish the book in return for a half share of the profits.

Subsequent to the final anthology of five, further collections appeared edited by J. C. Squire, which were probably intended to take on the mantle. The subsequent fate of the Georgian poets (inevitably known as the Squirearchy) then became an aspect of the critical debate surrounding modernist poetry, as marked by the publication of The Waste Land at just that time. The Georgian poets became something of a by-word for conservatism, but at the time of the early anthologies they saw themselves as modern (if not modernist) and progressive. The most important figures, in literary terms, would now be considered D. H. Lawrence and Robert Graves: neither of them 'typical'.

* Georgics

The Georgics is a poem in four books, likely published in 29 BC. It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. It is a poem that draws on many prior sources and influenced many later authors from antiquity to the present. Scholars have often been at odds over how to read the work as a whole, and puzzled over such phrases as labor omnia vincit / improbus (1.145-146), which is not simply the platitude, "work conquers all," but "shameful work conquers all." As its name suggests (Georgica, from the Greek word georgein, 'to farm') the subject of the poem is agriculture; but far from being an example of peaceful rural poetry, it is a work characterized by tensions in both theme and purpose.

* Gesta - Cantar de gesta

A cantar de gesta is the Spanish equivalent of the Old French medieval chanson de geste or "songs of heroic deeds".

* Gloss

A gloss (from Latin: glossa, from Greek: γλῶσσα glóssa "tongue") is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text, or in the reader's language if that is different.

A collection of glosses is a glossary. A collection of medieval legal glosses, made by so-called glossators, is called an apparatus. The compilation of glosses into glossaries was the beginning of lexicography, and the glossaries so compiled were in fact the first dictionaries. In modern times a glossary, as opposed to a dictionary, is typically found in a text as an appendix of specialized terms that the typical reader may find unfamiliar. Also, satirical explanations of words and events are called glosses. The German Romantic movement used the expression of gloss for poems commenting a given other piece of poetry, often in the spanish Décima style.

Glosses were originally notes made in the margin or between the lines of a text in a Classical language, in which the meaning of a word or passage is explained. As such, glosses vary in thoroughness and complexity, from simple marginal notations of words one reader found difficult or obscure, to interlinear translations of a text with cross references to similar passages.

* Gnomic poetry

Gnomic poetry consists of sententious maxims put into verse to aid the memory. They were known by the Greeks as gnomes, from the Greek word for "an opinion".

A gnome was defined by the Elizabethan critic Henry Peacham (1576?-1643?) as "a saying pertaining to the manners and common practices of men, which declareth, with an apt brevity, what in this our life ought to be done, or not done".

It belongs to the broad family of wisdom literature, which expresses general truths about the world. Topics range over the Divine and Secular, to hierarchical social relationships.

Gnomes are frequently to be found in the ancient literatures of Arabia, Persia and India, and in the Icelandic staves. The priamel, a brief, sententious kind of poem, which was in favor in Germany from the 12th to the 16th century, belonged to the true gnomic class, and was cultivated with particular success by Hans Rosenblut, the lyrical goldsmith of Nuremberg, in the 15th century. Gnomic literature, including Maxims I and Maxims II, is a genre of Medieval Literature in England.

The gnomic spirit has occasionally been displayed by poets of a homely philosophy, such as Francis Quarles (1592-1644) in England and Gui de Pibrac (1529-1584) in France. The once-celebrated Quatrains of the latter, published in 1574, enjoyed an immense success throughout Europe; they were composed in deliberate imitation of the Greek gnomic writers of the 6th century BCE.

With the gnomic writings of Pibrac it was long customary to bind up those of Antoine Faber (or Favre) (1557-1624) and of Pierre Mathieu (1563-1621).

* Golden line

The golden line is a type of Latin dactylic hexameter frequently mentioned in Latin classrooms in English speaking countries and in contemporary scholarship written in English.

The golden line is variously defined, but most uses of the term conform to the oldest known definition from Burles' Latin grammar of 1652:

If the Verse does consist of two Adjectives, two Substantives and a Verb only, the first Adjective agreeing with the first Substantive, the second with the second, and the Verb placed in the midst, it is called a Golden Verse: as,

Lurida terribiles miscent aconita novercae. (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.147)
Pendula flaventem pingebat bractea crinem.

These lines have the abVAB structure, in which nouns are placed at the end of the line in an interlocking order. Pendula is an adjective modifying bractea and flaventem is an adjective modifying crinem.

Pendula flaventem pingebat bractea crinem.
adjective a, adjective b, VERB, noun A, noun B (abVAB)

Another example would be Virgil, Aeneid 4.139

aurea purpuream subnectit fibula vestem,
"a golden clasp bound her purple cloak"

word-by-word the line translates as "golden purple bound clasp cloak". The endings on the Latin words indicate their syntactical relationship, whereas English uses word order to do the same job. So a Latin listener or reader would know that golden and clasp go together even though the words are separated.

The term "golden line" originates in England. The definition quoted above is the earliest known use of the term, in an obscure Latin textbook published in England in 1652, which never sold well and of which only four copies are extant today. It appeared in some American and British Latin Grammars in the 19th and early 20th century. Only a few scholars outside the English-speaking world discuss the golden line. It is not found in any current handbooks on Latin grammar or metrics except for Mahoney's online Overview of Latin Syntax[1] and Panhuis's Latin Grammar.

The term "golden line" did not exist in Classical antiquity. Classical poets probably did not strive to produce them (but see the teres versus in the history section below). Winbolt, the most thorough commentator on the golden line, described the form as a natural combination of obvious tendencies in Latin hexameter, such as the preference for putting adjectives towards the beginning of the line and nouns at the emphatic end. The golden line is an extreme form of hyperbaton.

There are about ten different definitions of the “golden line.” Often scholars do not explicitly offer a definition, but instead present statistics or lists of golden lines, from which one must extrapolate their criteria for deeming a verse golden.

* Goliard

The Goliards were a group of clergy who wrote bibulous, satirical Latin poetry in the 12th and 13th centuries. They were mainly clerical students at the universities of France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and England who protested the growing contradictions within the Church, such as the failure of the Crusades and financial abuses, expressing themselves through song, poetry and performance.

The Goliards have literary significance in that they wrote Latin verse using stress-based prosody, rather than the Classical quantitative meters, since syllable-weight had long ceased to be an actual part of Latin pronunciation. This literary movement ultimately made possible new sacred Latin verse, such as Thomas of Celano's Dies Iræ or St Thomas Aquinas's Pange Lingua, sequences written in Latin poetic forms the Goliards helped to develop.

The word "goliard" outlived the original meaning and passed over into the French and English literature of the 14th Century, generally meaning jongleur or wandering minstrel, no longer related to its original clerical association. It is thus used in Piers Plowman and by Chaucer.

* Gongorism - Luis de Góngora

Luis de Góngora y Argote (Córdoba, 11 July 1561 – Córdoba, 24 May 1627) was a Spanish Baroque lyric poet. Góngora and his lifelong rival, Francisco de Quevedo, are widely considered to be the most prominent Spanish poets of their age. His style is characterized by what was called culteranismo, also known as Gongorism (Gongorismo). This style existed in stark contrast to Quevedo's Conceptismo.

* Gonzo journalism

Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written subjectively, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word Gonzo was first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. The term has since been applied to other subjective artistic endeavors.

Gonzo journalism tends to favor style over accuracy and often uses personal experiences and emotions to provide context for the topic or event being covered. It disregards the 'polished' edited product favored by newspaper media and strives for a more gritty approach. Use of quotations, sarcasm, humor, exaggeration, and profanity is common.

* Gothic fiction

Gothic fiction (sometimes referred to as Gothic horror) is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. As a genre, it is generally believed to have been invented by the English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole.

Gothic literature is intimately associated with the Gothic Revival architecture of the same era. In a way similar to the gothic revivalists' rejection of the clarity and rationalism of the neoclassical style of the Enlightened Establishment, the literary Gothic embodies an appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, and a quest for atmosphere.

The ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations—thus the urge to add fake ruins as eyecatchers in English landscape parks. English Gothic writers often associated medieval buildings with what they saw as a dark and terrifying period, characterized by harsh laws enforced by torture, and with mysterious, fantastic, and superstitious rituals. In literature such Anti-Catholicism had a European dimension featuring Roman Catholic excesses such as the Inquisition (in southern European countries such as Italy and Spain).

Prominent features of Gothic fiction include terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses.

The stock characters of Gothic fiction include tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femmes fatales, monks, nuns, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, monsters, demons, dragons, angels, fallen angels, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew and the Devil himself.

* Grand Guignol

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (French: "The Theater of the Big Puppet") — known as the Grand Guignol — was in the Pigalle area of Paris (at 20 bis, rue Chaptal). From its opening in 1897 until its closing in 1962 it specialized in naturalistic horror shows. Its name is often used as a general term for graphic, amoral horror entertainment, a genre popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre (for instance Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Webster's The White Devil) to today's splatter films.

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol was founded in 1894 by Oscar Méténier, who planned it as a space for naturalist performance. With 293 seats, the venue was the smallest in Paris. A former chapel, the theater's previous life was evident in the boxes — which looked like confessionals — and in the angels over the orchestra.

The theater owed its name to Guignol, a traditional Lyonnaise puppet character, joining political commentary with the style of Punch and Judy.

The theater's peak was between World War I and World War II, when it was frequented by royalty and celebrities in evening dress.

* Graveyard poetry - Graveyard school

The "Graveyard Poets" were a number of pre-Romantic English poets of the 18th century characterised by their gloomy meditations on mortality, 'skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms' in the context of the graveyard. To this was added, by later practitioners, a feeling for the 'sublime' and uncanny, and an interest in ancient English poetic forms and folk poetry. They are often reckoned as precursors of the Gothic genre. The Graveyard Poets include Thomas Parnell, Thomas Warton, Thomas Percy, Thomas Gray, Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper, Christopher Smart, James MacPherson, Robert Blair, William Collins, Thomas Chatterton, Mark Akenside, Joseph Warton, Henry Kirke White and Edward Young. James Thomson is also sometimes included as a graveyard poet. An illustration for Young's Night Thoughts by William Blake. The earliest poem attributed to the Graveyard school was Thomas Parnell's A Night-Piece on Death (1721, this and following years link to corresponding " in poetry" articles) in which King Death himself gives an address from his kingdom of bones: "When men my scythe and darts supply How great a King of Fears am I!" (61–62)

* Greek tragedy - Theatre of ancient Greece

The theatre of ancient Greece, or ancient Greek drama, is a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political and military power during this period, was its centre, where it was institutionalized as part of a festival called the Dionysia, which honored the god Dionysus. Tragedy (late 6th century BC), comedy (486 BC), and the satyr play were the three dramatic genres to emerge there. Athens exported the festival to its numerous colonies and allies in order to promote a common cultural identity. Western theatre originated in Athens and its drama has had a significant and sustained impact on Western culture as a whole.

* Grub Street

Until the early 19th century, Grub Street was a street close to London's impoverished Moorfields district that ran from Fore Street east of St Giles-without-Cripplegate north to Chiswell Street. Famous for its concentration of impoverished 'hack writers', aspiring poets, and low-end publishers and booksellers, Grub Street existed on the margins of London's journalistic and literary scene. It was pierced along its length with narrow entrances to alleys and courts, many of which retained the names of early signboards. Its bohemian society was set amidst the impoverished neighbourhood's low-rent flophouses, brothels, and coffeehouses.

According to Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, the term was "originally the name of a street... much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems, whence any mean production is called grubstreet." Johnson himself had lived and worked on Grub Street early in his career. The contemporary image of Grub Street was popularised by Alexander Pope in his Dunciad.

The street name no longer exists, but Grub Street has since become a pejorative term for impoverished hack writers and writings of low literary value.

* Grundyism - Mrs Grundy

Mrs Grundy, a character from Thomas Morton's play Speed the Plough (1798), was considered by English-language authors to be the personification of the tyranny of conventional propriety. By the mid-nineteenth century, Mrs Grundy was so well established in the public imagination as a canonical character that Samuel Butler, in his popular novel Erewhon, could refer to her in the form of an anagram (as the goddess Ydgrun). As a figure of speech she was eventually familiar to readers all over Europe. As such, the expression (or grundyism or Mother Grundy) is an eponym for an extremely conventional or priggish person.

Curiously for so famous a character, Mrs Grundy never actually appears in the play which introduced her, but is the continual object of the boastful Dame Ashfield's envious watchfulness, as is shown in the very first scene:

Ashfield. Well, Dame, welcome whoam. What news does thee bring vrom market?
Dame. What news, husband? What I always told you; that Farmer Grundy's wheat brought five shillings a quarter more than ours did.
Ash. All the better vor he.
Dame. Ah! the sun seems to shine on purpose for him.
Ash. Come, come, missus, as thee hast not the grace to thank God for prosperous times, dan't thee grumble when they be unkindly a bit.
Dame. And I assure you, Dame Grundy's butter was quite the crack of the market.
Ash. Be quiet, woolye? aleways ding, dinging Dame Grundy into my ears — what will Mrs Grundy zay? What will Mrs Grundy think — Canst thee be quiet, let ur alone, and behave thyzel pratty?
Dame. Certainly I can — I'll tell thee, Tummas, what she said at church last Sunday.
Ash. Canst thee tell what parson zaid? Noa — Then I'll tell thee — A' zaid that envy were as foul a weed as grows, and cankers all wholesome plants that be near it — that's what a' zaid.
Dame. And do you think I envy Mrs Grundy indeed?

Although later usage positions her chiefly as a feared dispenser of disapproval, the Mrs Grundy of the play is, in Dame Ashfield's daydreams, not so much a figure of dread as a cowed audience to the accomplishments of the Ashfield family. As the play progresses, Dame Ashfield and her comical musings soon drop from sight to make way for melodrama:

Miss B. Ah! [Shrieks.] Thank Heaven, he's safe! What urged you, Henry, again to venture in the Castle?
Henry. Fate! the desperate attempt of a desperate man!
Sir Philip. Ah!
Henry. Yes; the mystery is developed. In vain the massy bars, cemented with their cankerous rust, opposed my entrance — in vain the heated suffocating damps enveloped me — in vain the hungry flames flashed their vengeance round me! What could oppose a man struggling to know his fate? I forced the doors, a firebrand was my guide, and among many evidences of blood and guilt, I found — these! [Produces a knife and bloody cloth.]

* Guignol - Grand Guignol

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (French pronunciation: [ɡʁɑ̃ ɡiɲɔl]: "The Theater of the Big Puppet") — known as the Grand Guignol — was in the Pigalle area of Paris (at 20 bis, rue Chaptal). From its opening in 1897 until its closing in 1962 it specialized in naturalistic horror shows. Its name is often used as a general term for graphic, amoral horror entertainment, a genre popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre (for instance Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Webster's The White Devil) to today's splatter films.

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Published - February 2011






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