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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

* Macaronic language

Macaronic refers to text spoken or written using a mixture of languages, sometimes including bilingual puns, particularly when the languages are used in the same context (as opposed to different segments of a text being in different languages). The term is also sometimes used to denote hybrid words, which are in effect internally macaronic. A rough equivalent in spoken language is code-switching, a term in linguistics referring to using more than one language or dialect in conversation.

Macaronic Latin specifically is a jumbled jargon made up of vernacular words given Latin endings, or for Latin words mixed with the vernacular in a pastiche (compare dog Latin).

The word macaronic comes from the New Latin macaronicus, from Italian dialect maccarone ("dumpling, macaroni", regarded as coarse peasant fare). The term macaronic has derogatory overtones, and it is usually reserved for works where the mixing of languages has a humorous or satirical intent. It is a matter of debate whether the term can be applied to mixed-language literature of a more serious nature and purpose.

* Madrigal (music)

A madrigal is a type of secular vocal music composition, written during the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Throughout most of its history it was polyphonic and unaccompanied by instruments, with the number of voices varying from two to eight, but most frequently three to six. The earliest examples of the genre date from Italy in the 1520s, and while the center of madrigal production remained in Italy, madrigals were also written in England and Germany, especially late in the 16th and early in the 17th centuries. Unlike many strophic forms of the time, most madrigals are through-composed, with music being written to best express the sentiment of each line of a poetic text. The madrigal originated in part from the frottola, in part from the resurgence in interest in vernacular Italian poetry, and also from the influence of the French chanson and polyphonic style of the motet as written by the Franco-Flemish composers who had naturalized in Italy during the period. A frottola generally would consist of music set to stanzas of text, while madrigals were through-composed. However, some of the same poems were used for both frottola and madrigals. The poetry of Petrarch in particular shows up in a wide variety of genres. The madrigal is related mostly by name alone to the Italian trecento madrigal of the late 13th and 14th centuries.

The madrigal was the most important secular form of music of its time. It reached its fullest development in the second half of the 16th century, losing its importance in the early 17th century, when forms such as the solo song became more popular. After the 1630s it merged with the cantata and the dialogue, and the solo madrigal was replaced by the aria because of the rise of opera as an important genre.

* Magic realism

Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements are blended into a realistic atmosphere in order to access a deeper understanding of reality. These magical elements are explained like normal occurrences that are presented in a straightforward manner which allows the "real" and the "fantastic" to be accepted in the same stream of thought. It has been widely considered a literary and visual art genre; creative fields that exhibit less significant signs of magic realism include film and music.

As used today, the term is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous: Matthew Strecher has defined magic realism as "what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something 'too strange to believe'". However, it may be that this critical perspective towards magical realism stems from the Western reader's disassociation with mythology, a root of magical realism more easily understood by non-Western cultures. Westerners' confusion regarding the style of magical realism is due to the "'conception of the real'" created in a magical realist text; rather than explaining reality using natural or physical laws as in typical Western texts, magical realist texts create a reality "'in which the relation between incidents, characters, and setting could not be based upon or justified by their status within the physical world or their normal acceptance by bourgeois mentality."' Today, there are many varieties of writers whose work is categorized as "magical realist", to such an extent that critics and readers alike are confused as to what the term really means and how wide its borders are.

* Malapropism

A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism or acyrologia) is the substitution of a word for a word with a similar sound, in which the resulting phrase makes no sense but often creates a comic effect. It is not the same as an eggcorn, which is a similar substitution in which the new phrase makes sense on some level. Occasionally a phrase, rather than a single word, replaces the original word, for example Stan Laurel said "What a terrible cat's after me!" (i.e., catastrophe) in Any Old Port!

* Märchen - Fairy tale

Fairy tale is an English language term for a type of short narrative corresponding to the French phrase conte de fée, the Spanish phrase cuento de hadas, the German term Märchen, the Italian fiaba, the Polish baśń or the Swedish saga. Fairy tales typically feature such folkloric characters as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories thus designated explicitly refer to fairies. The stories may nonetheless be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables.

* Marginalia

Marginalia (plurale tantum) are notes, scribbles, and comments made by readers in the margin of a book, as well as marginal decoration, drolleries, and drawings in medieval illuminated manuscripts, although many of these were planned parts of the book. True marginalia is not to be confused with reader's signs, marks (e.g. stars, crosses, fists) or doodles in books. The formal way of adding descriptive notes to a document is called annotation.

The scholia on classical manuscripts are the earliest known form of marginalia. Fermat's last theorem is probably the most famous historical marginal note.

The first recorded use of the word marginalia is in 1819 in Blackwood's Magazine. From 1845 to 1849 Edgar Allan Poe titled some of his reflections and fragmentary material "Marginalia." Five volumes of Samuel T. Coleridge's marginalia have been published.

Some famous marginalia were serious works, or drafts thereof, written in margins due to scarcity of paper. Voltaire composed in book margins while in prison, and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote a personal statement in margins just before his execution. John Bethune was a poor English poet whose only available paper was borrowed space in books.

Marginalia can add or detract from the value of a book, depending on the author of the marginalia and the book. Marginalia by Tony Blair in a book by Winston Churchill, for example, might add value; a student's notes in a popular edition of Oliver Twist might not.

Catherine C. Marshall doing research on the future of the user interface has studied the phenomenon of user annotation of texts. She discovered that in several university departments, knowledgeable students would scour the piles of textbooks at used book dealers for consistently annotated copies. The students had a good appreciation for their predecessors' distillation of knowledge.

Beginning in the 1990s, many attempts have been made to design and market e-book devices permitting a limited form of marginalia. In 2004, the Sony Librie EBR-1000EP was introduced with a tiny but full qwerty keyboard below the display, to permit the creation of marginalia and bookmarks.

* Marinism

Marinism (Italian marinismo, or secentismo, "17th century") is the name now given to an ornate, witty style of poetry and verse drama written in imitation of Giambattista Marino (1569-1625), following in particular La Lira and L'Adone.

* Marxist literary criticism

Marxist literary criticism is a loose term describing literary criticism informed by the philosophy or the politics of Marxism. Its history is as long as Marxism itself, as both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels read widely (Marx had a great affection for Shakespeare, as well as contemporary writings like the work of his contemporary Heinrich Heine). In the twentieth century, many of the foremost writers of Marxist theory have also been literary critics, including Georg Lukács, Leon Trotsky, Franz Mehring, Raymond Williams, and Fredric Jameson.

The English literary critic and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton defines Marxist criticism this way:

"Marxist criticism is not merely a 'sociology of literature', concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class. Its aim is to explain the literary work more fully; and this means a sensitive attention to its forms, styles and meanings. But it also means grasping those forms, styles and meanings as the product of a particular history."

The simplest goals of Marxist literary criticism can include an assessment of the political "tendency" of a literary work, determining whether its social content or its literary form are "progressive"; however, this is by no means the only or the necessary goal. From Walter Benjamin to Fredric Jameson, Marxist literary critics have also been concerned with applying lessons drawn from the realm of aesthetics to the realm of politics, as originated in the Frankfurt School's critical theory.

* Masculine ending

Masculine ending is term used in prosody, the study of verse form. It refers to a line ending in a stressed syllable. Its opposite is feminine ending, which describes a line ending in a stressless syllable. For example, in the following couplet by Longfellow, the first line has a feminine ending and the second a masculine one.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!

When a masculine ending is rhymed, the result is called a masculine rhyme.

The terms "masculine ending" and "feminine ending" are not based on any cultural concept of "masculinity" or "femininity". Rather, they originate from a grammatical pattern of French, in which words of feminine grammatical gender typically end in a stressless syllable and words of masculine gender end in a stressed syllable.

Poems often arrange their lines in patterns of masculine and feminine endings, for instance in "The song of life", from which the above couplet is taken, every couplet consists of a feminine ending followed by a masculine one.

* Masculine rhyme

A masculine rhyme is a rhyme that matches only one syllable, usually at the end of respective lines. Often the final syllable is stressed.

* Masked comedy - Commedia dell'arte

Commedia dell'arte (Italian pronunciation: [komˈmɛːdja delˈlarte]), the closest translation being "comedy of art", (shortened from commedia dell'arte all'improviso, or "comedy through the art of improvisation") is a form of theatre that began in Italy in the mid-16th century characterized by masked "types", the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios.

* Masque

The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in sixteenth and early 17th century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio (a public version of the masque was the pageant). Masque involved music and dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design, in which the architectural framing and costumes might be designed by a renowned architect, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron. Professional actors and musicians were hired for the speaking and singing parts. Often, the masquers who did not speak or sing were courtiers: James I's Queen Consort, Anne of Denmark, frequently danced with her ladies in masques between 1603 and 1611, and Henry VIII and Charles I performed in the masques at their courts. In the tradition of masque, Louis XIV danced in ballets at Versailles with music by Lully.

* Maxim - Saying

A saying is something that is said, notable in one respect or another, to be "a pithy expression of wisdom or truth."

* Meaning (linguistics)

In linguistics, meaning is what is expressed by the writer or speaker, and what is conveyed to the reader or listener. Meaning is inferred from objects or concepts expressed by words, phrases or sentences in semantics. Meaning is inferred from the current context as intended by the writer or speaker in pragmatics. Ambiguity in meaning may cause confusion in what is conveyed, and lead to different interpretations of the current context.

studies the ways that context affects meaning. The two primary forms of context important to pragmatics are linguistic context and situational context. In applied pragmatics (such as neuro-linguistic programming) for example, meaning is formed through sensory experiences, even though sensory stimulus cannot be in language or signs. Pragmatics, then, reveals that meaning is both something affected by and affecting the world. Meaning is something contextual with respect to language and the world, and is also something active toward other meanings and the world.

Linguistic context becomes important when looking at particular said he saw a guy riding an elephant" than it does if preceded by " of a phrase. or a request to turn up the heat, depending on, among other things, whether or not it is believed to be in the listener's power to affect the temperature.

* Medieval theatre

Medieval theatre refers to the theatre of Europe between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance. The term refers to a variety of genres because the time period covers approximately a thousand years of the art form and an entire continent. Most medieval theatre is not well documented due to a lack of surviving records and texts, a low literacy rate of the general population, and the opposition of the clergy to some types of performance.

At the beginning of the Middle Ages, Roman Catholic Church banned theatrical performances, mostly as an attempt to curb the excesses of the Roman theatre. The Roman theatre was in decline because the economic and political conditions could not support the vast entertainment industry that had grown up in the empire and included circuses, horse races, gladiatorial combat, and the Roman comedies that are still sometimes performed today.

Very little is known about secular drama during the early medieval time. However, the anonymous pagan play "Querolus", written c.420, was adapted in the 12th century by Vitalis of Blois. Other secular Latin plays were also written in the 12th century, mainly in France but also in England ("Babio"). There certainly existed some other performances that were not fully fledged theatre; they may have been carryovers from the original pagan cultures (as is known from records written by the clergy disapproving of such festivals). It is also known that mimes, minstrels, bards, storytellers, and jugglers traveled in search of new audiences and financial support. Not much is known about these performers' repertoire and few written texts survive. One of the most famous of the secular plays is the musical "Le Jeu de Robin et Marion", written by Adam de la Halle in the 13th century, which is fully laid out in the original manuscript with lines, musical notation, and illuminations in the margins depicting the actors in motion. Adam also wrote another secular play, "Jeu de la Fueillee" in Arras, a French town in which theatre was thriving in the late 12th and 13th centuries. Perhaps the finest play surviving from Arras, is the "Jeu de saint Nicolas" by Jean Bodel (c.1200).

* Meiosis (figure of speech)

In rhetoric, meiosis is a euphemistic figure of speech that intentionally understates something or implies that it is lesser in significance or size than it really is. Meiosis is the opposite of auxesis, and also sometimes used as a synonym for litotes The term is derived from the Greek μειόω (“to make smaller”, "to diminish").

* Melodrama

The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work which exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them. It is also used in scholarly and historical musical contexts to refer to dramas of the 18th and 19th centuries in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action. The term originated from the early 19th-century French word mélodrame, which in turn is derived from Greek melos (music) and French drame (drama).

* Memoir

A memoir (from the French: mémoire from the Latin memoria, meaning "memory", or a reminiscence), is a literary genre, forming a subclass of autobiography – although the terms 'memoir' and 'autobiography' are almost interchangeable in modern parlance. Memoir is autobiographical writing, but not all autobiographical writing follows the criteria for memoir set out below. The author of a memoir may be referred to as a memoirist.

* Menippean satire

The genre of Menippean satire is a form of satire, usually in prose, which has a length and structure similar to a novel and is characterized by attacking mental attitudes instead of specific individuals. Other features found in menippean satire are a rhapsodic nature, a fragmented narrative, the combination of many different targets, and the rapid moving between styles and points of view.

The term is used by classical grammarians and by philologists mostly to refer to satires in prose (cf. the verse Satires of Juvenal and his imitators). Typical mental attitudes attacked and ridiculed by menippean satires are "pedants, bigots, cranks, parvenus, virtuosi, enthusiasts, rapacious and incompetent professional men of all kinds," which are treated as diseases of the intellect. The term Menippean satire distinguishes it from the earlier satire pioneered by Aristophanes, which was based on personal attacks.

* Mesostich - Acrostic

An acrostic (Greek: ákros "top"; stíchos "verse") is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message. As a form of constrained writing, an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aid memory retrieval. A famous acrostic was made in Greek for the acclamation JESUS CHRIST, GOD'S SON, SAVIOUR (Greek: Ιησούς Χριστός, Θεού Υιός, Σωτήρ; Iesous CHristos, THeou Yios, Soter — ch and th being each one letter in Greek). The initials spell ICHTHYS (ΙΧΘΥΣ), Greek for fish – hence the frequent use of the fish as a symbol for Jesus Christ from the early days of Christianity to the present time.

* Metaphor

Metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas; the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. For example: "Her eyes were glistening jewels".

Metaphor is or was also occasionally used to denote rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance (e.g., antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile, which are then all considered types of metaphor). Aristotle used both this sense and the regular, current sense above.

The word metaphor derives from the 16th century Old French métaphore, in turn from the Latin metaphora, "carrying over", which is the latinisation of the Greek μεταφορά (metaphorá), “transfer”, from μεταφέρω (metaphero), “to carry over”, “to transfer”, itself a compound of φέρω (meta), “between” + φέρω (pherō), “to bear”, “to carry”.

* Metaphysical conceit - Conceit

In English literature the term is generally associated with the 17th century metaphysical poets, an extension of contemporary usage. In the metaphysical conceit, metaphors have a much more purely conceptual, and thus tenuous, relationship between the things being compared. Helen Gardner observed that "a conceit is a comparison whose ingenuity is more striking than its justness" and that "a comparison becomes a conceit when we are made to concede likeness while being strongly conscious of unlikeness." An example of the latter would be George Herbert's "Praise (3)," in which the generosity of God is compared to a bottle which ("As we have boxes for the poor") will take in an infinite amount of the speaker's tears.

* Metaphorical language

Metaphorical language is the use of a complex system of metaphors to create a sub-language within a common language which provides the basic terms (verbs, prepositions, conjunctions) to express metaphors.

People who over-expose themselves to environments atypical from their usual habits tend to develop understanding of new words and apply new meanings to existing words. Such sources could include: absorbing a native language spoken in a different dialects or countries, a language other than their own and fictional language from books, music, films and videogames.

People who are classified with Autistic Spectrum Disorder tend to communicate metaphorically rather than with common phrases. It is currently not known why they can do this, although they also express other abnormalities from level 1 and 2 psychedelic experiences.

* Metaphysical poets

The metaphysical poets were a loose group of British lyric poets of the 17th century, who shared an interest in metaphysical concerns and a common way of investigating them, and whose work was characterised by inventiveness of metaphor (these involved comparisons being known as metaphysical conceits). These poets were not formally affiliated; most of them did not even know or read each other. Their poetry was influenced greatly by the changing times, new sciences and the new found debauched scene of the 17th century.

* Meter (poetry)

In poetry, metre (British English) or meter (American English) is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse meter, or a certain set of meters alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody. (Within linguistics, "prosody" is used in a more general sense that includes not only poetical meter but also the rhythmic aspects of prose, whether formal or informal, which vary from language to language, and sometimes between poetic traditions.)

* Metonymy

Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept. For instance, "Westminster" is used as a metonym (an instance of metonymy) for the Government of the United Kingdom, because it is located there.

The words "metonymy" and "metonym" come from the Greek: μετωνυμία, metōnymía, "a change of name", from μετά, metá, "after, beyond" and -ωνυμία, -ōnymía, a suffix used to name figures of speech, from ὄνῠμα, ónyma or ὄνομα, ónoma, "name." Metonymy may also be instructively contrasted with metaphor. Both figures involve the substitution of one term for another. In metaphor, this substitution is based on some specific similarity, whereas, in metonymy, the substitution is based on some understood association (contiguity).

* Metre - Meter (poetry)

* Metrical foot - Foot (prosody)

* Metrical structure - Meter (poetry)

* Middle Comedy - Ancient Greek comedy

* Miles Gloriosus

Miles Gloriosus (literally, "glorious soldier", in Latin) is a stock character of a boastful soldier from the comic theatre of ancient Rome, and variations on this character have appeared in drama and fiction ever since. The character derives from the alazôn or "braggart" of the Greek Old Comedy (e.g. Aristophanes). The term "Miles Gloriosus" is occasionally applied in a contemporary context to refer to a posturing and self-deceiving boaster or bully.

* Mime artist

A mime artist (from Greek "μίμος"—mimos, "imitator, actor") is someone who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art, involving miming, or the acting out a story through body motions, without use of speech. In earlier times, in English, such a performer was referred to as a mummer. Miming is to be distinguished from silent comedy, in which the artist is a seamless character in a film or sketch.

The performance of pantomime originates at its earliest in Ancient Greece; the name is taken from a single masked dancer called Pantomimus, although performances were not necessarily silent. In Medieval Europe, early forms of mime such as mummer plays and later dumbshows evolved. In early nineteenth century Paris, Jean-Gaspard Deburau solidified the many attributes that we have come to know in modern times—the silent figure in whiteface.

Jacques Copeau, strongly influenced by Commedia dell'arte and Japanese Noh theatre, used masks in the training of his actors. Étienne Decroux, a pupil of his, was highly influenced by this and started exploring and developing the possibilities of mime and developed corporeal mime into a highly sculptural form, taking it outside of the realms of naturalism. Jacques Lecoq contributed significantly to the development of mime and physical theatre with his training methods.

* Mimesis

Mimesis (Ancient Greek: μίμησις (mīmēsis), from μίμεῖσθαι (mīmeisthai), "to imitate," from μῖμος (mimos), "imitator, actor") is a critical and philosophical term that carries a wide range of meanings, which include: imitation, representation, mimicry, imitatio, nonsensuous similarity, the act of resembling, the act of expression, and the presentation of the self.[1] Mimesis has been theorised by Plato, Aristotle, Philip Sidney, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Erich Auerbach, Luce Irigaray, René Girard, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Michael Taussig, Merlin Donald, Paul Ricoeur,[citation needed] and Homi Bhabha.

* Minnesang

Minnesang was the tradition of lyric and song writing in Germany which flourished in the 12th century and continued into the 14th century. People who wrote and performed Minnesang are known as Minnesingers (Minnesänger). The name derives from the word minne, Middle High German for love which was their main subject, and an individual song was a minnelied. The Minnesänger were similar to the Provençal troubadours and northern French trouvères; they wrote love poetry in the courtly love tradition in Middle High German in the High Middle Ages.

* Minstrel

A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories about distant places or about real or imaginary historical events. Though minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. Frequently they were retained by royalty and high society. As the courts became more sophisticated, minstrels were eventually replaced at court by the troubadours, and many became wandering minstrels, performing in the streets and became well liked until the middle of the Renaissance, despite a decline beginning in the late 15th century. Minstrelsy fed into later traditions of traveling entertainers, which continued to be moderately strong into the early 20th century, and which has some continuity down to today's buskers or street musicians.

* Mystery play

Mystery plays and Miracle plays (which are two different things) are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song. They developed from the 10th to the 16th century, reaching the height of their popularity in the 15th century before being rendered obsolete by the rise of professional theatre. The name derives from mystery used in its sense of miracle, but an occasionally quoted derivation is from misterium, meaning craft, a play performed by the craft guilds.

* Miscellanies - Anthology

An anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts. In genre fiction anthology is used to categorize collections of shorter works such as short stories and short novels, usually collected into a single volume for publication.

* Mise en scène

Mise-en-scène (French: "placing on stage") is an expression used to describe the design aspects of a theatre or film production, which essentially means "visual theme" or "telling a story" —both in visually artful ways through storyboarding, cinematography and stage design, and in poetically artful ways through direction. Mise-en-scène has been called film criticism's "grand undefined term."

When applied to the cinema, mise-en-scène refers to everything that appears before the camera and its arrangement—composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting. Mise-en-scène also includes the positioning and movement of actors on the set, which is called blocking. In modern filmwork, these are all the areas overseen by the director, and thus, in French film credits, the director's title is metteur en scène, "placer on scene." During the 1920s through the 1940s, these areas were typically overseen by the producers, titled variously as the producer, the production designer, the art designer, or the art director. Irving Thalberg of MGM was a legendary example of a producer who oversaw such production details.

* Metaphor

Metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas; the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. For example: "Her eyes were glistening jewels".

Metaphor is or was also occasionally used to denote rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance (e.g., antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile, which are then all considered types of metaphor). Aristotle used both this sense and the regular, current sense above.

The word metaphor derives from the 16th century Old French métaphore, in turn from the Latin metaphora, "carrying over", which is the latinisation of the Greek μεταφορά (metaphorá), “transfer”, from μεταφέρω (metaphero), “to carry over”, “to transfer”, itself a compound of μετά (meta), “between” + φέρω (pherō), “to bear”, “to carry”.

* Mock-heroic

Mock-heroic, mock-epic or heroi-comic works are typically satires or parodies that mock common Classical stereotypes of heroes and heroic literature. Typically, mock-heroic works to insert the heroic work by either putting a fool in the role of the hero or by exaggerating the heroic qualities to such a point that they become absurd.

* Mode (literature)

In literature, a mode is an employed method or approach, identifiable within a written work. As descriptive terms, form and genre are often used inaccurately instead of mode; for example, the pastoral mode is often mistakenly identified as a genre. The Writers Web site feature, A List of Important Literary Terms, defines mode thus:

An unspecific critical term usually identifying a broad, but identifiable literary method, mood, or manner, that is not tied exclusively to a particular form or genre. [Some] examples are the satiric mode, the ironic, the comic, the pastoral, and the didactic. (CB)

* Modernism

Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes both a set of cultural tendencies and an array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Modernism was a revolt against the conservative values of realism. The term encompasses the activities and output of those who felt the "traditional" forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political conditions of an emerging fully industrialized world.

Modernism rejected the lingering certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and also that of the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator. This is not to say that all modernists or modernist movements rejected either religion or all aspects of Enlightenment thought, rather that modernism can be viewed as a questioning of the axioms of the previous age.

A salient characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness. This often led to experiments with form, and work that draws attention to the processes and materials used (and to the further tendency of abstraction). The poet Ezra Pound's paradigmatic injunction was to "Make it new!" Whether or not the "making new" of the modernists constituted a new historical epoch is up for debate. Philosopher and composer Theodor Adorno warns us:

"Modernity is a qualitative, not a chronological, category. Just as it cannot be reduced to abstract form, with equal necessity it must turn its back on conventional surface coherence, the appearance of harmony, the order corroborated merely by replication."

Adorno would have us understand modernity as the rejection of the false rationality, harmony, and coherence of Enlightenment thinking, art, and music. But the past proves sticky. Pound's general imperative to make new, and Adorno's exhortation to challenge false coherence and harmony, faces T. S. Eliot's emphasis on the relation of the artist to tradition. Eliot wrote:

"[W]e shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of [a poet's] work, may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously."

Literary scholar Peter Childs sums up the complexity:

"There were paradoxical if not opposed trends towards revolutionary and reactionary positions, fear of the new and delight at the disappearance of the old, nihilism and fanatical enthusiasm, creativity and despair."

These oppositions are inherent to modernism: it is in its broadest cultural sense the assessment of the past as different to the modern age, the recognition that the world was becoming more complex, and that the old "final authorities" (God, government, science, and reason) were subject to intense critical scrutiny.

Surrealism was known to the public as the most extreme among the forms of modernism. Current interpretations of modernism vary. Some divide 20th century reaction into modernism and postmodernism, whereas others see them as two aspects of the same movement.

* Monodrama

A monodrama (also Solospiel in German; "solo play") is a theatrical or operatic piece played by a single actor or singer, usually portraying one character.

In opera, a monodrama was originally a melodrama with one role such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Pygmalion, which was written in 1762 and first staged in Lyon in 1770, and Georg Benda's work of the same name (1779).

The term is also applied to modern works with a single soloist, such as Arnold Schoenberg's Die glückliche Hand (1924), which besides the protagonist has two additional silent roles as well as a choral prologue and epilogue. Erwartung (1924) and La voix humaine (1959) closely follow the traditional definition, while in Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969) the instrumentalists are brought to the stage to participate in the action. A twenty-first century example is Émilie by Kaija Saariaho.

Richard Anton Meerheimb, Samuel Beckett (Krapp's Last Tape), and Anton Chekhov (The Danger of Smoking), among others, have written monodramas. English Poet Laureate Tennyson's poem "Maud" is also played as a monodrama. In Kiel, Germany, an international theater festival for monodramas takes place regularly, the Thespis International Monodrama Festival. Occasionally, a solo scene within a play might be described as a monodrama. Also, most pieces for pantomimes are designed as monodramas.

As developed by Russian symbolist Nikolai Evreinov (1879–1953) and encapsulated in his book The Theatre in Life (1927), a drama acted or designed to be acted by a single person. The term may also refer to a dramatic representation of what passes in an individual mind, as well as to a musical drama for a solo performer. Everything one witnesses on stage is portrayed from the mental state of the given protagonist.

A modern example is A Night in November (1994) by Irish playwright Marie Jones.

* Monody

In poetry, the term monody has become specialized to refer to a poem in which one person laments another's death. (In the context of ancient Greek literature, monody, μονῳδία could simply refer to lyric poetry sung by a single performer, rather than by a chorus.)

In music, monody has two meanings: 1) it is sometimes used as a synonym for monophony, a single solo line, in opposition to homophony and polyphony; and 2) in music history, it is a solo vocal style distinguished by having a single melodic line and instrumental accompaniment. Although such music is found in various cultures throughout history, the term is specifically applied to Italian song of the early 17th century, particularly the period from about 1600 to 1640. The term is used both for the style and for individual songs (so one can speak both of monody as a whole as well as a particular monody). The term itself is a recent invention of scholars: no composer of the 17th century ever called a piece a monody. Compositions in monodic form might be called madrigals, motets, or even concertos (in the earlier sense of "concertato", meaning "with instruments").

In monody, which developed out of an attempt by the Florentine Camerata in the 1580s to restore ancient Greek ideas of melody and declamation (probably with little historical accuracy), one solo voice sings a melodic part, usually with considerable ornamentation, over a rhythmically independent bass line. Accompanying instruments could be lute, chitarrone, theorbo, harpsichord, organ, and even on occasion guitar. While some monodies were arrangements for smaller forces of the music for large ensembles which was common at the end of the 16th century, especially in the Venetian School, most monodies were composed independently. The development of monody was one of the defining characteristics of early Baroque practice, as opposed to late Renaissance style, in which groups of voices sang independently and with a greater balance between parts.

Other musical streams which came together in the monody were the madrigal and the motet, both of which developed into solo forms after 1600 and borrowed ideas from the monody.

Contrasting passages in monodies could be more melodic or more declamatory: these two styles of presentation eventually developed into the aria and the recitative, and the overall form merged with the cantata by about 1635.

The parallel development of solo song with accompaniment in France was called the air de cour: the term monody is not normally applied to these more conservative songs, however, which retained many musical characteristics of the Renaissance chanson.

An important early treatise on monody is contained in Giulio Caccini's song collection, Le nuove musiche (Florence, 1601).

* Monograph

A monograph is a work of writing upon a single subject, usually by a single author. It is often a scholarly essay or learned treatise, and may be released in the manner of a book or journal article. It is by definition a single document that forms a complete text in itself. An author may therefore declare his own work to be a monograph by intent, or a reader or critic might define a given text as a monograph for the purpose of analysis. Normally the term is used for a work intended to be a complete and detailed exposition of a substantial subject at a level more advanced than that of a textbook. Monographs form a component of the review literature in science and engineering.

Librarians consider a monograph to be a nonserial publication complete in one volume or a finite number of volumes. Thus it differs from a serial publication such as a magazine, journal, or newspaper.

* Monologue

A monologue (or monolog) is when the character may be speaking his or her thoughts aloud, directly addressing another character, or speaking to the audience, especially the former. Monologues are common across the range of dramatic media (plays, films, animation, etc.). It is distinct from a soliloquy, which is where a character relates his or her thoughts and feelings to him/herself and to the audience without addressing any of the other characters.

The term "monologue" was actually used to describe a form of popular narrative verse, sometimes comic, often dramatic or sentimental, which was performed in music halls or in domestic entertainments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Characters would break out, announcing their thoughts to themselves. Famous examples include Idylls of the King, The Green Eye of the Yellow God and Christmas Day in the Workhouse.

The comic monologue has evolved into a regular feature of stand-up and television comedy. An "opening monologue" of a humorous subject is a typical segment of stand-up comedy.

* Monometer

In poetry, a monometer is a line of verse with just one metrical foot, exemplified by this portion of Robert Herrick's "Upon His Departure Hence":

Thus I
Passe by,
And die:
As one,
And gone.

* Monostich

A monostich is a poem which consists of a single line.

The following is an example:

'Skunks,' the squirrel said, 'are sent to try us.'

Ralph Hodgson

A monostich could be also titled; due to the brevity of the form, the title is invariably as important a part of the poem as the verse itself:


Bravery runs in my family.

A. R. Ammons

* Mood - Setting tone

Authors set a Tone in literature by conveying emotions/feelings through words. The way a person feels about an idea/concept, event, or another person can be quickly determined through facial expressions, gestures and in the tone of voice used. In literature an author sets the tone through words. The possible tones are bounded only by the number of possible emotions a human being can have.

* Mora (linguistics)

Mora (plural moras or morae) is a unit of sound used in phonology that determines syllable weight (which in turn determines stress or timing) in some languages. As with many technical linguistics terms, the exact definition of mora varies. Perhaps the most succinct working definition was provided by the American linguist James D. McCawley in 1968: a mora is “Something of which a long syllable consists of two and a short syllable consists of one.” The term comes from the Latin word for “linger, delay”, which was also used to translate the Greek word chronos (time) in its metrical sense.

A syllable containing one mora is said to be monomoraic; one with two moras is called bimoraic; some with three, rarer, are trimoraic.

* Moral

A moral (from Latin morālis) is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim. As an example of the latter, at the end of Aesop's fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, in which the plodding and determined tortoise wins a race against the much-faster yet extremely arrogant hare, the stated moral is "slow and steady wins the race". However, other morals can often be taken from the story itself; for instance, that "arrogance or overconfidence in one's abilities may lead to failure or the loss of an event, race, or contest". The use of stock characters is a means of conveying the moral of the story by eliminating complexity of personality and so spelling out the issues arising in the interplay between the characters, enables the writer to generate a clear message. With more rounded characters, such as those typically found in Shakespeare's plays, the moral may be more nuanced but no less present, and the writer may point it up in other ways (see, for example, the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet).

Throughout the history of recorded literature, the majority of fictional writing has served not only to entertain but also to instruct, inform or improve their audiences or readership. In classical drama, for example, the role of the chorus was to comment on the proceedings and draw out a message for the audience to take away with them; while the novels of Charles Dickens are a vehicle for morals regarding the social and economic system of Victorian Britain.

Morals have typically been more obvious in children's literature, sometimes even being introduced with the phrase: "The moral of the story is …". Such explicit techniques have grown increasingly out of fashion in modern storytelling, and are now usually only included for ironic purposes.

Some examples are: "Better to be safe than sorry", "The evil deserves no aid", "Be friends with whom you don't like", "Don't judge people by the way they look", "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me", "Slow and steady wins the race", and "Your overconfidence is your weakness".

Moral is also understood as an individual understanding or translation of mannerisms at which they abide.

* Morality play

The morality play is a genre of Medieval and early Tudor theatrical entertainment. In their own time, these plays were known as "interludes", a broader term given to dramas with or without a moral theme. Morality plays are a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a godly life over one of evil. The plays were most popular in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. Having grown out of the religiously based mystery plays of the Middle Ages, they represented a shift towards a more secular base for European theatre.

* Motif (narrative)

In narrative, a motif (pronunciation) (help·info) is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative (or literary) aspects such as theme or mood.

A narrative motif can be created through the use of imagery, structural components, language, or other narrative elements. The flute in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman is a recurrent sound motif that conveys rural and idyllic notions. Another example from modern American literature is the green light found in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Narratives can include multiple motifs of varying types. In his play Macbeth, Shakespeare uses a variety of narrative elements to create many different motifs. Imagistic references to blood and water are continually repeated. The phrase "fair is foul, and foul is fair" is echoed at many points in the play, a combination that mixes the concepts of good and evil. The play also features the central motif of the washing of hands, one that combines both verbal images and the movement of the actors.

In a narrative, a motif establishes a pattern of ideas that may serve different conceptual purposes in different works. Kurt Vonnegut, for example, in his non-linear narratives such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle makes frequent use of motif to connect different moments that might seem otherwise separated by time and space.[3] In the American science fiction cult classic Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott uses motifs to not only establish a dark and shadowy film noir atmosphere,[4] but also to weave together the thematic complexities of the plot. Throughout the film, the recurring motif of ‘eyes’ is connected to a constantly changing flow of images, and sometimes violent manipulations, in order to call into question our ability, and the narrator's own, to accurately perceive and understand reality.

* Mummers Play

Mummers' Plays (also known as mumming) are seasonal folk plays performed by troupes of actors known as mummers or guisers (or by local names such as rhymers, pace-eggers, soulers, tipteerers, galoshins, guysers, and so on), originally from England (see wrenboys), but later in other parts of the world. They are sometimes performed in the street but more usually as house-to-house visits and in public houses. Although the term "mummers" has been used since medieval times, no play scripts or performance details survive from that era, and the term may have been used loosely to describe performers of several different kinds. Mumming may have precedents in German and French carnival customs, with rare but close parallels also in late medieval England (see below).

The earliest evidence of mummers' plays as they are known today (usually involving a magical cure by a quack doctor) is from the mid to late 18th century. Mumming plays should not be confused with the earlier mystery plays.

* Muse

The Muses (Ancient Greek αἱ μοῦσαι, hai moũsai: perhaps from the o-grade of the Proto-Indo-European root *men- "think") in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths. The compliment to a real woman who inspires creative endeavor is a later idea.

In Boeotia, the homeland of Hesiod, a tradition persisted that the Muses had once been three in number. Diodorus Siculus, quotes Hesiod to the contrary, observing:

Writers similarly disagree also concerning the number of the Muses; for some say that they are three, and others that they are nine, but the number nine has prevailed since it rests upon the authority of the most distinguished men, such as Homer and Hesiod and others like them.

Three ancient Muses were also reported in Plutarch's Quaestiones Conviviviales (9.I4.2-4). The Roman scholar Varro relates that there are only three Muses: one who is born from the movement of water, another who makes sound by striking the air, and a third, who is embodied only in the human voice. They were:

Melete, or Practice
Mneme, or Memory
Aoide, or Song

The Classical understanding of the muses tripled their triad to nine goddesses who embody the arts and inspire creation through memorized and improvised singing, theater, writing, music, and dance.

In one myth, King Pierus, king of Macedon, had nine daughters he named after the nine Muses, believing that their skills were a great match to the Muses. He thus challenged the Muses to a match, resulting in his daughters, the Pierides, being turned into chattering magpies for their presumption.

Sometimes they are referred to as water nymphs, associated with the springs of Helicon and with Pieris. It was said that the winged horse Pegasus touched his hooves to the ground on Helicon, causing four sacred springs to burst forth, from which the muses were born. Athena later tamed the horse and presented him to the muses.

The Olympian myths set Apollo as their leader, Apollon Mousagetēs. Not only are the Muses explicitly used in modern English to refer to an artistic inspiration, as when one cites one's own artistic muse, but they also are implicit in words and phrases such as "amuse", "museum" (Latinised from mouseion—a place where the muses were worshipped), "music", and "musing upon".

According to Hesiod's Theogony (7th century BC), they were daughters of Zeus, the second generation king of the gods, and the offspring of Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. For Alcman and Mimnermus, they were even more primordial, springing from the early deities, Uranus and Gaia. Gaia is Mother Earth, an early mother goddess who was worshipped at Delphi from prehistoric times, long before the site was rededicated to Apollo, possibly indicating a transfer to association with him after that time. Pausanias records a tradition of two generations of Muses; the first being daughters of Uranus and Gaia, the second of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Another, rarer genealogy is that they are daughters of Harmonia (the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares) which contradicts the myth in which they were dancing at the wedding of Harmonia and Cadmus. This later inconsistency is an example of how clues to the true dating, or chronology, of myths may be determined by the appearance of figures and concepts in Greek myths.

Compare the Roman "inspiring nymphs of springs," the Camenae, the Völva of Norse Mythology, the apsaras in the mythology of classical India, and the three chief goddesses of pre-Islamic Arabian religion, Al-‘Uzzá, Allāt, and Manāt.

* Musical theatre

Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining music, songs, spoken dialogue and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole. Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called simply, "musicals".

Musicals are performed all around the world. They may be presented in large venues, such as big budget West End and Broadway theatre productions in London and New York City, or in smaller fringe theatre, Off-Broadway or regional productions, on tour, or by amateur groups in schools, theatres and other performance spaces. In addition to Britain and North America, there are vibrant musical theatre scenes in many countries in Europe, Latin America, Australasia and Asia.

Some famous musicals include Show Boat, Oklahoma!, West Side Story, The Fantasticks, Hair, A Chorus Line, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, The Producers and Wicked.

* Melodrama

The term mythology can refer to either the study of myths, or to a body of myths. For example, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece. The term "myth" is often used colloquially to refer to a false story, but academic use of the term generally does not pass judgment on truth or falsity. In the study of folklore, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. Many scholars in other fields use the term "myth" in somewhat different ways. In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story.

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Published - February 2011

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