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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.

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* Variorum

A variorum is a work that collates all known variants of a text. It is a work of textual criticism, whereby all variations and emendations are set side by side so that a reader can track how textual decisions have been made in the preparation of a text for publication. The Bible and the works of William Shakespeare have often been the subjects of variorum editions, although the same techniques have been applied with less frequency to many other works.

* Varronian satire - 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.

* Vates

The earliest Latin writers used vates to denote "prophets" and soothsayers in general; the word fell into disuse in Latin until it was revived by Virgil. Thus Ovid could describe himself as the vates of Eros (Amores 3.9).

According to the Ancient Greek writers Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and Poseidonius, the vates (ουατεις) were one of three classes of Celtic priesthood, the other two being the druids and the bards. The Vates had the role of seers and performed sacrifices (in particular administering human sacrifice), under the presidence of a druid. Their role therefore corresponded to that of an Adhvaryu in Vedic religion. Celtic vates is continued by Irish fáith "prophet, seer," and ofydd in Welsh.

* Vaudeville

Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts included popular and classical musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies. Vaudeville developed from many sources, including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary burlesque. Called "the heart of American show business," vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades.

* Vehicle

A vehicle (Latin: vehiculum) is a device that is designed or used to transport people or cargo. Most often vehicles are manufactured (e.g. bicycles, cars, motorcycles, trains, ships, boats, and aircraft).

Vehicles that do not travel on land often are called craft, such as watercraft, sailcraft, aircraft, hovercraft, and spacecraft.

Land vehicles are classified broadly by what is used to apply steering and drive forces against the ground: wheeled, tracked, railed, or skied. ISO 3833- 1977 is the standard, also internationally used in legislation, for road vehicles types, terms and definitions.

* Verbal irony - Irony

Ironic statements (verbal irony) often convey a meaning exactly opposite from their literal meaning. In ironic situations (situational irony), actions often have an effect exactly opposite from what is intended.

* Verisimilitude (literature)

Verisimilitude, with the meaning ˝of being true or real˝ is a likeness or resemblance of the truth, reality or a fact's probability. It comes from Latin verum meaning truth and similis meaning similar.

Verisimilitude has its roots in both the Platonic and Aristotelian dramatic theory of mimesis, the imitation or representation of nature. For a piece of art to hold significance or persuasion for an audience, according to Plato and Aristotle, it must have grounding in reality.

This idea laid the foundation for the evolution of mimesis into verisimilitude in the Middle Ages particularly in Italian heroic poetry. During this time more attention was invested in pinning down fiction with theory. This shift manifested itself in increased focus on unity in heroic poetry. No matter how fictionalized the language of a poem might be, through verisimilitude, poets had the ability to present their works in a way that could still be believed in the real world. Verisimilitude at this time also became connected to another Aristotelian dramatic principle, decorum: the realistic union of style and subject. Poetic language of characters in a work of fiction as a result had to be appropriate in terms of the age, gender or race of the character.

This classical notion of verisimilitude focused on the role of the reader in his/her engagement in the fictional work of art. The goal of the novel therefore, as it became a more popular form of Verisimilitude, was to instruct and offer a pleasurable experience to the reader. The novel had to facilitate the reader's willingness to suspend his or her disbelief, a phrase used originally by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Verisimilitude became the means to accomplish this mindset. To promote the willing suspension of disbelief, a fictional text needed to have credibility. Anything physically possible in the worldview of the reader or humanity's experience was defined as credible. Through verisimilitude then, the reader was able to glean truth even in fiction because it would reflect realistic aspects of human life.

* Verism

Verism is the artistic preference of contemporary everyday subject matter instead of the heroic or legendary in art and literature; a form of realism. The word comes from Latin verus (true).

Verism was often used by the Romans in marble sculptures of heads. Verism, often described as "warts and all", shows the imperfections of the subject, such as warts, wrinkles and furrows. It zeroes in on the minuscule details of the human head. Although the marble heads themselves came from the Greeks, this style is extremely different from Greek head sculptures because the Greek would idealize the subject, and liken the subject to a god. The Veristic style was favoured in the late Republican period. It has been noted that veristic Roman sculptures were generally credited to a Greek or someone of Eastern background, and argued that this suggests the veristic style is of Greek origin

The subject of the so-called ‘veristic’ portraits of the late Republic holds a special fascination for the classical art-historian, especially on the vexatious question of the origins of the style; a question which still remains, essentially, open and unsolved. Yet despite the thoroughness with which the topic is debated, one possible influence upon the emerging veristic style, that of the ancestral portrait, continues to receive inadequate consideration.

* Vers de société

Vers de société, a term for social or familiar poetry, which was originally borrowed from the French, and has now come to rank as an English expression.

* Verse (poetry)

A verse is formally a single line in a metrical composition, e.g. poetry. However, the word has come to represent any division or grouping of words in such a composition, which traditionally had been referred to as a stanza.

The word "verse" is commonly used in lieu of "poetry" to distinguish it from prose. Where the common unit of poetry, i.e., verse, is based on meter or rhyme the common unit of prose is purely grammatical, such as a sentence or paragraph.

* Verse paragraph

Verse paragraphs are stanzas with no regular number of lines or groups of lines that make up units of sense. They are usually separated by blank lines.

Verse paragraphs are frequently used in blank verse and in free verse.

* Vers libre - Free verse

Free verse is a form of poetry that refrains from meter patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern.

* Verso - Recto and verso

The verso is the "back" side and the recto the "front" side of a leaf of paper in a bound item such as a book, broadsheet, or pamphlet. Thus in languages written from left to right (like English), the recto is the right-hand page and the verso the left-hand page. These are terms of art in the binding, printing, and publishing industries, and can be applied more broadly to any field where physical documents are exchanged.

* Victorianism

Victorianism is the name given to the attitudes, art, and culture of the later two-thirds of the 19th century. This usage is strong within social history and the study of literature, less so in philosophy. Many disciplines do not use the term, but instead prefer Victorian Era, or simply "Late 19th century". Victorianism as a word is often specifically directed at Victorian morality. Victorianists refers to scholars who study Victorianism.

* Viewpoint - Narrative mode

The narrative mode (also known as the mode of narration) is the set of methods the author of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical story uses to convey the plot to the audience.

* Vignette (literature)

In theatrical script writing, sketch stories, and poetry, a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, an idea, or a setting and sometimes an object. This type of scene is more common in recent postmodern theater, where less emphasis is placed on adhering to the conventions of theatrical structure and story development. Vignettes have been particularly influenced by contemporary notions of a scene as shown in film, video and television scripting.

* Villanelle

A villanelle is a poetic form which entered English-language poetry in the 19th century from the imitation of French models. The word derives from the Italian villanella from Latin villanus (rustic). A villanelle has only two rhyme sounds. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the third line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is nineteen lines long, consisting of five tercets and one concluding quatrain. In music, it is a dance form, accompanied by sung lyrics or an instrumental piece based on this dance form.

* Virelai

A virelai is a form of medieval French verse used often in poetry and music. It is one of the three formes fixes (the others were the ballade and the rondeau), and was one of the most common verse forms set to music in Europe from the late thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries.

A virelai is similar to a rondeau. Each stanza has two rhymes, the end rhyme recurring as the first rhyme of the following stanza. The overall musical structure is almost invariably ABBA, with the first and last sections having the same lyrics; this is the same form as the Italian ballata. The first stanza is known as the estribillo, the next two as mudanzas, and the fourth as the vuelta.

One of the most famous composers of virelai is Guillaume de Machaut (1300–1377), who also wrote his own verse; 33 separate compositions in the form survive by him. Other composers of virelai include Jehannot de l'Escurel, one of the earliest (d. 1304), and Guillaume Dufay (c.1400–1474), one of the last.

By the mid-15th century, the form had become largely divorced from music, and numerous examples of this form (as well as the ballade and the rondeau) were written, which were either not intended to be set to music, or for which the music has not survived.

* Virgule - Slash (punctuation)

The slash is a sign, "/", used as a punctuation mark and for various other purposes. It is often called a forward slash (to distinguish it from the backslash, "\"), and many other alternative names.

* Voice (of the writer)

Writer's voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer's use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). Voice can be thought of in terms of the uniqueness of a musical voice. As a trumpet has a different voice than a tuba or a violin has a different voice than a cello, so the words of one author have a different sound than the words of another. One author may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice.

In creative writing, students are often encouraged to experiment with different literary styles and techniques in order to help them better develop their "voice". This aspect varies with the individual author, but, particularly in American culture, having this asset is considered positive and beneficial to both the writer and his or her audience.

* Voice (phonetics)

Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless (unvoiced) or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate. This is its primary use in phonetics to describe phones, which are particular speech sounds. It can also refer to a classification of speech sounds that tend to be associated with vocal cord vibration but need not actually be voiced at the articulatory level. This is the term's primary use in phonology when describing phonemes, or in phonetics when describing phones.

At the articulatory level, a voiced sound is one in which the vocal cords vibrate, and a voiceless sound is one in which they do not. Voicing is the difference between the pairs of sounds that are associated with the English letters "s" and "z". The two sounds are symbolically written [s] and [z] to distinguish them from the English letters, which have several possible pronunciations depending on context. If one places the fingers on the voice box (ie the location of the Adam's apple in the upper throat), one can feel a vibration when one pronounces zzzz, but not when one pronounces ssss. (For a more detailed, technical explanation, see modal voice and phonation.) In European languages such as English, vowels and other sonorants (consonants such as m, n, l, and r) are modally voiced.

When used to classify speech sounds, voiced and unvoiced are merely labels used to group phones and phonemes together for the purposes of classification. We return to this below.

* Volta (literature)

In literature, the volta, also referred to as the turn, is the shift or point of dramatic change in a poem. The term is most frequently used in discussion of sonnet form, in which the volta marks a shift in thought (often from question to answer or problem to solution). It is most frequently encountered at the end of the octave (first eight lines in Petrarchan or Spenserian sonnets), or the end of the twelfth line in Shakespearean sonnets.

The volta is significant because both the particular rhymes unifying the two quatrains of the octave and also the envelope scheme are abandoned simultaneously, regardless of whether this break is further reinforced syntactically by a full stop at the end of the octave (though it usually is), creating a decisive "turn in thought."

Voltas appear in various popularised sonnets.

* Vorticism

Vorticism was a short-lived British art movement of the early 20th century.

The Vorticism group began with the Rebel Art Centre which Wyndham Lewis and others established after disagreeing with Omega Workshops founder Roger Fry, and has roots in the Bloomsbury Group, Cubism, and Futurism. Lewis himself saw Vorticism as an independent alternative to Cubism, Futurism and Expressionism.

Though the style grew out of Cubism, it is more closely related to Futurism in its embrace of dynamism, the machine age and all things modern (cf. Cubo-Futurism). However, Vorticism diverged from Futurism in the way it tried to capture movement in an image. In a Vorticist painting modern life is shown as an array of bold lines and harsh colours drawing the viewer's eye into the centre of the canvas.

The name Vorticism was given to the movement by Ezra Pound in 1913, although Lewis, usually seen as the central figure in the movement, had been producing paintings in the same style for a year or so previously.

* Vulgate

The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin version of the Bible, and largely the result of the labors of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations. By the 13th century this revision had come to be called the versio vulgata, that is, the "commonly used translation", and ultimately it became the definitive and officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church.

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Published - February 2011






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