Unit 1: Lit terms

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  1. Genre
    A literary type or form.

    Drama is a genre of literature. Within drama, genre includes tragedy, comedy and other forms.
  2. Denouncement
    Pronounced Dee-noo-ma, the denouement is that part of a drama which follows the climax and leads to the resolution.
  3. Climax
    • The decisive moment in a drama, the climax is the turning point of the play to which the rising action leads. This is the crucial part of the drama, the part which determines the outcome of the
    • conflict.

    • In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
    • the climax occurs at the end of Marc Antony's speech to the Roman public. In
    • the climax to the film Star Wars, the empire's death star is ready to
    • destroy the rebel base. Luke Skywalker and rebel pilots attack the base, and
    • after the deaths of some rebel pilots, Skywalker successfully fires his missile
    • into the death star's vulnerable spot and destroys the death star, saving the
    • rebel forces.
  4. Allegory
    • A story illustrating an idea or a
    • moral principle in which objects take on symbolic meanings.

    In Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, Dante, symbolizing mankind, is taken by Virgil the poet on a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise in order to teach him the nature of sin and its punishments, and the way to salvation.
  5. Antagonist
    • A person or force which opposes the
    • protagonist in a literary work.

    • In Stephen Vincent Benet's "The Devil and Daniel Webster," Mr. Scratch is Daniel Webster's antagonist at the trial
    • of Jabez Stone. The cold in Jack London's "To Build a Fire" is the antagonist which defeats the man on the trail.
  6. Connotation and Denotation
    • The denotation of a word is its dictionary definition.
    • The word wall, therefore, denotes an upright structure which encloses something or serves as a boundary. The connotation of a word is its
    • emotional content.
    • In this sense, the word wall can also mean an attitude or actions which prevent becoming emotionally close to a person.

    • In Robert Frost’s "Mending Wall," two neighbors walk a property line each on his own side of a wall of loose stones. As they walk, they pick up and replace stones that have fallen. Frost thinks it's unnecessary to replace the
    • stones since they have no cows to damage each other's property. The neighbor only says "Good fences make good neighbors." The wall, in this case, is both a boundary (denotation) and a barrier that prevents Frost and his neighbor from getting to know each other, a force prohibiting involvement
    • (connotation).
  7. Protagonist
    • The hero or central character of a
    • literary work.

    In accomplishing his or her objective, the protagonist is hindered by some opposing force either human (one of Batman's antagonists is The Joker), animal (Moby Dick is Captain Ahab's antagonist in Herman Melville's Moby Dick), or natural (the sea is the antagonist which must be overcome by Captain Bligh in Nordhoff and Hall's Men Against the Sea, the second book in the trilogy which includes Mutiny on the Bounty).
  8. Suspense
    Suspense in fiction results primarily from two factors: the reader's identification with and concern for the welfare of a convincing and sympathetic character, and an anticipation of violence.

    • The following line from Elizabeth Spencer's "The Name of the Game" is an
    • example of a suspense maker:

    • He was an innocent, this boy; the other boys were
    • out to get him.
  9. Conflict
    In the plot of a drama, conflict occurs when the protagonist is opposed by some person or force in the play.

    • In Henry Ibsen's drama An Enemy of the People, Dr. Thomas Stockmann's life is complicated by his finding that the public baths, a major source of income for the community, are polluted. In trying to close the baths, the doctor comes into conflict with those who profit from them, significantly, his own brother, the mayor of the town.
    • Another example occurs in the film Star Wars. Having learned that Princess Lea is being held prisoner by the evil Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker sets out to rescue her. In doing so, he becomes involved in the conflict between the empire and the rebels which Lea spoke of in her holograph message in the drama's exposition. Since Luke is the protagonist of Star Wars, the conflict in the drama crystallizes to that between Luke and Darth Vader.
  10. Diction
    • An author's choice of words. Since
    • words have specific meanings, and since one's choice of words can affect feelings, a writer's choice of words can have great impact in a literary work.
    • The writer, therefore, must choose his words carefully.

    Discussing his novel "A Farewell to Arms" during an interview, Ernest Hemingway stated that he had to rewrite the ending thirty-nine times. When asked what the most difficult thing about finishing the novel was, Hemingway answered,"Getting the words right."
  11. Resolution
    • The part of a story or drama which occurs after the climax and which establishes a new norm, a new state of
    • affairs-the way things are going to be from then on.

    Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet climaxes with the death of the two lovers. Their deaths resolve the feud between the two families. In the play's resolution, Lords Capulet and Montague swear to end their feud and build golden monuments to each other's dead child. In the resolution of the film Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca are given medals by Princess Lea for destroying the death star and defeating the empire.

  12. Catastrophe

    The scene in a tragedy which includes the death or moral destruction of the protagonist.

    In the catastrophe at the end of Sophocles' Oedipus the King, Oedipus, discovering the tragic truth about his origin and his deeds, plucks out his eyes and is condemned to spend the rest of his days a wandering beggar. The catastrophe in Shakespearean tragedy occurs in Act 5 of each drama, and always includes the death of the protagonist. Consider the fates of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello.
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Unit 1: Lit terms
Unit 1: Lit terms
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