Theatre (or Theatre of the Absurd)
of the mid-twentieth century apparently dramatizing the idea that human
life is absurd and lacks meaning. Influenced by existentialism,
such works, in reality, hint at human responsibility in that absurdity,
i.e. if life is absurd and meaningless it is so because humans fail
to exercise their own reason and independence, to take charge of their
own lives and create their own meanings. Instead, characters in absurdist
works are often seen caught in meaningless routines and/or hopelessly
expecting help from imaginary outside forces, putting their faith in
empty beliefs and problematic traditions. Representative authors include
Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet.
verse line consisting of 12 syllables. Common in French dramatic and
narrative poetry since the 16th century.
A form of symbolism involving concrete persons, objects, and/or actions
meant to represent ideas, concepts, or processes of a more abstract,
intangible or spiritual sort. An allegory seeks to create a bridge
between the sensory world and metaphysical or intellectual realms.
Example: a woman holding a torch is an allegory for the idea of "liberty"
The period of human history from around 3,000 B.C. to the fall of
the Roman empire (around 476 A.D.). Antiquity includes the literary
works and other contributions of cultures, empires and civilizations
like those of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Ancient Egyptians,
Persians, Greeks, Romans and others. Antiquity was followed by the
novel involving the moral, spiritual, intellectual, and/or emotional
education of a young hero or heroine. The reader is generally expected
to identify with the main character and thus also undergo the educational
transformation. (German Bildung: formation, training, education;
A literary genre
involving the use of morbid, cruel, violent, gory, grotesque and tragic
situations for comic purposes -- such works allow audiences to face
difficult realities in a somewhat light-hearted way but also convey
the author's critical messages against the cruelty and meanness of
human beings, including the problem of enjoying such situations as
if they were entertainment. As in the case of certain jokes, the laughter
of the audience betrays complicity in the problems the author seeks
of unrhymed verse, usually iambic pentameter.
of thinkers, artists, and writers, many of whom lived in the residential
district of London known as Bloomsbury, near the British Museum; the
group began meeting in 1907and became a powerful force in British literary
and intellectual life in the 1920's and 1930's; inspired by G. E. Moore's
belief that "the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment
of beautiful objects" are the proper goals of human life and social
progress; members included Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard
Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, E. M.
Forster, Duncan Grant, and David Garnett.
Literary group, active
in Buenos Aires in the 1920s, that dedicated itself to the writing of
highly politicized literature for social change.
Each one of the sections or chapters in a poetic epic like Dante's
Divine Comedy. The word "canto" literally means "song"
attitudes, and ideas in art and literature inspired by, and including,
the culture of classical antiquity (primarily ancient Greece and Rome).
The values of classicism are harmony, proportion, clarity, elegance,
simplicity, restraint, idealism and universality.
A type of theatre
generally defined as the opposite of tragedy
and characterized by happy endings, amusing situations, and the portrayal
of ordinary people in ordinary situations. Comedy often begins with
a problematic or challenging situation that is reversed so that all
turns out for the best. Comedy often ridicules and satirizes problems
of human character and behavior and aims to educate by fear of such
ridicule. The endings of comedies frequently feature marriages or reunions
of characters formerly separated by adverse circumstances.
The idea that sin = punishment; divine retribution in Dante's Divine
Comedy; it literally means the "counter-step" and is
a notion similar to Karma, Moira, Namtar, and Fate; what you do is
what you get
Two lines of verse which rhyme with each other.
A type of writing invented by the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia
around 3,300 BC. The word "cuneiform" means "wedge-shaped"
and refers to the pointed marks made by sharpened reeds on clay
A poetic foot or unit consisting of one stressed (or long) syllable
followed by two unstressed (or short) syllables.
A poetic meter common in epic poetry and characterized by lines measuring
six dactyls each. A dactyl is a poetic unit consisting of one long
and two short syllables (or one stressed and two unstressed syllables).
refers to a forced or highly artificial intervention or event which
resolves a difficult situation in a literary work. The term is Latin
for "god from a machine" and referred originally to the use
of crane-like machinery, in Greek and Latin drama, to lower an actor,
playing the role of a divine being, onto the stage.
The duty associated
with one's caste in Hindu society; for example, the duty of a ksatriya
or warrior is to fight.
poem in which a first-person speaker addresses an imaginary audience.
which employs some element of drama or dramatic technique such as dialogue,
monologue, emphatic or intensely expressive language, or a tense situation
and emotional conflict.
The theory that knowledge, mainly in the natural sciences, should be
grounded on observation, experiment, and evidence involving the phenomena
of the material, sensory world.
literary and philosophical movement which took place roughly between
1660 and 1770. Also called the Age of Reason. Central ideas and values
of the Enlightenment include a belief in the powers of reason to understand
nature and guide the human existence; a belief in the essential equality
and dignity of all people and in basic human rights to freedom and happiness;
a challenge to ignorance, superstition, deception, tyranny, and oppressive
traditions; a humane and rational approach to the organization of human
life and society; an emphasis on moderation, proportion, and balance.
Babylonian story of creation, also known as the "Epic of Creation."
The term refers to the opening words of the story, "When the
heavens above ..."
Long narrative poem employing elevated language and telling of the
deeds of a legendary or historical hero. Epics often involve long
journeys, the undertaking of difficult tasks, complex sequences of
adventures, as well as an underlying philosophical, religious and/or
moral understanding of human actions, choices, consequences, fate,
and the course of events.
philosophical movement of the 19th and 20th centuries stressing individual
freedom and human choice; existentialism is based on the idea that human
beings shape their own existence and give meaning to it through their
own choices and actions. The main figure in existentialism was the French
philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980).
symbol, something that stands for something else.
unit of poetic rhythm defined by a certain number and order of stressed
and unstressed (or short and long) syllables. Examples of feet are the
iamb (one unstressed followed by a stressed syllable) and the trochee
(one stressed followed by an unstressed syllable).
narrative technique which blurs the line between the narrator's and
the characters' perspectives.
Verse which is not
metrical or whose meter is irregular.
general type or form of a literary work, e.g. poetry, drama, novel,
short story. A sub-genre of poetry is, for example, lyric poetry.
The tragic flaw or character weakness in a literary character. The word
is derived from the Greek verb hamartanein "to miss the
A concept referring to the aesthetic effects and philosophical concerns
of the Japanese Noh drama. Hana means "flower."
See also yügen.
and artistic works produced by black Americans active in the lower Manhattan
(Greenwich Village) and upper Manhattan (Harlem) sections of New York
City from 1920 until about 1930 -- also known as "The New Negro
Movement." The Harlem Renaissance celebrated African-American culture
and its heritage. Representative figures include Langston Hughes and
Excessive pride displayed by a character, at times taking the form
of a boastful challenge to the gods or other higher powers--often
resulting in harsh punishment.
A Renaissance philosophical and educational
movement emphasizing the importance and dignity of the human existence,
of the individual self, and of the here-and-now. Central aspects of
Humanism include its interest in the earthly, secular life, the development
of human virtues and potentials, the enjoyment and understanding of
the material world, the betterment of the human condition, and the
promotion of the aesthetic, intellectual and educational traditions
of classical antiquity. Humanism originated in Italy in the 14th century
in the work and ideas of figures like Dante Alighieri,
Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch), and Giovanni Boccaccio.
poetic unit consisting of two syllables where the first is unstressed
and the second stressed. Examples: | to bé | or
nót | to bé | (three iambs).
verse line consisting of 10 syllables arranged into 5 iambs.
system of ideas. A way of understanding reality.
act of explaining the meaning of something; recovering the ideas that
may be embodied in the symbols of literature.
The use of language to express something quite different from or opposite
to its literal meaning.
An action and its consequences; the idea, in Hindu thought, that
ones' behavior in life determines one's future reincarnations; what
goes around comes around; the notion is similar to Moira, Namtar,
Fate, and Christian ideas such as the Golden Rule and reward and
punishment in the afterlife.
Poetic narrative in rhymed verses of 4-8 syllables and stanzas of
6-16 lines. The genre is supposed to have Breton/Celtic origins
and was used by northern French poets, the trouvères, and
storytellers such as Marie de France around the 12th century.
law, in Hammurabi's code, demanding "an eye for eye"
and "a tooth for a tooth"
A human cultural
practice involving the imaginative and expressive use of language
in stories, poems, plays, and other literary genres. Literature
is both a form of entertainment and a vehicle of ideas and thought
expressed in symbolic form.
figure of speech expressing an idea by means of the negation of its
contrary, e.g. "this cake is not bad"
French: "engaged literature." Literature with social and
political commitments, popularized after World War II by the French
existentialists, believing in the idea
of the artist's responsibility to society and to social change; a
reaction against "art for art's sake" and against the "bourgeois"
writer devoted only to himself or his craft rather than the betterment
of the world and society.
modern Latin-American narrative technique characterized by the mixing
of the real and the fantastic. The best-known figure in magical realism
is the Colombian writer Gabriel García-Márquez.
British poets with an interest in psychological analysis of the emotions,
love, and the combining of the intellectual and the affective, the secular
and the sacred, the abstract and the particular; metaphysical poetry
features a complex perception of life, conciseness of language, wit,
directness, and the use of ingenious analogies and figures of thought.
Representative writers include John Donne, Andrew Marvell, George Herbert,
Henry Vaughan, Richard Crashaw, John Cleveland, Abraham Cowley
recurrence in poetry of a rhythm established by a pattern of stressed
and unstressed (or long and short) syllables. The basic unit or pattern
of meter is called the foot.
A figure of speech involving the designation of something by means
of something else usually related or in close contact or proximity
to it e.g. "wheels" meaning "automobile" (see
The period of Western history from the fall of the Roman empire (476
A. D.) until the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (1453 A. D.).
Also known as the Medieval Period and the "Dark Ages." The
Middle Ages were characterized by the rivalries and conflicts between
war-lords, the influence of the Catholic Church,and the subjection
of the peasantry. The Middle Ages were preceded by Antiquity and followed
by the Renaissance.
Term referring to art, literature, and music of the late 19th and
the 20th century; a form of protest against the industrialized, militaristic,
business-oriented, mechanical, bureaucratic, and technological nature
of the modern world; literary modernism focuses on breaking away from
rules and conventions, searching for new perspectives and points of
view, experimenting in form and style; some modernists placed emphasis
on art for its own sake; language and writing as an experience in
themselves, without external referents; interest in subjectivity,
the internal, psychic life of characters and the construction of reality
from those inner perspectives; movements associated with modernism
include Surrealism, Existentialism, Formalism, Symbolism, Dadaism,
Expressionism, Impressionism, and others.
Greek concept of fate, understood as the portion or share corresponding
to an individual as his lot in life and death. In Greek thought
Moira is often an impersonal power, an order standing above both
gods and mortals. Human character, choices, and actions are related
to the fate of the person.
ancient Sumerian fate, destiny--especially in its evil sense of
death and tragedy.
A variety of Realism (see Realism) featuring
an even greater emphasis on the depiction of social, political and
economic struggles and calling for scientific accuracy in the representation
of even very graphic, and at times unpleasant, aspects of the human
existence.The most notable of the Naturalist writers was Émile
Styles, attitudes, and ideas in European art and literature during
the 17th and 18th centuries and characterized by inspiration in
the models from classical antiquity; reverence for order, reason,
harmony, symmetry and rules; a reaction against the unruly individualism
of the Renaissance; view of humankind as limited, imperfect, and
in need of rational restraint. Neoclassicism is closely associated
with the ideas of the Enlightenment.
A highly stylized, abstract, and philosophical type of Japanese
theatre influenced by Zen Buddhism and Shinto religious rituals. The
word "Noh" means "talent" or "skill."
Noh plays are very austere poetic dramas involving music, song, dance,
and wooden masks. The tone of the performances is highly serious,
in keeping with the tragic character of the represented situations.
Central principles of the Noh drama are yügen ("mystery,"
"depth," "darkness," "beauty," "elegance")
and hana ("the flower"). Yügen and hana are
related to the spiritual and aesthetic effects of the intimation of
a concealed truth, what Zeami Motokiyo defines as "the art of
the flower of mystery." Noh plays often involve ghosts or ghostly
characters and emphasize, through symbolism and stylized gestures,
the formal, abstract, and spiritual aspects of human action, emotion
and their consequences.
Noh plays feature a "Shite" (main figure, hero, the "doer"),
"Waki" (a secondary protagonist/antagonist), and the "Tsure"
(companions of the hero). A pine tree painted on the wall is a feature
of all Noh stages.
An extended fictional prose narrative generally organized around
character, plot, and certain themes or ideas.
set of objects, situations, or events which stand for and evoke a particular
emotion. A term associated with T. S. Eliot.
various different causes and sources, possibly resulting in a state
of ambiguity or conflicting meaning related to the coming together of
Imitation for the purposes of ridicule (compare Satire).
A variety of literary works dealing with the lives of shepherds and
intended to represent the ideal of a peaceful, humble, and productive
life contrasting with the destruction, pillaging, and arrogant pride
often depicted in genres such as epic (see Epic).
of a thing or idea as having human characteristics or identity
A cultural, intellectual, political, and literary movement of the
twentieth and twenty-first centuries characterized by the representation
and analysis of the historical experiences and subjectivities of the
victims, individuals and nations, of colonial power. Postcolonialism
is marked by its resistance to colonialism and by the attempt to understand
the historical and other conditions of its emergence as well as its
A cultural and intellectual trend of the twentieth and twenty-first
centuries characterized by emphasis on the ideas of the decenteredness
of meaning, the value and autonomy of the local and the particular,
the infinite possibilities of the human existence, and the coexistence,
in a kind of collage or pastiche, of different cultures, perspectives,
time periods, and ways of thinking. Postmodernism claims to address
the sense of despair and fragmentation of modernism through its efforts
at reconfiguring the broken pieces of the modern world into a multiplicity
of new social, political, and cultural arrangements.
Ordinary language, resembling the natural flow of speech. The opposite
battle in the mind or the soul. A situation in literary works involving
the representation of a character's internal (psychological, moral or
stanza of four lines.
A style in art and literature emphasizing the faithful representation
of human life and social reality; realist artists often focused on
the plight of the poor and the working classes and called for social
reforms and the end of exploitation and injustice; preferred subjects
include the normal, the everyday, the humble, the common, the practical;
realism encourages an objective perspective and somewhat detached
position on the part of the artist or author.
The period of Western history from about 1453 A. D. (fall of Constantinople
to the Turks) to about 1650. Characterized by a renewal of interest
in the pagan cultures of Antiquity (particularly Greece and Rome)
and a surge of intellectual, scientific, commercial, and artistic
activity. Emphasis on the self, the enjoyment of earthly life, exploration,
discovery, and empirical methods. Followed by the Enlightenment.
art involving the use of language in persuasion.
Movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in literature,
philosophy, religion, art, and politics which was a reaction against
Neoclassicism; stressed freedom from restraints and rules; also emphasized
individualism, creativity, revolutionary political ideas, the use
of the imagination over reason, reverence for nature, interest in
the Middle Ages, mystery, transcendence, synthesis, and universality.
poetic form used by and named after the Ancient Greek poet Sappho
(7th c. BC). The form has been often used and adapted by European
poets since the Renaissance. The sapphic stanza consists of four
lines. The first three lines have five feet (trochee,
trochee, dactyl, trochee, trochee) and the
last line two feet (dactyl, trochee)
A work that blends criticism with humor and wit as well as didactic
An explicit comparison between two objects, situations, etc. Similes
generally involve the use of the words "like" or "as"
in establishing the given comparison.
As Sanskrit (Hindu) poetic form consisting of two lines of 16 syllables
exhibiting specific patterns of long and short syllables. Each half
line is called a pada.
literary movement defined in Russia in 1932 as having the purpose of
promoting socialist ideals (social and economic equality, the satisfaction
of the needs of all, and the providing of opportunities for education
and the development of human potentialities); the ambition of works
of socialist realism is the faithful representation of life, the unmasking
of ideological deceptions, and the revelation of people's actual conditions
of existence (social, political, and economic).
grouping of two or more verse lines which may be defined by the number
of lines, line length, metrical form, and/or rhyme scheme.
literary technique involving expression through a flow of words, images,
and ideas similar to the unorganized flow of the mind; the term was
originally coined by William James, in his Principles of Psychology
(1890), where it referred to the flow of inner mental phenomena.
und Drang ("Storm and Stress")
literary movement in late 18th-century Germany that led to German Romanticism;
the movement takes its name from the title of a play by Maximillian
Klinger (the play was rich in drama and lyric poetry); emphasis on reform
against social injustices, natural feeling in reaction to the formalism
of Neoclassicism, the individual valued over rationalistic ideals of
movement in art emphasizing imaginative expression as realized in dreams
and presented without conscious control; focus on the representation
of unconscious processes, the irrational, and juxtaposition of seemingly
incongruous images following a logic of free association. Surrealism
originated in France in the 1920's as a development of Dadaism. The
movement's first manifesto was issued by André Breton in 1924.
Representative artists of the movement include Breton and Salvador Dali.
that stands for something else.
A figure of speech involving the use of a narrower or a more general
term to designate something, e.g. "a sail!" meaning "a
ship!" (see also metonymy)
A stanza or group of three poetic lines.
Tercets or groups of three poetic lines with
interlocking rhymes: aba, bcb, cdc, etc. The form was employed by
Dante Alighieri in his Divine
of play characterized by the depiction and dramatic treatment of misfortunes,
disasters, and/or the death of the main protagonists. The opposite
of comedy. The main protagonist(s) is often
afflicted by a "tragic flaw" (see hamartia),
a character problem which is related to the tragic outcomes. The genre
appears to have originated in Ancient Greek choral songs and rituals
in honor of the Dionysus (god of nature, vineyards, wine). The word
tragedy is derived from the Greek: tragos ("goat")
+ oide ("song"), perhaps related to animal sacrifices
in the original rituals. Thespis (6th c. BC) is said to have first
introduced an actor interacting with the singing chorus. Aeschylus
(525-456 BC) is credited with introducing a second actor. Sophocles
(496-406 BC) introduced a third actor. Euripides (c. 480-406 BC) is
another well-known ancient Greek tragedian. The plays became very
popular as part of dramatic competitions during the Dionysia or festival
in honor of Dionysus.
a text from one language into another.
A verse line of three feet (see Meter and Foot).
A Sanskrit (Hindu) poetic form adapted from the Vedas. It consists
of 4 lines (padas) of 11 syllables exhibiting specific patterns
of long and short syllables.
poetic foot or unit consisting of one stressed (or long) syllable
followed by an unstressed (or short) syllable. The opposite of an
of speech involving the figurative use of a term. The term is derived
from Greek tropos "a turn" (see also metaphor,
literary movement founded in Spain in 1919 and composed of young, experimental
poets sharing the goals of completely breaking with tradition and creating
a "pure" sort of poetry; upon his return from Spain in 1921,
Jorge Luis Borges founded an Argentine Ultraist movement modeled after
the Spanish one; the focus of his group was on experimental poetic forms;
their magazine, Prisma, was published in the form of posters
pasted on buildings and walls throughout Buenos Aires.
Literary movement in Germany usually dated from Goethe's return
from Italy in 1788 until Schiller's death in 1805; cooperative effort
between Goethe and Schiller to establish a new poetic humanism; ideal
of harmony and balance modeled on the ancient Greeks, but based more
specifically on an emotional and organic harmony, optimistic unification
between human beings and nature. A synthesis of Romantic, classical
and Enlightenment ideas.
A concept related to the effects and concerns of the Japanese Noh
drama. Yügen means "mystery," "depth," "darkness,"
"beauty," "elegance." Yügen has to do with
the representation of the deepest spiritual aspects of Noh. According
to Zeami Motokiyo, "the essence of yügen is true beauty
and gentleness." See also hana.
2001-2005 by Fidel Fajardo-Acosta,
all rights reserved