Many of the following defintions have been appropriated from other
sources and are for use as points of reference in classroom discussions
story that has a dual meaning—one in the EVENTS, CHARACTERS,
and SETTING, and the other in the ideas they are intended to convey.
In an allegory, characters are usually PERSONIFICATIONS of abstract
qualities and the setting is representative of the relations among
– A film genre that emerged in the United States in the early
1970s when many exploitation films were made that targeted the urban
African American audience; the word itself is a portmanteau, or
combination, of the words “black” and “exploitation.”
Blaxploitation films starred primarily black actors, and were the
first to feature soundtracks of funk and soul music. Although criticized
by civil rights groups for their use of stereotypes, they addressed
the great and newfound demand for Afrocentric entertainment, and
were immensely popular among black audiences. The blaxploitation
genre officially began in 1971 with the release of Sweet Sweetback’s
Baadasssss Song. This film is also noteworthy in that it was
written, directed, produced, and funded by Melvin Van Peebles, an
African American. This remained the premise of the early blaxploitation
films: film by, for, and about black people.
"The rigorous form
of Protestantism founded by the French reformer and theologian John
Calvin (1509–64) distinguished by belief in the Bible as the
rule of faith, denial of human freedom since the Fall, and particularly
emphasis on the arbitrary predestination of some to salvation and
others to damnation" (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy).
God, in other words, rules over everything.
– This is the stage following socialism in which class divisions
cease to exist. According to Marx, a communist state could be accomplished
by the lower, working class rising against and physically overcoming
the upper, bourgeois, managerial class in an act of war. Communism
is a fiery reaction to capitalism. It is in opposition to Marx’s
notion of historical
materialism, which sees the production of material
goods as the primary determinant of psychological, social and cultural
– Look in an old dictionary—say, a pre-1960 Webster's—and
you'll likely find a definition of culture that looks something
like this: "1. The cultivation of soil. 2. The raising, improvement,
or development of some plant, animal or product" (Friend and
Guralnik 1958). This use of the word has its roots in the ancient
Latin word cultura, "cultivation" or "tending,"
and its entrance into the English language had begun by the year
1430 (Oxford English Dictionary). By the time the Webster's
definition was written, another definition had begun to take precedence
over the old Latin denotation; culture was coming to mean "the
training, development, and refinement of mind, tastes, and manners"
(OED). The OED traces this definition, which today we associate
with the phrase "high culture," as far back as 1805. By
the middle of the 20th century, it was fast becoming the word's
primary definition. However,
if you try a more modern source, like the American Heritage
English Dictionary, you'll find a primary definition of culture
which is substantially different than either of the two given above:
"The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts,
beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and
thought." Why such a difference, and in such a (relatively)
short period of time? In the past 40 years, the use of the word
"culture" has been heavily influenced by the academic
fields of sociology and cultural anthropology. These fields have
gradually brought what was once a minor definition of culture (the
last of eight definitions given in the old 1958 Webster's quoted
above) into the mainstream.
Romanticism – The
grotesque, the gloomy, the morbid, the fantastic—the American
Dark Romantics embraced all of these illogical elements and shaped
them into perhaps the most popular sub-genre of American literature.
While the Romantics believed reality to be pale and empty, the Dark
Romantics thought quite the opposite. Life to the Dark Romantics
was colorful, capricious, and contradictory. Unlike the Romantics,
they acknowledged the evil of man and the horror of evil. Ralph
Waldo Emerson had ignored the depravity of man, sin and Calvinist
predestination, and the Dark Romantics stood to remind the world
of the existence of evil. Like the Romantics and Transcendentalists,
however, the Dark Romantics valued intuition and emotion over logic
and reason and saw symbols, spiritual truths, and signs in nature
and everyday events. The
key figures of Dark Romanticism included Edgar
Allan Poe, Herman
Melville, and Nathaniel
trans. “Double Goer”)
In German folklore, a wraith or apparition of a living person, as
distinguished from a ghost. The concept of the existence of a spirit
double, an exact but usually invisible replica of every man, bird,
or beast, is an ancient and widespread belief. To meet one's double
is a sign that one's death is imminent. The doppelgänger became
a popular symbol of horror literature, and the theme took on considerable
complexity. In The
Double (1846), by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for example,
a poor clerk, Golyadkin, driven to madness by poverty and unrequited
love, beholds his own wraith, who succeeds in everything at which
Golyadkin has failed. Finally the wraith succeeds in disposing of
his original. More recent examples of the doppelgänger
appear in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight
Club (1996) and my Dr.
– Greek for “bad place” or anti-utopia, dystopia
argues that a purportedly perfect future society is, either intentionally
or unintentionally, not conducive to satisfying human life. Dystopias
almost invariably contain images of devolved and/or dehumanized
future societies, pointing fearfully at the way the world is supposedly
going in order to provide urgent propaganda for a change in direction.
Thus dystopias are typically written to warn about would-be destructive
trends in the writer’s present society. A common device is
to satirize such developments by extrapolating them in an extreme
form. Dystopian images began to proliferate in the last decades
of the 19th century as the world experienced a surge in technological
growth. A few popular dystopias include H.G. Wells’ When
the Sleeper Wakes (1899), Yegevny Zamyatin’s
(1924), Aldous Huxley’s Brave
New World (1932), Ayn Rand’s Anthem
(1938), George Orwell’s 1984
(1949), Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit
451 (1951), Russell Hoban’s Riddley
Walker (1980), Margaret Atwood’s The
Handmaid’s Tale (1985), William Gibson’s
(1984), and the Wachowski Brothers’ The
Matrix Trilogy (1999-2003).
Elements of Literature – The
following is a list of key elements used to analyze literary texts.
This list is by no means exhaustive.
The people who are involved in what happens in a story. Characters
may by flat (simple, one-dimensional, static)
or round (complex, dynamic, detailed). The main
character can usually be labeled the protagonist or
hero; he or she is often in conflict with the antagonist
A writer’s choice of language, including words phrases,
and sentence structure. Diction is an important element of style.
The same idea will leave a different impression on the reader
when it is narrated in street slang, in the precise language of
an old schoolteacher, or in the professional jargon of a social
LANGUAGE: Words and descriptions, including metaphor, simile,
and personification, that differ from purely denotative, or literal,
meanings to suggest comparisons between two or more terms or things.
The dramatic voice of the person telling a story. A narrator can
be reliable or unreliable and
omniscient, limited omniscient
The sequence of events in a story and their relation to one another.
OF VIEW: The perspective of the narrator or protagonist of a story.
The physical details of the place, the time, and the social context
that influence the actions of the characters. Often setting also
evokes a mood or atmosphere, foreshadowing event to come.
The distinctive and recognizable way an author uses language to
create a work of literature. This can involve the writer’s
diction, sentence length and syntax, tone, use of figures of speech,
irony and theme.
A reference to the order of the words in writing of any kind.
Syntax usually implies a word order that results in meaningful
verbal patterns in the author’s choice of words, phrases,
and sentence structure.
A generalization about the meaning of a story.
The way authors convey their unstated attitudes toward their subjects
as revealed in style. Tone can be described as serious or comic,
ironic or naïve, angry or funny, or any other emotional states
that human beings can experience and find words to express.
A term referring to the specific manner chosen by the author to
create a story or poem. Voice encompasses elements of style such
as tone and diction. It is usually difficult to get a sense of
the original author’s voice in a text that has been translated
from a foreign language into English.
A theory that treats history as a perpetual, perceptual, malleable
construction from the viewpoint of the present, which is continually
influenced by local, often subjective conditions.
– According to French philosopher/historian Michel
Foucault, this is a metaphor for modern "disciplinary"
societies characterized by illusory surveillance technologies. Foucault
proposes that not only prisons but all hierarchical structures (e.g.
the army, the school, the hospital, the factory) have evolved through
history to resemble Jeremy
Bentham's Panopticon. The notoriety of the design today
(although not its lasting influence in architectural realities)
stems from Foucault's famous analysis of it.
A method of non-violent revolt or action taken against oppressing
powers for sociopolitical ends. It can take several forms, among
Disobedience, which American transcendentalist author
David Thoreau popularized in his 1849 essay of the
same name. To practice civil disobedience, however, requires that
one breaks the law, whereas a law doesn't need to be broken to practice
A Protestant sect that began in England in the 1500s when reformers
attempted to purge the Church of England of its elaborate ceremonies,
rituals, and hierarchical structure. For the Puritans, the pure
word of the Bible, presented in part through inspired preaching,
took precedence while direct revelation from the Holy Spirit superseded
reason. Puritan ministers were generally well educated, and the
congregation promoted ideals that helped lay
the foundation for American democracy. However, because of their
strict moral code, the Puritans were always on the lookout for satanic
influence and, unfortunately, sometimes saw evil where none existed.
In Salem in 1692, more than 150 people were accused of witchcraft
and jailed. Twenty of them were executed. Nineteen were hanged and
one was pressed to death. In a pressing, the executioners secured
the condemned person, facing upward, on a bed of nails. Then they
loaded weights onto his or her body. American dramatist Arthur Miller
wrote a play, The
Crucible (1953), about these trials. Belief in
evil forces such as witches, warlocks, and diabolical spirits was
widespread in America and Europe during and before the 17th Century.
– In Marxist theory, this is the stage between capitalism
and communism that expresses the struggle for the equal distribution
of wealth by eliminating private property and the exploitative ruling
class. In practice, such a distribution of wealth is achieved by
social ownership of the means of production, exchange and diffusion.
– A society is any group of people (or, less commonly, plants
or animals) living together in a group and constituting a single
related, interdependent community. This word is frequently taken
to include entire national communities; we might, for instance,
comment upon some aspect of U.S. society. Society can also be used
to refer to smaller groups of people, as when we refer to "rural
societies," "academic societies," etc. Society is
distinguished from culture in that it generally refers to the community
of people while culture generally refers to the systems of meaning—what
Geertz calls "webs of significance" that govern the conduct
and understanding of people's lives. Nevertheless, because of the
close conceptual relationship between the community and its culture,
the distinction between these words is often unclear in common use
of "society" or its derivative words; for example, when
we refer to "societal problems," we are referring to conflicts
which have as much to do with culture as they do with society.
American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the
early nineteenth century. Key transcendentalists included Ralph
Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and Amos Bronson
Alcott. Stimulated by English and German Romanticism, the Biblical
criticism of Herder and Schleiermacher, and the skepticism of Hume,
the transcendentalists operated with the sense that a new era was
at hand. They were critics of their contemporary society for its
unthinking conformity, and urged that each individual find, in Emerson's
words, "an original relation to the universe." Emerson
and Thoreau sought this relation in solitude through nature and
writing. Among transcendentalists' core beliefs was an ideal spiritual
state that transcends the physical and empirical and is only realized
through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines
of established religions.
– Greek for “good place” (re: eutopia) and “no
place” (re: outopia), utopias attempt to represent perfect
social justices and relations in the future. It emphasizes moral
societal structure, especially for the lower classes, involving
a large degree of class equality and regimentation in labor and
lifestyles. Basic to utopian impulses is the conviction that humans
can create an earthly paradise and reform themselves to live in
a compliant, harmonious manner with one another. Furthermore, social
harmony will lead to great gains in economic output and artistic
expression. Popular utopias include Plato’s
Republic (c. 380 B.C.), Thomas More’s
(1551), Edward Bellamy’s Looking
Backward (1888), William Morris’ News
from Nowhere (1890), Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s
(1914), Marge Piercy’s Woman
on the Edge of Time (1976), and Kim Stanley Robinson’s