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that coffee keeps me awake.) The danger of inductive reasoning arises from trying to draw conclusions from too few examples or instances. (Because Bill dislikes horseshoe pitching and ping-pong, a person concludes that Bill dislikes all sports.)

Inflection – the variation of change of form which words undergo to make case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, voice, etc. It also means the modulation of the voice, or change in the pitch or tone of the voice.

In medias res – In literature, a work that begins in the middle of the story. The Odyssey, Medea, and Oedipus Rex all begin in medias res.

Inwardness – a literary term used to describe an author’s emphasis on character analysis, character development, or the psychological interplay of characters.

Irony- a figure of speech using a word apparently to mean one thing but actually implying just the opposite meaning.

“They are all honorable men.” – Julius Caesar

Irony also means a happening or development in a narrative opposite to and as if in mockery of the appropriate or expected result, as when a person’s long efforts, meets with unexpected failure (thus the opposite of poetic justice). Dramatic Irony is a double meaning in the speech of some character, he or his listener being unconscious of one of the meanings; also called Unconscious Irony if it is the speaker who is unconscious of one of the meanings. Sometimes it is only in the light of later events that the hidden irony dawns upon the speaker or his listener or the reader.


Jargon – an uncomplimentary term for language full of indirect expressions and long, high-sounding words; also the technical, esoteric vocabulary of a science, art, trade, profession, or some other special group. Jargon frequently implies a certain amount of vanity or affectation on the part of the user. See Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s famous essay “On Jargon” in his book, On the Art of Writing (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916).

In the essay he humorously illustrates jargon in a delightful parody of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” speech:

“To be, or the contrary? Whether the former or the latter be preferable would seem to admit of the same difference of opinion; the answer in the present case being of an affirmative or of a negative character according as to whether one elects on the one hand to mentally suffer the disfavor of fortune, albeit in extreme degree, or on the other to boldly envisage adverse conditions in the prospect of eventually bringing them to a conclusion…”


Legend – any unverifiable story coming down from the past especially one popularly, or logically, accepted as historical but which has not been authenticated, and possibly can never be proved. Usually there is some vague core of truth or fact to a legend, a characteristic which distinguishes it from a myth.  Myth also tends to deal more with gods and to be less logical than legend. Implausible, exaggerated, or supernatural elements are frequently present. Examples are the legends which have grown up, respectively, around Odysseus (or Ulysses), King Arthur, and Paul Bunyan. Because of his or her impressive deeds or universal character traits, the hero or heroine of such a story is also sometimes called a legend. The term can mean, too, a title or brief description under an illustration.

Leitmotif of Leitmotiv (lit’ mo tef’) – this term apparently borrowed from Wagnerian music drama, where it means a melodic phrase or passage recurring through a musical work at each appearance of an idea, person, or situation associated with the passage. Hence, in literature it means a lesser or minor theme or idea which recurs throughout a literary work. For example, the English scholar, J. Dover Wilson, in What Happens in Hamlet (Cambridge University Press, 1937) suggests that comments by various characters on Hamlet’s instability before some of his appearances form a leitmotiv in the play.

Limerick – a humorous poem of five anapestic lines of which the first, second, and fifth have three feet and rhyme. Limericks were popularized by the Englishman, Edward Lear, in his Book of Nonsense (1846).

“As a beauty I am set on a star,

 There are others more handsome, by far,

 But my face—I don’t mind it,

 For I am behind it.

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