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Mythology – a body of myths, especially that relating to the gods and heroes of a people and to their religious traditions, for example, Greek, Norse, Polynesian, American Indian mythology. Bullfinch’s Mythology is the best-known collection.


Narrative – any work that tells a story or gives an account of related happenings. A Narrative Poem is simply one that tells a story. Byron’s “The Prisoner of Chillon”,” Browning’s “Incident of the French Camp”.

Naturalistic – a general term, in a class with Realistic and Romantic, which describes any literature deliberately and consciously stressing the thesis that, just as in Nature, all life is a struggle for survival. Naturalism therefore emphasizes painful and ugly details of life. An outgrowth of Realism, it developed toward the end of the nineteenth century partly as a result of the growing acceptance of the Nature theories of Darwin and other scientists. Emile Zola in France is regarded as the father of Naturalism in literature (Jack London’s Call of the Wild, Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, Dostoievsky’s Crime and Punishment).

New Criticism – a contemporary school of criticism associated in particular with several American poets and critics, such as John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate, which is absorbed in textual analysis, in studying the structural properties, the form and technique of poems, and in the “poetic strategy” of the poet.

Non Sequitur – meaning in Latin “it does not follow”, this expression is applied to an idea or conclusion that does not necessarily follow clearly or logically from the previous statement or premise. See Deductive Reasoning. (Since man has split the atom, nothing is impossible.)

Novel – a book-length invented or fictitious narrative.

Novella – an Italian term used to describe a kind of narrative or tale shorter than a novel and characterized by a compact plot with a point (Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale).


O. Henry Ending – a method or device popularized by O. Henry for concluding a story.  It is a sudden unexpected development or ironic twist with which the story ends. In “The Ransom of Red Chief”, for example, the kidnapped boy proves such a difficult charge for the kidnappers that at the end they pay the boy’s parents to take him off their hands.

Objective – a fairly general term used to describe any piece of writing not slanted or colored by the author’s own personal feelings or thoughts; hence it applies to writing in which the author presents his material in an impersonal and detached way. Objective Characterization consists in portraying the person’s character as seen from the outside, by his words and actions, his appearance, his visible reactions to various situations, and the opinions of him held by other persons.  This method does not permit the author to disclose the thoughts and feelings of the character directly to the reader. Hence the reader can understand these thoughts and feelings only as they are implied in the various ways mentioned. Objective characterization is lifelike, for it is the way we form our impressions in real life of a person’s character.

Octameter – poetic meter of eight feet to a line.

Octave – a unit made up of the first eight lines of a Petrarchan or Italian sonnet. (See Lyric.)

Ode – a lyric expressing a lofty or noble sentiment in appropriate dignified language. (See Lyric.)

Onomatopoeia – a figure of speech in which the sound is suggestive of the meaning. Words such as meow, clip-clop, whirr, clang, pop, and bang are all examples.

“And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain”

Poe’s “The Raven”

“Booth led boldly with a big bass drum.”

Vachel Lindsey’s “General William Booth Enters into Heaven.”

Oxymoron – (ok’ si mo ron) – a figure of speech using for epigrammatic effect a contradictory or incongruous combination of terms (cruel happiness, happy sadness, fresh frozen).

“The skies, the fountains, every region near

 Seem’d all one mutual cry. I never heard

 So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.”

- Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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