Irony, Dramatic

Irony, Dramatic – When we, the readers, know something terrible is going to happen (say, that all the sailors in Moby-Dick are going to die except Ishmael) even though the characters in the story do not know, the situation of the ignorant characters is dramatically ironic. This device creates great tension in art: Think of all the dumb [...]

Inciting Incident

Inciting Incident – What causes the protagonist to go on a journey or seek out an answer. In most modern fiction, this occurs very close to the first sentence; there is not much “exposition” before the journey commences.

Hypotaxis versus Parataxis

Hypotaxis versus Parataxis – These are the two poles of sentence writing. Most writers are more or less hypotactic (unequal and thus complex or “elegant”) or paratactic (equal and thus simple or “direct”). Equality here refers to the parts of the sentences we write. If I write long, flowing sentences of various lengths, with various [...]

Horror versus Terror


Horror versus Terror – These are the two major divisions of literary, cinematic, or otherwise artistic (representational, strategic) fear. Fear is—along with joy, sadness, anger, and anxiety—one of the most basic human emotions. While anxiety occurs without an external stimulus, fear occurs when we perceive a threat or feel pain. Fear in the brain engenders [...]


Heteroglossia – Bakhtin uses heteroglossia (different tongues, different languages, different words) to describe the coexistence of different species of a single “linguistic code.” He begins with the novel, a seemingly unified “language” actually composed of distinct elements such as the speech of the characters, the streams of thought of the characters and the narrator(s), and [...]

Grotesque versus Gross (my usage)

Grotesque versus Gross (my usage) – The grotesque in literature is that which both disgusts and inspires sympathy. Mere monsters are horrific, maybe, but not always disgusting, nor sympathetic. Caliban is a good example of the grotesque. The eloquent killer in Capote’s In Cold Blood is also (and more humanly) grotesque. We also need a [...]

Front Matter

Front Matter – The front matter is the text before the main text. You open a book, but it doesn’t start right off. It starts with some weird crap about how happy the author is you picked it up, what edition it is, why he wrote it, and blah blah blah. That’s front matter. Front matter, [...]

Foot (Poetic)


Foot (Poetic) – The foot is the basic unit of rhythm in poetry, notated with mark indicating whether each syllable of the foot is stressed (accented, emphasized; notated with the macron: ¯ ) or unstressed (unaccented, not emphasized; notated with the breve: ˘ ). A foot can consist of one or more words. Here are [...]


Gothic – In literature, a genre or mode of fiction that blends both horror and romance, developed in the late eighteenth-century primarily by British novelists Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, and M. G. Lewis.  German writers later took up the tradition in force, and the Victorians developed a sort of neo-Gothic tradition, as did [...]

Fantasy, stances toward: The Fantastic-Marvelous versus The Fantastic-Uncanny


Fantasy, stances toward: The Fantastic-Marvelous versus The Fantastic-Uncanny – The fantastic is the supernatural in art. Within the realm of the unrealm and impossible—the supernatural—there are two very basic, opposite sub-realms, or stances a reader can adopt upon the intrusion of the fantastic (whether on page 1 or 1001), which are distinguished according to perspective. [...]