Difficulty, Textual (Perceived)

Difficulty, Textual (Perceived) – When you find a story or passage within a story unfamiliar, power through. DO NOT stop reading or paying attention simply because a word or idea is unfamiliar. You are almost always graded on doing the work and coming to class, regardless of the unfamiliarity or density of a given assigned [...]

Ambiguity (Narrative, Symbolic)


Ambiguity (Narrative, Symbolic): Transcendence, Transcendent, Transcendent Signified versus Immanence, Immanent, Immanent Signified – This short exercise in literary theory/philosophy works best if you have drawing implements and a few minutes to think… [Draw picture on board of a box, huge, full of junk. Label "Moby-Dick."] [Draw picture on board of a small, gift-wrapped box, beautiful, [...]

Allegory vis-á-vis Comic Books

Allegory vis-á-vis Comic Books – An allegory is any story in which some dimension of the plot and its actors is not literal but symbolic, creating for us associations beyond the obvious. Perhaps surfaces of plot and character reveal hidden depths, or—in a more postmodern mode—surfaces are pregnant with new surfaces, new implications. I like [...]

Dialogic versus Monologic

Dialogic versus Monologic – Bakhtin defines dialogic texts in opposition to monologic texts. Dialogic texts “speak to” other texts (other books, movies, stories, myths) and other writers. Dialogic texts do not merely “answer” these texts; they are not apologies or sequels. They instead open up an ongoing exchange, in which both texts are enriched and [...]


Dénouement – The resolution of a story, how/where things “end up.” This is sometimes considered the same as falling action, though Freytag (an important critic of narrative structure in drama) places dénouement after falling action. I personally don’t see what he’s saying:  In most modern stories, there is only a short section of text after [...]

Compression, Structural: Scene versus Summary Narrative

Compression, Structural: Scene versus Summary Narrative – Fiction relies on a difference between narrative time and real time, or the time it would take narrated (told) events to “actually happen.” Without this difference, fiction is if not impossible, at least highly problematic, very long, and definitely very, very boring. Thus the question, when narrating events—cutting [...]


Climax – The turn, the reversal, the reveal: What completes or redefines or nullifies the protagonist’s quest or journey, what answers our question. In most modern works of fiction, the climax comes after the halfway mark in the text (the scalene triangle).


Cliché - Wikipedia: A cliché is “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.” There is no time like the present to seize the day and improve your writing: Avoid cliché at all cost. This means avoiding hackneyed proverbs, truisms, oversimplifications, [...]


Chronotope – Linguist and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin Bakhtin uses “chronotope” to mean time-space, or the intrinsic connections between temporal and spatial relationships in a text. The word is also used to mean a specific unit that relates characteristics of space and time, conventionally, within a genre. For example, by this definition, the chronotope of a [...]


Chronographia – A description of time. In A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, Second Edition, Lanham gives the following example from Romeo and Juliet (III, v):      Look, love, what envious streaks Do lace the severing clouds in yonder East. Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.