Aesthetic: that which concerns beauty or the appreciation of beauty.
Aestheticism: a 19th-century literary movement whose adherents asserted the importance of artistic autonomy from social and moral concerns, and who advocated the value of the aesthetic as an end in itself.
Allusion: an implicit reference, usually to another work of literature, a specific quotation or to a particular person or event. The use of allusion tends to presume shared knowledge between the author and reader.
Ballad: a poetic form of great antiquity, often narrating a popular tale. Material is often drawn from community life, legend or folklore.
Canon: [In relation to an individual author] the list of works accepted as being genuinely written by the author; the term usually refers to authorized (or canonized) religious writings. [In a more general sense] any group of works that are deemed to have been especially influential or important. Some would argue that universities play a major role in establishing what is regarded as a literary canon, although the boundaries of such a canon are always open to debate.
Classicism: refers to the styles, conventions, themes and modes of Classical authors, as well as their influence on later authors. Classicism in Ancient Rome meant looking to the Greeks. In 17th- and 18th-century France and England, Classicism could refer both to Greek and Roman authors.
Dialectic: a process of logical disputation that attempts to establish the truth of given conditions or opinions; a philosophical method of resolving apparent contradictions that has been influential in Western philosophy since antiquity.
Discourse (or discursive formation): in Foucault’s terminology, the processes by which knowledge is constituted, along with the social practices, kinds of subjectivity and relations of power that are intrinsic in such kinds of knowledge. It is in discourse that knowledge and power meet.
Dithyramb: a Greek choric hymn, with mime, describing the adventures of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. Dithyrambic has more general connotations of “wild” song or verse.
Encomium: a formal dedication or expression of praise.
Essay: a genre of writing, usually short and in prose, which is often used in literary criticism and which addresses itself to a particular topic or variety of topics. It derives from the French verb “essayer” (to attempt). The word was coined by the French writer Michel de Montaigne (1533—92) in his Essais (1580). The essays of Francis Bacon (1561—1626) were influential in disseminating the genre in English.
Hermeneutic: concerning interpretation, particularly with regard to Scripture or literary texts.
Heroic couplets: a common metrical form in English poetry, consisting of rhymed decasyllables, usually written in iambic pentameter.
Heteronormativity: a view of sexuality that falsely universalizes heterosexual experience.
Humanism: a philosophical outlook that prioritizes human, as against divine, matters, tending to regard humans as essentially rational, responsible and progressive beings.
Metaphor: the application of a name or descriptive phrase to an object to which it is imaginatively rather than literally applicable. For example, the “wine-dark sea” in Homer’s Odyssey.
Mimesis: from the Greek for “imitation” (as in mime), which also carries the sense of literary representation.
Neoclassicism: a literary or artistic movement seeking to bring about the revival of classical style and forms. In England, the dates of this fall roughly between 1660 and 1780. The literature of this period is sometimes referred to as Augustan literature.
Objectivism: a philosophical position that states the cosmos is determined by laws of causality that can be observed and delineated through observation. Human actions are not free because they are determined by these external laws.
Oeuvre: the works of an author or artist regarded collectively or as a whole.
Phenomenology: the philosophical study of structures of experience and consciousness.
Relativism: a philosophical stance which holds that all truths are relative to the individual and are thus not absolute.
Subaltern: in postcolonial studies, this concept refers to social groups that are excluded from the hegemonic power structures of colony and metropole. See, in particular, the work of the Subaltern Studies Group.
Subjectivism: a philosophical position that asserts human freedom from external determination, foregrounding the active role of consciousness (subjectivity) in generating the phenomenal world.
Teleology: the explanation of phenomena with reference to the purpose or end served, rather than the cause.
Textuality: interpretation characterized by strict adherence to the text; also the quality of written, as opposed to spoken, language.