ARGUMENTATIVE TERMS FOR WRITING ABOUT LITERATURE (DRAMA)
Sources and Abbreviations: “Writing About Drama,” A Short Guide to Writing About Literature (SG);
“A Glossary of Fictional Terms,” Story and Structure (SS)
Anagnorisis (recognition): When a character perceives what has happened (SG 157).
Antagonist: Any force that is in conflict with the protagonist. An antagonist may be another person, an aspect of the physical or social environment, or a destructive element in the protagonist’s own nature (SS 554).
Antecedent Action: What has happened in the past (SG 166).
Aside: A character speaks in the same presence of others but is understood not to be heard by them (SG 175).
Characterization: What the characters do or say, by what other characters say about them, and by the setting in which they move (SG 179).
Climax: The turning point or high point in a plot (SS555; SG 165).
Conflict: A clash of actions, desires, ideas, or goals in the plot of a story. This may include “man against man,” “man against environment,” or “man against himself” (SS 555; SG 166).
Convention: The tacit and sometimes unconscious agreement between artist and audience that allows objects and actions to become what they are not in reality (SG 174).
Crisis (or Crises): Moments or events which cause tension that lead to the play’s climax (SG 165).
Denouement (unknotting): The slackening of tension after the climax at the end of the play or that portion of the plot that reveals the final outcome of its conflicts or the solution of its mysteries (SS555; SG 165).
Dilemma: A situation in which a character must choose between two courses of action, both undesirable (SS 555).
Exposition: The part of the play which tells the audience what it has to know about the past or antecedent action (SG 166).
Falling Action: That segment of the plot which comes between the climax and conclusion (SS 556).
Irony (dramatic): ironic deeds or situations – Actions that have some consequence more or less the reverse of what the doer intends; ironic speech – The speaker’s words mean one thing to him but something more significant to an audience; Sophoclean irony – Pervasive use of ironic deeds and speeches (SG 155-157).
Peripeteia (reversal): When a deed or action backfires or has a reverse effect (see also ironic deeds or situations) (SG 157).
Plot: The sequence or incidents or events of which a story is composed (SG 164-169; SS 557).
Hamartia (tragic flaw or error): The character trait or action which causes the tragic hero to come to grief (SG 157-158).
Prologue: A device to introduce the antecedent actions and characters in a play (SG 166-167).
Protagonist: The central character in a story (SS 557).
Rising Action: The development of plot in a story that precedes and leads up to the climax (SS 557; SG 165).
Setting: The context in time and place in which the story takes places (SS 557; SG 176-178).
Soliloquy: A solitary character speaks his thought aloud (SG 175).
Symbol (literary): Something that means more than what it is; an object, person, situation, or action that in addition to its literal meaning suggests other meanings as well (SS 558).
Theme: The central idea or unifying generalization implied or stated by a literary work (SS 558).
Not: Near the end of the story Dick Prosser sat down on the river bank and took off his
shoes. He placed them next to each other. He “stood up like a soldier, erect, in his
bleeding feet, and faced the mob.” They then killed him.
But: Near the end of the story Dick Prosser “did a curious thing.” He sat down on the
bank, took off his shoes, neatly placed them side by side, and faced the mob. In this
action, Dick asserted his manhood. He still has human dignity, and he faces his
impending death like a man.
Not: “The Destructors”
But: A Character Analysis of Trevor in “The Destructors”
Or: The Theme of Solidarity in The Grapes of Wrath
Not: Rainsford was a brave man who did not panic.
But: Rainsford is a brave man who does not panic.
Not: long or approximate
But: fairly short and exact
Not: Jack is an egotist. “I deserve the biggest share. All you guys done was go get it. I
done all the hard thinkin’ part of gettin’ it.”
But: Jack reveals his egotism when he claims, “I deserve the biggest share” of the loot the
gang has captured because “I done all the hard thinkin’ part of gettin’ it.”
Or: Jack reveals his egotism when he claims to “deserve the biggest share” of the loot.
Not: In the second chapter we find that the butler is a phony.
Not: In the second chapter you discover the secret.
But: In the second chapter the reader discovers the missing clue.
Not: I think Trevor led the gang to destroy the house.
But: Trevor represents the creative act of destruction.
Allegory A literary work in which characters, events, and often settings
combine to convey another complete level of meaning.
Alliteration Repetition of the same consonant sounds, usually at the beginning
of words: “Should the glee—glaze—
Allusion An indirect reference to some character or event in literature, history,
or mythology that enriches the meaning of the passage:
In Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the persona
says, “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be,” suggesting
that he lacks Hamlet’s nobility.
Ambiguity Something that may be validly interpreted in more than one way;
Analysis An approach to writing about a literary work or film that involves
focusing on a significant part of the work and relating that part to the
general significance and impact of the whole piece.
Antagonist The character (or force such as war or poverty) in a drama, poem, or
work of fiction whose actions oppose those of the protagonist (the main
Anticlimax A trivial event following immediately after significant events.
Apostrophe A poetic figure of speech in which a personification is addressed:
“You sea! I resign myself to you also—
I guess what you mean.” (Walt Whitman)
Archetype A recurring character-type, plot, symbol, or theme of universal
significance: the blind prophet figure, the journey to the underworld,
the sea as source of life, the initiation theme, etc.
Argument The main idea or thesis that a work presents; an essay that supports an
interpretation with evidence and reasoning.
Assonance The repetition of similar vowel sounds within syllables:
“On desperate seas long wont to roam” (Edgar Allen Poe)
Atmosphere The emotional content of a scene or setting, usually described in terms
of feeling: somber, gloomy, joyful, expectant. (See tone and mood)
Audience In composition, the readers for whom a piece of writing is intended.
Ballad A narrative poem in four-line stanzas, rhyming xaxa, often sung or
recited as a folk tale.
Blank Verse Unrhymed iambic pentameter, the line that most closely resembles
speech in English:
“When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter, darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.” (Robert Frost)
Brainstorming A form of invention that involves listing words and phrases in rapid
succession in order to explore an idea or concept more fully.
Carpe Diem Literally, “seize the day,” a phrase applicable to many lyric poems
advocating lustful living:
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.” (Robert Herrick)
Catharsis In classical tragedy, the purging of pity and fear experienced by the
audience at the end of the play; a “there but for the grace of the gods go
I” sense of relief.
View See Point of View
Chorus In Greek drama, a group (often led by an individual) who comment on
or interpret the action of the play.
Order The presentation of events according to the time they occur.
Claim The point or assertion that a writer advances for the reader’s
Climax The point toward which the action of a plot builds as the conflicts
become increasingly more intense or complex; the turning point.
Clustering A variation of brainstorming in which a writer places a key word or
phrase in a circle (as the nucleus) and adds related words and ideas in
radiating lines and circles.
Coherence In good writing, the orderly, logical relationship among the many
parts--the smooth moving forward of ideas through clearly related
sentences. Also see Unity.
Comedy A play, light in tone, designed to amuse and entertain, that usually ends
happily, often with a marriage.
Comedy of Manners A risqué play satirizing the conventions of courtship and marriage.
Complication The rising action of a plot during which the conflicts build toward the
Conceit A highly imaginative, often startling, figure of speech drawing an
analogy between two unlike things in an ingenious way:
“In this sad state, God’s tender bowels run
Out streams of grace. . .” (Edward Taylor)
Concrete That which can be touched, seen, or tasted; not abstract.
Concrete illustrations make abstractions easier to understand.
Conflict The struggle between opposing characters or forces that causes tension
or suspense in the plot.
Connotation The associations that attach themselves to many words, deeply
affecting their literal meanings (i.e., haze, smog; female parent, mother)
Consonance Close repetition of the same consonant sounds preceded by different
vowel sounds (slip, slap, slop). At the end of lines of poetry, this
pattern produces half-rhyme.
(Thesis) The main idea or point of a plot, story, or essay.
Controlling Image In a short story, novel, play, or poem, an image that recurs and
carries such symbolic significance that it embodies the theme of the
work, as the wallpaper does in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” as
the thunderstorm does in Chopin’s “The Storm,” as the General’s
pistols do in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, as the grass does in Whitman’s
Leaves of Grass.
Convection An accepted improbability in a literary work, such as the dramatic aside
in which an actor turns from the stage and addresses the audience.
Couplet Two rhymed lines of poetry:
“For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
that then I scorn to change my state with kings.”
Crisis See Plot.
Critical Essay Writing done by a critic, who analyzes, evaluates, and interprets a
film or work of literature.
Crosscutting A film editing technique—pieces from two separately shot scenes are
intermixed, creating a sequence that moves back and forth between
them. The technique invites comparison and contrast between the two
scenes that are crosscut.
Cut In film, a simple method of moving from one scene to the next: one
image ends and the next immediately begins.
Denotation The literal meaning of a word.
Denouement Literally the “untying”; the resolution of the conflicts following the
climax (or crisis) of a plot.
Diction Choice of words in writing and speaking
Dissolve In film, a transitional technique in which one scene fades from the
screen as the next materializes.
Double Entendre A double meaning, one of which usually carries sexual suggestions,
as in the country-western song about a truck driver who calls his
wife long distance to say he is bringing his “big ol’ engine” home to
Monologue A poem consisting of a self-revealing speech delivered by one person
to a silent listener; for instance, Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”
Dramatic Point of
View See Point of View
Elegy A poem commemorating someone’s death.
Empathy Literally, “feeling in”; the emotional identification that a reader or an
audience feels with a character.
English Sonnet See Sonnet
Epigram A short, witty saying that often conveys a bit of wisdom:
“Heaven for climate, hell for society.” (Mark Twain)
Epilogue The concluding section of a literary work, usually a play, in which
loose threads are tied together or a moral is drawn.
Epiphany A moment of insight for a character, in which the light of truth
Episode In a narrative, a unified sequence of events; in Greek drama, the action
Establishing Shot In film, an overall scene or sequence that provides information about
the location, atmosphere, period, or other background that the viewer
needs for orientation.
Explication A line-by-line commentary and interpretation based on a close reading
of a scene or a short literary work.
Exposition That part of a plot devoted to supplying background information,
explaining events that happened before the current action.
Extended Metaphor See Metaphor
Fable A story, usually using symbolic characters and settings, designed to
teach a lesson.
Fade A transitional device in film—the image slowly disappears into a solid-
colored or black screen in a fade-out. In a fade-in, the image slowly
materializes from a solid screen.
Falling Action In classical dramatic structure, the part of a play after the climax, in
which the consequences of the conflict are revealed. Also see
Figurative Language Words that carry suggestive or symbolic meaning beyond the literal
of View See Point of View
Flashback Part of a narrative that interrupts the chronological flow by relating
events from the past.
Flat Character In contrast to a well-developed character, a flat one is stereotyped or
shallow, not seeming as complex as real people.
Foil A character, usually a minor one, who emphasizes the qualities of
another one through implied comparison and contrast between the two.
Foreshadowing Early clues about what will happen later in a narrative or play.
Formal Writing The highest level or usage, in which no contractions, fragments, or
slang are used.
Frame A single picture on the film—there are usually twenty-four frames in
one second of film viewing time.
Free Verse Poetry that does not have regular rhyme, rhyme, or standard form.
Free Writing Writing without regard to coherence or correctness, intended to relax
the writer and produce ideas for further writing.
Genre A classification of literature: drama, novel, novella, short story, poem.
Hero The character intended to engage most fully the audience’s or reader’s
sympathies and admiration. Also see Protagonist.
Hubris Unmitigated pride, often the cause of the hero’s downfall in Greek
Hyperbole A purposeful exaggeration.
Image/Imagery Passages or words that appeal to the senses.
Informal Writing The familiar, everyday level of usage, which includes contractions
and perhaps slang but precludes nonstandard grammar and punctuation.
Internal Rhyme The occurrence of similar sounds within the lines of a poem rather than
just at the ends of lines.
Invention The process of generating subjects, topics, details, and plans for writing
Irony Incongruity between expectation and actuality—
Verbal irony involves a discrepancy between the words spoken and
intended meaning, as a sarcasm.
Dramatic irony involves the difference between what a character
believes is true and what the better-informed reader or audience knows
to be true.
Situational irony involves the contrast between characters’ hopes and
fears and their eventual fate.
Visual irony involves the incongruity between how something appears
and how it really is.
Italian Sonnet See Sonnet.
Jargon The specialized words and expressions belonging to certain
professions, sports, hobbies, or social groups. Sometimes any tangled
and incomprehensible prose is called jargon.
Juxtaposition The simultaneous presentation of two conflicting images or ideas,
designed to make a point of contrast: for example, an elaborate
and well-kept church surrounded by squalorous slums.
Point of View See Point of View.
Literary Present Use of present-tense verbs to write about events occurring in a poem,
story, play, novel, or film.
Logical Order Arrangement of points and ideas according to some reasonable
principle or scheme.
Long Shot In film, a picture seemingly taken from a distance: for example,
people are seen head to toe, landscapes from sky to ground as in a
painting, rooms from ceiling to floor.
Lyric A poem that primarily expresses emotion. In ancient times, poetry
sung with the accompaniment of a lyre (stringed instrument).
Metaphor A figure of speech that makes an imaginative comparison between
two literally unlike things:
“New York is a sucked orange.” (R.W. Emerson)
Metaphysical Poetry A style of poetry (usually associated with seventeenth-century poet
John Donne) that boasts intellectual, complex, and even strained
images (called conceits), which frequently link the personal and
familiar to the cosmic and mysterious. Also see Conceit.
Meter See Rhythm.
Mood The emotional content of a scene or setting, usually described in terms
of feeling: somber, gloomy, joyful, expectant. Also see Tone.
Motif A pattern of identical or similar images recurring throughout a passage
or entire work.
Myth A traditional story involving deities and heroes, usually expressing and
inculcating the established values of a culture.
Narrative A story in prose or verse.
Narrator The person who tells the story to the audience or reader. Also see
View See Point of View.
Ode A long, serious lyric focusing on a stated theme: “Ode to the West
Wind,” “Ode on Melancholy.”
Onomatopoeia A word that sounds like what it names: whoosh, clang, babble, buzz.
Oxymoron A single phrase that juxtaposes opposite terms: the lonely crowd, a
roaring silence, etc.
Pan A camera movement used in film—the camera swivels from left to
right or right to left. The effect for the viewer is like turning one’s head
Parable A story designed to demonstrate a principle or lesson using symbolic
characters, details, and plot lines.
Paradox An apparently contradictory statement that nonetheless makes sense:
“Time held me green and dying” (Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”)
Paraphrase A restatement in different words, usually briefer than the original
Parody An imitation of a piece of writing, copying some features such as
diction, style, and form, but changing or exaggerating other features
for humorous effect.
of View See Point of View
Persona The person created by the writer to be the speaker of the poem or
story—the persona is not usually identical to the writer: for example,
a personally optimistic writer could create a cynical persona to
narrate a story.
Personification Giving human qualities to nonhuman things:
“Rain come down, give this dirty town a drink of water.”
Plagiarism Carelessly or deliberately presenting the words or ideas of another
writer as your own.
Plot A series of causally related events or episodes that occur in a narrative
or play. Also see Climax, Complication, Conflict, Denouement,
Falling Action, Resolution, and Rising Action.
Point of View The angle or perspective from which a story is reported and interpreted.
An omniscient or shifting point of view, which may include the
author’s comments on the action, presents the story through a
combination of characters, shifting from one person’s thoughts to
another’s. An objective or dramatic point of view presents the story
directly, as a play does, using only external actions, speech, and
gestures. A central point of view tells the story through the voice of a
central character and is often presented as a first-person account. A
peripheral point of view uses a minor character to tell the story. Both
central and peripheral points of view are considered limited omniscient
because they give only one character’s perceptions. Also see Narrator
Prewriting The process that writers use to gather ideas, consider audience,
determine purpose, develop thesis and tentative structure (plan), and
generally prepare for the actual writing stage.
I. Three basic properties of musical sound—pitch, dynamics, and tone color
A. PITCH: We instinctively hear some sound as high, others as low.
The quality of highness or lowness of sound is called pitch.
B. DYNAMICS: The second basic property of musical sound is its
loudness or softness—its volume of sound is called dynamics.
C. TONE COLOR: The individual notes in music, whether loud or
soft, differ in general quality of sound, depending on the instruments
or voices that produce them. Tone color or timbre, is the term for this
II. The basic properties of sound are arranged into time patterns.
A. RHYTHM: In general, this refers to the whole time aspect of music.
More specifically, rhythms refer to the particular arrangements of
long and short notes in melodies or other musical passages.
B. BEAT: Musical time is measured in beats. Listening to a marching
band, we cannot fail to sense a regular recurrence of short time units,
which serve as a steady background for more complicated time patterns.
We can easily beat time to music by waving a hand or tapping a foot.
What is being waved or tapped is the music’s beat.
C. METER: Any recurring pattern of strong and weak beats is called meter.
Meter is a strong/weak pattern repeated again and again to form a
continuous steady pulse.
D. TEMPO: This is the term for the speed of music. In metrical music, the
tempo is the rate at which the basic, regular beats of the meter follow one
another. (Slow, fast, very fast, moderate, etc.)
Architecture is the artistic quality of buildings that relates to things, uses space, and draws or assaults the viewer.
Requirements must consider:
Periods of Architecture:
_____ Romanesque A. St. Vitus Cathedral
_____ Gothic B. Church of St. Nicholas
_____ Renaissance C. Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
_____ Baroque D. Church of Our Lady of Tyn
_____ Neo-Gothic E. St. George’s Basilica
_____ Modernist (Art Nouveau) F. Slavonic Monastery
G. Pinkas Synagogue, Strahov Monastery
Earth-rooted—deals with site, gravity, raw materials, centrality
Sky-Oriented—suggests an axis mundi, a defiance of gravity, an integration of light
Earth-resting—uses the earth as a platform and the sky as a background
1. Look at the building. Consider the form of the building. Does the form (its shape) follow the
function (use) of the building? That is, do you know the intended use of the building by
looking at it? What details identify its function?
How well does the building fit the site? Did the architect overlook any problems of use?
Do you consider the building beautiful or ugly? List characteristics that make it so.
How would you describe the shape of the structure?
What materials were used in its construction? Are they warm and friendly or cold/brutal?
Did the architect pay attention to detail? (Compare the frieze on the Parthenon in Greece
with its sculptures depicting the triumphs of war in honor of their gods.)
How did the architect use color? Is it warm or cold color?
Can you imagine why the architects chose these colors?
2. Walk to the entrance. Is it easy to find?
How does the space make you feel?
Does the space draw you to the center?
What pathways (movement of people through the space) does the space create?
What methods does the architect use to direct you in the space?
Are there obstructions? Name several and decide if you think the architect planned them or were they later additions by the owners?
Did the architect make efficient use of space (for example, do the people move freely or is it hard to navigate the space?)?
Do the different use of facilities have different colors?
Which areas are more calming or exciting?
How do the colors or shapes achieve such an effect?
What do you think the architects consider the most important function of the building?
3. Building specifications
How is the building divided functionally? If you were to design the space, would you combine spaces, integrate them, and mingle them?
4. Comparison Seeing
How important is the building in the city as suggested by the size and prominence of the building?
How does it reflect the values of its time? Compare it to Chartres Cathedral. In the respective cities and time periods, which building assumes a more important role and why? If you are not familiar with Chartres, choose a different building.
What is the biggest difference between the two buildings?