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edition
ekphrasis
elegy
Elizabethan age
end-stopped
enjambment
epic
epiphany
epistemology
epistolary novel
exposition
Expressionism
eyeline match

 


edition: The form in which a book is published, or the total copies of a book printed from a single setting of type or other mode of production. A “first edition” is the first form of a book, printed and bound; later printings or editions may be spaced over a period of years and can include revisions or changes to the form or content of the first edition. “Edition” also refers to the format of a book. For example, a two-volume edition or an illustrated edition may contain identical verbal content to one bound in a single volume or without pictures. Additionally, a “variorum”edition indicates either an edition that includes all textual variants of an author’s manuscript, or else one which includes annotations and commentary from critics and editors.

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ekphrasis: Greek for “description,” ekphrasis is the linguistic depiction of an art object or visual phenomenon; in a more general sense, it involves any description of objective reality as a way of portraying that visual reality to the reader. The Horatian statement ut pictura poesis (“as in art, so in poetry”) seems to suggest that poetry’s job is ekphrastic; that is, its responsibility is to describe and invoke physical reality through language. More recently, writers have emphasized works of art as poetry’s objects. Examples include Homer’s description of the shield of Achilles in the Iliad, Canto X from Dante’s Purgatorio, John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819), Rainier Maria Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” (1908) and Wallace Stevens’ “Anecdote of the Jar” (1919). Northop Frye claims:

Twentieth-century criticism has shifted the meaning to focus on the poem—or by extension the novel or short story—as itself a work of art. In this usage, the poem or fiction aspires to the stability of a painting or sculpture, as the writer attempts, through words, to create an object that defeats time and remains, as Keats’s urn does, its beautiful and possibly enigmatic self. (168)

Important texts on ekphrasis include W.J.T. Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (1986) and Murray Krieger, Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural Sign (1992).

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elegy: A kind of lyric poem on death or loss which involves a meditation on a deceased person, usually in the form of remembrance, lamentation, or consolation. The term in classical literature was meant to indicate any poem composed in elegiacs (a verse form in distichs), but since the sixteenth or seventeenth century has come to signify a poem of mourning of any length or form. Examples include Milton, “Lycidas” (1637); Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1750); Shelley’s “Adonais” (1821), written on the death of John Keats; Tennyson, “In Memoriam” (1850); Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” (1865), on the death of Abraham Lincoln; Rainier Maria Rilke, The Duino Elegies (1912-1922), and W.H. Auden, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” (1940).

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Elizabethan age: The term for the literary and artistic renaissance that occurred during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, from approximately 1558-1603. At times considered the “Golden Age of English Literature” particularly in poetry and drama, the Elizabethan age is primarily known for the works of Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Bacon, Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, Thomas Kyd, and the early work of Ben Jonson and John Donne.

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end-stopped: In poetry, the term for a pause or grammatical break at the end of a line. The end-stopped line is contrasted to the enjambed line, in which the sense and syntax continues and no punctuation is employed. The convention can be seen in the first stanza of John Berryman’s Dream Song 22 (1956):

I am the little man who smokes & smokes.
I am the girl who does know better but.
I am the king of the pool.
I am so wise I had my mouth sewn shut.
I am a government official & a goddamned fool.
I am a lady who takes jokes. (l. 1-6).

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enjambment: From the French jambe, meaning “in-striding” or “leg,” this is the poetic term for the continuation of a sentence and its sense beyond the end of a line, and is used at times in concert with caesura. Thus, an “enjambed” line is one which employs no punctuation at its ending and differs from an end-stopped line. In The Art of the Poetic Line, James Longenbach uses the first two stanzas of William Carlos Williams’ poem “To a Poor Old Woman” (1938) to illustrate the effect of enjambment:

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand.

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her (l. 1-7)

Longenbach claims that “By eschewing most punctuation, this poem puts even more pressure on the relationship of syntax and line to shape the pulse of thought. The poem’s first sentence is made of run-on syntax; it is also heavily enjambed…we hear the [three iterations in the second stanza] differently because of the way the syntax is broken over the line ending” (15-16):

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

He further writes that “The sentence has not changed, but the relationship of its syntax to the line has adjusted the way we hear the sentence’s pattern of intonation and stress: because of the location of the enjambment, we hear the sentence first as ‘They taste GOOD to her’ and then as ‘They TASTE good to her’…the shifting enjambment [asks] us to place additional stress on the syllable [or word] with which the line ends” (16-19).

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epic: A long narrative poem, usually chronicling the history, legend or experiences of a heroic figure in an elevated and grand style. There are two kinds of epics, the traditional and the literary. The traditional epic (also known as folk or primary) is generally a written version of what had originally been oral poetry about heroic figures in a warlike age. The Sumerian epic Gilgamesh (written around 3000 BC) is the earliest extant work in the oral tradition; other traditional epics include the Iliad, the Odyssey and Beowulf. These folk epics share a variety of features, including a central hero who (often) possesses extraordinary powers and navigates various misadventures and challenges, vivid and rich description of an often supernatural nature, lengthy speeches and passages of narrative or dialogue, and an elevated and somewhat tragic tone. Literary epics are those composed by individuals as an imitation of the traditional form, and are quite ambitious in nature. Like the traditional epic they share features, including a focus on an individual of national or even “cosmic” importance, an ample setting on a large scale, and action which often involves superhuman deeds in battle. At times, the gods or other cosmic forces intervene or take an active interest in these encounters. Literary epics include Virgil’s Aeneid (first c. BC) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667).

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epiphany: Greek for “manifestation,” an epiphany is any moment of intense or sudden revelation. It’s traditionally been applied in the spiritual sense—as a manifestation of God’s presence in the world—but has been adapted to secular experience most notably by James Joyce, whose stories and novels at times illustrate epiphanic encounters. One example is Stephen Dedalus’ revelation upon seeing a young woman on the beach in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914). Joyce defines such a moment in Stephen Hero as when, upon an encounter with a commonplace object, “its soul, its whatness leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance.” An epiphany in literature, then, has come to signify “the sudden flare into revelation of an ordinary object or scene” (Abrams 81). Other writers who have attempted to communicate the epiphanic experience include George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wordsworth in the Prelude (epiphanies as “spots of time”), and Virginia Woolf.

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epistemology: The study and philosophy of knowledge and ways of knowing; the theory or science that investigates the origin, nature, method and limits of knowledge.

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epistolary novel: A novel written in the form of letters sent and received between characters, popular in the eighteenth century. The epistolary form can also be applied to poetic or nonfiction texts, as well as be staged as a correspondence between the author posing as an editor, substituting fictitious names for protection. Examples of the epistolary form include Nicholas Breton’s Poste with a Packet of Mad Letters (1602), Aphra Behn’s Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684), Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740), and John Barth’s Letters (1979).

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exposition: In drama or narrative prose, exposition is the relating or recounting of past and present events to the audience in order to understand the plot and action that will occur. In traditional understandings of dramatic structure (as in Freytag’s Pyramid) exposition comes early, but in practice, as more of the dramatic situation is revealed, exposition effectively continues as the audience learns more about past events.

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Expressionism: An early twentieth century movement in art and literature which rejected the depictions of external reality (as in realism or naturalism) and instead aimed to show internal and psychological realities. Originating in Germany and at its height from around 1910 to 1925, Expressionism dominated the theater for a time in the 1920s as a handful of dramatists attempted to communicate powerfully emotional states of mind on the stage; these include Strindberg, Wedekind, Ernst Toller, Fritz von Unruh, and Carl Sternheim. Their work influenced in part the American drama of Eugene O’Neill and Thornton Wilder, and also strongly influenced Bertolt Brecht and his later work with epic theater. In visual art, Expressionism can be seen as an extension of the aims of Impressionism, particularly in its revolt against conventional society. Expressionist paintings, at times abstract, at times nightmarish, represent “interior images without clear pictorial counterparts in the outer world” (Frye et al 192). Important precursors were Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch; expressionist artists include Wassily Kandinsky, Max Beckmann and Marc Chagall, who influenced later abstract expressionism (William de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler). In literature, the effect of expressionist theories can be seen in the work of Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, William Faulkner and Samuel Beckett, as these writers attempt in ways to depict the movements of consciousness. Expressionism was never an organized or self-proclaimed movement, however, and its energies began to wane and were finally suppressed in Germany by the Nazis in the early 1930s (Abrams 86). Its influence is still felt in later twentieth century American and European art, including the Theatre of the Absurd and the poetry of the Beat movement.

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eyeline match: In film studies, the eyeline match is a principle of the continuity editing system whereby a shot of a character’s gaze is followed by a shot of what he or she is looking at, taken from the point of view of the character.

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