The purpose of the English II and English II Pre AP/IB course at North Hills rests largely in the preparation of the student’s composition and literary analysis skills.  At the AP and IB levels, Mrs. Schofield simply does not have the time to spend reinforcing composition skills as those courses are heavily based in literary analysis.  Thus, to use a baseball analogy, her AP and IB classes are the Major Leagues.  Our course by necessity, then, is AP and IB’s Triple A affiliate.  We are the last step before you hit the big time.  That puts a great deal of responsibility on you to master these analytical skills.  So, my goal is to help you truly make it to the “big time.”  This document is an attempt to send you a long distance on your way towards “the show.” 


Every discipline has its own idiosyncrasies and jargon.  Acquiring this jargon is imperative for success in any field, whether it be literary writing, as in our case, or in psychology, biology, or engineering.  Of course, throwing out random words like “logos,” “Byronic hero,” or “apostrophe” inappropriately, or without explaining the term’s relevance does not help you any.  This year, we will focus a great deal on doing “style” analysis, that is, looking at how language devices, (DIDLS: diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax) create tone and establish the author’s purpose/meaning/theme.


Laws of Association

In behavioral psychology, one means of analyzing behavior is to look at stimulus/response relationships.  Stimulus is something that happens outside of the person that creates the response within the person.  Aristotle, then Descartes, and finally B.F. Skinner defined, refined, and redefined this phenomenon as the law of association.  By associating the stimulus with the response, we learn to associate the two otherwise unrelated phenomena which creates a new idea within the brain.  An example is in order, of course. In the first 5 minutes of the film Jaws, John Williams’ ominous c-c# score, coupled with the camera shifting to an ocean point of view equaled the death for the unfortunate Christine Watkins.  This cocktail of stimuli conditioned the audience to expect the same set of responses as the film progressed.  When the eerie music starts, someone dies.  Not the happiest of examples, but nonetheless effective.  When adopting an analytical voice, using the laws of association, coupled with the “hows” and “whys” of the author’s style, we achieve the appropriate voice.  Speaking of the “hows” and “whys”…


Proximate and Ultimate Causes

In psychology, a practitioner’s theories of behavior fall into two categories: the nature theorists, and the nurture theorists.  “Nature” theorists believe that behavior is governed by genetics—that our personalities are hard-wired into us from birth.  The phrase “I was born this way” was born from this idea.  “Nurture” theorists believe that we are born a tabula rasa, a clean slate, with very little in-born, hard-wired behavior from our parents, and thus, our personalities are formed from our experiences and interactions with our environment.

In animal behavior, these two schools of thought are called proximate and ultimate causes.  Proximate causes are causes that answer the question “how” about behavior.  What happened to the viceroy butterfly to influence it to mimic the monarch?  These phenomena occur outside the animal or human.

Conversely, ultimate causes answer the question “why,” and are more concerned with genetic and evolutionary approaches to questions about behavior.  These questions are answered by looking inside the animal. What genetic changes had to occur for the viceroy to achieve an efficient enough level of mimicry to discourage predation?

Now, how do we apply these ideas—the law of associations, and the proximate and ultimate causes, to our literary analysis.  The “hows” deal with an author’s style, and how the style develops an idea or theme (through diction, imagery, syntax, etc. associated with ___________).  Think of the style as the stimulus. The “whys” deal with the audience’s reaction to the “hows” (the author uses these techniques (to create a mood/tone/atmosphere of __________).  Using this cocktail help you to find yourself using the analytical voice, and thus will greatly increase the sophistication of your ideas.  Adding sophistication to your ideas increases your chances to score higher on your essays and exams. 


Here is another way to look at the idea.


Stimulus: the hows (style)

Association with evidence

Relationship of stimulus with rest of text

Response to stimulus and association (whys)




Figurative Language (tropes)

Syntax (schemes and sentence structure)






Emotional pain

Benevolence, etc.











Rhetorical appeal


Verbs for Commentary

Avoid using “be” verbs in your analysis.  Instead of creating an authoritative voice, using “be” verbs tells the reader that you are unsure of your stance.  We cannot have that, so instead, use some of the following where appropriate:













Add (to)




















Make clear












Make evident











Lead the reader







Here are some examples of using analytical voice:


On Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Dickens uses diction associated with money to create Scrooge’s shallow personality.


The previous sentence begins analysis on three aspects of the text’s style: diction analysis, characterization, and an implied theme (money leads to shallowness).


On Thomas Hardy’s “The Convergence of the Twain”

The juxtaposition of the Titanic’s opulence and its actual fate underscores both the greed of humans and the unstoppable destruction caused by the “Immanent Will.”  Mirrors, the ultimate symbol of vanity, have now been covered in sea-worms—an ironic fate.


Here we have two possible approaches to theme (man’s greed and vanity), as well as commentary on irony and symbolism (the Titanic’s fate, mirrors as a symbol of vanity).


Now let’s go about the task of getting you the jargon you need to make commentary on the works we will read this year.



Diction is the author’s choice of words.  In a novel or short story, the author must consider two distinct needs when it comes to word choice.  She will need to provide language for her characters to use (dialogue) and language for the narrator to use (narration).  Both her dialogue and narration must be worded carefully.  When considering dialogue, for instance, each character must be given a manner of speaking which is appropriate for a person of his background, education, attitude, and so on.  This is the level of language and is generally described using one or more of the terms listed below.  Likewise, narration must be consistent with the subject being described.










Common or Technical

Connotative or Denotative

Figurative or literal

Conversational or stilted

Plain or poetic

Simple or bombastic



Imagery is the author’s use of sensory related words to project an image or picture into the reader mind through appeals to sight, touch, taste, feel, and smell.


The technical terms for imagery are as follows:

Visual (sight)

Auditory (hearing)

Gustatory (taste)

Tactile (touch)

Thermal (internal feeling)

Kinesthetic (muscular reaction/reflex)

Olfactory (smell)


The author achieves this purpose through the use of the following:

Vivid verbs         Concrete nouns Precise modifiers           Colorful details

Illusion of reality Evocative           Compelling        Word pictures

Abstractions      Subtleties          intimacy



Subject and Theme

Every piece of literature contributes in some way to the “universal unconscious” that forms the essence of Carl Jung’s psychology (more on this in the section on archetype).  The idea, of course is that ideas, quests, states of mind, are hard wired into every human being (which nurture theorists take issue with, of course); that we all undertake the same sorts of quests, and that each writer contributes an answer to the “hows” and “whys”  that ALL mankind, regardless of when, where and under what circumstances man overcomes the obstacles in his/her way.


We come to theme through subject.


Here are some recurring subjects of literature:



















faith/loss of faith



Freewill/will power         








initiation/coming of age



journey (literal and psychological)






mob psychology           













Search for identity         

social status     






Taking one of these subjects and applying them to mankind as a whole creates theme. 


Here is an example using Keats’s “When I Have Fears:” Keats uses the sonnet form as a metaphor for man’s anxiety over his own mortality.



Sometimes it is difficult to decide what sort of tone/attitude/mood the author is going for.  It may be that we know what we are trying to say, but just can’t quite put our fingers on the word we want.  Your ever-so-benevolent-and-giving Shalafi has your back.


Now, one cannot adequately describe an attitude as “animated,” “emotional,” or “passionate.”  What we wish to know about a speaker’s utterance is the kind of animation or passion or emotion he feels.  He may be animated by either courage or fear.  She may speak in a passion of hate or of love.

One term alone is seldom adequate to describe a mood or motive, and several of these terms may need to be combined to express the right shade of meaning.  One may speak with scornful boldness or with cheerful boldness, with tender apology or with ironic apology, with mournful sympathy or with inspiring sympathy.

Some of these terms express logical and some emotional associations; some are attitudes toward what is said and some toward an opposing person or situation; some describe a state of mind and others a mood or emotion.  All are stated as adjectives--descriptions of how one may speak.




Explanatory, instructive, didactic, admonitory, condemnatory, indignant, puzzled, curious, wistful, pensive, thoughtful, preoccupied, deliberate, studied, candid, guileless, thoughtless, innocent, frank, sincere, questioning, uncertain, doubting, incredulous, critical, cynical, insinuating, persuading, coaxing, pleading, persuasive, argumentative, oracular, shrewd, inventive




Confused, baffled, concerned, bewildered, disbelief, perturbed, embarrassed, overwhelmed, lonely, depressed




Peaceful, satisfied, contented, happy, cheerful, pleasant, bright, brightly, joyful, jubilant, elated, enraptured, dreamy, frivolous, mystical




Worried, uneasy, troubled, disappointed, regretful, vexed, annoyed, bored, disgusted, miserable, cheerless, mournful, sorrowful, dismal, melancholy, plaintive, fretful, querulous, irritable, sore, sour, sulky, sullen, bitter, crushed, pathetic, tragic, disheartened, frightened, bleak, discouraged, weary




Nervous, hysterical, impulsive, impetuous, reckless, desperate, frantic, wild, fierce, furious, savage, enraged, angry, hungry, greedy, jealous, insane, obsessive, outraged, revengeful, passionate, wrathful, childish, evil, sultry, seductive



Calm, quiet, solemn, serious, serene, simple, mild, gentle, temperate, imperturbable, nonchalant, cool, wary, cautious, confident, laconic, stern, remote




Cordial, sociable, gracious, kindly, sympathetic, compassionate, forgiving, pitying, indulgent, tolerant, comforting, soothing, tender, loving, caressing, solicitous, accommodating, approving, helpful, obliging, courteous, polite, confiding, trusting, zealous, friendly, benevolent, giddy, amiable




Sharp, severe, cutting, hateful, unsocial, spiteful, harsh, boorish, pitiless, disparaging, derisive, scornful, satiric, sarcastic, insolent, insulting, impudent, belittling, contemptuous, accusing, reproving, scolding, suspicious, rude, hypocritical, caustic, threatening, envious, malicious, vicious, surreptitious, sardonic, aggressive




Facetious, comic, ironic, satiric, amused, mocking, playful, humorous, hilarious, uproarious


Lively, eager, excited, earnest, energetic, vigorous, hearty, ardent, passionate, rapturous, ecstatic, feverish, inspired, exalted, breathless, hasty, brisk, crisp, hopeful, euphoric, exuberant




Inert, sluggish, languid, dispassionate, dull, colorless, indifferent, stoical, resigned, defeated, helpless, hopeless, dry, monotonous, vacant, feeble, dreaming, bored, blasé, sophisticated, complacent, passive, lethargic, banal



Impressive, profound, proud, dignified, lofty, imperious, confident, egotistical, peremptory, bombastic, sententious, arrogant, pompous, stiff, boastful, exultant, insolent, domineering, flippant, saucy, positive, resolute, haughty, condescending, challenging, bold, defiant, contemptuous, assured, knowing, cocksure, impious, superiour, obnoxious, audacious, presumptuous, convincing, petulant, dominating, hypnotic, patronizing, authoritative, chauvinistic


Submission and timidity

Meek, shy, humble, docile, ashamed, modest, timed, unpretentious, respectful, apologetic, devout, reverent, servile, obsequious, groveling, contrite, obedient, willing, sycophantic, fawning, ingratiating, deprecatory, submissive, frightened, surprised, horrified, aghast, astonished, alarmed, fearful, terrified, trembling, wondering, awed, astounded, shocked, uncomprehending, explosive, impotent, cautious 




Characters are, of course, the people of fiction.  An author may give us clues about characterization in one of two ways:

  1. Direct characterization:  the author tells us straight out, by exposition or analysis what the characters are like, or may have another character in the story tell us what they are like.
  2. Indirect characterization:  the author shows us the characters in action; we infer what they are like from what they think or say or do. 


Usually, writers reveal their characters through a combination of these two techniques

Some words that add specifics when writing about character development:


Mental qualities

Educated, erudite, scholarly, learned, wise, astute, talented , intellectual, precocious, capable

gifted, reasonable, rational, sensible, shrewd

prudent, observant, clever, ingenious, inventive



Moral qualities


Idealistic, exemplary, temperate, truthful, honorable

Straightforward,  decent, trustworthy, respectable


Social qualities

Tactful, courteous, polite, cooperative, genial

Affable, gracious, amiable, cordial, amicable

Sociable, cheerful, sensitive, convivial, ebullient


General Personal Qualities


Distinguished, eminent, admirable, influential, impressive, imposing, generous, benevolent, charitable, magnanimous, munificent, humane, gentle, patient, compassionate, sympathetic, tolerant,            ambitious, conscientious, persevering

industrious, persistent, efficient, assiduous, diligent

resourceful, scrupulous, uncompromising, punctual, earnest, zealous, enthusiastic,    strong-willed, determined, resolute, confident, self-reliant, self-starter, insouciant, valorous, intrepid, courageous, indomitable, sober, solemn, serious, sedate, discreet, cautious, garrulous, wary, eloquent, persuasive, reserved, taciturn, laconic, witty, droll, considerate, responsive, natural, candid, unaffected, ingenuous, amenable, reticent, humble, self-effacing, modest, unassuming, serene, nonchalant, indifferent, philosophical, imperturbable




Grammar and Syntax

Everybody’s favorite: grammar.  Grammar and syntax have a great deal to do with every part of the author’s style.  If the author has made very conscious choices about how he or she will present a character, it stands to reason that the author likewise makes equally conscious decisions in the way these characters are presented on the page.



Simicolons: divide.  Their chief use is to separate two closely related ideas each expressed in sentence form.  A period would make too strong a break between them.  Semicolons are also used to separate items in a series containing commas.


Colons also divide but unlike semicolons, which mean “stop,” colons mean “go.”  These formal punctuation marks introduce a quotation, a list, or a follow-up statement for which a preceding independent clause has made the preparation.  They can also be used to emphasize a word, phrase, or clause which explains or adds impact to the main clause.


Dashes sometimes divide, but like parentheses, can also enclose strongly interruptive elements.  These informal punctuation marks indicate an abrupt break in thought or construction.  They can set off an introductory appositive or an appositive at the end of the sentence.


Ellipses (…, not to be confused with the lit term)in addition to indicating omission, are also used to indicate pauses.  Be sure students can tell the difference. 


Parentheses are used to enclose material that has no structural relation to the rest of the sentence.


(Definitions contain examples from Bronte’s Jane Eyre)



A declarative sentence makes a statement, ex. “I was afraid of someone coming out of the inner room.”


An imperative sentence gives a command, ex. “Give me five pounds, Jane.”


An interogative sentence asks a question, ex. “What crime was this that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner?”


An exclamatory sentence provides emphasis or expresses strong emotion, ex. “What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! What a great nose! And what a mouth! And what large prominent teeth!”


Sentence Structures

Antithetical sentences contain two statements which are balanced, but opposite, ex.  “’I see,’ he said, ‘the mountain will never be brought to Mahomet, so all you can do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must beg of you to come here’”.  When Rochester injures his ankle in a riding accident, Jane cannot catch his horse for him.  When he realizes she cannot catch it, he tells her she will have to help him catch the horse in a rhythmical, memorable way.  In another example, Rochester discusses trying to live a better life after Jane inspires him, and he contrasts his former deathlike existence with his resolve to improve:…”my heart was a sort of charnel; it will now be a shrine.”


In a balanced sentence, the phrases or clauses balance each other by virtue of their likeness of structure, meaning, or length, ex. “’she sucked the blood: she said she’d drain my heart.’”  And “He disavowed nothing: he seemed as if he would defy all things.”  In both of these sentences, the second independent clause extends the meaning of the first by stating how far the character.


A complex sentence contains an independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses, ex. “’When your uncle received your letter intimating the contemplated union between yourself and Mr. Rochester, Mr. Mason, who was staying at Madeira to recruit his health on his way back to Jamaica, happened to be with him.’”  With the dependent clause first in this sentence, the speaker adds to the already suspenseful moment as Jane waits to learn how Mr. Mason found about her impending wedding to Rochester.


A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction or by a semicolon, ex. “He was not in any of the lower rooms; he was not in the yard, the stables, or the grounds.”  The similarity of these two independent clauses emphasizes the difficulty Jane has in locating Rochester when she must return to her ailing Aunt Reed and seeks his permission to leave.


A compound-complex sentence contains two or more independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses, ex.  “Hannah had been cold and stiff, indeed at the first: latterly she had begun to relent a little and when she saw me come in tidey and well-dressed, she even smiled.”  The intricacy of the sentence represents the complications in Jane’s initial relationship with the housekeeper at Moor House.


A loose or cumulative sentence has its main clause at the beginning of the sentence, ex. “A rude noise broke on these fine rippling and whisperings, at once so far away and so clear: a positive tramp, tramp; a metallic clatter, which effaced the soft wave-wanderings; as in a picture, the solid mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn in dark and strong on the foreground, efface the aerial distance of azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended clouds, where tint melts into tint.” This sentence with its independent clause first and added on descriptive units recreates the sounds of Rochester’s riding towards Jane on the road to Hay as she hears them and tries to make sense of the sounds.


A periodic sentence has its main clause at the end of the sentence.  It forces the reader to retain information from the beginning of the sentence and often builds to a climactic statement with meaning unfolding slowly, ex. “Having seen Adele comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs. Fairfax’s parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play with, and a story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her ‘Revenez bientot, ma bonne amie, ma chere Mdlle. Jeanette*,” (*Come back soon, my good friend, my dear Miss Janie.)  With the dependent grammatical units placed before the independent clause at the end, Bronte captures Jane’s preparations for leaving on her fateful walk to Hay, building up to her main point.


A simple sentence contains one independent clause, ex. “Rochester has a wife now living.’”  Ironically this simple sentence may be the most complicated statement in the book.  Its stark simplicity contrasts with the shock of its message. 


Syntax techniques

Syntax means the arrangement of words and the order of grammatical elements in a sentence.  In Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte uses every type of sentence construction for every purpose because the story she tell requires such variety.  Interestingly, she almost never uses the periodic sentence in this story filled with mystery and surprise. Bronte’s method of telling Jane’s story reflects her character traits of honesty and straightforwardness.  Jane tells her story honestly, and she tells it straight.  Bronte’s syntax does not create additional suspense.  Also, Bronte rarely uses polysyndeton but often employs asyndeton, reflecting her desire to propel the story forward rather than linger on particular elements or details


Juxtaposition is a poetic and rhetorical device in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another, often creating an effect of surprise and wit, ex.  “’Yes, I dote on Miss Georgiana!’ cried the fervent Abbot.  ‘Little darling!--with her long curls and her blue eyes, and such a sweet colour as she has; just as if she were painted!--Bessie, I could fancy a Welsh rabbit for supper.’”  One wonders when reading this passage if the thought of Georgiana led to Abbot’s desire for a certain dish for her supper.


Omission Elements

Asyndeton is deliberate omission of conjunctions in a series of related clauses; it speeds the pace of the sentence, ex. “’Her relatives encouraged me; competitors piqued me; she allured me; a marriage was achieved almost before I knew where I was.’”  This sentence captures the whirlwind Rochester found himself in upon arrival in the West Indies where he meets and marries Bertha Mason.


Ellipsis is the deliberate omission of a word or words which are readily implied by the context; it creates an elegant or daring economy of words, ex. “This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because [it was] remote from the nursery and kitchens; [it was] solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered.” Bronte’s use of ellipsis in these two sentences eliminates extraneous words and creates a strong rhythmical pattern.


Parallel structure refers to a grammatical or structural similarity between sentences or parts of a sentence.  It involves an arrangement of words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs so that elements of equal importance are equally developed and similarly phrased, ex.  “The burden must be carried; the want provided for; the suffering endured; the responsibility fulfilled.”  These four grammatical units in parallel form sum up life as Jane sees it--each part being equally significant.


Polysyndeton is the deliberate use of many conjunctions for special emphasis--to highlight quantity or mass of detail or to create a flowing, continuous sentence patters; it slows the pace of the sentence, ex. “I had had no communication by letter or message with the outer world: school-rules, school duties, school-habits and notions, and voices, and faces, and harasses, and costumes, and preferences, and antipathies: such was what I knew of existence.” The extra ands in this sentence effectively capture the monotony of Jane’s years of routine at Lowood and her desire for a different life.


Hypsilophodon is an early Cretaceous ornithipod (duck-billed dinosaur), and as such, obviously not a sentence structure.  But certainly sounds like one, doesn’t it?  Just seeing if you’re paying attention 


Repetition is a device in which words, sounds, and ideas are used more than once to enhance rhythm and to create emphasis, ex.  “Al John Reed’s violent tyrannies, all his sisters’ proud indifference, all his mother’s aversion, all the servants’ partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a turbid well.”  The repeated use of “all” emphasizes Jane’s heightened sensitivities when she is stuck in the red room as punishment for finally standing up for herself.


Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses; it helps to establish a strong rhythm and produces a powerful emotional effect, ex.  “What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! What a great nose! And what a mouth! And what large prominent teeth!”  The repetition of “what a ___” [Mr. Borcklehurst] had” reflects Jane’s childish assessment of each of his features--she is too close to him for comfort, and his features seem exaggerated to her.  (And the construction reminds us of “Little Red Riding Hood”--what big eyes you have! What big teeth! Blah blah blah).


Anadiplosis is the repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause; it ties the sentence to its surroundings, ex.  “He then said that she was the daughter of a French opera-dancer, Celine Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a ‘grande passion.’ This passion Celine had professed to return with even superior ardour.’”  Clearly the placement of passion at the beginning of the second sentence leads to a further refinement of the meaning of passion.


Epanalepsis is the repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause; it tends to make the sentence or clause in which it occurs stand apart from its surroundings, ex.  “Breakfast was over, and non had breakfasted.”  Bracketing the sentence with the image of breakfast signifies the finality of the fact that the girls did not get to eat that morning at Lowood. 


Epistrophe is the repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses; it sets up a pronounced rhythm and gains a special emphasis both by repeating the word and by putting the word and by putting the word in the final position, ex. “Genius is said to be self-conscious: I cannot tell whether Miss Ingram was a genius, but she was self-coconscious--remarkably self-conscious indeed.”  The repetition of self-conscious at the ends of clauses focuses attention on those concepts because they are the last images in the sentences, completing the thought.



Inverted order of a sentence involves constructing a sentence so the predicate comes before the subject, ex. “Long did the hours seem while I waited the departure of the company, and listened for the sound of Bessie’s step on the stairs…”This is a device in which typical sentence patterns are reversed to create an emphatic or rhythmic effect.  Bronte focuses attention on long before stating what seem long--the hours.  She wants to recreate Jane’s restlessness as she waits for Bessie to finish her duties and then come to say goodnight to her.


Antimetabole is a sentence strategy in which the arrangement of ideas in the second clause is a reversal of the first; it adds power through its inverse repetition, ex. “And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it was now for me to leave you.’”  In the passage this sentence comes from, Rochester has teased Jane by telling her he will send her away to Ireland when he marries Blanche Ingram.  Here, Jane finally declares her love for Rochester in an eloquent reversal of the idea that she wishes were as hard for him to part from her as it will be for her to be sent away from him.


A rhetorical question is a question that requires no answer.  It is used to draw attention to a point and is generally stronger than a direct statement, ex.  “Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, for ever condemned?  Why could I never please?  Why was it useless to try to win any one’s favour?”  Jane already knows the painful answers to these questions; they just reflect her unhappiness with her status in the Reed household.


A rhetorical fragment is a sentence fragment used deliberately for a persuasive purpose or to create a desired effect, ex. “Ho dare I, Mrs. Reed?  How dare I?  Because it is the truth.  You think I have o feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have not pity.”  The fragment drives home Jane’s point to Mrs. Reed that she has been poorly treated.


Figurative Language

What would we do without the beloved Greeks and Romans?  Just as Aristotle gave us most of our vocabulary associated with rhetoric and tragedy (among other things), the Roman speaker Marcus Fabius Quintilianus gave us the vocabulary associated with poetic speech.  Figurative language has to do with the augmentation of speech—that is, altering the meaning or word order from the usual or expected. 


Quintilianus divided his figures of speech into two sections tropes, which alter meaning, and schemes, which alter word order.  The schemes can be found in the section on grammar and syntax. 



Pun: a play on the meaning of words.

Three types of puns:

  1. Repetition of a single word in two different senses.

Ex.  “But if we don’t hang together, we will hang separately.”—Ben Franklin


  1. A play on words that sound alike but are different in meaning.

Ex.  “He couldn’t get his bearings straight in the Bering Strait.”


  1. Use of a sing word with two different meanings within the context of the sentence.

Ex.  “The photograph that appeared in the London Times caused a royal flush.  The ink, like our pig, keeps run out of the pen.


Metaphor:  an implied comparison between two unlike things

Ex.  “True art is a conduit between body and soul, between feeling unabstracted and abstraction unfelt.”


Simile:  an explicit comparison between two unlike things signaled by the use of LIKE or AS.

Ex.  “Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.”


Personification:  attributing human qualities to an inanimate object.

Ex.  “The grass is green and neatly cut, and the buildings cast a watchful eye over the clean, quiet campus.”


Irony:  The Greek word from which irony is derived meant “liar” or “dissembler” and in using irony, the writer takes on another voice or role that states the opposite of what is expressed.  Quintilian tells us that if the character of the speaker or the nature of the subject is out of keeping with the words, it becomes clear that the speaker means something other than what is said.  Thus something that is ironical in one context may be quite true in another.


Hyperbole: exaggeration; deliberate exaggeration for emphasis.

Ex.  “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

—Napoleon Bonaparte


Litotes: opposite of hyperbole, litotes intensifies an idea by understatement.

Ex.  After shooting a paltry 28% from the field, Mavericks coach Don Nelson said “it wasn’t one of our better shooting days.”


Synecdoche: related to classification and division.  Translated from the Greek, synecdoche means “understanding one thing for another;” thus a part is substituted for the whole, or the species for the genus.  Quintilian tells us that one word makes us think of all things in the class, so “bread” stands for food, “hands refers to helpers, and “wheels” stands for cars.


Metonymy: designation of one thing with something closely associated with it.  Thus we call the head of the committee the chair, the king the crown, and the newspaper the press.  In the common expression “man of the cloth,” the reference designates a priest because of the customary cloth collar associated with the position.


Oxymoron:  contradiction; two contradictory terms or ideas used together.

Ex:  “Parting in such sweet sorrow.”

--Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


Paradox: a statement that appears to be contradictory but, in fact has some truth.

Ex.: “He worked hard at being lazy.”


Onomatopoeia: refers to the use of words whose sound reinforces their meaning.

Ex.: drip, cackle, bang, hiss.


Rhetorical Question:  commonly defined as those questions that do not require answer.  Classical rhetoricians recognized that there are different kinds of rhetorical questions, and that each serves quite a different function.

  1. Asking the Reader:  the Greeks saw this kind of question as a way of taking counsel with the reader.  You address the question to your reader expecting the reader to consider the answer.


Ex.  What would you have done under the circumstances?  Have you ever felt so much like crying that you actually felt a real thump in your throat?


In this way, you directly involve the reader in the subject and guide that reader’s attention to what you are talking about.


  1. Asking the Writer:  in this figure, the question is addressed to the writer, thus suggesting the writer’s thinking process.


With this kind of rhetorical question, you review with the reader the questions that you raided in thinking about your subject.  It is a way of talking through an idea with your reader.


Was it really what I wanted? I knew it was not what I expected when I enrolled in this program.


  1. Criticizing:  In this kind of question, the writer is making a criticism in the form of a question.


You can often make a statement or a request by putting it in the form of a question.  Such a device varies the monotony of a series of statements or requests and gives them added emphasis.


            Ex.  How can you be so intolerant?  How can citizens fail to vote?


  1. Asking and Answering:  In this kind of rhetorical question, the writer asks a question and then proceeds to answer it.  This is a common device in prose, and may serve as a way of organizing a paper or making the writer’s method of development clear to the reader.


Why has the incidence of rape increased in our society?  Studies show that rape has increased as the portrayal of violence and sex on television has increased.


Apostrophe:  “A turning away.”  You “turn away” from your audience to address someone new—God, the angels, heaven, the dead, or anyone not present. 

Ex.  “Death, where is thy sting?”


Euphemism:  You substitute less pungent words for harsh ones, with excellent ironic effect.

Ex.  The schoolmaster corrected the slightest fault with his birch reminder. (guess what that birch reminder might be for).



Get used to our good friend Aristotle.  In all the liberal arts, from such seemingly unrelated fields of thought from biology to poetry, every idea on these subjects are either a derivative of, or a reaction to either Aristotle or Plato.   For just one example, the great catholic philosophers of the medieval era, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, based most of their theology in attempts to reconcile Aristotle and Plato respectively into the Christian faith.  

For our purposes, we will deal more closely with Aristotle than Plato in that his philosophy as it relates to the art forms that fall under the umbrella of literature: poetry, drama, prose fiction and prose non-fiction.

First, let us deal with rhetoric.  Rhetoric is defined as the “ability to see what is persuasive in every given case.”  Note that this definition does not include the word “convinced.”  So many students are worried about coming up with the “right” interpretation or argument.  Here, we find that it is more important to be “convincing,” i.e. “persuasive” than to be “right.”  But, I digress.  Let us delve into Aristotle’s rhetoric.


Means of persuasion.

Aristotle lists three participants in a speech: 

  1. The speaker
  2. The subject treated in the speech itself
  3. The hearer of the speech


As such, it stands to reason that there are three technical means of persuasion:

  1. The credibility of the speaker (ethos)

The persuasion is accomplished by character (ethos) whenever the speech is held in such a way as to render the speaker worthy of credence. If the speaker appears to be credible, the audience will form the judgment that propositions put forward by the credible speaker are true or acceptable. This is especially important in cases where there is questionable knowledge, and thus room for doubt. But how does the speaker manage to appear as a credible person?

He must display:

1.       practical intelligence

2.       a virtuous character

3.       good will;

for, if he displayed none of them, the audience would doubt that he is able to give good advices at all, and thus his points are (no pun intended) pointless. Again, if he displayed (1) without (2) and (3), the audience could doubt whether the aims of the speaker are good. Finally, if he displayed (1) and (2) without (3), the audience could still doubt whether the speaker gives the best suggestion, though he knows what it is. But if he displays all of them, Aristotle concludes, it cannot rationally be doubted that his suggestions are credible. It must be stressed that the speaker must accomplish these effects by what he says; it is not necessary that he is actually virtuous: on the contrary, a preexisting good character cannot be part of the technical means of persuasion.

  1. The emotional state of the audience (pathos)

The success of the persuasive efforts depends on the emotional dispositions of the audience; for we do not judge in the same way when we grieve and rejoice or when we are friendly and hostile. Thus, the speaker has to arouse emotions exactly because emotions have the power to modify our judgments: to a judge who is in a friendly mood, the person about whom he is going to judge seems not to do wrong or only in a small way; but to the judge who is in an angry mood, the same person will seem to do the opposite.  With me?

How is it possible for the speaker to bring the audience to a certain emotion? Aristotle's technique essentially rests on the knowledge of the definition of every significant emotion. Let, for example, anger be defined as “desire, accompanied with pain, for conspicuous revenge for a conspicuous slight that was directed against oneself or those near to one, when such a slight is undeserved.” According to such definitions (which personality psychologists take some issue with, as it were), someone who believes that he has suffered a slight from a person, who is not entitled to do so, etc., will become angry. If we take such a definition for granted, it is possible to deduce circumstances in which a person will most probably be angry; for example, we can deduce (1) in what state of mind people are angry and (2) against whom they are angry and (3) for what sorts of reason. Aristotle deduces these three factors for several emotions in the in a different part of his rhetoric. With this equipment (knowledge of the motivations behind emotion) the speaker will be able, for example, to highlight such characteristics of a case which are likely to provoke anger in the audience. In comparison with the tricks of former rhetoricians this method of arousing emotions has a striking advantage: The speaker who wants to arouse emotions must not even speak outside the subject; it is sufficient to detect aspects of a given subject which are causally connected with the intended emotion.

3.  The strength of the argument itself (logos)

We persuade by the argument itself when we demonstrate or seem to demonstrate that something is the case. For Aristotle, (and everyone else, for that matter) there are two species of arguments: inductions and deductions. Induction is defined as the proceeding from particulars up to a universal (specific to general). A deduction is an argument in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from the suppositions results of necessity through them or because of their being true (general to specific)). The inductive argument in rhetoric is the example; as opposed to other inductive arguments it does not proceed from many particular cases to one universal case, but from one particular to a similar particular if both particulars fall under the same genus. The deductive argument in rhetoric is the enthymeme:

but when, certain things being the case, something different results, beside them because of their being true, either universally or for the most part, it is called deduction here (in dialectic) and enthymeme there (in rhetoric).

It is remarkable that Aristotle uses the qualification “either universally or for the most part”: obviously, he wants to say that in some cases the conclusion follows universally, i.e. by necessity, while in other cases it follows only for the most part. At first glance, this seems to be inconsistent, since a non-necessary inference is no longer a deduction. However, it has been disputed whether in arguments from probable premises the formula “for the most part” qualifies the inference itself (“If for the most part such and such is the case it follows for the most part that something different is the case”), or only the conclusion (“If for the most part such and such is the case it follows by necessity that for the most part something different is the case”). If the former interpretation is true, then Aristotle concedes in the very definition of the enthymeme that some enthymemes are not deductive. But if the latter interpretation (which has a parallel in is correct, an enthymeme whose premises and conclusion are for the most part true would still be a valid deduction.

The most famous form of the enthymeme is the syllogism, a deductive argument that contains a major premise, a minor premise, and then a new deduction.  Here is an example: Man is mortal: Socrates is a man: therefore, Socrates is mortal.  Fun, eh?

Now, thus far we have dealt with the speaker and how s/he makes her point.  But arguments, especially those of the oral variety, are rarely without the nay-sayer.  This approach to addressing, and then disposing of your opponent’s claims is called counterargument. 


Counterargument is made of three parts (because all good things come in threes)

In Concession, the speaker allows to know the opponent’s position

Accommodation, the speaker accepts objections to the argument

Finally, we come to refutation.  Here the speaker takes the opponent’s argument and systematically tears them apart.


Propaganda and Logical Fallacies

Propagandist literature is sometimes used as the equivalent of didactic literature (literature intended to provide instruction), but it is much more useful to reserve the term for that species of didactic work which patently is written to move the reader to assume a specific attitude toward, or to take direct action on, a pressing social, political, or religious issue of the time at which that work is written.  Michael Moore’s documentaries Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 are filmed examples of propaganda, while George Orwell’s 1984 provides an example of literary propaganda. 

In order to deal properly with argument and propaganda, we must deal with logical fallacies.  Fallacies are arguments that may sound logical, but are not.  Probably everyone has been guilty of inadvertently using them.  Most of us fall for them even if we know better.  And there are some people (propagandists, advertisers, and many politicians) who use them all the time, banking on the premise that the public is stupid and won’t find out they are being mentally manipulated. 

Affirmation of the consequent: A implies B, B is true, therefore A is true "If the universe had been created by a supernatural being, we would see order and organization everywhere.  And we do see order, not randomness -- so it's clear that the universe had a creator." (No:  The order could have some other origin.) This is the converse of denial of the antecedent (below).

A slight variation of affirming the consequent is converting a conditional:  If A then B, therefore if B then A. "When educational standards are lowered, the quality of shows on television worsens. So if we see television getting worse over the next few years, we'll know that our educational standards are still falling." (No:  The worsening of television could have other causes.) "If the latest drugs work well, we will see a great improvement n mental health.  So, if mental health improves, we will know that these drugs were effective!"  (No again!  Mental health may improve for other reasons.) This fallacy is similar to the affirmation of the consequent, but phrased as a conditional statement.

Denial of the antecedent: A implies B, A is false, therefore B is false "If the God of the Bible appeared to me, personally, that would certainly prove that Christianity was true. But God has never appeared to me, so the Bible must be a work of fiction."  (Nope:  God may not appear to you even if the Bible were true.) This is the converse of the fallacy of affirmation of the consequent.

There is also a version that says if A, then B, therefore, if not A, then not B. “If you have a PhD in psychology, you must be pretty knowledgeable in the field.  Therefore, if you don’t have the PhD, you must be abysmally ignorant of psychology.”  (No:  Having that PhD may mean you have knowledge, but knowledge hardly depends on a degree.)

Fallacy of composition:  the idea that a property shared by a number of individual items, is also shared by a collection of those items; or that a property of the parts of an object, must also be a property of the whole thing. "This new truck is made entirely of lightweight aluminum components, and is therefore very lightweight." In fact, a truck is composed of so many “lightweight” parts, it is bound to be far from lightweight itself! Note that ton of feathers does NOT weigh less than a ton of lead! "Since neurons are either excitatory or inhibitory, the brain itself must have basically excitatory or inhibitory states."

A variation of composition is the genetic fallacy:  Drawing a conclusion about the goodness or badness of something on the basis of the goodness or badness of the thing’s origin.  E.g.  "The medicine made from that plant must be poisonous, because that plant is poisonous." (not actually ad hominem -- see below -- but often listed there) "The humanitarian work we do may well come out of our need to look good in front of our fellow man.  So humanitarian work is basically egotistical!"

The opposite of the fallacy of composition is the fallacy of division:  assuming that a property of some thing must apply to its parts; or that a property of a collection of items is shared by each item. “Humans are conscious and are made of cells; therefore, each cell has consciousness.” "You are studying at a rich college. Therefore you must be rich." "Since the team could solve the problem so easily, I assume that each member of the team could do it just as well alone."

And a fallacy that totally confuses parts and wholes:  the fallacy of the undistributed middle:  Suggesting that things are in some way similar, but not actually specifying how. A is a kind of C, B is a kind of C, therefore, A is B. "Cats are a form of animal based on carbon chemistry, dogs are a form of animal based on carbon chemistry, so aren't dogs and cats basically identical?" “They’re both students, so I can expect the same from both.” "Since they are both schizophrenics, they should both have the same reaction to this new medication."

Sweeping generalization  (The fallacy of accident, dicto simpliciter):  Applying a general rule to special case;  A general rule is applied to a particular situation, but the features of that particular situation mean the rule is inapplicable. “Basketball fans generally dislike baseball.  You are a basketball fan, so you must dislike baseball. ”Sweeping generalization includes a common misunderstanding the nature of statistics: “The majority of people in the United States die in hospitals, so stay out of them.” "Men are statistically more aggressive than women.  Therefore, I, a male, must be more aggressive than you, a female." Hasty generalization is the converse of sweeping generalization:  A special case is used as the basis of a general rule.  A general rule is created by examining only a few specific cases which aren't representative of all possible cases. "I know a union representative and he's a terrible person.  I wouldn't trust any of them." "Jim Bakker was an insincere Christian. Therefore all Christians are insincere." "This schizophrenic has paranoid delusions.  It stands to reason that they all do." Hasty generalization includes another common misunderstanding of statistics called the statistics of small numbers: “My parents smoked all their lives and they never got cancer.” "The five subjects in our experiment responded well to our intervention.  We can therefore recommend the procedure to everyone."

Another version is called observational selection: pointing out favorable circumstances while ignoring the unfavorable.  For example, at any gambling institution, a great deal of fuss is paid to those who win, while those who lose are quietly encouraged to sneak out the back.  This way, winning seems much more likely that it is! "All of these people who prayed for a cure survived their disease.  Prayer is clearly to be recommended!" And observational selection includes anecdotal evidence: “Just last week I read about a girl who was dying of cancer. Her whole family went to church and prayed for her, and she was cured.  That only proves the power of prayer!" "Uncle Joe got over his rheumatism by drinking his own urine!"

“Urban myths” are usually good examples!

Bifurcation ("black or white," excluded middle, false dichotomy):  Presuming an either-or distinction. Suggesting that there are only two alternatives, where in fact other alternatives exist or can exist.  Instead of black or white, we can have shades of gray... or even rainbows of colors! "We must choose between safety and freedom.  And it is in the nature of good Americans to take the risk of freedom."   Must we choose?  Can't we have both? "A patient either gets better or they don’t." "Come on now-- is he or isn’t he bipolar?" Considering only the extremes: “He's either guilty or not guilty.” Begging the question (petitio principii ).  Assuming as a premise the conclusion which you wish to reach. Instead of offering real proof, we can just restate the conclusion we are supposed to come to, and hope the listener doesn't notice. "Government ownership of public utilities is dangerous, because it is socialistic."  But government ownership of public utilities is socialism.  You've just been told that it's dangerous because it is what it is. “We must encourage our youth to worship God to instill moral behavior.” But does religion and worship actually produce moral behavior?  Of course not!  Influence? Yes, certainly.  But produce? No. "Qualitative methods are essentially worthless because they don’t involve measurement or statistics."

The most obvious form of begging the question is the circular argument  (vicious cycle, circulus in demonstrando): Stating in one's proof that which one is supposed to be proving. "We know that God exists because the Bible tells us so. And we know that the Bible is true because it is the word of God." "Your arguments against Freud are due to your unresolved unconscious conflicts." "Your arguments against Skinner are due to your conditioning."

There’s also the appeal to faith: Faith, by definition, relies on a belief that does not rest on logic or evidence. Faith depends on irrational thought. "If you accept the Lord, you will understand!" "If you would only take Maslow at his word, you would finally get it!"

And the most common way to use begging the question is question-begging epithets (loaded words, emotive language, etc.).  Restating the conclusion in "hot" language:  "This criminal is charged with the most vicious crime known to man."  Does it prove something, or just get the blood flowing?

Often hard to identify (and so very dangerous) is the ad hoc argument:  Giving an after-the-fact explanation which doesn't apply to other situations.

“I see that John’s cancer is in remission.”
“Yes, our prayers have been answered!”
“But didn’t you pray for Susan, too, and look what happened to her.”
“I’m sure God had a special reason for taking her.”

Look out when people say “everything has a reason” or “God has a purpose for all of us.”

Complex question (loaded question, trick question, leading question, fallacy of interrogation, fallacy of presupposition):  Interrogative form of begging the question (above). Ask a question that leads others to believe that a previous question has been answered in a certain way. "Answer yes or no:  Did you ever give up your evil ways?"  If you say yes, that tells us you had evil ways; if you say no, that tells us you still have them.  What if you never had them? A variation on the complex question is the fallacy of many questions (plurium interrogationum) :  This fallacy occurs when someone demands a simple (or simplistic) answer to a complex question. "Yes or no:  Is democracy ultimately the best system of government?"

Another form of this fallacy is to ask for an explanation of something which is untrue or not yet established. False cause (non causa pro causa, non sequitur): Something is identified as the cause of an event, but it has not actually been shown to be the cause. For example: "Artists often suffered from depression as adolescents.  So, if you want your child to be a great artist, don’t put them on Prozac!" The most common form of false cause is called post hoc ergo propter hoc:  An inference or conclusion that does not follow from established premises or evidence. Assuming causal connections that haven't been demonstrated.  The Latin phrase means "after this, therefore because of this." "You should go to Harvard, because Harvard graduates make more money."  Or could it be that they had more money before they went? “She got sick after she visited China, so something in China caused her sickness.” Or could it be that she was sick prior to leaving for China? “There was an increase of births during the full moon. Therefore, full moons cause birth rates to rise.”

A slight variation is cum hoc ergo propter hoc:  Saying that, because two events occur together, they must be causally related. It's a fallacy because it ignores all the other possible causes of the events. "Literacy rates have steadily declined since the advent of television. Clearly television viewing impedes learning." "He started using drugs just about the time he started seeing that girl.  I knew she was a bad influence!"

A common statistical version of this is confusion of correlation and causation:  correlation cannot tell you anything about the direction of causality.  If X is powerfully correlated with Y, X could be the cause of Y, Y could be the cause of X, or (most likely) something else is the cause of both.  Possibly, the relationship is accidental! “More chess players are men, therefore, men make better chess players than women.” "Far more women than men suffer from depression. We can assume that there is something about a woman’s physiology that leads to depression." (Often followed by an ad hoc argument:  The men with depression must in some way be effeminate!)

Missing the point (irrelevant thesis, ignoratio elenchi, irrelevant conclusion, ignoring the issue, befogging the issue, diversion, etc.).  Demonstrating a point other than the one at issue.  Diverting attention by changing the subject. Escaped convicts in Elizabethan England would smear themselves with rotten (red) herring to throw the dogs off the scent. "I fail to see why hunting should be considered cruel when it gives tremendous pleasure to many people and employment to even more."  So we should stop talking about cruelty and start talking about pleasure and employment? It is very clear that we prescribe psychoactive medications to people who don’t really need them.  We should outlaw these drugs altogether!" One example is the straw man: Creating a false scenario and then attacking it.  Misrepresenting someone else's position so that it can be attacked more easily. “Evolutionists think that everything came about by random chance.  How could that be?” Most evolutionists think in terms of natural selection which may involve incidental elements, but does not depend entirely on random chance. Painting your opponent with false colors only deflects the purpose of the argument. "To summarize Freud, he believed that it all boils down to sex.  Let me show you why Freud is therefore full of crap!" Another example is the red herring (ignoratio elenchi): ignorance of the refutation.  The term comes from hunting parties dragging a herring across the trace in order to lead their hounds away from their pursuit of the prey.”  A red herring is used by writers who argue by drawing attention to an irrelevant point.  For example, “so what if I cheated on the exams? So did they!”  Um, that may well be, but the issue at hand is that YOU GOT CAUGHT!

Another example is reification  (hypostatization): when people treat an abstract concept or hypothetical construct as if it represented a concrete event or physical entity. IQ tests are often presented as actual measures of intelligence, for example. "What is consciousness?  You can’t find it anywhere in the human brain, so we must reject the concept."

And another example, the meaningless question: “How high is up?” "Up" describes a direction, not a measurable entity. “Does anything really exist?” "How can we experience the collective unconscious directly?"

A really tricky version of missing the point is the appeal to logic (argumentum ad logicam ):  This is the "fallacy fallacy" of arguing that a proposition is false because it has been presented as the conclusion of a fallacious argument. Remember that fallacious arguments can arrive at true conclusions. "Take the fraction 16/64. Now, canceling a six on top and a six on the bottom, we get that 16/64 = 1/4."
"Wait a second! You can't just cancel the six! Your math is wrong:  16/64 does not equal 1/4!"
Yes it does, even though the math is wrong.

Very common are half truths (suppressed evidence): An statement usually intended to deceive that omits some of the facts necessary for an accurate description.

And one of the worst versions of missing the point is false analogy:  An analogy or metaphor illustrates or elaborates; it doesn't prove anything:   "The American Indian had to make way for Western civilization; after all, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."  Are the lives and cultures of millions comparable to eggs?  What does making omelets have to do with history and morality? "Since the mind is essentially a wet computer, our task is to figure out how we can best program it!"

There are many fallacies that involve the misuse of words. Very common is special pleading:  Here, we use a double-standard of words. "The ruthless tactics of the enemy, his fanatical, suicidal attacks have been foiled by the stern measures of our commanders and the devoted self-sacrifice of our troops."  Are ruthless tactics different from stern measures?  Fanatical, suicidal attacks from devoted self-sacrifice? "Ellis’s therapy is authoritarian and aggressive!" "Rogers’s therapy is laissez faire, even lazy!"

This is not far from the fallacy of equivocation:  Use of ambiguous words. A key word is used with two or more different meanings in the same argument.  Shifting the meaning of the words. "What could be more affordable than free software? But to make sure that it remains free, that users can do what they like with it, we must place a license on it to make sure that will always be freely redistributable." One way to avoid this fallacy is to choose your terminology carefully before beginning the argument, and avoid words like "free" which have many meanings.

The "no true Scotsman..." fallacy:  Suppose I assert that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge. You counter this by pointing out that your friend Angus likes sugar with his porridge. I then say "Ah, yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.  I basically limit the meaning of the word "Scotsman."

“How can he do that to her if he loves her?”
“Ah, but that’s not true love, see?”

The previous example includes the use of accent -- changing oral stress within a sentence to alter the meaning.

“All men are created equal...” implies that women are not.
“All men are created equal...” suggests that they don’t end up equal.

An amusing misuse of words is amphiboly -- use of ambiguous sentences.

 “Two pizzas for one special price.” Two for one?  Or both at the same “special” price?

Personal attack (argumentum ad hominem):  Attacks the person instead of the argument. In personal attack, we ask the listener not to consider the argument, but to consider where it is coming from: "This theory about a new cure for cancer has been introduced by a man known for his Marxist sympathies.  I don't see why we should extend him the courtesy of our attention." "You can’t trust Freud -- he used cocaine!" "You can’t trust Adler -- he was a socialist!" "You can’t trust Horney -- she suffered from depression!" But Marxists, cocaine users, socialists, and depressed people can be right!

Then there’s the abusive form of the personal attack: "You claim that atheists can be moral -- yet I happen to know that you abandoned your wife and children." "You don’t agree with experimentation?  I’ve read that you were never able to get any of your own research published!"

A little more clever is the circumstantial form of the personal attack: "It is perfectly acceptable to kill animals for food. Since you are wearing leather shoes, I am sure you won’t argue with that." "You don’t agree with Rogers -- yet I notice you use reflection in your own practice!"

Very damaging is poisoning the well:  The personal attack can also be used as an excuse to reject a particular conclusion such as when you allege that someone is rationalizing a conclusion for selfish reasons.  You’ve “poisoned the well” in that, from now on, people will tend to doubt his arguments. "Of course you'd argue that affirmative action is a bad thing. You're white." Note that if someone is a known perjurer or liar, that fact will reduce their credibility as a witness. It won't, however, prove that their testimony is false in this case.  Liars can tell the truth! "Don’t listen to her criticisms of existentialism -- she’s an experimentalist!"

And every teenager’s favorite argument is called tu quoque (two wrongs make a right ):  Latin for “you, too!” or "look who's talking!" "If you think communal living is such a great idea, why aren't you living in a commune?" "If psychology is so great, how come YOU have so many problems?" “If smoking is so bad for you, why do you smoke?” But even a smoker can know that it isn't good for you!

Appeal to the masses (argumentum ad populum, appealing to the people, mob appeal, appealing to the gallery, appeal to popular pieties).  This involves theatrical appeals to our lowest instincts, such as selfishness, greed, jealousy, or vanity rather than facts and reasons..  "Because you are a college audience, I know I can speak to you about difficult matters seriously."  Oh, well, thank you very much; please do go on! "The enormous popularity of books on dream analysis alone suggests its validity!" One example of appeal to the masses is the bandwagon fallacy (consensus gentium, argumentum ad numerum): concluding that an idea has merit simply because many people believe it or practice it. “Most people believe in a god; therefore, it must be true.” Simply because many people may believe something says nothing about the fact of that something. Once upon a time, everyone thought the earth was flat! "All I'm saying is that millions of people believe in astrology, so there must be something to it." "Everyone is moving into cognitive style research -- there must be something to it!"

Argument from omniscience:  The "everybody" version of the preceding. "Everyone knows that men and women are psychologically the same!" “People need to believe in something. Everyone knows that.” Beware of words like "all," "everyone," "everything." Appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam): This is where we bring up famous people, reference groups, science, tradition, religion, universality.... “Professor Boeree says behaviorism is dead.” Simply because an authority says something does not necessarily mean it's correct. The great philosopher Santayana said “Those who remain ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.”  But Henry Ford said “History is bunk!”  So who is right? "Freud said....  -- and who are we to argue with a genius of his caliber?" This includes the famous technique called snob appeal:  "Camel filters.  They're not for everybody!” "All those who can afford it prefer Freudian therapy!"

Variations include appeal to tradition (argumentum ad antiquitatem):  This is the fallacy of asserting that something is right or good simply because it's old, or because "that's the way it's always been." Just because people practice a tradition, says nothing about whether it is true.  See, for example, astrology, slavery, superstition, human sacrifice.... "Psychologists have always agreed that...."

The opposite is called appeal to novelty (argumentum ad novitatem): The fallacy of asserting that something is better or more correct simply because it is new, or newer than something else. “It’s the latest!” “Windows 99 is much better than Windows 95.  How could it not be, coming after so many years of experience!” "The most recent studies show that...."

Appeal to riches (argumentum ad crumenam):  The fallacy of believing that money is a criterion of correctness; that those with more money are more likely to be right, or that something that costs more is intrinsically better. "Microsoft software is undoubtedly superior; why else would Bill Gates have gotten so rich?" “It costs twice as much -- it must be twice as good!”  "Indeed.  You get what you pay for!"  Do you? "I’ll have to side with the psychiatrists.  After all, they make more money than the PhD psychologists!" The opposite is appeal to poverty (argumentum ad lazarum):  The fallacy of assuming that someone poor is sounder or more virtuous than someone who's wealthier, or that something inexpensive or plain is somehow naturally better. For example: "Monks are more likely to possess insight into the meaning of life, as they have given up the distractions of wealth." “A simple loaf of bread, made lovingly by hand -- what could be better?” "Since John does so much of his work pro bono, he must be a much more honest therapist."

Appeal to nature (the natural law fallacy):  Arguing that, because human beings are products of the natural world, we must mimic behavior seen in the natural world, and that to do otherwise is 'unnatural'.  A common fallacy in political arguments. "The natural world is characterized by competition; animals struggle against each other for ownership of limited natural resources. Capitalism, the competitive struggle for ownership of capital, is simply an inevitable part of human nature. It's how the natural world works." "Of course homosexuality is unnatural. When's the last time you saw two animals of the same sex mating?" (Actually, that’s much more common than people think!  But that, too, is irrelevant.) "Our attraction to 'beautiful' people parallels the instincts of birds and mammals.  Love, therefore, is nothing but an instinct!"

Appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam): This is an appeal to your tender emotions, your sympathy:  Listen, if you can bear it, to any telethon.  Or listen to advertisements that try to sell computers to parents. "You wouldn't want your kids to be left behind on the information super-highway, would you?  What kind of parent are you anyway?" "I did not murder my mother and father with an axe! Please don't find me guilty; I'm suffering enough through being an orphan.” "Qualitative methods are used by a small group of dedicated researchers working in a hostile environment of experimentalism."

Appeal to ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam, argumentum ex silentio):  Arguing that something must be true, simply because it hasn't been proved false. Or arguing that something must be false because it hasn't been proved true. That is, my position is right because there is no evidence against it.  Or yours is wrong because there is no evidence for it. “We have no evidence that God doesn't exist.  Therefore, he must exist.” "There is intelligent life in outer space, for no one has been able to prove that there isn't."  Fact of the matter is, you can't prove the non-existence of something:  No matter how hard you look, I can always say you haven't looked hard enough.  Go ahead:  Prove to me that unicorns don't exist! "We don’t know whether holistic medicines actually help psychological disorders, so we might as well use them!" (Followed by a pity argument:  Would you deny people the chance of getting better, just because there’s no evidence?)

A common accompaniment to the appeal to ignorance is shifting the burden of proof:  The burden of proof is always on the person asserting something. Shifting the burden of proof is the fallacy of putting the burden of proof on the person who denies or questions the assertion. So, when an arguer cannot provide the evidence for his claims, he may challenge his opponent to prove him wrong. “Prove God doesn't exist, then!” “Prove UFO's aren't real, then!” "I believe that homosexuality is based on biological differences -- I dare you to prove me wrong!"

Appeal to fear (argumentum ad baculum, appeal to force):  Don't argue with me, it's dangerous! "If you do not convict this murderer, one of you may be his next victim."  A similar argument is frequently used in deodorant ads. “If you don't believe in God, you'll burn in hell” "You better learn your stats:  You’ll never be able to get your doctorate if you don’t!"

A little more subtle is the argument from adverse consequences: “The accused must be found guilty, otherwise others will commit similar crimes” And a common variation is the slippery slope: Arguing that a change in procedure, law, or action, will result in adverse consequences. “Give ‘em an inch, and they’ll take a mile!” “Pass the equal rights for women amendment and before you know it, we’ll all be using unisex bathrooms!” "If we legalize marijuana, then more people would start to take crack and heroin, and we'd have to legalize those too. Before long we'd have a nation full of drug-addicts on welfare. Therefore we cannot legalize marijuana." “If we allow doctor assisted suicide, then eventually the government will control how we die.” It does not necessarily follow that just because we make changes that a slippery slope will occur. "If you start people on Prozac, they will become dependent on it, then on drugs in general, and never learn to deal with their problems on their own!"

Argumentum ad nauseam:  This is the incorrect belief that an assertion is more likely to be true, or is more likely to be accepted as true, the more often it is heard. So an Argumentum ad Nauseam is one that employs constant repetition in asserting something; saying the same thing over and over again until you're sick of hearing it.  See almost any commercial, or take a look at the practice of having children memorizing Bible verses. "Classical conditioning must be at the root of all learning -- I had that drummed into my head at Penn State!" “All my life, people have told me: a man doesn’t show weakness!” "If there is indeed a collective unconscious, then we will find that the mythologies of all the world’s cultures have profound commonalities.  And indeed they do -- therefore, there must be a collective unconscious!"  (No:  There may be all sorts of other reasons for mythologies to have commonalities.)



Tragedy, Comedy and Satire

Aristotle referred to poetry and its sub-categories, which include drama and music, among the other Arts, as a “mode of imitation”—“an imitation of men in real life, whether they be of the ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ type, ‘better’ or ‘worse.’  ‘Tragedy’ presents higher, or better lives, ‘comedy’ as ‘lower’ or ‘worse.’”  More on tragedy and comedy later. 


So where does poetry come from?  Poetry comes from two places, each “deep within our nature.”  First is that man is the most imitative of all being, learning to imitate from birth to a level that separates man from the other animals.  This imitation reveals itself in poetry.  Secondly are the pleasures and pains relevant only to human experience that only the artist can present in this fashion.  In short, poetry seeks to represent life in all of its beauty and horror.


Aristotle points at Homer as the pre-eminent of poets.  Being that The Odyssey is required reading in almost every high school and university for reasons starting with the heroic journeys of Telemachos and Odysseus, moving to the mythic monsters that inspired the fantasy genre, and ending with the use of metaphor, which Aristotle called the most difficult of all tropes to use effectively, because “only he that has mastered the complexity of life may master the level of imitation required of the metaphor and simile.”


From poetry, Aristotle moves to tragedy.  Remember that Aristotle is writing in the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C., which obviously dates him long before the great playwrights in on consciousness, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, George Bernard Shaw, etc.  So for Aristotle, the greatest of all tragedies is Sophocles’ Oedipus cycle.  Most of us have at least heard of Sophocles’ magnum opus, thanks in large part to its application by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. 



So then, what “is” a “tragedy:” “Tragedy” is an imitation of an action, called mimesis, that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament(that is, your friends the tropes and schemes); in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity, and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis, of such emotions (you will find the definition of catharsis later).


Tragedy shows, rather than tells (sound familiar to our expository writing?).  Therefore, drama, not narrative is the preferable forum for tragedy.  Tragedy is higher than history, in that history reports what has happened, and tragedy philosophizes on what may happen.  History deals with the particular; Tragedy deals with the universal.  Tragedy is rooted in the fundamental order of the universe, and as such, rouses pity and fear,(that is to say, appeals to our pathos—see Aristotle’s rhetoric below) because it shows what may happen when persons find themselves in tragedy’s cause-and-effect chain.  This cause and effect chain are, again, an imitation of human life.  The chain is influenced by internal character, which is itself influenced by thought.


There are six distinct parts of Aristotle’s tragedy:


Plot:  Plot, of course is the arrangement of cause-and-effect actions in a narrative.  Aristotle lists the following stages of the plot:

µ      An Incentive Moment must start the cause-and-effect chain but not be dependent on anything outside the compass of the play (i.e., its causes are downplayed but its effects are stressed).

µ      Aristotle calls the cause-and-effect chain leading from the incentive moment to the climax the “tying up” (desis), in modern terminology the complication.

µ      The climax, must be caused by earlier incidents and itself cause the incidents that follow it (i.e., its causes and effects are stressed).

µ      He terms the more rapid cause-and-effect chain from the climax to the resolution the lusis (“unraveling”), in modern terminology the dénouement

µ      The end, or resolution, must be caused by the preceding events but not lead to other incidents outside the compass of the play (i.e., its causes are stressed but its effects downplayed); the end should therefore solve or resolve the problem created during the incentive moment (catharsis).


  1. The plot must be “complete,” having “unity of action.” By this Aristotle means that the plot must be structurally self-contained, with the incidents bound together by internal necessity, each action leading inevitably to the next with no outside intervention.  According to Aristotle, the worst kinds of plots are “‘episodic,’ in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence;” the only thing that ties together the events in such a plot is the fact that they happen to the same person. Playwrights should exclude coincidences from their plots; if some coincidence is required, it should “have an air of design,” i.e., seem to have a fated connection to the events of the play. Similarly, the poet should exclude the irrational or at least keep it “outside the scope of the tragedy,” i.e., reported rather than dramatized. While the poet cannot change the myths that are the basis of his plots, he “ought to show invention of his own and skillfully handle the traditional materials” to create unity of action in his plot.
  2. The plot must be “of a certain magnitude,” both quantitatively (length, complexity) and qualitatively (“seriousness” and universal significance). Aristotle argues that plots should not be too brief; the more incidents and themes that the playwright can bring together in an organic unity, the greater the artistic value and richness of the play. Also, the more universal and significant the meaning of the play, the more the playwright can catch and hold the emotions of the audience, the better the play will be.
  3. The plot may be either simple or complex, although complex is better. Simple plots have only a “change of fortune” (catastrophe). Complex plots have both “reversal of intention” (peripeteia) and “recognition” (anagnorisis) connected with the catastrophe. Both peripeteia and anagnorisis turn upon surprise. Aristotle explains that a peripeteia occurs when a character produces an effect opposite to that which he intended to produce, while an anagnorisis “is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune.” He argues that the best plots combine these two as part of their cause-and-effect chain (i.e., the peripeteia leads directly to the anagnorisis); this in turns creates the catastrophe, leading to the final “scene of suffering.”

Character:  In a perfect tragedy, character will support plot, i.e., personal motivations will be intricately connected parts of the cause-and-effect chain of actions producing pity and fear in the audience. The protagonist should be renowned and prosperous, so his change of fortune can be from good to bad. This change “should come about as the result, not of vice, but of some great error or frailty in a character.” Such a plot is most likely to generate pity and fear in the audience, for “pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves.” The role of the hamartia (tragic flaw) in tragedy comes not from its moral status but from the inevitability of its consequences. Hence the peripeteia is really one or more self-destructive actions taken in blindness, leading to results diametrically opposed to those that were intended (often termed tragic irony), and the anagnorisis is the gaining of the essential knowledge that was previously lacking

Characters in tragedy should have the following qualities:

  1. “good or fine.” Aristotle relates this quality to moral purpose and says it is relative to class: “Even a woman may be good, and also a slave, though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless.”
  2. “fitness of character” (true to type); e.g. valor is appropriate for a warrior but not for a woman.
  3. “true to life” (realistic)
  4. “consistency” (true to themselves). Once a character's personality and motivations are established, these should continue throughout the play.
  5. “necessary or probable.” Characters must be logically constructed according to “the law of probability or necessity” that governs the actions of the play.
  6. “true to life and yet more beautiful” (idealized, ennobled).



Thought:  Aristotle says little about thought, and most of what he has to say is associated with how speeches should reveal character.  However, we may assume that this category would also include what we call the themes of a play.  Thought is found where “something is proved to be or not to be or a general maxim is enunciated.” 


Diction:  the expression or meaning of words, which are proper and appropriate to the characters, plot and end of the tragedy.  In this category, Aristotle discusses the stylistic elements of tragedy; he is particularly interested in metaphors: “But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor; . . . it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.”


Song, or Melody:  Aristotle argues that the Chorus should be fully integrated into the play like an actor; choral odes should not be “mere interludes,” but should contribute to the unity of the plot


Spectacle:  “production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.”  Although Aristotle recognizes the emotional attraction of spectacle, he argues that superior poets rely on the inner structure of the play rather than spectacle to arouse pity and fear; those who rely heavily on spectacle “create a sense, not of the terrible, but only of the monstrous.”


The End of Tragedy:  called catharsis (cleansing) of the tragic emotions of pity and fear.  Catharsis is another Aristotelian term that has generated considerable debate. The word means “purging,” and Aristotle seems to be employing a medical metaphor—tragedy arouses the emotions of pity and fear in order to purge away their excess, to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced proportion. Aristotle also talks of the “pleasure” that is proper to tragedy, apparently meaning the aesthetic pleasure one gets from contemplating the pity and fear that are aroused through an intricately constructed work of art.



            When we think of comedy, our contemporary society tends to readily interchange “comedy” with “funny.”  In point of fact, Aristotle associated tragedy with the higher forms of life and thought, and comedy with the “ludicrous,” that is to say, the “ugly.”  The differences between comedy and tragedy, then, in Aristotelian terms is that tragedy deals with the purging of unhealthy parts of the human consciousness, while comedy deals with an ugliness that is not destructive, but rather unfortunate.  Because of his distinctions between comedy and tragedy, in his Poetics, Aristotle deals with comedy on a very limited basis, saying it has “not true history,” because it is an “inferior” art form. 

Time proves Aristotle to be mistaken in his assertion of comedy as an inferior art form.  Such authors as Geoffrey Chaucer, Jonathan Swift, and Shakespeare, among many others, have made at least part of their illustrious literary careers by writing in the comic genre in one subdivision or another. 

In the most common literary application, a comedy is a work in which the materials are selected and managed primarily in order to interest, involve, and amuse use: the characters and their discomfitures engage our pleasurable attention rather than our profound concern, we are made to feel confident that no great disaster will occur, and usually the action turns out happily for the chief characters.  The joke has often been made that the primary difference between Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies is that in the tragedies everyone dies, and in his comedies everyone gets married.  While this definition oversimplifies the bard’s work, Much Ado About Nothing and Othello do bear an awfully similar plot structure of deception, with quick-witted characters and misunderstandings.  Except, of course, Hero and Claudio meet a much more desirable fate than do Desdemona and Othello.


So, the following types of comedy are often distinguished

  1. Low Comedy: comedy in which a representation of the “folly” of individuals is seen against the background of the good sense embodied in society and culture.


Z      Fabliaux: The medieval fabliaux was a short comic or satiric tale in verse dealing realistically with middle-class or lower-class characters and delighting in cuckoldry of a stooge husband.  Since these sexual shenanigans were dealt with a comedic intent, the misdeeds of the wives in these tales were presented in an attempt to lampoon the husband, not necessarily condemn the wife for her adultery.  We can’t let morality get in the way of a good laugh, now can we?  


Z      Parody: comedy which imitates the distinctive style and/or thought of a literary text, author, tradition, historical phenomenon, etc. for comic or satiric effect.  The similarity between things in texts alluded to are recalled only to stress the greater differences between them.  Parody depends upon the trope of allusion (reference to a historical person/event, another text, etc.).  There are three types of parody:

µ      Burlesque: can be defined as “an incongruous imitation (Aristotle would be proud);” that is it imitates the manner or else the matter of a serious literary work or of a literary genre, but makes the imitation amusing by a ridiculous disparity between the manner and the subject matter.  The burlesque may be writer for the sheer fun of it; usually, however, it is a form of satire.  The butt of the satiric ridicule may be the particular work or the genre that is being imitated, or else the subject matter to which the imitation is incongruously applied, or, maybe both together.  Burlesque’s rely a great deal on hyperbole to make their point.  A wonderful example is Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”

µ      Travesty: parody that reduces something dignified or serious into something ignoble or frivolous.

µ      Mock-Epic: parody that gives serious treatment to something frivolous.

A distinction between High and Low comedy.  High comedy evokes “intellectual laughter”-- thoughtful laughter from spectators who remain emotionally detached from the action—at the spectacle of folly, pretentiousness, and incongruity in human behavior.  The epitome of this art form, at least in some circles, is achieved in the verbal sparring between the highly intelligent, highly verbal, and tensely combative Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.  Low Comedy, at the other extreme, has little or not intellectual appeal, but undertakes to arouse laughter by jokes, or “gags,” and by slapstick humor and boisterous or clownish physical activity; it is, therefore, one of the common components of farce.


  1. Social Comedy: comedy in which a representation of the folly of society and culture is seen against the background of the superior critical sense of an individual.

§        Romantic comedy: developed by Shakespeare on the model of contemporary romances.  Such comedy represents a love affair that involves a beautiful and engaging heroine (sometimes disguised as a man); the course of this love does not run smooth, yet overcomes all difficulties to end in a happy union.  Many of the boy-meets-girl plots of later writers are instances of romantic comedy.

§        Comedy of manners originated in the new comedy of the Greeks (big shock, eh?) and was developed by the Roman dramatists in the third and second centuries B.C.  These plays dealt with the vicissitudes of young lovers and included what became the stock characters of much later comedy, such as the clever servant, old and stodgy parents, and the wealthy rival.  The English comedy of manners was early exemplified by our good friend Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing, and was given a high polish in the Restoration.  The Restoration form owes much to the brilliant dramas of the French writer Moliere.  His work deals with the relations and intrigues of men and women living in a sophisticated upper-class society, and relies for comic effect in large part on the wit and sparkle of the dialogue—often in the form of repartee, a witty conversational give-and-take which constitutes a kind of verbal fencingmatch—and to a lesser degree, on the violations of social conventions and decorum by would-be wits, jealous husbands, conniving rivals, and foppish dandies. 

§        Farce is a type of comedy designed to provoke the audience to simple, hearty laughter—in other words, this type of comedy should make you laugh out loud.  To accomplish this goal, it commonly employs highly exaggerated or caricatured types of characters, puts them into improbable and ludicrous situations, and makes free use of sexual mix-ups, broad verbal humor, and physical bustle and horseplay.  Some plays that exhibit this style of comedy are Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest


Satire: Deserving its own category is satire, a kind of writing that ridicules human weakness, vice, or folly in order to bring about social reform.  Satire can be described as the literary art of diminishing or derogating a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking toward it attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, or indignation.  It differs from the comic in that comedy evokes laughter mainly as an end in itself, while satire “derides;” that is, it uses laughter as a weaon, and against a butt that exists outside the work itself.  That butt may be an individual or a type of person, a class, an institution, a notion, or even the whole huan race.  The distinction between the comic and the satiric, however, is sharp only at its extremes.  Shakespeare’s Falstaff is a comic creation, presented primarily for our enjoyment; the puritanical Malvolio in Twelfth Night is for the most part comic by has aspects of satire directed against the type of the fatuous and hypocritical Puritan.

Satire has usually been justified by those who practice it as a corrective of human vice and folly; Alexander Pope, for example, remarked that “those who are ashamed of nothing else are so of being ridiculous.”  Its frequent claim has been to ridicule the failing rather than the indifidual, and to limit its ridicule to corrigible faults, excluding those for which a person is not responsible.  As Jonathan Swift says, speaking of himself in his ironic “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift:”

Yet malice never was his aim;

He lashed the vie, but spared the name…

His satire points at no defect,

But what all mortals may correct…

He spared a hump, or crooked nose,

Whose owners set not up for beaux.

Satire occurs as an incidental element within numerous works whose overall mode is not satiric—in a certain character or situation, or in an interpolated passage of ironic commentary on some aspect of the human condition or of contemporary society.  But for many literary achievements, verse or prose, the attempt to diminish a subject by ridicule is the primary organizing principle, and these works constitute the formal genre labeled “satires.” 


  1. Divine Comedy: comedy in which the folly of all men is set against the background of the wisdom and necessary saving action of God (divine wisdom and mercy).


  1.  Black Comedy: comedy which holds the opposite imaginative view of divine comedy; comedy so dark that nothing makes sense in this life, everything is absurd, there is no way to save human beings from their own folly and self-destruction.




Poetic Form and Meter

Stanza: is a grouping of verse-lines in a poem, set off by a space in the printed text.  Usually the stanzas of a given poem are marked by a recurrent pattern of rhyme, and are also uniform in the number of lengths of the component lines.  Some unrhymed poem, however, are divided into stanzaic units, and some rhymed poems are composed of stanzas that vary in their component lines.


Of the great diversity of English stanza forms, many have no special names and must be described by specifying the number of lines, the type of stanzas, the number of metric feet in each line, and the pattern of rhyme.  Some stanzas, however, recur so frequently that they have been given the convenience of a name, such as the following:


Couplet: a pair of rhymed lines.  Iambic pentameter lines rhyming in pairs are called decasyllabic couplets (ten syllable) and also heroic couplets.  Think of Shakespeare here.


Tercet, or triplet, is a stanza of three lines, usually with a single rhyme.  The lines may be the same length, or else varying lengths.


Terza rima is composed of tercets which are interlinked, in that each is joined to the one following by a common rhyme: aba, bcb, cdc, and so on.  Dante composed his Divine Comedy using this style.  It occurs often in the poetry of Percy Shelley, John Milton, and T.S. Eliot.


Quatrain, or four-line stanza is the most common in English versification, and is employed with various meters and rhyme schemes.


Otava rima, as the Italian name indicated, has eight lines; it rhymes abababcc. 


Ballad: a song of poem that tells a story of tragedy, adventure, betrayal, revenges, or jealousy. 


Blank Verse: verse written in unrhymed, iambic pentameter.


Concrete poem: a poem with a shape that suggests its subject.


Dramatic dialogue: a poem which contains dialogue


Dramatic monologue:  a poem in which a character speaks to one or more listeners who remain silent or whose replies are not revealed.


Elegy: a poem of mourning, usually over the death of an individual.


Epic:  a long narrative poem that relates the great deeds of a larger-than-life hero who embodies the values of a particular society.


Free Verse:  unrhymed poetry not written a regular rhythmical pattern or meter.  It seeks to capture the rhythms of speech.


Lyric Poem:  Verse that expresses the personal observations and feelings of a single speaker.


Narrative poem: a poem that tells a story.


Ode:  a complex and often lengthy lyric poem, written in a dignified formal style on some lofty or serious subject.


Sonnet: a fourteen line lyric poem usually written in rhymed iambic pentameter.

There are three types of sonnets:

English/Shakespearean:  A sonnet which consists of three quatrains and a couplet.  The most common rhyme scheme is” abab cdcd efef gg.


Italian/Petrarchan sonnet: a sonnet which consists of an octave and a sestet with the rhyme scheme being: abababba cdecde.


Spenserian sonnet: a sonnet which consists of three quatrains and a couplet, but it uses a rhyme scheme that links the quatrains: abab bcbc cdcd ee.


Villanelle: consists of five tercets and a quatrain, all on two rhymes and with systematic later repetitions of lines 1 and 3 of the first tercet.


Sestina: poem of six six line stanzas in which the end-words in the lines of  the first stanza are repeated, in a set order of variation, as the end-words of the stanzas that follow.


Meter has to do with rhythm and stress in a poem.  There are three major factors that determine where the stresses will fall in a line of verse: 1.  most important is the word accent in words of more than one syllable; in the noun accent itself, for example, the stress falls on the first syllable.  2.  there are also many monosyllabic words in the language, and on which of these—in a sentene or a phrase—the stress will fall depends on the grammatical function of the word, and depends also on the rhetorical accent, or the emphasis we give a words because we want to enhance its importance in a particular utterance.  3.  Another determinant of stress is the prevailing metrical accent, which is the beat that we expect, in accordance with the stress pattern which was established earlier in the metrical line or passage.


The four standard feet distinguished in English are:

  1. Iambic: a light syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

Ex.  The cur |few tolls| the knell | of par |ting day.

Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”


  1. Anapestic: two light syllables followed by a stressed syllable

Ex.  The As syr | ian came down | like a wolf | on the fold.

Lord Byron, “The Destruction of Sennacherib”


  1. Trochaic: a stressed followed by a light syllable

Ex.  There they | are my |fif ty | men and | wo men.

Robert Browning, “One Word More”


  1. Dactylic: a stressed syllable followed by two light syllables

Ex.  Eve with her | bas ket, was|

            Deep in the | bells and grass. |

Ralph Hodgson, “Eve”

Two other feet, distinguished by special titles, occur only as occasional variants from standard feet:

  1. Spondaic:  two successive syllables with approximately equal strong stresses, as in each of the first two feet of this line:

Good strong | thick stu | pe fy |ing in | cense smoke

Robert Browning, “The Bishop Orders His Tomb”


  1. Pyrric: a foot composed of two successive syllables with approximately equal light stresses, as in the second and fourth feet in this line:

My way | is to | be gin | with the | be gin ning|

Lord Byron, “Don Juan”


A metric line is named according to the number of feet composing it:


Monometer: one foot

Dimeter: two feet

Trimester: three feet

Tetrameter: four feet

Pentameter: five feet

Hexameter: six feet

Heptameter: seven feet

Octameter: eight feet


To describe the meter of a line we name (1) the predominant foot and (2) the number of feet it contains.  In the illustrations above, for example, the line from Thomas Gray is in iambic pentameter, and the line from Byron is anapestic tetrameter


To scan a passage of verse is to go through it line by line, analyzing the component feet, and also indicating where any major pauses in the phrasing fall within a line.  Here is a scansion, signified by italics on the stressed syllables, of the first five lines from John Keats’ Endymion; the passage was chosen because it exemplifies a flexible and variable rather than a highly regular metrical pattern.


A thing | of beau | ty is |  a joy | for e ver: |

Its love | li ness | in creas | es; //  it | will ne ver |

Pass in | to noth | ing ness, //  but still | will keep |

A bow | er qui | et for | us, //  and | a sleep |

Full of | sweet dreams, | and health, | and qui| et breath ing.|


The prevailing meter is clearly iambic, and the lines are iambic pentameter.  As in all fluent verse, however, there are variations upon the basic iambic foot, and these are sometimes called “substitutions.”  Thus:


  1. The closing feet of lines 1, 2, and 5 end with an extra light syllable, and are said to have a feminine ending.  In lines 3 and 4, the closing feet because they are standard iambs, end with a stressed syllable and are said to have masculine endings.
  2. In lines 3 and 5, the opening iambic feet have been “inverted” to form trochees. (such initial positions are the most common place for inversions in iambic verse)
  3. I have marked the second foot in line 2, and the third foot of line 3 and line 4, as pyrrhics (two light stresses); these help to give Keats’ verses their rapid movement.  This is a procedure in scansion about which competent readers disagree: some will feel enough of a metric beat to mark all these feet as iambs; others will mark still other feet (for example, the third foot of line 1) as pyrrhics also.  And some metric analysts prefer to use symbols measuring two degrees of strong stress, and will indicate a difference in the feet as follows:

Its love | li ness | in creas | es.

            Notice, however, that these are differences only in nuance; the analysts agree that the prevailing pulse of Keats’ versification is iambic throughout.


Two other elements are important in the metric movement of Keats’ passage: 1.  in lines 1 and 5, the pause in the reading—which occurs naturally at the end of a sentence, clause, or other syntactic unit—coincides with the end of the line; such lines are called end-stopped.  Lines 2 through 4, on the other hand, are called run-on lines, better called enjambment—“a striding over,” because the pressure of the incompleted syntactic unit toward closure carries on over the end of the verse-line.  2.  When a strong phrasal pause falls within a line, as in lines 2, 3, and 4, it is called a caesura—indicated in the quoted passage by the conventional symbol, //.  The management of these internal pauses is important for giving variety and for providing expressive emphases in the long pentameter line.


The Monomyth, Archetype, and The Universal Unconscious


            The story of archetypes begins with mythology: What does a myth tell modern man about man? 

            Many people today simply dismiss myth as nonsense about fantastic creatures or heathen gods that never really happened.  Instead, myth is an expression of the deepest, most basic hopes, dreams, fears and desires of man.

            Myths are statements of truth that are valid for humanity, just as dreams are statements of truth that are true for individual humans.

            Carl Jung, originally an understudy of psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud, believed that Freud’s emphasis on early life and sexuality presented a partial, distorted view of the human psyche.

            As he studied the dreams of his patients over a period of years, Jung came to believe that dreams represented archetypes: basic patterns of human belief and behavior that are played out over and over in individuals and societies.  He felt that myths express in a basic form the truths that we find in dreams as well as in daily life.  These myths are understood by us as a part of what he called the “collective unconscious,” or what others call the “universal unconscious:” patterns and beliefs that are hard-wired into the human brain, regardless of race, religion, or time.


The story of the hero is known as the monomyth: the basic story in which the hero begins in obscurity, is called out of normal life to a quest, in an attempt to redeem society.  This story is multi-valent--the meanings and values of the hero journey varies from person to person; from society to society; from age to age.  However, as Joseph Campbell so eloquently dealt with in his landmark work on archetype, The Hero with A Thousand Faces, the basic meanings of myth always own a certain truth about man and his society.  The following comes from an appendix to Weiss and Hickman’s Dragonlance Legends, of which we will read a little bit in the second semester.  This appendix is a simplified version of Campbell’s great work on heroism, and focuses on the hero path as it applies to their work.  Substitute the names of Caramon and Rastilin for Frodo and Gandlaf, and I hope this makes the material a little more accessible.



The Mythic Journey

By Tracy Hickman


Legends, much more so than Chronicles, is a mythic journey.  This is, perhaps, why Legends is a far more personal book for many readers: it is a book about their own life journey.  It is one reason that I so like to write in this medium.  Fantasy is writing Modern Mythology.

The Mythic Story form is as old as mankind.  Joseph Campbell in his excellent writings talks about the universality of the Mythic Story as a literary form.  All cultures utilize this form of story.  It is, in a very real sense, a large part of how we communicate between cultures despite our vast differences.  The names of the characters, their circumstances, settings, and even the ethics and morals extolled by the stories are vastly different, yet the foundations of those stories—what Campbell calls the monomyth—remain essentially the same.

Mythos of story is how we make sense of the world.  It is the glass through which we view the world around us and the means by which we place ourselves in that world.  The Dramatica Theory of Story postulates that such epic tales in their complete form represent the human mind working through a problem from all aspects.  If this is true—and I believe it is (and me too, if you care—your humble instructor)—then stories teach us about our problems, possible solutions, and their desirable or undesirable outcomes.  Can there then be any doubt as to how truly powerful story is in shaping our thoughts, not only of the world without but our place within?  This story form has a very real purpose.  “It is the business of mythology proper, and of the fairy tale, to reveal the specific dangers and techniques of the dark interior way from tragedy to comedy.”  Story—epic, mythic story in particular—is ethically based.  It teaches us something about ourselves and who we should be.

While this “story within” helps us to come to grips with the complexities of the world around us, it is not necessarily an accurate picture once all the dots have been connected.  Reporters are not told to go out and “get the facts,” but to “get the story.”  Facts, raw data, and figures are boring and often confusing.  Story makes sense.  This is why there are legions of commentators on television news programs who are there to “help us make sense of what is happening.”  They put everything “in context” (i.e. the story form or the monomyth) so that we can understand its relevance to us.  As a result, we have come to believe, at least in western societies, that every complex issue has only two sides.  In addition, even though both of those sides should be addressed, one side or the other should have more weight or “rightness”—the so-called “slant of the story.”  Above all, no matter how complex the issue, it can be boiled down to an understandable three to five minutes in length.  We can watch continuous mythmaking hour by hour on CNN.  It is no coincidence that their own brochure for the CNN tour is titled: “The Story Behind the NEWS.”

Campbell’s approach to the monomyth of story is very much centered in psychology and defines the common experience of mythos in those terms.  I, on the other hand, approach the monomyth form from the perspective of faith and God.  Campbell looks at the monomyth and sees psychological wiring.  I look at the monomyth and see the fingerprints of God.  Regardless of which of our approaches is more correct than the other, the monomyth is a common, innate desire coded into us all—a genetic call to become something greater tomorrow than we are today.

Whichever approach you take, the great underlying story structure—the classic monomyth—is common to us all.  It is why readers from many nations and cultures identify with Caramon and Raistlin and can share their experiences.  Whichever of us—or perhaps both of us—are correct in our perspectives ultimately may not be important; we all share the monomyth as a way of understanding our world.


The Monomyth Cycle

Caramon’s path through the Legends story follows the “formula in the rites of passage: separation-return.”  This is his nuclear monomyth.  It involves a “separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power, and a life-enhancing return.”  In many ways, we have three heroes in our story, and each of them walks the mythic path to their own ends.



The first stage of the epic myth begins, appropriately enough, at home in the comfortable and familiar surroundings.  This, perhaps, is why most adventures in fantasy used to start in an inn or tavern.  Caramon begins his epic journey in the confines of his beloved Inn of the Last Home (and, as you will recall, LOTR begins in Frodo’s home, the Shire—D.W.).  Chrysania has lived most of her life safely within the confines of the Temple of Paladine in Palanthas.  At the time of our story’s beginning, Raistlin’s journey has long since begun for him.  It is only as we take up the road of trial with Caramon and Chrysania that we discover Raistlin’s road as well.


It is interesting to note, however, that Caramon’s adventure begins after having failed his previous adventure.  Caramon was a Hero of the Lance, a revered and much-honored warrior.  In his previous adventure, he, too, left this same home (separation or departure) and went to unknown lands of power (trials and victories of initiation), only to return once more to this same inn in Solace (reentry).  Campbell says that it is this last stage of returning that “the hero may find the most difficult of all.”  Hero that he was, when this story opens, Caramon is an abject failure; he has retreated into alcoholism in order to flee from the pain of his failures with Raistlin and, apparently, as a man.  So Legends begins most poignantly with a failed adventurer who was unable to effect a return home.  Some part of Caramon remains “out there” where he failed his brother.

He is called to adventure by the most unlikely of heralds: Tasslehoff Burrfoot.  Like many heralds throughout history, he is one who is judged as evil by the world.  This herald is also something of a guide to the hero.  Caramon certainly seems to be led about by Tasslehoff’s whims to the point of falling into the adventure.  It is Tasslehoff who issues the call to adventure that Caramon picks up.  Chrysania is also issued a call—a call that draws her out of her familiar surroundings to take up the unsure path. 

The next step in enabling the adventurer is the endowment of supernatural aid.  In most mythological structures, this is provided by some mystical figure, but in our story it is actually a device: the device of Time Traveling.  This is the talisman that allows Caramon, Chrysania, and Tasslehoff to pass from the familiar realm of their homeland into the powerful and mysterious lands of the past and of the potential future.

All that is left, then, is to cross the threshold that is guarded by a being of power.  These guardians are the members of the Conclave.  Par-Salian and his fellow wizards stand as guardians of the past and future.  It is past them that Caramon, Chrysania, and Tasslehoff must move in order to walk the passage into the realm of night.  This they do, facilitated by the marvelous device.


Adventure: Trials and Victories

“The passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth,” says Campbell.  This truly can be said of Caramon.  He is reborn before our eyes, forged anew in the arenas of Istar at the height of its glory and folly.  This is his “road of trials” as he deals with his alcoholism and his poor physical condition.  Chrysania, too, must relinquish her former existence in order to be reborn and gain enlightenment.  Raistlin, too, must die as his old self as he progresses down his path—his encounter with Fistandantilus bringing him a rebirth as something he had not previously supposed.

It is a long path, this “road of trials,” that our heroes take.  It spans multiple epochs of Krynn’s history.  It takes them to places that might have been and places that should never be.  It takes them beyond the circles of the world.  Each of them is in a quest for the “ultimate boon,” though what that boon is for each of them is different and, in many ways, in conflict with one another.  Caramon comes to an understanding of who he truly is and, like Dorothy of Oz, that in his home he had already attained the ultimate boon, even thou he had refused to see it.  Chrysania sacrifices her eyesight so that she may truly see the compassion and acceptance that is the hallmark of her greater faith.  Raistlin gains the boon of knowledge and a bitter a\boon at that: he knows that he was fundamentally wrong.



It is this return and reintegration with society that “the hero himeself may find the most difficult requirement of all.”

There are three dangers in this return for the hero.  If the hero has won through there is the danger that his experience may “annhilate all recollection of, interest in, or hope for, the sorrows of the world.”  Or if the hero has plucked the boon too quickly by violence, quick device, or luck, then “the powers that he has unbalanced may react so sharply that he will be blasted from within and without.”  Or, finally, if the hero makes his safe return to the world of his home, “he may meet such a blank misunderstanding and disregard from those whom he has come to help that his career will collapse.”  As mentioned before, this last result seemed to be the fate of Caramon at the beginning of the Legends tale: an adventurer who has failed in his return.

It is the second fate that seems to befall Raistlin and in aliteral sense this may be true.  However, Raistlin’s refusal to return is not so much one of his destruction as a willing acknowledgement of his error and his willingness to pay for it.  It is an act of sacrifice, but less based in nobility than it is in ethics.  Nevertheless, it is in this understanding that Raistlin actually attains a level of atonement, for having realized his mistake, he is willing to pay for it.  In this he earns his final boon: rest from torment

Caramon and Chrysania, both literally and figuratively, cross the returning threshold as they pass back through the portal from the Abyss.  Both of them, in doing so, are freed.  They are freed to live.  Joseph Campbell puts it perfectly in terms of the message of Legends:


The battlefield is symbolic of the field of life, where every creature lives on the death of another.  A realization of the inevitable guilt of life may so sicken the heart that, like Hamlet or like Arjuna, one may refuse to go on with it.  On the other hand, like most of the rest of us, one may invent a false, finally unjustified, image of oneself as an exceptional phenomenon in the world, not guilty as others are, but justified in one’s inevitable sinning because one represents the good.  Such self-righteousness leads to a misunderstanding, not only of oneself but of the nature of both man and the cosmos.  The goal of the myth is to dispel the need for usch life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will.  And this is effected through a realization of the true relationship of the passing phenomena of time and the imperishable life that lives and dies in all.

Chrysania begins the book like the Kingpriest of Istar, “justified in one’s inevitable sinning because one represents the good.”  Caramon begins his journey with “guilt of life” and refusing “to go on with it.”  The battlefield in Legends is a wide-ranging one, through both time and space, internal and external, yet through this crucible is forged in Caramon and Chrysania a “reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will.”

So it is that Caramon and Chrysania return successfully to their homes, freed at last to truly live.  So, too, does Raistlin refuse to return home but finds in his refusal a level of grace.


The Monomyth

The Twelve Stages of the Hero’s Adventure:

1. “Ordinary World,” a glimpse of the hero’s home so that we get a sense of who the hero is before undergoing their task.

2.  The hero then receives the “Call to Adventure”

3.  “Fears to Answer the Call”

4.  Meets His “Mentor/Guide”

5.  Crosses the “First Threshold,” stepping into the unknown world

6.  The hero then undergoes his “First Test.”  S/he then meets allies and enemies.

7.  The hero then enters the “Inmost Cave,” the source of the item s/he seeks.

8.  The hero meets his/her “Supreme Ordeal,” the biggest challenge.  Death and rebirth are ALMOST experienced.

9.  The hero “Seizes Talisman,” sword, grail, or object of his quest.

10. The her then must decides whether or not to take “Road Back,” leading to …

11.  The hero then experiences a “Resurrection” as s/he is tested one last time.

12. The hero returns home with the “Elixer of Life” or other benefit of the journey.  He wins his reward sharing it with the land and renewing society.


Human Archetypes

Initiate: Hero whose preparation for the hero’s journey is incomplete, thus requiring a mentor to fulfill their training.  Ex. Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter

Mentor: This character is usually masculine, and serves as both a role model and father figure for the Initiate.  The Mentor prepares the hero for their adventure, but will no undertake their journey for them.  Ex.  Merlin, Professor Dumbledore

Spiritual Hero: Character whose primary journey is more spiritual in nature than physical, and thus their task is to seek enlightenment to redeem society.  Ex. Buddha, Moses

Anti-Hero: Character whose disregard to the rules of society creates some difficulty in interpreting their motivation.  With regard to moral absolutes, they are villains, but their cause is deemed just by the audience, and thus we admire them.  Ex. Han Solo, Robin Hood

Byronic Hero:  A character that inspires both love and hate from the audience Vampire Lestat, Heathcliff

Tragic Hero: A basically positive character whose demise is brought about by some basic internal flaw.  Ex. Macbeth, Oedipus

Physical Hero: A character whose fame rests mostly on the grounds of their physical exploits.  Ex. Achilles, Hercules

Hunting Companion: The loyal friend willing to riskor face any number of perils in order to accompany the hero and other friends.  Ex. Little John, Fezzik

Friendly Beast: animal that befriends man and helps with the quest.  Ex. Chewbacca, Cowardly Lion

Joker/Trickster/Holy Fool: the figure whose “inspired insanity” may lead to great illuination, often through mischance or misdirection.  Ex.  Wile E. Coyote, Holy Fool from King Lear

Evil Figure: The personification of ultimate evil.  He offers great fame, treasure, knowledge to the hero in order to persuade him to join evil.  He is the human version of the monster, representing the unconscious mind, chaos, and/or fear.  Ex. Satan

Evil Figure with a Good Heart: An evil figure who may be saved by the goodness or love of the hero.  Ex.  Darth Vader

Outcast: the figure who has been banished from society, usually because of a crime.  The outcast often serves as a foil/opposite to the hero, throwing light onto the hero and his character.  The outcast has failed the test which the hero passes.  The hero often wanders, unable to rest, because of his crime. Ex.  Hannibal Lecter

The Knight: The hero who saves civilization.  His conquest of the animal world represents his conquest of himself.  He faces both internal and external conflict as he faces the ordeals of the quest.  There is no civilization without the knight!  The knight may master the horse, the lion, jaguar, or any other fearsome animal. Ex. King Arthur

Monster: Represents the unconscious; opposite of the hero, non-human version of the evil figure.  It represents chaos, nightmare, all we fear.  Ex. the Shark in Jaws

Damsel in Distress: the woman who must be rescued by the hero.  She may represent the talisman the hero must find in order to fulfill the quest.Buttercup

Old Witch/Sorcoress/Bad Mother:  Wicked Witch of the West

Fairy Godmother: female version of the mentor.  Ex. Athena

Good Mother: nurturing mother, caretaker; her goal is the fulfillment of her children. Ex. Virgin Mary

Temptress: Tries to tempt the hero to leave his quest to gain worldly pleasure.  Ex. Circe


Nature Archetypes

Spring:  Rebirth, rejuvination. Equates to sunrise  In humans, the first quarter of life--approximately 1-25.

Summer: The prime of life. Equates to noon.  Plants and animals are in the fullness of their virility.   In humans, approximately 26-50.

Fall:  Threshold between life and death.  Equates to sunset.  Plants begin to turn shades of yellow, brown and orange.  In humans, this archetype equates to 51-75ish. 

Winter:  Death, dormancy.  Equates to nightfall/midnight.  Animals hibernate and plants lose their foliage.  Equates to ages 75 and older.

Wind:  change, inspiration, divine presence.

Mountain ascent to a place of knowledge; enlightenment; truth; insurmountable obstacles

Cave:  the unconscious mind; threshold that contains mystery or monster.

Waterfall turbulent change; purification.

Forest the unconscious mind; confusion, darkness, loss of control, nightmares, abode of monsters.  It hides the sun.  The hero may meet either a monster or a guide here.

The Road: the hero’s journey.

Owl: wisdom

Eagle/Birds of Prey: freedom, ascent, transcendence

Raven/Crow: impending death, ill fortune

Dove: peace

Rain: fertility, blessing, purification

Lightning: flash of inspiration, usually sent from the Gods; an omen of change; destruction.

Stone/Rock: stability; death, change.

Desert: sterility; the conscious mind; the domain of the sun; concentration of the male essence.

Sand: instability, treachery

Serpent/Snake:  a very strong dual image.  Obviously, the snake represents temptation, but it also represents wisdom.  It represents a binding to the earth.  In some mythologies, the dragon represents the serpent.  The dragon represents a synthesis of the snake (bound to the earth) and the eagle (representative of freedom).  A dragon, then is the druidic symbol of absolute consciousness.

Lake: standing water which can be either peaceful or stagnant.  May be associated with the unconscious.

Home: The Conscious mind; stability and safety, but also stagnation and lack of growth.  Society as it exists, which the hero feels is worthy of being saved.

Garden:  The Conscious mind; controlled nature, paradise.

Mead Hall: where man experiences all that is valuable to the society.  Stability, mead, song, mead, fellowship, mead, gift-giving, mead, and feasting.

Fish: thoughts and dreams in the unconscious

Clouds: source of rain and purification.  If calm, serenity and peace; if stormy impending doom and disaster.

Ships: microcosm or small world.  Man’s journey through time and space.

Sun: The conscious mind; light, warmth, fire.  Masculinity. The direct and obvious.  Law and structure

Surise: see Spring

Sunset: see Fall

Noon: see Summer

Fire: the sun, sacrifice, passion.

Waning Moon: dissolution of power.

Waxing Moon: attaining power

Full Moon: height of feminine intellectual power. Fertility, Cyclical change. 

New Moon: Another dual symbol.  Can represent absence of thought or sterility, or rejuvination of the feminine powers.

Ocean: the ultimate symbol of the unconscious.  Infinity; the mother of all life; abode of monsters.  See it before you go swimming. J  

Swamp: the unconscious mind; sinking, descent into trouble; entrapment.


Shape Archetypes

Circle/egg:  infinity, eternity, wholeness, fertility

Square: earth, man’s four limbs, consciousness

Mandala: circle within a square; energy within consciousness; the structure that focuses mental and psychic energy.

Spiral/Curve: cosmic whirlwind, creativity, change, energy

Triangle: trinity; unity of the three

Pentacle: the elements of earth, air, fire, and water merged with the human spirit.

Yin/Yang: balance of opposite energies: good/evil, day/night, masculine/feminine; continuous movement of masculine and feminine. 


Color Archetypes

Gold/Yellow: the sun, rational thought, masculinity, consciousness, fire

Black: complexity, mystery, the unconscious, death; the unknown, night, chaos

White: innocence, purity, eternity; in some cultures, death

Green: fertility, but also rot and death; jealousy

Blue: the heavenly, the sky; innocence, spiritual truth; associated with Mary.

Brown: neutrality, stability, earth, dullness

Pink: combination of red(blood, sacrifice), with white(innocence, purity); the innocent sacrifice

Orange: combination of red and yellow; often worn by the self--sacrificing hero; worn by Buddhist monks.

Purple: combination of red and blue; associated with royalty, due to the sacrifice expected of the king and the bestowing of authority.

Silver: the mon, intuition, feminity, the unconscious mind, the cycle of life


The Unconscious - as defined by Jung: "…everything I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness; all this is the content..."


The Conscious – then, is “everything I know, and have assimilated into my being.”



Light versus Dark : hope, renewal, knowledge, courage, goodness, consciousness; versus the unknown, ignorance, despair, evil, unconsciousness.


Home versus Wild: safety, civilization, order, control, versus the unknown, chaos,


Dionysian versus Apollonian:  (This is actually Nietzsche’s idea)  The moon, revelry, irrationality, spontaneity, reckless abandon, emotion versus the sun, rationality, control, sterility, logic.


Duality versus Unity:  dissonance (think in terms of music), two or more sides, scattered ideas versus oneness, peace of mind.



Dr. Freud’s Terms

Ego:  the rational part of the psyche.  This part of the consciousness controls behavior by balancing what society deems appropriate with the demands of base ideas of the ID and the “devil inside” SUPEREGO.


Superego:  hangs out mainly in the UNCONSCIOUS, but the SUPEREGO represents the values of society, your parents, the Church, etc.  It judges all thought and behavior in the EGO.  It rewards moral behavior, especially when a huge individual sacrifice has been made, with feelings of pride and fulfillment, but it punishes feelings and thoughts that please you as an individual, but contrasts sharply against the establishment by making you feel incredibly guilty.  The CONSCIENCE is part is part of the SUPEREGO. 


Id:  the part of the psyche that just doesn’t care.  It is in the UNCONSCIOUS mind, chaotic and uncontrolled without a care what the SUPEREGO has to say.  All the ID is cares about is desires and pleasure and, if not controlled, will overwhelm to get what it wants.


Libido:  sexual energy, that which drives us and forces us to act.


Dr. Jung’s Terms

Persona:  from the Latin for “actor’s mask.”  This is the face we present to the world, our “social identity.”  Our persona is often unidentifiable to our inner self.  If they are too different, we run the risk of losing our inner self—our core being.


Shadow:  the dark side of the unconscious self; part of ourselves we tend to ignore and suppress because it is socially unacceptable, and is just plain ugly.  The SHADOW is similar to Freud’s ID, but instead of being advised to ignore the SHADOW, Dr. Jung says we should embrace the SHADOW and try to make it part of our overall persona.


Animus/Anima:  the masculine/feminine parts of the two sexes.  Think of the symbol of the Yin/Yang.  It is a circle with contrasting black and white parts that still form a whole.  Jung’s idea is that within every man is a feminine side, and every woman a masculine side.  Jung contends that we must assimilate both parts of our inner self in order to be a complete person.  If we don’t we have men that are incapable of sympathy and women who refuse to stand up for what they want.


Ego:  As in Freud’s definition, the EGO tries to balance the conscious mind with the unconscious mind and the demands of society to form a whole person.


Self:  our inner guide.  It may only be truly understood through one’s UNCONSCIOUS through an awareness of dreams.  This is an idea that Jung adapted from Buddhism.


Libido:  Converse to Freud’s definition of the term, Jung defines the term to express SOUL ENERGY, not SEXUAL ENERGY.


Time Period Primer

Something that tends to confuse students is the fact that time periods in history and literature do not necessarily coincide.  What we must realize is that what happens in history sometimes takes longer to react in the literature. 


The time periods are as follows:

450-1066: Anglo/Saxon

1066-1500: Medieval

1500-1660: Renaissance

1660-1785: Neoclassical

1785-1830: Romantic

1830-1901: Victorian

1901-1945: Modern

1945-Present: Post-Modern


Neoclassic Literature:

Authors exhibited a strong traditionalism, which was often joined to a distrust of radical innovation and was evidenced above all in their immense respect for classical writers—that is, the writers of ancient Greece and Rome—who were thought to have achieved excellence, and established the enduring models, in all the major literary genres.  Hence the term neoclassic.

Literature was conceived to be primarily and art; that is, a set of skills which, though it requires innate talents, must be perfected by long study and practice and consists mainly in the deliverate adaptation of known and tested means to the achievement of foreseen ends upon the audience of readers.  The neoclassic ideal, founded especially on Horace’s Ars Poetica, is the craftsman’s ideal, demanding finish, correction, and attention to detail.  Special allowances were often made available even to some less gifted poets, which occur without premeditation, “a grace beyond the reach of art.”  But the prevailing view was that a natural genius such as Shakespeare is a rarity, and probably a thing of the past, and that to even the best of artful poets, literary “graces” come only occasionally. 

Human beings, and especially human beings as an integral part of a social organization, were regarded as the primary subject matter of literature.  Poetry was held to be an imitation of human life—in a common phrase “a mirror held up to nature.”  And by the human actions it imitates, and the artistic form it gives to the imitation, poetry is designed to yield both instruction and aesthetic pleasure to the people who read it.  Art for human’s sake was a central ideal of humanism.


Romantic Literature

The prevailing attitude favored innovation as against traditionalism in the materials, forms, and style of literature.  Wordsworth’s Preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads in 1800 was written as a poetic “manifesto,” or statement of revolutionary aims, in which he denounced the poetic diction of the preceding century and proposed to deal with materials from common life in a “selection of language really used by men.”  Wordsworth’s serious or tragic treatment of lowly subjects in common language violated the basic neoclassic rule of decorum, which asserted that the serious genres should deal only with high subjects in an appropriately elevated style.  Other innovations in the period were the exploitation by Coleridge, Keats, and others of the realm of the persona of a poet-prophet who writes a visionary mode of poetry; and the use of poetic symbolism deriving from a world-view in which objects are charged with a significance beyond their physical qualities.  As Shelley said, “I always seek in what I see the likeness of something beyond the present and tangible object.”

Wordsworth coined the phrase most oft-associated with Romantic poetry: “good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” According to this point of view poetry is not primarily a mirror of men in action; on the contrary, its essential element is the poet’s own feelings while the process of composition, since it is spontaneous, is the opposite of the artful manipulation of means to foreseen ends stressed by the neoclassic.  In echoing this statement, Keats said “if poetry comes not naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.  Coleridge, the philosopher of the bunch, substituted the poetic rules of the neoclassic era with the imagination of the poet that is nurtured from the poets soul.

To a remarkable degree external nature—the landscape, together with its flora and fauna—became a persistent subject of poetry, and was described with an accuracy and sensuous nuance unprecedented in earlier writers.  It is a mistake, however, to describe the romantic poets as simply “nature writers.” While many major poems by Wordsworth and Coleridge and to a great extent by 8Shelly and Keats, set out from and return to an aspect or change of aspect in the landscape, the outer scene is not presented for its own sake but only as a stimulus for the poet to engage in the most characteristic human activity—thinking!

Neoclassic poetry was, to a great deal, about other people, but much of romantic poetry invited the reader to identify the protagonists with the poets themselves, either directly, or in altered but recognizable form.  Whether romantic subjects were the poets themselves or other people, they were no longer represented as part of society but, typically, as solitary figures engaged in a long, and sometimes infinitely elusive, quest; often they were also social nonconformists or outcasts.