English Literature Dictionary

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fable: A brief narrative illustrating human tendencies through the depiction of animal characters. Unlike the parables, fables often feature talking animals or animated objects as the principal characters. The interaction of these animals or objects exposes truths about human nature.

fabliau (plural, fabliaux): A humorous or "dirty" narrative popular with French poets, who traditionally wrote the story in couplets. Fabliaux often revolve around trickery, practical jokes, sexual mishaps, mistaken identity, and bodily humor. Chaucer included several fabliaux in The Canterbury Tales (the Shipman, the Friar, the Miller, the Reeve, and the Cook).

fair unknown, the: A character found in Grail stories and Arthurian legend.

fairy tale: A story, generally for children about magical beings or the supernatural, often with a moral or message.

false cognate: Words which appear in two languages, looking like the same word, but with different meanings.

fame/shame culture: A culture which embraces the notion of 'death before dishonour', glorifying warriors.

familiar, witch's: A companion of a witch, generally an animal.

fantasy: Fiction with a large amount of imagination in it.

farce: A form of low comedy designed to provoke laughter through highly exaggerated caricatures of people in improbable or silly situations.

Faustian bargain: To agree to a sacrifice in exchange for knowledge.  From the legend of Faust. He exchanged his soul for knowledge.

feet: See foot.

feminine ending / feminine rhyme: An extra syllable at the end of a line of verse.

feminism: The intellectual, philosophical and political discourse aimed at equal rights and legal protection for women

feminist criticism: A discourse which addresses what it considers to be the patriarchal nature of society and literature, and attempts to think about equality of men and women.

fiction: This term refers to a story devised by a writer, using their imagination. Fiction usually contains little or no truth. 

fictional character: An imaginary person represented in a work of fiction (play or film or story).

figure of speech: A phrase or expression which uses words not in their literal sense.

figurative language: Language where literary or poetic techniques and devices, such as metaphors and similes, are used to produce a meaning beyond the literal surface meaning.

finno-ugric: A language group including such languages as Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian and others.

first folio: A collection of Comedies, Histories and tragedies (36 in total) of Shakespeare's works, published in 1623.

first language: The preferred or native/fluent language a speaker chooses to communicate in.

first person narrative: This type of narrative is often written from the first-person singular or first-person plural perspective. Using the ‘I’ and ‘we’ form enables the reader to understand the happenings of the plot from the narrator's view only. See narrator and third person narrative.

first sound shift: An explanation for the shift in pronunciation and form which occurs between Indo-European languages.

five senses: Portrayal of the five senses helps create vivid descriptive writing and imagery. The five senses are sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. See abstract imagery.  

fixed form: Any form in poetry that is bound by traditional rules and conventions. Usually these rules determine such things as meter, rhyme scheme, line length etc.

flashback: A method of narration in which the present action is temporarily interrupted, to relive an episode in the character’s past. This flashback could take the form of memory, dream, narration, or even authorial commentary. See in media res

flashforward: See prolepsis and anachorism

flat characters: Characters who are two-dimensional because they do not develop during the course of the novel or play.

foil: Of a character, to be used as a contrast.

folktale: Stories passed down from one generation to the next by word-of-mouth, opposed to by a written text.

fool: A professional role. such as a court jester, used for amusement by the higher classes.

foot: A basic unit of meter, comprising of a set number of strong stresses and light stresses. See meter.

foreshadowing: Suggesting, hinting and indicating what will occur later in a narrative. Foreshadowing often provides clues about what will happen next and prepares the reader, whilst also creating tension or suspense.

forestage: The part of the stage "in front" or closest to the viewing audience.

form: The "shape" or organizational structure, opposed to the content, of a poem or piece of literature. Often form and content are related.

fourth wall: This refers to an imaginary wall, as if separating the actors on stage from the audience.

frame narrative: This is a narrative technique where there is a principal story, around which there are other narratives to set the scene or interest the audience/reader. This is also known as a frame story. See sub-plot, story within a story and play within a play.

frame story: See frame narrative.

free indirect discourse: A type of speech or voice in a narrative which includes a mixture of the narrator's and protagonist's  voices.

free verse: Poetry that is based on the natural rhythms of phrases and normal pauses rather, than the artificial and fixed constraints of rhyme or metrical feet.

Freudian criticism: A psychoanalytical approach to literature that understands the elements of a story or a character through the theories of the late nineteenth-century psychologist Sigmund Freud.

Freytag's pyramid: A method used to analyse the structure of a drama.

Fu poetry: A form popular in ancient China, it combines prose and poetry.

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While thought exists, words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living.
Cyril Connolly

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