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M - macronic text to mythology - English Literature Dictionary

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macronic text: Using a mixture of languages for a comic or humourous effect.

magic realism: The expression refers to fiction that merges realistic elements with the fantastic. Texts renowned for the use of magic realism include Rushdie'sMidnight's children. Other writers who apply magic realism include Esquival’s Like Water for Chocolate.

malapropism: Misusing words to create a comic effect or to characterize thespeaker/character as being too confused or ignorant to use correct diction. The term originates from Richard Sheridan's character Mrs Malaprop, because she often misapplied long words in an effort to appear impressive.

mainstream: In a literary sense, this term refers to texts and authors which abide by conventional writing structures and techniques. These are generally aimed at the everyday, dominant reader.

Man Booker Prize: The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, also known in short as the Booker Prize, is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-lengthnovel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.

manuscript: A text written by hand, rather than printed with a printing press.

marginalia: Notes which appear in the margins of a book.

Marx, Karl: Karl Heinrich Marx was born on the 5 May 1818. He was a philosopher and revolutionary who is renowned for his communist ideology. He believed that capitalism would, after a revolution, be replaced by a classless communist society. Alongside Engels, Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Marx died on 14 March 1883. See Marxism.

Marxism: The economic and political theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engelsthat hold that human actions and institutions are economically determined and that class struggle is needed to create historical change and that capitalism will ultimately be superseded by communism.

Marxist criticism: This discourse stems from the cultural theories of Karl Marx andFriedrich Engels. In relation to literature Marxism is interested in the positionauthors write from, and the representation of class struggles. See deconstructionand post-modernism.

maxim: A short, pithy statement believed to contain wisdom or insight into human nature. See proverb.

medieval: The period of time, about a thousand years long, between the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of the Renaissance.

melodrama: Traditionally this is a play with a musical accompaniment to heighten the emotional aspect of the drama.  Often melodramas gave rise to two dimensional or flat characters.

memoir: An autobiographical sketch, which focuses less on the author's personal life or psychological development, but more on the notable people and events the author has encountered or witnessed. The aim of a memoir, unlike a diary, is to be eventually published.

metaphysical: The word generally refers to a group of 17th century poets, who include Donne, Herbert and Marvell. Metaphysical poetry commonly has strikingimagery, which sometimes stems from new contemporary scientific and geographic discoveries, witty conceits, the contrast of the physical and the philosophical and a high impression of mortality. There is also flexibility in the meter and rhythmadopted.

metaphysical poetryPoetry which uses logic and reason to construct an 'argument' and draws on other fields such as science, law, philosophy and exploration to describe emotion, often love.

metaphysical poets: Poets, usually writing in the 17th century and whose poetry utilises metaphysical imageryDonne, Herbert, Marvell and Vaughan are among the best known metaphysical poets.

metaphor: A comparison, between two things not usually compared, that implies that one object is another one, figuratively speaking. The phrase "the ladder of success," implies to the reader that being successful is like climbing a ladder to a higher and better position.

meter: A recognizable though varying pattern of stressed syllables alternating with syllables of less stress. Compositions written in meter are said to be in verse. There are many possible patterns of verse. Each unit of stressed and unstressedsyllables is called a "foot." iambic is one example of meter.

metrical: Relating to poetic metre or beat.

metrical foot: The basic unit of rhythm in poetry.

metonymy: Using a physical object to embody a more general idea. For example crown is a metonym as it refers to royalty or the entire royal family. Also stating "the pen is mightier than the sword", suggests that the power of education and writing is more potent for changing the world than violence. The word literally means 'change of name'.

Middle Ages: period of European history that begins around the 5th century and ends around the 16th century.

Middle English: Is the name given by historical linguists to the diverse forms of the English language in use between the late 11th century and about 1470

Miller, Arthur: American dramatist and playwright (1915 -2005). He won the Pulitzer prize for drama. Many of his plays are about the American dream.

Milton, John: Born in 1608, John Milton was a renowned poet and author during the 17th century. His most notable work is the epic poem Paradise Lost.

Miltonic sonnet: See sonnet.

mimesis: From the Greek for imitate. It refers to the reproducing of the words of another person, in order to show their character.

minimal pair: A pair of words with only one sound different in the same position, eg pig and big.

miracle playDrama from medieval times the subject of which is religion, such as the lives and actions of saints.

modern English: The language as it is used since 1500.

modernism: The use of innovative forms, styles and structures, especially in the 20th century.

monody: A lament, often used in a tragedy.

monologue: An interior monologue does not necessarily represent spoken words, but rather the internal or emotional thoughts or feelings of an individual. Monologues can also be used when a character speaks aloud to himself or narrates an account to an audience with no other character on stage.

monorhyme: Of a poem. Each line rhymes with all the others.

monosyllabic: A word which only has one syllable.

mood: A feeling, emotional state, or disposition of mind, especially the predominating atmosphere or tone of a literary work. Most pieces of writing have an established mood, but shifts in this prevailing mood may operate as a counterpoint, provide comic relief, or echo the changing events in the plot.

morality playDrama popular in the 14th - 16th centuries which utilises the personification of Vice, Greed etc to show the struggle towards salvation.

Morrison, Toni: Born on 18 February 1931, the American Morrison is renowned for her detailed writings of black characters and communities. She is a Nobel Prizewinner who has written the novels The Bluest Eye and Beloved. As well as author, Morrison is an editor and professor. See post-colonialism.

motif: A recurring element, such as an incident, a device, a reference, or verbal formula, which appears frequently in a work of literature.

movement: This term refers to the pacetonerhythm and rhyme of a poem. All of these aspects should be commented upon in an analysis of a poem.

Muses, the nine: From Greek mythology, it was believed that they inspired the creation of art and literature.

music of the spheres: Harmony between the heavenly bodies (such as the Sun, Moon and planets.)

mystery novel: A novel centered on suspense and solving a mystery, especially a murder, theft, kidnapping, or some other crime.

mystery play: A type of drama popular in the Middle Ages on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus

mythology: An arrangement of stories about the gods, often overtly religious in nature, that were once believed to be true by a specific cultural group.


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