Literary Glossary: E

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Ecocriticism

The study of the relationship between nature and literature.

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Ekphrasis

A descriptive work of prose or poetry that describes a visual work of art. It highlights through its rhetorical vividness what is happening, or what is shown in the artwork, and in doing so, may enhance the original art and so take on a life of its own through its description.

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Elegy

A poem that reflects on the death of a person. A traditional elegy explores several stages of loss, including a lament, followed by praise of the dead individual, and finishing with consolation.

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Death in Poetry: A.E. Housman's "To an Athlete Dying Young" and Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"

Enjambment

The continuation of a line of poetry to the next line with no end-stop or punctuation, but usually retaining continuity in meaning, as with the following example from Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool":

We real cool. We
Left school. We

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  • The Impact of a Poem's Line Breaks: Enjambment and Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool"

Epic

A long narrative poem, usually of oral origin, that recounts the larger-than-life deeds of a great hero, who is often of divine descent. An epic hero embodies the values of a particular society and struggles against terrific odds or adversaries. Epic poetry often employs elevated diction and a host of sophisticated stylistic devices. Beowulf is an oral epic, as are the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Aeneid and Paradise Lost are literary, not oral or traditional epics. The Ramayana is a well-known epic in the East.

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Essay

A short piece of non-fiction prose, usually written from a personal point of view on a specific topic. The first collection of personal essays is credited to Michel de Montaigne; his Essais was first published in 1580. The word essay comes from the French verb essayer, which means "to try."

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