Literary Glossary: T–Z

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Tanka (Japanese form)

The traditional tanka is a poem of 31 on (sound symbol or unit) which expresses a personal response to an image in nature. In Japan, a tanka consists of 31 on, usually patterned as 5-7-5-7-7.

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An author’s view about the universal truths in life that reflects the author’s understanding about how people behave and how the world wags. A theme is presented indirectly within the elements of a story and the reader is expected to extract it. There can be multiple themes in a work of fiction, but there is usually one major theme that binds all the story elements together.


A sequence of events or sounds. Time can carry various meanings in a literary context, both formally and thematically. In poetry, time can be linked to meter, and the pacing of the poem can offer various enhancements to interpretation. In narratives (novels, short stories, and so forth), time can be manipulated in various ways through techniques like foreshadowing, retrospection (such as a framed narrative, in which the narrator recalls past events and relates them to the reader), and so on.

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The general attitude of a writer toward a subject, theme, place, or situation as well as audience. It is conveyed through author’s word choice and reflects his/her viewpoint.

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A story that ends in misfortune or disaster for the main character. In classic Greek drama, tragedy is the opposite of comedy.

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American literary movement that believed in transcending the materialistic world of sensory experience and becoming conscious of the spirit of the universe, which could be found by looking into one's own soul.


A society real or imagined thought to exemplify the ideal and operate in a state of perfection

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The speaker in a narrative or poem. Often conflated with point-of-view, although there are occasions when who "speaks" (voice) and who "sees" (point-of-view or focalization) are not always the same. This voice can come from a variety of different perspectives, including: 

  • First person is told from the perspective of one or several characters, each of whom typically uses the word “I.”
  • Second person usually addresses the audience by using “you.”
  • Third person is told from the perspective of an outsider who does not participate directly in the events of a story, and uses “he,” “she,” and “it.”
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The term used to delineate the literature, art, and culture during the reign of Queen Victoria during the latter two-thirds of the 19th century. Born in 1819, she ascended to the throne in 1837 and reigned until her death in 1901.

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A verse form consisting of nineteen lines divided into six stanzas -- five tercets (three-line stanzas) and one quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the first tercet rhyme, and this rhyme is repeated through each of the next four tercets and in the last two lines of the concluding quatrain. The villanelle is also known for its repetition of selected lines. A good example of a twentieth-century villanelle is Dylan Thomas’s "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night."

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