Ecocriticism—The study of the relationship between nature and literature.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
Expressionism—A movement in art and literature that had its roots in Germany in the 1910s with the work of Swedish playwright August Strindberg. Unifying features included rebellion against artistic and social conventions of the day, and bold innovation. The overall aim of Expressionism was to offer a total spiritual renewal by confronting the darkest aspects of reality. The movement influenced a number of artists, writers, and poets around the world. Among them were 20th-century American writers who questioned widely-accepted beliefs. They opened new psychological and emotional dimensions within their works. In the 1920s, Expressionism found an outlet on the American stage through experimentalists from the Theatre Guild and Provincetown Players such as Susan Glaspell and Eugene O’Neill. Starting in the 1940s Tennessee Williams incorporated Expressionist techniques into his works such as The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Camino Real (1953).
Fable—A short story or folk tale, often with a specific moral outcome intended to instruct the audience.
Fairy Tale—Stories either created or strongly influenced by oral traditions. The plots often feature stark conflicts between good and evil, with magic and luck determining the usually happy endings.
Fantasy—A type of story that includes elements of magic in plot, setting, or theme. The story's main characters may or may not enter the fantasy world from the real world.
The Fates—In Greek Mythology these three female figures were considered the spinners of the thread of life, responsible for determining a human beings span from birth to death. Their decision was final—no god could interfere. They personified “destiny” and each played a role in the process: Clotho spun the thread of destiny with a distaff to determine the time of birth of an individual; Lachesis measured the thread to determine the length of life; Atropos cut the thread to determine the time of death.
Fiction—Literary works, most often prose narrative, that are imaginative rather than factual.
First-person narrative—A story told from the viewpoint of a character writing or speaking directly about themselves and their first hand experiences. It uses first-person pronouns (I or we) to provide an account of an event. The story, therefore, is colored by the narrator’s views and personality.
Foil—In literary studies a foil is a character who shows qualities that contrasts with another character. The objective is to highlight particular character traits in the other character, usually the protagonist. The foil is often a secondary character who contrasts with the major character to enhance their importance (i.e., Fallstaff to Hal in Shakespeare’s Henry plays). Though the term is generally being applied for a contrasting character, it may also be used for any comparison that is drawn to portray a difference between two things.
Folklore—First coined in 1846 by William John Thoms, a British antiquarian. Folklore can be divided into its two component words, folk and lore. Folklore is thus all the lore shared by a particular folk.
Folk Tale—A traditional prose narrative that conveys a story originating in popular culture, typically circulated and preserved orally.
Frame Story—A literary technique, whereby a main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage for a second narrative embedded in it. The frame story leads readers from a first story into another, smaller one (or several ones) within it.
Genre—In literary studies a type or category that a written work can be classified under because it shares the same general characteristics as others of that type (i.e., poetry, fiction, hymn, scientific writing, sermon, drama, and so on). The word genre come from the French meaning “kind, sort, or style.”
Gothic—An artistic style characterized by melodrama, terror, madness, and irony. Southern Gothic, a specific type of the Gothic, is unique to American literature and includes elements of the "grotesque," deeply flawed and repulsive characters or situations.
Graphic Novel—A type of book that, in the visual style of comics, presents its fully developed story in panels of juxtaposed text and illustration.
Grotesque—A literary device used to describe aspects of fictional characters where normal features and/or behaviors are manifested by distortions expressed in extremes that are meant to be frightening and/or disturbingly comic. These characters may induce both disgust and empathy.
Haibun—A combination of prose and poetry developed in Japan in the late 17th century by Matsuo Munefusa (Basho). Haibun focuses on objective reporting of the everyday moment through prose entries (as in a journal) , with the conclusion focusing the insights of that moment into a theme developed in a brief poem (usually a haiku or tanka).
Haiku—A terse, three-line poem intended to capture an image in juxtaposition with another image or thought, leading to an intuitive realization about the essence of that object or both objects.
History—In a literary sense, a genre of drama. Also, generally, a narrative of past events.
Holistic—An approach that is concerned with an entity in its entirety rather than focusing on a single part or aspect.
Hyperbole—A figure of speech not meant to be taken literally which reflects exaggerated statements or claims. Often used for emphasis or effect, hyperbole can infuse life into a narrative.