Writing in Your Major

Tips From Tutors

Basic Terms to Know

(All terms taken from Murfin, Ross and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. Print. Refer to this text for hundreds more definitions)

Allegory: The presentation of an abstract idea through more concrete means. The typical allegory is a narrative…that has at least two levels of meaning[:]…the…surface-level story line…[and] a second and deeper level…which may be moral, political, philosophical, or religious. … (9).

Allusion: An indirect reference to a person, event, statement, or theme found in literature, the other arts, history, myths, religion, or popular culture. … (11).

Close Reading: The thorough and nuanced analysis of a literary text, with particular emphasis on the interrelationships among its constituent elements (allusions, images, sound effects, etc.). … (61).

Diction: Narrowly defined, a speaker’s (or author’s) word choice. The term may also refer to the general type or character of language used in speech or in a work of literature. …(108).

Genre: From the French genre for “kind” or “type,” the classification of literary works on the basis of the content, form, or technique. …(189).

Imagery: A terms used to refer to: 1) the actual language that a writer uses to convey a visual picture (or, most critics would add), to create or represent any sensory experience); and 2) the use of figures of speech, often to express abstract ideas in a vivid and innovative way. …(210).

(Literary) Criticism: Reflective, attentive consideration and analysis of a literary work). …(78).

Motif: A unifying element in an artistic work, especially any recurrent image, symbol, theme, character type, subject, or narrative detail. …(277).

Plot: The arrangement and interrelation of events in a narrative work, chosen and designed to engage the reader’s attention and interest (or even to arouse suspense or anxiety) while also providing a framework for the exposition of the author’s message, or theme, and for other elements such as characterization, symbol, and conflict. …(347).

Symbol: Something that, although it is of interest in its own right stands for or suggests something larger and more complex—often an idea or a range of interrelated ideas, attitudes, and practices. …(470).

Theme: Not simply the subject of a literary work, but rather a statement that the text seems to be making about that subject. …(479).

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