This webpage contains an alphabetical glossary of literary terms and their definitions. It focuses particularly on the material I most frequently teach (classical and medieval literature, the history of the English language, and science fiction narratives). Because the list is fairly lengthy, I have subdivided it into several pages. Hunt for the term you want alphabetically within each letter’s webpage. You can supplement this knowledge by looking in the glossary in the back of your literature books, in dictionaries, and online more generally. Do note that entries marked with a tiny construction barrier ( )or the abbreviation TBA ( to be announced ) are still in the process of being written or revised, so these entries will change as I polish them.
I consulted the following works while preparing this list. I have tried to give credit to specific sources when feasible, but in many cases multiple reference works use the same examples or provide the same dates for common information. Students should examine these resources for more information than these humble webpages provide:
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 6th edition. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Pub. 1993. [Now superseded by later editions.]
—. Poetic Forms and Literary Terminology. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th edition. Volume 1. New York: Norton, 2000. 2944-61. 2 Vols.
Algeo, John and Thomas Pyles. The Origin and Development of the English Language. 5th edition. U.S.A. 2004.
Anderson, Douglas. Note on the Text in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Ring s. 50th anniversary edition. Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Baugh, A. C. and Thomas Cable. A History of the English Language. 6th edition. Boston: Pearson Publishing, 2013.
Brown, Michelle P. Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms. London: The British Library and the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994.
Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. [Originally published 1977 as Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche .] Trans. John Raffan. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1985.
Carrick, Jake. E-mail interview. 28 April 2016.
Catholic University of America Editorial Staff. The New Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1967-79.
Corbett, Edward P. J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.
Crow, Martin and Virginia E. Leland. A Chronology of Chaucer’s Life and Times. As condensed and reproduced in Larry Benson’s The Canterbury Tales, Complete. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. xxiii-xxv.
Cuddon, J. A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. London: Penguin Books, 1991.
Damrosch, David, gen. ed. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 2nd Compact Edition. Volume A. New York: Pearson, 2004. 3 Vols.
Deutsch, Babette. Poetry Handbook: A Dictionary of Terms. Fourth Edition. New York: Harper and Row, 1974. Reprint as Barnes and Noble Edition, 1981.
Drout, Michael D. C. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Duffy, Se n. Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983.
Elkhadem, Saad. The York Dictionary Literary Terms and Their Origin: English, French, German, Spanish. York P, 1976.
Feeney, Denis. Introduction. Ovid: Metamorph ses Trans. David Raeburn. London: Penguin Books, 2004.
Gabel, John B. and Charles B. Wheeler. The Bible as Literature: An Introduction. New York: Oxford U P, 1986.
Giroux, Joan. The Haiku Form. New York: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1974. Reprinted New York: Barnes and Noble, 1999.
Greenblatt, Stephen. Glossary. The Norton Shakespeare: Tragedies. New York: Norton, 1997. 1139-43.
Guerin, Wilfred L. et al. Glossary. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1979. 317-29.
Harkins, Williams E. Dictionary of Russian Literature. The New Students Outline Series. Patterson, New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams, and Co. 1959.
Harvey, Sir Paul and Dorothy Eagle, eds. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1969.
Holman, C. Hugh. A Handbook to Literature. 3rd edition. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1972.
Hopper, Vincent Foster. Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought and Expression. 1938. Republished Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.
Horobin, Simon. Chaucer’s Language. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2007.
Kane, George. The Autobiographical Fallacy in Chaucer and Langland Studies. London: H. K. Lewis, 1965.
Lacy, Norris J. The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.
Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd edition. Berkeley: U of California P, 1991.
Marshall, Jeremy and Fred McDonald. Questions of English. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.
Mawson, C. O. Sylvester and Charles Berlitz. Dictionary of Foreign Terms. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 2nd ed. 1975.
McManus, Damian. Ogam Stones At University College Cork. Cork: Cork U P, 2004.
Metzger, Bruce M. and Michael D. Coogan, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. New York: Oxford U P, 1993.
O’Donoghue, Heather. Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA:Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
Page, P.K. Forward. Hologram. Brick Books, London, Ontario: 1994.
Palmer, Donald. Looking At Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter. 2nd edition. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1994.
Peck, Harry Thurston. Harper’s Dictionary of Clasical Literature and Antiquities. New York: The American Book Company, 1923. 2 vols.
Preminger, Alex, and T.V.F. Brogan, et al. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. New York: MJF Books for Princeton University Press, 1993.
Perelman, Ch. and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Notre Dame, U of Notre Dame P, 2000.
Pound, Ezra. ABC of Reading. New York: Laughlin, 1960.
The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.
Quinn, Arthur. Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase. Davis, California: Hermagoras P, 1993.
Rae, Gail. Guide to Literary Terms. Staten Island, New York: Research and Educational Association, 1998.
Roberts, Edgar V. and Henry E. Jacobs. Glossary of Literary Terms. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. 6th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001. 2028-50.
Scott, Kathleen L. Later Gothic Manuscripts, 1390-1490. A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles 6. London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 1996. 2 Vols.
Shaw, Harry. Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.
Shipley, Joseph T. Dictionary of World Literature: Criticism, Forms, Technique. The Philosophical Library. New York: Philosophical Library, 1943.
Smith, Richard Upsher, Jr. A Glossary of Terms in Grammar, Rhetoric, and Prosody for Readers of Greek and Latin. Mundelein, Illinois: Bolchazy-Caducci Publishers, Inc. 2011.
Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary. 1989.
Smith, David P. Glossary of Grammar Terms. [Miscellaneous handouts made available to students in Basic Greek at Carson-Newman University in the Fall Term of 2006.]
Swain, Dwight V. Creating Characters. The Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1990.
Vel squez, Lito. E-mail communication. 26 October 2015.
Williams, Jerri. Schemes and Tropes. [Miscellaneous handouts made available to her graduate students at West Texas A M University in the Fall Term of 1993.]
Yasuda, Kenneth. The Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English. Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Co. 1957.
Zenkovsky, Serge A. Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles, and Tale s. Rev Ed. New York: Meridian Books, 1974.
Zireaux, Paul. E-mail Interview. 21 June 2012.