Terms and Definitions: O
This page is under perpetual
construction! It was last updated January 5, 2017.
list is meant to assist, not intimidate. Use it as a touchstone
for important concepts and vocabulary that we will cover during
the term. Vocabulary
terms are listed alphabetically.
OBELISK: Also called a dagger, this punctuation mark looks much like a Christian cross. Older texts used this mark to indicate a digression or extraneous text moved out of the main body of the essay and relocated at the bottom of the page as a sidenote. If more than one such section needed such relocation, the second passage was marked by a "double dagger" that looked like two crosses attached together along the vertical line of the crosses. The obelisk has fallen out of common use today, as most modern editors prefer using footnotes. The Uniform Code to create an obelisk on a PC is ALT + 0134.
CORRELATIVE: Click here for a
pdf handout explaining this term.
A form of pronouns used as the objects of prepositions and
Examples include the pronouns him,
her, and them.
Modern English uses a single objective form to mark what originally
had been two grammatical cases--the accusative and the dative.
OBJECTIVE POINT OF VIEW:
See discussion under point
The various forms or cases of any word in a declined language
except the nominative form or nominative case.
The term "oblique" to describe this comes from medieval
grammar exercises, where a young monk would list all the declensions
of a Latin word at an oblique angle except for the nominative
form. Thus, these forms became known as "oblique forms."
POEM: A poem written or recited to commemorate a specific
event such as a wedding, an anniversary, a military victory
or failure, a funeral, a holiday, or other notable date. It
may be light or serious. Notable examples are Milton's "On
the Late Massacre in Piedmont," Marvell's "Horatian
Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland," Tennyson's "Charge
of the Light Brigade" and Yeats's "Easter 1916."
Some of Chaucer's poetry was occasional verse. He probably wrote
"The Book of the Duchess" either within a few months
of the death of John of Gaunt's wife (traditionally dated as
12 September 1369), or he may possibly have written it for one
of the later annual commemorative services Gaunt held to honor
the anniversary of her death. Likewise, Chaucer may have written "The
Parliament of Fowls" for Valentine's Day in 1380 as a light-hearted
recital to mark the negotiations concerning the marriage of
Richard II to Princess Anne of Bohemia. Contrast with place poem.
Not to be confused with octavo,
below, an octave is the first part of an Italian or Petrarchan
sonnet; an octave is a set of eight lines that rhyme according
to the pattern ABBAABBA.
Not to be confused with octave,
above, octavo is a term from the early production of paper and
vellum in the medieval period. When a single, large uncut sheet
is folded once and attached to create two leaves, or four pages,
and then bound together, the resulting text is called a folio.
If the folio is in turn folded in half once more and cut, the
resulting size of page is called a quarto.
If the quarto is in turn folded in half and cut once more, the
result is an octavo. Thus, an octavo is a book made of
sheets of material folded three times, to create eight leaves,
or sixteen pages, each about 4 inches wide and 5 inches high,
to make a tiny book. On a single sheet, the page visible on
the right-hand side of an open book or the "top" side of such
a page is called the recto
side (Latin for "right"), and the reverse or "bottom" side of
such a page (the page visible on the left-hand side of an open
book) is called the verso
side. Only one of Shakespeare's Renaissance plays, Richard
Duke of York (better known as Henry VI, Part 3)
was published in octavo format, but many medieval psalters and
books of hours appear in octavo manuscripts. Compare octavo
A long, often elaborate stanzaic poem of varying line lengths
and sometimes intricate rhyme schemes dealing with a serious
subject matter and treating it reverently. The ode is usually
much longer than the song or lyric,
but usually not as long as the epic
poem. Conventionally, many odes are written or dedicated to
a specific subject. For instance, "Ode to the West Wind"
is about the winds that bring change of season in England. Keats
has a clever inversion of this convention in "Ode on a
Grecian Urn," in which his choice of the preposition on
implies the poem actually exists in the artwork on the urn itself,
rather than as a separate piece of literary art in his poetry.
Classical odes are often divided by tone, with Pindaric
odes being heroic and ecstatic and Horatian
odes being cool, detached, and balanced with criticism.
Andrew Marvell's "Upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland"
is an example of a Horatian ode.
The standard abbreviation among scholars for The Oxford
English Dictionary, a huge twenty+ volume set that functions
as an historical
dictionary--generally considered the most authoritative
and scholarly dictionary of English available. See Oxford
COMPLEX: The late Victorian
and early twentieth-century psychologist Freud argued that male
children, jealous of sharing their mother's attention with a
father-figure, would come to possess a subconscious incestuous
desire to kill their fathers and have sex with their mothers.
They would in a sense desire to usurp the father's place in
the household. In most healthy adults, this urge would be repressed
and channeled into other pursuits, but echoes of the hidden
desire would linger in the psyche. Freud coined the phrase from
the myth of Oedipus, the doomed Greek hero. In Oedipus's infancy,
prophets predicted that he would kill his own father and marry
his mother. Every effort made to thwart the prophecy, however,
ended up bringing it about. The events are recounted most masterfully
in Sophocles's play, Oedipus Rex. Oedipus's crimes--though
he was unknowing--brought about a dreadful a curse on his family,
and violence lingered to haunt the family in future generations,
as recounted in plays like Antigonê. Several
famous characters in myth and literature seem to haunted by
a similar jealousy comparable to the phenomenon Freud describes.
For instance, Greek mythology
is littered with younger deities that usurp their father's position
and castrate the elder god after assuming power, such as the
way Zeus overthrows Chronos. Concerning the play Hamlet,
diverse psychoanalytical critics have commented on Hamlet's
rage at his Gertrude's sexual romps and Hamlet's tormented desire
to murder his uncle/father-figure Claudius. See Freudian
criticism and wish
GLIDE: In linguistics, the second-half of a diphthong
RHYME: In poetry, another term
OGAM (also spelled ogham, pronounced either OH-yeem or AG-em): The term comes from Old Irish "Oghma," probably an eponym of Oghma the Irish god of invention. It refers to a form of symbolic Celtic markings common in the 5th and 6th centuries in which a communicant would scratch or notch a series of marks on the edge of a stone or on a stick to indicate sounds or letters. The number and direction of the scratches or notches indicated the specific sound to form a word, and together they constituted an entire writing system. Ogam markings are commonly found on Irish standing stones, tombs, and boundary markers, and the alphabet the Irish used consisted of 20 letters, though slightly different systems existed in Wales and in Europe. Click here for a handout on ogam markings.
OGHAM: See discussion under ogam, above.
HENRY ENDING: Also called a trick ending
or a surprise ending, this term refers to a
totally unexpected and unprepared-for turn of events, one which
alters the action in a narrative. O. Henry endings usually
do not work well with foreshadowing,
but particularly clever artists may craft their narratives so
that the foreshadowing exists in retrospect.The term comes from
the short stories of O. Henry (a pen
name for William Sidney Porter), which typically
involve such a conclusion. Note that an O. Henry ending
is usually a positive term of praise for the author's cleverness.
This is the opposite sentiment from a deus
ex machina ending, in which the unexpected
or unprepared-for ending strikes the audience as artificial,
arbitrary, or unartful.
COMEDY: The Athenian comedies dating to 400-499 BCE, featuring
invective, satire, ribald humor, and song and dance. See further
discussion under stock
ENGLISH: Also known as Anglo-Saxon, Old English is the ancestor
of Middle English and Modern English. It is a Germanic language
that was introduced to the British Isles by tribes such as the
Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in a series of invasions in the fifth
century. Poems such as Beowulf are samples of Old English.
Old English was common in England from about 449 AD up to about
1100 AD. The Norman Conquest in 1066 introduced a new ruling
class of Normans who spoke French, and the influx of French
vocabulary altered Old English, eventually resulting in Middle
English. See Middle
English and Modern
English. To see computerized lettering and words transcribed
from an Old English document, click
here. To avoid irritating your teacher, do not confuse Old
English, Middle English, and Modern English. This
diagram will help you contrast them.
Imagery dealing with scent. See imagery.
An ancient Irish storyteller. The ollamh profession
flourished between the sixth and fifteenth centuries. They were
required professionally to know 350 stories to hold the rank.
The Welsh equivalent is a cyfarwydd.
OLYMPIAN: Known as the "theoi," in Greek, the Olympian deities were those gods in Greco-Roman mythology who resided or frequently met on the top of Mount Olympus as part of Zeus' advisors and close family. They were traditionally numbered at twelve, though accounts varied slightly in which deities fell into this category. The Greeks saw the Olympian deities as contrasting with both the Twelve Titans (whom Zeus overthrew to establish his own reign) and with the older chthonic gods (i.e., the spirits of the dead, and fertility spirits of blood and vengeance associated the earth).
A miraculous sign, a natural disaster, or a disturbance in nature
that reveals the will of the gods in the arena of politics or
social behavior or predicts a coming change in human history.
Greek culture held that if the gods were upset, they might visit
the lands with monsters, ghosts, floods, storms, and grotesque
miracles to reveal their displeasure. Comets might appear in
the heavens--or phantom armies might fight in the clouds. For
instance, in the Odyssey, Book 12, lines 55-60, Odysseus's
starving sailors slaughter and eat the holy cattle on the Isle
of Hélios. They then see a dire portent, when the dead
cows animate like zombies while in the midst of being cooked:
soon the gods sent portents:
The flayed hides crawled along the ground; the flesh
Upon the spits, both roast and raw, began
To bellow; we heard the sounds of lowing cows.
After the heroic age of
Homer, earth tremors and similar disruptions also could lead
governmental debate to a standstill in Athens--a fact causing
some discomfort since Greece has always been a tectonically
The Romans likewise shared
this belief that strange meteorological and biological behavior
indicated the displeasure of the heavens. During the days of
the Roman Republic, in the year 60 BCE, a great storm uprooted
trees, destroyed houses, and sank ships in the Tiber. Cicero
argued these disasters showed the gods were upset with Julius
Caesar's proposed legislative changes. Likewise, if a vote passed
in the Roman senate, and lightning was seen to flash in the
sky, the Senate would often repeal whatever legislaton they
just passed. (The Roman politician Bibulus was notorious for
trying to overturn legislation this way; each time a law passed
he did not favor, he would claim to see a flash of lightning
on the horizon--even if the sky was blue and cloudless.) Likewise,
one of the more important government officials in Rome was the
pullarius, the guardian of the sacred roosters that
would pluck out messages in grain for priests to interpret.
This superstition about
omens did not die out with the end of pagan belief. Medieval
Christians could point to the ten plagues of Egypt as a biblical
incident in which natural disturbances were linked to divine
activity and historic change, so they readily incorporated these
Greco-Roman ideas in the doctrine of the Chain
of Being. The idea was still prevalent in Shakespeare's
day, so Shakespeare accompanies the murder of King Duncan in
Macbeth with an eclipse, fierce storms, and a bizarre
outbreak of cannibalism in which the horses in the royal stables
eat each other alive. In the same way, in the play Hamlet,
the appearance of the ghost at Elsinore and the comet in the
sky convinces the scholarly Horatio that some great disturbance
of the state is at hand.
The belief that dreams could predict the future, or the act
of predicting the future by analyzing dreams. Elements of oneiromantic
belief may have influenced the genre of medieval dream
visions, especially Biblical passages regarding divine
premonitions appearing in the form of dreams. Likewise, in Renaissance
literature such as Shakespeare's plays, Shakespeare readily
adapted oneiromantic beliefs into the dreams of his characters
to create foreshadowing.
Related to names. For instance, a character's name might contain
an onomastic symbol--if that character is named Faith (as in
"Young Goodman Brown") or Lucy Westenra (which means
"the light of the west") in Bram Stoker's Dracula,
or Pandarus (which means "all-giving" and puns on
"pander") in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde.
are also of interest to onomastic studies.
The use of sounds that are similar to the noise they represent
for a rhetorical or artistic effect. For instance, buzz,
and grunt make sounds akin
to the noise they represent. A higher level of onomatopoeia
is the use of imitative sounds throughout a sentence
to create an auditory effect. For instance, Tennyson writes
in The Princess about "The
moan of doves in immemorial elms, / And murmuring of innumerable
bees." All the /m/
and /z/ sounds ultimately create
that whispering, murmuring effect Tennyson describes. In similar
ways, poets delight in choosing sounds that match their subject-matter,
such as using many clicking k's
and c's when describing a rapier
duel (to imitate the clack of metal on metal), or using many
/s/ sounds when describing a serpent, and so on. Robert
Browning liked squishy sounds when describing squishy phenomena,
and scratchy sounds when describing the auditory effect of lighting
a match, such as in his poem "Meeting at Night": "As
I gain the cove with pushing prow, / And quench its speed i'
the slushy sand. / a tap at the pane, the quick sharp, scratch
/ and blue spurt of a lighted match." The technique
is ancient, and we can find a particularly cunning example in
Virgil's Latin, in which he combines /d/
and /t/ sounds along with galloping
rhythm to mimic in words the sound of horses he describes: "Quadrupedante
putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum. . . ."
Onomatopoeia appears in all languages, and it is a common optional
effect in various genres such as the Japanese haiku.
ONTOLOGY--The branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of existence: what things exist and in what ways they exist. This branch often contrasts with epistemology--the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of knowledge--i.e., how we know something, in what ways we can know something, and what mental limitations prevent us from knowing certain things.
THEATER: An amphitheater, especially the unroofed public
playhouses in the suburbs of London. Shakespeare's Globe and
the Rose are two examples.
POETIC FORM: A poem of variable length, one which can consist
of as many lines as the poet wishes to write. Every poem written
in open poetic form, therefore, is unique. Open poetic form
contrasts with closed
poetic form, in which the specific subgenre of poetry
requires a predetermined number of stanzas, lines, feet, or
other components. For instance, a sonnet is a closed poetic
form, in which the poem can be no more or no less than fourteen
lines long, with ten syllables in each line. Open poetic form
is not to be confused with free
verse poetry. Free verse poetry is a subtype of open
poetry, but it is not constrained by any conventions at all
regarding meter or rhyme. For example, Alfred Noyes, "The
Highwayman" is in open poetic form. Although "The
Highwayman" has a set structure for rhyme and meter, the
number of stanzas necessary to tell the poem is not predetermined
by a required length, as is the case in a limerick or a sonnet.
However, Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself" is written
in open poetic form and it is also written in free verse form.
Whitman's lines vary in length, and the meter varies from passage
to passage, and any rhymes appear haphazardly rather than as
part of a predetermined pattern required by a genre's constraints.
SYLLABLE: Any syllable ending in a vowel, like the
SYSTEM: A system that can be adjusted for new functions
or purposes, and hence produce new and unpredicted results.
Human language is an example of an open system. To a lesser
extent, so is XML code (extensible markup language), such as
the HTML that makes this webpage.
OPOYAZ: In early 20th-century Russia, the abbreviated name of the Society for the Study of Poetic Language--a group of young philogists and literary theorists who gathered in 1916 and who became instrumental in creating the Formalist School of Russian literary criticism (Harkins 267).
FORMULAIC: Having traits associated with works intended
to be spoken aloud before an audience of listeners. Examples
of oral formulaic traits are (1) repetition of words or passages,
(2) use of epithets
after or before a character's name, (3) mnemonic devices to
help the speaker with recitation, (4) subdivision into sections
suitable for recital during a single evening, (5) summaries
of previous material in each section to help a listening audience
keep track of complicated plot, and (6) episodic
structure that allows the speaker to "ad lib" sections
if he or she forgets a passage. Critics such as Miltman Parry
have argued that literature
such as Beowulf, the Tain, and Homer's Odyssey
show signs of oral formulaic structure, which suggests the
poems may have existed for centuries as recited materials
transmission) before being written down as a text.
TRANSMISSION: The spreading or passing on of material by
word of mouth. Before the development of writing and the rise
of literacy, oral transmission and memorization was the most
common means by which narrative and poetic art could spread
through a culture. See ballad,
(Greek "dancing place"): (1) In modern theaters, the
ground-floor area on the first floor where the audience sits
to watch the play; (2) in classical Greek theaters, a central
circle where the chorus
OF THE GARTER: An elite order of knights first founded around
1347-1348 by King Edward III. The Knights of the Garter traditionally
wore as their emblem a lady's garter around one leg. According
to one legend, this emblem and the order's motto came about
when King Edward kneeled down to pick up a garter that had fallen
from Joan of Kent's leg, much to her embarrassment. King Edward
supposedly placed it on his own leg (or in some versions of
the legend, placed it back on her leg), and turned to admonish
the courtiers who were snickering. He said in French "Honi soit
qui mal y pense" ("Shame to him who thinks evil of it," or,
more popularly, "Evil to him who evil thinks.") This became
the motto of his elite knights. Some scholars dismiss this legend
as folklore, and instead suggest that the garter might symbolize
the homage paid by knights to ladies; others suggest that the
circular nature of the garter is an allusion to King Arthur's
round table; King Edward had attempted to revive the Arthurian
legends in association with his own court, and the round table
played a prominent part in the Arthurian myth. The Knights of
the Garter (KG) exist to this day in England, andthey meet every
year at Windsor Castle. Click
here for more information and some photos from recent induction
ceremonies. Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor
is set at Windsor during one of these annual inductions, and
it may have first been performed for Elizabeth when the Lord
Chamberlain (Shakespeare's immediate boss) was being inducted
into the Order of the Garter. The text of Sir Gawain and
the Green Knight concludes with the order's motto at the
end of the tale.
-E: An <e>
that is (or at one time was) pronounced and serves a purpose in distinguishing declensions.
In Old and Middle English, this <e>
was pronounced--often as a lightly stressed syllable. By the Renaissance, the -e
at the end of many words was merely a scribal
-e, one added for decorative reasons or spelling reform, but not one that necessarily "belonged" there due to past historical reasons.
UNITY: An idea common to Romantic poetry and influential
up through the time of the New Critics in the twentieth century,
the theory of organic unity suggests all elements of a good
literary work are interdependent upon each other to create an
emotional or intellectual whole. If any one part of the art
is removed--whether it is a character, an action, a speech,
a description, or authorial observation--the entire work diminishes
in potency as a result. The idea also suggests that the growth
or development of a piece of good literature--from its beginning
to its end--occurs naturally according to an understandable
sequence. That sequence may be chronological, logical, or otherwise
step-by-step in some productive manner. See also unity.
ORIGEN'S HERESY: The theological doctrines of Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, and (most famously and influentially) Saint Origen, who believed that spiritual salvation would eventually come to all human beings, and (in Origen's argument), possibly Satan himself and his fallen angels.
Origenian doctrine is a type of universalism. Origen based his idea on verses such as 1 John 2:2, which states that Christ took away the sins of the "whole" world, implying the mundus in toto, rather than the saints alone, and Timothy 2:4-2:6, which asserts God "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth," and that Christ was a ransom or sacrifice for "all men." Origen argued that, since God is all powerful, his desires cannot be thwarted; therefore, it must come to pass eventually that every soul God creates will come to that salvation, as it makes no sense for a loving Father like God to punish his erring children forever rather than remedially and temporarily. Accordingly, Origen thought that after death, in some mysterious way, spirits could come to turn back to God after dying in sin. That might (depending on the particular heterodox theologian) come about through reincarnation (God giving the sinner a second chance to choose the right path) or alternatively, while Hell's fires are never quenched, God might remove the soul from those hellfires when it turned to sincere repentence. Saint Augustine of Hippo strongly opposed this doctrine, and the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553 AD declared Origen's beliefs to be heretical.
SIN: A theological doctrine arguing that all
humans at the moment of conception inherit collective
and guilt for the sins of Adam and Eve along with an innate
tendency towards evil. The idea is largely inspired by
5:12, which reads, "Wherefore
as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death;
and so death passed upon all men." Many modern
interpreters consider the "one man" to be Adam,
and thus Adam's actions caused innate sinfulness and the cycle
to enter the world. The term "original sin" (Latin,
peccatum origine) does not appear in the Bible, however.
Tertullian coined the phrase in the second century, and Saint
Augustine popularized it and elaborated upon it in his theological
writings. Many modern Christians think of original sin as
consequence of Adam eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden.
For Saint Augustine and Tertullian, however, when they first
developed the doctrine, the source of original sin in later
generations was not
that Adam and Eve ate the fruit, but that he and Eve engaged
in sex later while in a state of sin. It was this secondary
sinful act, argued Augustine, that passed along the taint of
original sin to subsequent generations, rendering humanity
of achieving salvation without divine grace.
Original sin as a theological
component of soteriology has had a profound effect on both medieval
Catholicism and modern Protestant Christianity. Responses to
it include on one extreme from the Calvinist doctrine of "infant
damnation" with its the related Calvinist model of humanity's
depravity"; this theology embraces the doctrine
fully. On the opposite extreme, Pelagian heresies rejected original
sin altogether, holding that each human is only accountable
for his or her own actions rather than inheriting sin from one's
ancestors. The modern doctrine of "Prevenient Grace"
in Methodism is in many ways a watered-down version of medieval
In printing, an orphan is a single short line beginning
a paragraph but separated from all the other lines in that
paragraph by a page break, thus appearing by itself at the
bottom of the previous page or column. Orphans traditionally
should be avoided
in printing and in college essays. Luckily for students, writers
can avoid such a faux pas by turning on "widow/orphan
control" on their word processors. The trick in Microsoft
Word is to click on the "format" option and then
select "paragraph." Then select "line and
page breaks" to find the appropriate option. Contrast
ORNAMENTALISM: In 19th-century Russian literary history, a term for elaborate prose style in which the manner of narration is more significant than its content. The resulting quality was not necessarily ornate or beautiful--it could be ugly and plain--but the key trait was that the ornamental style deliberately called attention to itself (Harkins 268). It became the dominant writing style in Russian prose in the 1920s (268).
In linguistics, the study of pronunciation as it relates to
spelling. A linguist who specializes in this area is an orthoepist.
(1) The linguistic term for a writing system
that represents the sounds or words of a particular languages
by making visible marks on some surface (Algeo 325). (2)
A systematic method of spelling.
A class of Old English nouns with feminine gender.
OSTRANENIE: See defamiliarization.
OTHERING: In literary theory, the process of "othering" is the depiction or categorization of another person or group of people as distinctly different from the writer's or speaker's own group--often with overtones of dehumanization. The term "othering" originates in Edward Said's influential book Orientalism, and theorists often capitalize the term as "Othering," and they do likewise with corresponding terms like "the Other," and "Otherness." It is a key concept in postcolonialism, psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
Psychologically and sociologically, this tendency toward othering might have originated in humanity's tribal past, which required bands to cohere together as a close-knit groups and struggle against other tribal bands. The tendency is to feel stronger connections and allegiances to those who are "like you," and have an easier time empathizing with them, while rejecting or deriding "the Other" as inferior, strange, dangerous, savage, or foreign--often in connection with stereotypes or while simplistically lumping diverse groups together in a single category. Partly this mental process allows the thinker to do violence or harm to the Other without feeling corresponding guilt for one's actions, which can make othering a dangerous phenomenon in multi-ethnic or biracial societies. On the other hand, othering may have a positive function in helping form one's identity--as it is one way to create a sense of self by contrasting one's own group with external ones. In its original use , Said's interest was how European writers "othered" the cultures of the Middle East and Asia, depicting them as mystical rather than rational in mental outlook, pleasure-seeking and indulgent rather than disciplined and abstemious in behavior, and tyrannical rather than democratic in political tendencies. At best, western writers would use the Orient as a contrasting point with their own cultures, and at worst, psychologically project their own repressed (and unsavory) desires and practices on them. However, the term is widely applicable even outside of the Oriental context.
Contrast this tendency with Rousseau's idea of the noble savage, which likewise over-simplifies and lumps together diverse groups as a means of contrasting one's own ethnic group as outsiders, but in this case tends to idealize or romanticize the Other as superior to one's own culture, seeing them as possessing innate virtues and qualities lacking in one's own group.
WORLD, THE: A
motif in folklore
in which an alternative world exists in conjunction with the
physical world. Typically, mysterious
or unknowable beings occupy this world who resemble humanity but who remain alien
in their motivations, powers, and concerns, often toying or playing with
mortals for their own amusement in one moment, or showering
them with gifts and benefits the next. In Old Irish myths, for
instance, a tall and frightening race of Elves (the Sidh,
pronounced like the modern English word "she") lived
underneath the hills. A similar race, the Alfar, appear in Norse
mythology. In some myths, the race is divided into good and
evil races, the Blessed or Unblessed Courts, or the "Light-Elves"
and "Dark-Elves" (liosalfar and svartalfar),
but in most accounts the elvish races are merely capricious
and unpredictable in their behavior.
note how primitive societies often consider liminal
(in-between) times and places to be dangerous or magically charged,
and this holds true for the Other World motif. Journey back
and forth between the human world and the realms of Faerie might
be achieved at liminal times. Examples of such times might be
Beltain or Samhain, the two holidays marking the transition
from winter to summer and vice-versa, or at sunset and sunrise,
a liminal time between day and night, or at noon or midnight.
At such moments of flux, gates into fairyland might open in
hillsides or in lake ways. Likewise, liminal spaces might provide
permanent entrance into the Other World, transitional places
that were neither one location or another. Suspect places or
areas include Ymp-trees (which are artificially grafted blends
of two tree species), doorways (which are neither indoors nor
outdoors), sea-shores (which are neither sea nor land), fords
for running water (which are neither rock nor river), boundary
markers, gates, crossroads, graveyards, gibbets, and the north
side of churches. Finally, unusual geological or architectural
features were thought to be dangerous spots where ruptures might
manifest into the other world, including barrow-mounds (cf.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), standing stones,
unusually large or twisted trees, and fairy-rings (circular
growths of mushrooms).
Often folklore involves
fairy visitations to the human world, such as the late medieval
belief in "trooping fairies" who would ride on hunts
or parades through the forest. Other examples are the collective
changeling legends, in which elves would kidnap human children
and leave behind one of their sickly or elderly elves in the
crib disguised via illusion. (In Shakespeare's A
Midsummer Night's Dream, for instance, one of the quarrels
between King Oberon and Titania is the question about who
ownership over a kidnapped human child.) The other world was
often depicted as mirroring the human world in its organization.
(Thus, in Chinese mythology, the Celestial Hierarchy had a
court with court-officials exactly identical to court of
dynasty, and in medieval romances, the other world might have
a feudal government complete with castles, laborers, nobles
and knights to match that of Europe.)
Often the otherworldly inhabitants
only mimic the outward semblance of humanity, but their actual
motivations may be nonsensical or contradictory (witness Through
the Looking Glass, more commonly known as Alice in
If the souls of the dead inhabit the supernatural region, scholars typically
it the underworld rather
than the Other World, though in actual mythology, the distinction
is often blurred,
such as in the Middle English Sir Orfeo, where the
fairylands are inhabited by the mangled corpses of the dead.
See also Descent
into the Underworld.
An individual determined by a council vote to be an outlaw
at a thing
or an althing
was considered outside the normal bounds of kinship relations
in Iceland. He was considered outside the law (hence the term),
and anyone who met him would be allowed to kill him or rob him
without repercussions from the rest of the Viking community.
Since the medieval government of Iceland did not have an official
bureaucracy of police, sherrifs, or gendarmerie, much
less a national army to enforce its law, the declaration of
outlaw status was a common punishment. It allowed an entire
community to take the law in its own hands, in its own time.
Many of the major heroes in Icelandic sagas are outlaws or become
outlaws over the course of the saga.
See discussion under sprung
SPEAKER: The "speaker" of a poem or story presented
in third-person point of view, i.e., the imaginary voice that
speaks of other characters in the third person (as he / she
/ they) without ever revealing the speaker's own identity
or relationship to the narrative.
LANGUAGE (pronounced "oh-vee"): A language that
tends to place the grammatical object before the verb
in a sentence.
is an example
of an OV language. Contrast with VO
OVERGENERALIZATION: In linguistics, the introduction
of a nonstandard or previously non-existent spelling or verb
form when a speaker or writer makes an analogy to a regular
spelling or a regular verb. For instance, a child who says "I
*broked it" has created a new verb form
by an analogy to how regular verbs form. He has overgeneralized
rather than learned the irregular past participle broken
and the irregular past tense broke.
Cf. hypercorrection and linguistic
OXFORD DON (from Latin dominus, "lord"): In its strictest sense, a don is the traditional title of a tutor or teaching fellow at a university, especially an ancient and prestigious university of Catholic origins--hence Oxford dons, Cambridge dons, or Trinity dons. Like the similar designation dom (with an -m) for Roman Catholic priests, the term don derives from medieval Latin. Medieval knights in Spain and in Italy would use the title in a manner akin to "Sir" in England, so Cervantes' Don Quixote means "Sir Quixote" or "Lord Quixote," and in Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Prologue," she refers to King Solomon in the Old Testament as "Don Solomon." At Oxford, the medieval title started as an ecclesiastical title for educated priests of high rank and respect. In the modern era, the term Oxford don has become slightly broader in meaning, often connoting ironically or seriously a tenured academic "superstar" or a prince among scholars. Among the Inklings, C.S. Lewis was a don teaching in Magdalen College, Oxford, where he tutored perhaps a dozen and a half students each semester in addition to giving occasional lectures.
This fat, twelve+ volume work functions as an historical
dictionary of English. It is generally considered
the most authoritative and scholarly dictionary of English
nearly 300,000 word entries in its most recent form. Scholars
refer to it lovingly as the OED.
The project arose out of meetings of the Philological Society
of London in 1857, and in January of 1858, the society passed
a resolution to begin the OED's creation. The task
was to record every word that could be found in English
around 1000 CE and to exhibit its history: i.e, where the word
first appeared in surviving writings, and how its spelling,
meaning, and form changed across the years. This would be illustrated
by quoting example texts using the word in each decade.
Coleridge functioned as the first editor, but medievalist F.
J. Furnivall oversaw much of the initial work. The OED's
installment ("A") came out in 1884, and the complete
first edition came out piecemeal over time. In 1933, a supplementary
volume followed the complete set. A newer four volume supplement
came out piecemeal between 1972 and 1986--and an amalgamated
edition in 1989. Oxford University Press is currently working
on an exciting third edition in electronic format.
(plural oxymora, also called paradox): Using contradiction
in a manner that oddly makes sense on a deeper level. Simple
or joking examples include such oxymora as jumbo shrimp,
sophisticated rednecks, and military intelligence.
The richest literary oxymora seem to reveal a deeper truth through
their contradictions. These oxymora are sometimes called paradoxes.
For instance, "without laws, we can have no freedom." Shakespeare's
Julius Caesar also makes use of a famous oxymoron: "Cowards
die many times before their deaths" (2.2.32). Richard
Rolle uses an almost continuous string of oxymora in his
Middle English work, "Love is Love That Lasts For Aye."
Click here for more examples of oxymora.
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
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Brace College Pub., 1993. [Now superseded by later editions.]
---. "Poetic Forms
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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.
Anderson, Douglas. "Note on the Text" in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. 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,
Carrick, Jake. E-mail interview. 28 April 2016.
Catholic University of America
Editorial Staff. The New Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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
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, Seán. Medieval
Ireland: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Eagleton, Terry. Literary
Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P,
Elkhadem, Saad. The York Dictionary Literary Terms and Their Origin: English, French, German, Spanish. York P, 1976.
Feeney, Denis. "Introduction." Ovid: Metamorphóses 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,
Hopper, Vincent Foster.
Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought
and Expression. 1938. Republished Mineola, NY: Dover Publications,
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
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,
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,
Rae, Gail. Guide to Literary
Terms. Staten Island, New York: Research and Educational Association,
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
Velásquez, 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.,
Zenkovsky, Serge A. Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales. Rev Ed. New York: Meridian Books, 1974.
Zireaux, Paul. E-mail Interview. 21 June 2012.