Terms and Definitions: Q
This page is under perpetual
construction! It was last updated January 11, 2018.
This 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.
Q-TEXT: The term for
a hypothetical ur-text or source manuscript that served as
the source for the synoptic gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark,
and Luke), but which did not influence John. The abbreviation
"Q" comes from German Quelle (source).
The study of arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music, which
formed the basis of a master's degree in medieval education,
as opposed to the trivium,
the study of grammar, logic, and rhetoric,
which in medieval education formed the basis of a bachelor's
CHANGE: In linguistics, an alteration in the perceived
quality of a sound or the basic nature of a sound. Contrast
Meter that relies on patterns of heavily stress syllables
and lightly stressed
meters. In English, most poems are qualitative in nature.
This contrasts with quantitative
meter (below), which was
common in Greek and Latin. See meter.
CHANGE: In linguistics, an alteration in the
length of a sound--particularly vowel sounds. Contrast
METER: Meter that relies not on the alternation
of heavily stressed or lightly stressed syllables,
on the alternation of "long syllables" and "short
syllables" (i.e., syllables categorized accordingly
to the time interval it takes for the human mouth to pronounce
the syllable). For instance, under this scheme, in English,
the word hour and at are both one-syllable
words of similar stress. However, the word hour takes
slightly longer to shape in the mouth than the more terse
word at. We might thus call the word hour
a "long syllable" and the word at a "short
syllable." This label contrasts with the most common
use of the terms in regular meter,
which relies upon how heavy the stress is in each syllable.
Quantitative meter has never worked well in Germanic languages
like English, but it was common in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit,
and Arabic poetry. Contrast with qualitative
Also sometimes used interchangeably with "stave,"
a quatrain is a stanza
of four lines, often rhyming in an ABAB
pattern. Three quatrains form the main body of a Shakespearean
or English sonnet along with a final couplet. See sonnet
A term from early bookmaking. When a single, large sheet is
folded once to create two leaves (four pages counting the front
and back), and then bound together, the resulting text is called
If the folio is folded in half once more, the resulting size
of page is called a quarto.
Thus, a quarto is a sheet of material folded twice, to create
four leaves, or eight pages, which results in a medium-sized
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. Compare quarto
with bad quarto
QUAERITIS (Latin, "Whom do you seek?"):
This Latin expression comes from the Vulgate New Testament
the angel addresses the women coming to visit Christ's empty
tomb. The angel guarding the sepulchre asks, "Whom
do you seek?" When told that Christ was resurrected,
the women departed joyfully. In the medieval church,
this phrase was part
of the Roman Catholic liturgy as part of the Easter Introit
and read aloud in church each year. The earliest known text of this sort was an Easter trope from the Swiss monastery of St. Gall, probably dating to about 875-900 AD. One
theory is that the quem quaeritis trope grew into
an entire branch of medieval drama. Mary Marshall and other
scholars like E. K. Chambers (author of The Medieval
Stage, 1903) suggested that the part of the angel and
the women visiting the tomb was taken up by layfolk and performed
inside the church on Easter. The enactment was later enlarged
and moved to the area outside the church and watched by the
congregation. Eventually, the plays expanded in scope to include
other Bible stories and were performed in the vernacular
rather than Latin. These performances eventually may have evolved
plays run by guilds,
falling outside the church's control altogether. More recent
scholars such as V. A. Kolve question this theory,
however, so students should take the argument with a grain
QUEST MOTIF: A motif in which the hero must undergo an arduous or dangerous journey to fulfill a mission in order to save his or her people from disaster, and the narrative of that journey frequently becomes the primary plot for the work. The purpose of the journey or aim of the mission may be to seek lost knowledge, rescue a captured comrade or beloved, dispose of a cursed item, or (most frequently) acquire some special artifact or important treasure. In the latter case, the special artifact to be recovered is often jokingly called a "McGuffin" in popular culture tropes.
The prevalance of the quest motif through western culture is incalculable and ancient. Here are a few examples:
Gilgamesh's quest to find a way eternal life after the death of Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh
Jason and the Argonauts'quest for the Golden Fleece
Galahad and the Arthurian knights' quest for the Holy Grail, or the hunt for the Questing Beast
Aeneas' quest to find Italy, where the gods wish him to found Rome in The Aeneid
Odysseus's ten-year journey back to Ithaca after the Trojan war in The Odyssey
Moses leading the Israelites for forty years in the desert to find the Promised Land in the Hebrew Bible
The quest for the Fellowship of the Ring to dispose of the one Ring of Sauron in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
A variety of fairy tales recorded by the brothers Grimm.
Digory's assigned task by Edmund to bring back magic fruit from a walled garden in The Magician's Nephew, or the search to find Prince Rillian in The Silver Chair.
Water Burkert, a Swiss scholar of Greek religion, argues in Homo Necans that the reason we find quest narratives so potent comes from our prehistoric, hunter-gatherer roots. As he sees it, in pre-agricultural societies that relied on hunting for sustenance regularly required boys and young men to undergo a similar experience to that of the hero in this motif. They would have to leave the safety of mother, family, and tribe behind, arm themselves with weapons, and seek out dangerous prey to hunt. This trek might last days, weeks, or even months, as they would have to roam far afield from settled areas to find the best prey. En route to their targets, they would face the dangers of greater predators or injury from harsh terrain like cliffs and rocky fields with limited support. Even if they did find desirable herbivores, they still risked injury or death from antler, hoof, or tusk as the herbivore defended itself. If the hunters succeeded in the kill, they would return to the tribe with life-giving food, saving them from potential starvation, each receiving a hero's welcome. This hunting quest would recurr dozens or scores of times annually, requiring positive social reinforcement for the participants lest they abandon the necessary quest.
Telling stories of brave heroes who undertook such journeys to rescue their people would be a powerful mythic narrative in such societies. They would serve as a model for the young hunters, and tales of heroic hunts would reinforce the necessity of such journeys in spite of the personal anxieties about injury, death, and isolation from loved ones. Given the psychological and cultural weight of such tales, similar stories persisted through the agricultural revolution and the rise of recorded history, remaining central to our most important myths and our modern literature long after the original impetus faded away.
A collection of individual leaves sewn together, usually containing
between four and twelve leaves per quire. This "gathering"
or "booklet" of individual pages would then be sewn
into the larger collection of pages to make the entire book.
written after 1400, the quires are often systematically labeled
in order to help the bookbinder place them in the correct order.
They provide important evidence for the history of specific
manuscripts. Missing pages cut out of a quire show modern scholars
evidence of ancient censorship, and the markings of the quire
can show that books have been rebound or taken apart and "recycled"
into new books.
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:
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Algeo, John and Thomas Pyles.
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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
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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.
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Giroux, Joan. The Haiku
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Guerin, Wilfred L., et
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Harkins, Williams E. Dictionary
of Russian Literature. The New Students Outline Series. Patterson, New
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Eagle, eds. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 4th ed.
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Hopper, Vincent Foster.
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Horobin, Simon. Chaucer's Language. New
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Kane, George. The Autobiographical Fallacy in Chaucer and Langland Studies. London: H. K. Lewis, 1965.
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