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Literary Terms and Definitions: V

This page is under perpetual construction! It was last updated January 5, 2017.

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.

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M]

[N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

VALAR: As part of his myth building for The Lord of the Rings universe, Tolkien creates two sorts of demiurge deities--the Valar and the Maiar. Both of these are lesser creation spirits who serve under the primary creator spirit, Eru or Iluvatar, in The Silmarillion. The model Tolkien uses here is akin to Neo-Platonism, in which a primary and more powerful creator fashions lesser spirits with less power, perfection, and splendor, which in turn fashion their own inferior deities beneath them, and so on, until the bulk of the universe is complete.

In Tokien's mythos, the Valar include higher spirits such as the Ainur (whom Tolkien describes in his letters as "rational spirits or minds without incarnation" and a limited number of other Valar whom Tolkien describes as "angelic immortals"--see Drout 689). The Ainur primarily communicate through dreams, visions, and ideas--perhaps being analogous to the Muses in Greek mythology. The Valar are so spiritually pure they need not be embodied in physical form, but they assist Eru in shaping Arda. In a manner akin to the Titans in Hesiod's Theogony, the embodied Valar exist in connected male/female pairs, though Tolkien has fourteen total Valar instead of twelve. In spite of their powers, the Valar are susceptible to errors of judgment--they are not omniscient or omnipotent, and they can experience repentence and regret. Below them, the Maiar act as their assistants. Tolkien implies vast numbers of Maiar exist, each one assigned to squire one of the Valar, but he provides few names for these lesser spirits in his fiction.

VALORIZATION: In literary criticism, the privileging of one key aspect of a literary text or one particular process as the focus of literary analysis. New Critics, for instance, valorize the text itself, the words on the page as an independent literary artifact and de-emphasize biographical details about the author's life. Freudian critics valorize the unconscious mind. Textual critics valorize the process of editing and creating a "best text" of a literary work. Deconstructionists valorize language as a free-floating collection of signs, etc.

VANIR: One of the two groups of deities in Old Norse legends. The Norse believed in two groups of deities coexisted, the Vanir and the Aesir. The Vanir appear to have been associated with fertility and crops, while the Aesir appear to have been gods of war and crafts. A common speculation is that, like the twelve Titans and the twelve Olympian gods in Greco-Roman mythology, the Vanir and Aesir may be indicative of two sets of deities--one older and one younger--whose mythologies merged when two different ethnic groups settled in the same area. When the newcomers conquered the lands of older natives, they brought with them a new cultic practices, and they displaced the older native religion with a new pantheon of gods. Tolkien's likewise in The Silmarillion creates two types of fictional deities, the Valar and the Maiar. His artistic decision to two type of supernatural being may be a faint or indirect echo of those older northern legends, or possibly an echo of Greco-Roman mythology.

VARIABLE SYLLABLE: A syllable which can be either stressed or unstressed, long or short, depending upon the surrounding context.

VARIORUM: A variorum edition is any published version of an author's work that contains notes and comments by a number of scholars and critics. The term is a shortened version of the Latin phrase cum notis variorum ("with the notes of various people"). The New Variorum Shakespeare is possibly the best known variorium edition in English. Variorum editions often include an extensive criticus apparatus.

VEGETATIONSDÄMON (Ger. "Plant-spirit"): A deity or spirit in mythology or in animism that represents (or is directly equivalent to) the vitality of domestic crops and/or native vegetation. This spirit would (in enacted ritual, in sacrifice, or in mythological narratives) grow and mature as the crops would grow and mature, but when the crops would be harvested, or when the seasons would change with autumn, the vegetationsdämon would either wither in death or would be struck down and killed in the harvest. Depending upon the mythic version, either the vegetationsdämon would be replaced by a new spirit with the new season, or the dead spirit would spontaneously resurrect and appear in the new season in young and vital form again. Analogues to this belief can be seen in Celtic "sacred kings," "Jack-in-the-Green" carvings, and the mystery cults of Demeter and Bacchus in ancient Greece.

In the late nineteenth-century, German folklorists like Wilhelm Mannhardt studied Baltic myths and used studies of the vegetationsdämon to explain many cross-cultural myths in which a god dies and rises again. Later, British scholars like Sir James Frazer expanded upon Mannhardt's ideas and popularized them in The Golden Bough. Their work has since been criticized as a "one-size-fits-all" approach to myth (most recently and especially by Swiss scholars like Walter Burkert who focus on primitive hunting rituals as a source for myth). Likewise, the idea of a "seasonal dying god" makes much more sense in Northern Europe (with its fall and winter seasons) than it does in tropical locales like South America or balmy Mediterranean regions like Greece and Italy, where warm weather lasts year-round. In spite of those criticisms, Mannhardt and Frazer have been profoundly influential in mythological studies and on early twentieth-century poets and occultists.

VEHICLE: (1) In general literature, vehicle means any general method by which an author, poet, or artist accomplishes her purpose. Thus, one might say, "Swift uses the vehicle of satire to express his ideas," or that "Darwin employs the vehicle of clear diction to best communicate a scientific theory." (2) In a metaphorical statement, the object of the tenor--i.e., the imagined thing to which the speaker compares the real-world object. See further discussion under metaphor.

VELAR: In linguistics, any velar sound involves the soft palate or velum--especially when the tongue touches against the soft palate.

VELLUM: The skin of a young calf used as a writing surface--the medieval equivalent of "paper." A technical distinction is usually made between vellum and parchment; the latter is made from goatskin or sheepskin. Uterine vellum--the skin of stillborn or very young calves, is characterized by small size and particularly fine, white appearance. As Michelle P. Brown notes in Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts, the process for creating vellum or parchment is quite complicated:

To produce parchment or vellum, the animal skins were defleshed in a bath of lime, stretched on a frame, and scraped with a lunular knife while damp. they could then be treated with pumice, whitened with a substance such as chalk, and cut to size. Differences in preparation technique seem to have occasioned greater diversity in appearance than did the type of skin used. Parchment supplanted papyrus as the most popular writing support material in the fourth century, although it was known earlier. Parchment was itself largely replaced by paper in the sixteenth century (with the rise of printing) but remained in use for certain high-grade books. (95)

VENODOTIAN CODE: See Dosbarth Gwynedd.

VERB: A word that "does" the subject's action in a sentence or shows a state of being or equation. For instance, "He sang to her." The word sang is the verb. Typically verbs can appear in various tenses (like past, present, or future), in various aspects (complete or not complete), in different voices (such as active, passive, or aorist) and in different moods (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, jussive, conditional). Many languages use one form of a verb for singular subjects and a different form for plural subjects.

VERBAL IRONY: See discussion under irony, above.

VERBAL NOUN: A noun that comes from a verb. For instance, peregrination comes from the verb peregrinate, and the gerund running comes from the present participle of the verb run. Contrast this with the noun timber, which does not come from a verb.

VERBAL PARADOX: See paradox and oxymoron.

VERBIAGE: Unnecessary words in a sentence that detract from the sentence's impact. The term is derogatory in nature, criticizing a lack of skillfull concision. See discussion under periphrasis.

VERCELLI MANUSCRIPT: An important manuscript of Old English religious poems and sermons--probably written in the late tenth-century. The name comes from Vercelli monastery in northern Italy, where the lost manuscript was rediscovered. This manuscript includes one of only two copies of the poem, "The Dream of the Rood." The other surviving copy of this poem is a set of partial excerpts from the work that appears carved in runes on the Ruthwell Cross near Dumfries in southern Scotland.

VERISIMILITUDE: The sense that what one reads is "real," or at least realistic and believable. For instance, the reader possesses a sense of verisimilitude when reading a story in which a character cuts his finger, and the finger bleeds. If the character's cut finger had produced sparks of fire rather than blood, the story would not possess verisimilitude. Note that even fantasy novels and science fiction stories that discuss impossible events can have verisimilitude if the reader is able to read them with suspended disbelief. Cf. Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

VERNACULAR (from Latin vernaculus "native, indigenous"): The everyday or common language of a geographic area or the native language of commoners in a country as opposed to a prestigious dead language maintained artificially in schools or in literary texts. Latin, for instance, has not been a vernacular language for about 1250 years. Sanskrit has not been a vernacular language in India for more than 2000 years. However, Latin in medieval Europe and Sanskrit in ancient India were considered much more suitable for art, scholarship, poetry, and religious texts than the common tongue of everyday people even though (or perhaps because) only a small percentage of the learned could read the older languages.

Usually, a race or culture writes in its native tongue during the early days of its civilization. For instance, the Chinese Wên Li was a vernacular language at the time of Confucius, and it would have been easily understood by most Chinese people in that dialectical area. Likewise, Saint Jerome translated the koine Greek of the New Testament into the "vulgate" or common Latin familiar to Roman citizens. As time goes by, and the early writings take on special cultural prestige, these older writings tend to be preserved and taught even after the original language changes or dies out completely. Often the classical languages are no longer understandable by common citizens--but these dead languages would still be used in the courts, in government documents, in poetry, and in scripture.

In the early medieval period, only Latin writings had much prestige. The medieval church was disturbed by attempts to translate the Bible into common languages like English, German, Italian, or French. In England, for example, Wycliffites and Lollards would be burnt at the stake for making illegal translations of the Bible into "base" languages less worthy than Saint Jerome's Latin. For this reason, little English literature survives between 1066 and 1300. The major literary works in Britain between 1066 and 1300 are primarily in Latin (and to a smaller extent, French).

Dante was one of the first major literary figures to break this stifling tradition by choosing to write his masterpiece The Divine Comedy in vernacular Italian rather than classical Latin. In England, he was followed by Geoffrey Chaucer, who chose to write The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Creseida, The Canterbury Tales and other early works in English. This contrasts sharply with Gower, Froissart, Machaut, and other writers at the English court who wrote most of their work in Latin or French. Dante, Chaucer, and others in the fourteenth century made it acceptable to write in the vernacular tongues rather than classical languages, and readers of this webpage can thank them accordingly that they aren't reading the HTML code in Latin. Cf. Black Vernacular.

VERNER'S LAW: In linguistics, a codicil or addition to Grimm's Law that helps explain some exceptions to Grimm's Law of the First Sound Shift. The law was proposed by Karl Verner in 1875, and it states that early Germanic voiceless fricatives became voiced when (1) the Indo-European stress was not on the immediately preceding syllable, and (2) the word appears in a voiced environment (See Algeo, pages 81-82).

VERS: Not to be confused with verse, below, a vers is a song in Old Provencal almost indistinguishable from the chanson, but vers is the older term.

VERS LIBRE: See discussion under free verse.

VERS DE SOCIÉTÉ: Light verse that compliments another or touches on the manners and morals of its time-period. The verse is often intended for public performance, and it is typically thought to be marked by wit, eloquence, and graceful diction. An example Deutsche points out is George Wither's lyric, which begins "Shall I, wasting in despair, / Die because a woman is fair?" and concludes, "If she thinks not well of me / What care I how fair she be?" (qtd in Deutsche 78).

VERSE: There are three general meanings for verse (1) a line of metrical writing, (2) a stanza, or (3) any composition written in meter (i.e., poetry generally). Remember that rhyme is not the identifying mark of poetry, but rather meter.

VERSE PARAGRAPH: A division of poetry by each section's content in a rhetorical manner akin to prose paragraphs. Often, a typesetter or editor indicates verse paragraphs by adding an extra line-space above and below the pertinent section to set it off from other parts of the poem. Unlike a stanza, in which the division of poetry corresponds to repeated elements of rhyme or other poetic structure, and in which each stanza must be identical in length and form to that of other stanzas, verse paragraphs end and begin according to divisions of sense and subject-matter. Thus, they are much like prose paragraphs in an essay, in which each paragraph deals with a single topic or idea, and a new paragraph division indicates that a new topic or idea is to be explored. Like paragraphs in a prose essay (and unlike stanzas), verse paragraphs can vary in length within an individual poetic work. Milton's Paradise Lost is an example of a poem written in verse paragraphs. Contrast with stanza.

VERSIFICATION: Literally, the making of verse, the term is often used as another name for prosody. This refers to the technical and practical aspect of making poems as opposed to purely theoretical and aesthetic poetic concerns.

VERSO: See discussion under quarto or examine this chart.

VICTORIAN PERIOD: The period of British literature in the late nineteenth century. The date of the period is often given as 1837-1901--the years Queen Victoria ruled the expanding British Empire. Alternatively, the date is given as 1832-1901, according to the passage of the first labor reform bill in the 1832 English Parliament. The Victorian Period of literature is characterized by excellent novelists, essayists, poets, and philosophers, but only a few dramatists.

The positive characteristics, attitudes, and qualities of the Victorian Period often suggest a belief in social progress, a conservative attitude about sexual mores and respectability, values of middle-class industriousness and hard work, and a strong sense of gentlemanly honor and feminine virtue. The negative characteristics of the Victorian Period include complacency, hypocrisy, smugness, and simplistic moral earnestness. When applied to literature, the word Victorian often implies humorlessness, unquestioning belief or orthodoxy and authority in matters of politics and religion, prudishness, and condemnation of those who defy social and moral convention. These dual qualities originate in Britain's self-satisfaction and economic growth during the nineteenth century. The country's increased national wealth, its scientific and industrial advances, the growing power of its navy, and its relentless expansion in overseas colonies all contributed to the period's zeitgeist. Some of the prominent British writers include Cardinal Newman, Benjamin Disraeli, Bulwer-Lytton, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Swinburne, Samuel Butler, Charles Dickens, Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, George Eliot, Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, George Meredith, Lewis Caroll, William Morris, Wilkie Collins, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Lord Acton, Samuel Butler, and Louis Stevenson. Cf. didactic literature. Click here to download a list of the major periods of literary history.

VIGNETTE (French, "little vine"): A short composition showing considerable skill, especially such a composition designed with little or no plot or larger narrative structure. Often vignettes are descriptive or evocative in their nature. An example would be the brief narratives appearing in Sandra Cisneros's short-stories. More loosely, vignettes might be descriptive passages within a larger work, such as Virginia Woolf's "Kew Gardens," or Faulkner's descriptions of horses and landscapes in The Hamlet. The term vignette ("little vine") originally comes from a decorative device appearing on a title page or at the beginnings and ends of chapters. Conventionally, nineteenth-century printers depicted small looping vines here loosely reminiscent of the vinework in medieval manuscripts.

VIKING (Old Norse vikingr, "pirate," perhaps related to vik, a navigable creek, bay, or inlet to the sea, or perhaps related to an Old English word wic, meaning "encampment"): Technically, in its most exclusive sense, a viking is a pirate, any individual that goes i-viking ("plundering") regardless of the buccaneer's ethnicity. Historically, Irishmen, Anglo-Saxons, Franks, Bretons, and Slavs all joined in viking raids at various points, and chroniclers called them all vikings during their attacks. In its most common modern usage, the word viking applies to the pale-skinned North Germanic tribes between the years 550 CE and 1052 CE who inhabited the modern Scandinavian peninsula (i.e., Denmark, Sweden, and Norway). These tribes eventually settled in Iceland and the Faroese islands and they conquered or raided large portions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Normandy. The resulting ethnographic mixtures are often called Viking cultures (with a capital V- to indicate the scholar is referring to the larger race rather than pirates alone). The Old Norse and North Germanic languages that the Viking cultures spoke developed into modern Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese.The first mention of these tribes is in the writings of the Gothic historian Jordanes (c. 550 CE), who records their location. From archeological evidence, we know Viking forts built at Eketorp and Ismantorp date back at least a century earlier than Jordanes' records. Contact between the rest of Europe and the Viking-held lands was sporadic for centuries, involving occasional trade, small raids, or largely failed attempts to convert the Vikings. Such examples include Willibrord's first Christian mission sent to Scandinavia, (c. 725 CE) along with Archbishop Ebo of Rheims' missionary trip to Denmark in 823 CE.

However, the Vikings ultimately did burst onto the European stage in a shocking way when bands of them attacked Portland (c. 789), and then followed up by attacking the defenseless monastery of Lindisfarne (793). The idea of armed pagans cutting down pacifist Christian monks, looting churches, destroying illuminated bibles to claim the gold decoration, and carting off engemmed reliquaries and other holy paraphernalia as loot completely horrified Christian contemporaries, who grew to fear Vikings with an almost religious dread. The Vikings, astonished at how rich the monasteries were, and how helpless the "foolish" Christian monks were, returned in ever larger bands that would sail up creeks and inlets to strike unpredictable targets far inland in Britain and Europe. After killing defenders and burning defenses, they would frequently enslave monks, children, and women as "thralls" to take back north with them.

A sign of European helplessness is visible in the Viking practice of winter-seotling, or establishing a base camp in invaded territory during the winter rather than sailing home to Scandinavia with the ill-garnered gains. (It's a sign of some weakness when a band of burglars can break into a victim's house and steal her belongings; it's a sign of much greater helplessness if the band of burglars repeatedly decides to set up tents in the victim's living room and to stay there rather than go to the trouble of returning home between robberies.) In 839-840, the Viking invaders winter-seotled in Ireland for the first time. In 842, they winter-seotled in Francia [France]. In 850, they began winter-seotling in England. It would be tedious to list all the major raids, but ultimately Danish Vikings invaded and settled permanently in Dublin and large parts of northern England. The regions controlled by Danish Vikings in England (including London at one point in history, but mostly focused around Northumberland and York) became known as the Danelaw. The Danish presence had a profound influence on English, introducing many Old Norse vocabulary words into common English use, and even more importantly, accelerating a long-term loss of grammatical inflections in Anglo-Saxon.

The Viking raids left a particularly deep imprint in medieval English literature. "The Battle of Maldon," for instance, recounts the historical last-stand of an aging Anglo-Saxon regional governor and his untrained levy of troops against a Viking incursion in 991. Archbishop Wulfstan of York eloquently captured England's despair in his "Sermon of the Wolf to the English People," written in response to Svein Forkbeard's victory over the Anglo-Saxons in 1014.

See also related terms under althing, berserker, danegeld, saga, and thing.

VILLANELLE: A versatile genre of poetry consisting of nineteen lines--five tercets and a concluding quatrain. The form requires that whole lines be repeated in a specific order, and that only two rhyming sounds occur in the course of the poem. A number of English poets, including Oscar Wilde, W. E. Henley, and W. H. Auden have experimented with it. Here is an example of an opening stanza to one poem by W. E. Henley:

A dainty thing's the Villanelle,
Sly, musical, a jewel in rhyme.
It serves its purpose passing well.
A double-clappered silver bell,
That must be made to clink in chime,
A dainty thing's the Villanelle.
And if you wish to flute a spell,
Or ask a meeting 'neath the lime,
It serves its purpose passing well.

Probably the most famous English villanelle is Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."

VINERY (also known as vinework): Another term for filigree work in medieval manuscripts. Scott defines this type of decoration in the following manner: "Delicate, conventional designs, usually in gold, on a flat coloured surface, in overall patterns of curling vines, branches, and sprigs and/or leaves; used as a background to miniatures and initials and on band borders and miniature frames" (Scott 371).

VINEWORK (also known as vinery): Another term for filigree work in medieval manuscripts. Scott describes this common type of decoration in the following manner: "Delicate, conventional designs, usually in gold, on a flat coloured surface, in overall patterns of curling vines, branches, and sprigs and/or leaves; used as a background to miniatures and initials and on band borders and miniature frames" (Scott 371).

VIRELAY: An old French term for a short poem consisting of (A) short lines using two rhymes and (B) two opening lines that recur intermittently. A second form of the virelay consists of stanzas made up of shorter and longer lines, the lines of each kind rhyming within one stanza and with the rhymes of the shorter lines rhyming with the longer ones of the preceding stanza. A typical quatrain rhyming pattern for this form is abab bcbc, cdcd, dada. The form never became popular in English because of the difficulties with the set rhyming of English words and the potential for monotony, but Chaucer apparently wrote many virelays in his youth.

VIRGULE: (1) In poetry, a forward-slash mark ( / ) used in scansion to mark the boundaries of poetic lines (i.e. line breaks) or alternatively, they may be used to indicate the boundaries of poetic feet. See foot, meter, and scansion. (2) In linguistics, the same mark surrounds a phonetic transcription to indicate the enclosed material represents phonemes rather than graphemes.

VISIO: The Latin name for the medieval genre of the dream vision. See dream vision.

VISIONARY: Visionary writing has the qualities of prophecy--perhaps it is apocalyptic in imagery, or it may be predictive in its insights, or it may contain a core of moral truth. Many of the Romantic poets (especially Blake) have been labeled visionary. Note that in its literary sense, visionary writing need not be religious in nature, though it frequently is. Contrast with the terms mystic and dream vision.

VISUAL IMAGERY: Imagery that invokes colors, shapes, or things that can be seen. See discussion under imagery.

VISUAL POETRY: See concrete poetry.

VITA (Latin, "a life," plural and genitive form, vitae): The word vita has two common meanings in English scholarship. First, for medievalists, a vita is a medieval literary genre, one commonly called "a saint's life" or a "hagiography." The saint's life is a narrative focusing on the miraculous occurrences associated with saints (famous holy individuals especially martyrs and apostles). The genre was extraordinarily popular in past centuries. Of the surviving medieval narratives about the lives of medieval men and women, 90% are vitae. The conventions of the genre often include (1) a dramatic conversion to Christianity or to an eremitical/monastic life, (2) a sequence of miracles to confound pagans or evil authority-figures, (3) divine intervention in the plot-line, (4) the threat or actual experience of horrible mutilation, torture, or martyrdom, and (5) a continuation of miracles associated with the saint's relics after the saint's death, often accompanied by the material incorruptability of the dead body and the supernatural gustatory imagery of roses, a feature that might be inspired by 2nd Corinthians 2:14-16. It is interesting to note that, to my knowledge, the vita is one of the few literary genres in which a deus ex machina ending is not only expected, but actually forms a significant contribution to the common themes of the genre. See deus ex machina, genre, and relic.

In its second, more modern sense, a vita or curriculum vitae is a summary of a scholar's work, publications, teaching, and education--a sort of extended resume. In academic jargon, this sort of document is a "c.v." For an example of my own curriculum vitae, click here.

VOCABLE: In poetry, an individual sound or individual letters considered without regard for any associated meaning, or a word in a poem considered in terms of its sound and shape on the page without any regard for its meaning (Deutsche 192).

VOCABULARY: The stock of available words (1) in a given language or (2) for a given speaker of that language.

VOCALIZATION: In linguistics, the change from a consonant sound to a vowel sound.

VOCATIVE: In a synthetic or declined language, a grammatical case used to invoke or call to another person.

VOGUE WORD: A word that appears in fashionable use or in pop culture. Often these vogue words and vogue expressions have a short shelf life and fall from English use within a few years' time. For example, the exclamation "snap!" as an interjection of excitement among American teenagers is probably a current vogue word, just as the phrase "big mook" was a vogue word from the late 1920s and early 1930s.

VOICE: See speaker, poetic.

VO LANGUAGE (pronounced "Vee-Oh"): A language that tends to place the verb before the grammatical object in a sentence. Modern English is a VO language. Contrast with an OV language.

VOLITIVE: A verb form that expresses a wish, command, or the speaker's will. In many languages, an identical verb form is used for both the intentive (which expresses intention) and the volitive. In English verbs, the future tense is often used as a volitive future. For example, English uses the same verb form (will) to express both the future tense ("It will rain tomorrow") and a future volitive or intentive ("By heaven, I will finish the assignment tomorrow"). In the first example, the rain itself has no volition, so the sentence merely expresses a future event. In the second example, the speaker is actually expressing his desired course of action, not necessarily making a prediction. This ambiguity can lead to translation problems when English speakers look at writings in other languages. For instance, David P. Smith notes in 1 Corinthians 14:15, the Greek translation is "I will pray" and "I will sing." In Greek, the verbs express or emphasize a desire to do these activities in the future as opposed to an indication of future reality. In English, the distinction is not necessarily clear, which complicates statements that might or might not be read as prophetic in the original language.

VOLKERWANDERUNG (German: "folk-wandering"): Also called the Germanic migrations, this term refers to the mass migration of Germanic tribes westward across Europe between 375 CE and 750 CE. This demographic movement pushed the Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Goths into the boundaries of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, speeding its dissolution. The same movement also pushed the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes across the channel into Celtic Britain, where they in turn dislocated the native Celtic population by driving them into Cornwall, Wales and Scotland in the western and northern parts of Britain and even into Brittany in northwestern France. These Anglo-Saxon tribes formed the basis of the English people and their tongue became known as Old English. The late stages of the Volkerwanderung involved northern Germanic Viking tribes from Norway, Scandinavia, and Denmark pillaging the British isles and much of Britain.

VOLTA: Also called a turn, a volta is a sudden change in thought, direction, or emotion near the conclusion of a sonnet. This invisible volta is then followed by a couplet or gemel (in English sonnets) or a sestet (in Italian sonnets). Typically, the first section of the sonnet states a premise, asks a question, or suggests a theme. The concluding lines after the volta resolve the problem by suggesting an answer, offering a conclusion, or shifting the thematic concerns in a new direction.

VULGAR LATIN: The uneducated Latin used in everyday speech in the Roman Empire, as opposed to the more refined Classical Latin used in literature and governmental address.

VULGATE, THE: Saint Jerome's Latin anthologized compilation and translation of the Bible, prepared in the fourth century CE and used as the authorized version in Roman Catholic liturgical services up until Vatican II. The term vulgate as an adjective also refers loosely to any commonly recognized or accepted version of a work, so we might half-jokingly call The Riverside Chaucer "the vulgate Chaucer," or whatnot.

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M]

[N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

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:

Works Cited:

  • 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 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, 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, Seán. Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2005.
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