Terms and Definitions: Y
This page is under perpetual
construction! It was last updated November 7, 2015.
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 coarse, filthy, smelly, bestial, barbaric, bipedal creature
only vaguely resembling a human. Jonathan Swift coined the
term in Gulliver's Travels, applying it to a race
of humanoid brutes in contrast with the civilized race of
intelligent horses, the Houyhnhnms. The term has since become
a popular allusion. Mark Twain and other writers use it to
refer to bumpkins, louts, or yokels. One wonders what the
internet search engine Yahoo thus implies about its
users. The term yahoo has also become a popular outcry
or exclamation when a speaker is engaged in something boisterous.
A group of critics at Yale University who are known primarily for deconstructionist interpretations--the
group includes Paul de Man, J. Hillis
Miller, Geoffrey Hartman, and Harold Bloom.
(Old English geard, closely related to OE eard,
"earth"): In theater architecture during the
Renaissance, the yard is the central area open to the area
in theaters such as the Globe. Groundlings typically stood
in this spot, unlike the more prodigal audience members who
paid extra for a seat in the balconies. Admission in the yard
in public theaters cost a penny in Shakespeare's day.
YARN (Old English gearn):
An informal name for a long,
rambling story--especially one dealing with adventure or
tall-tales. The genre typically involves a strong narrative
presence and colloquial or idiomatic English.
The tone is realistic, but the content is typically fantastic
or hyperbolic. Cf. the Chinese p'ing
hua and the Russian skaz.
TEXT (aka J
Text): In biblical studies, this textual tradition
contrasts with the E
Text and the P
Text appearing in Genesis and other parts of
the Torah. As for the abbreviation "J," in German
transliteration of Hebrew, the letter "J" is used
for "Y." Thus, scholars today refer to the "J
Text" or the Yahwist Text when
they discuss a textual tradition referring to God as Yahweh or Yahweh
Elohim but which never refers to God as Elohim alone.
The J Text was once thought to have
been written about 999-800 BCE, but more recent scholarship
suggests it should be dated
after the period of exile (597, 587/586 BCE). It is written
in a dialect we associated with the city of Jerusalem and
the kingdom of Judah, the more southerly of the tribal
nations. This contrasts with the E Text,
in which the material is associated linguistically with
of Ephraim and which probably dates between 799-700 BCE.
These two textual traditions of the E Text and the J text
probably existed independently of each other for some time,
but the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed toward
the end of the eighth century. The priests of Judah seem
incorporated the E Text into their J Text tradition after
that. This resulted in occasional duplications and repetition
of detail in the Pentateuch; often the same tale
would be told twice, once with a northern orientation and
once with a southern perspective. We can see the same phenomenon
in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles. The resulting
blend, complete with more recent additions such as late
foreign loanwords, late religious rituals like the Sabbath,
borrowed from Mesopotamian poetry and religions, is called
the "P Text" or the Priestly
Document. If students are reading a study Bible like the Anchor
Bible series, the editors helpfully mark which sections
come from the E Text, the J Text, and the P Text. A sample
of material that comes from the J Text
includes the material in Genesis 1:1-2:3, which probably
written much later than the subsequent material in Genesis
2:4 and afterward. Click here for a more detailed
An annually published book or journal, especially one containing
information or statistics about that year in particular. Examples
include college yearbooks and encyclopedia yearbooks. Some
scholarly journals produce separately issued yearbooks with
annotated bibliographies or summaries of scholarly publications
for the past year within a specific field, such as The
Year's Work in Anglo-Saxon Studies.
YELLOW-BACK: Another term for a dime novel.
(Middle English yeman, probably a contraction of
"young man"): In early Middle English, the term
referred to freemen or freeholders, lower-class peasants who
had obtained their freedom from serfdom, and as members of
the new bourgeoisie
were thus free to join guilds,
purchase lands, or work as day laborers for hire. The term
later came to mean in particular an attendant servant or lesser
official who serves in a royal or noble household for paid
wages rather than feudal obligations. The yeoman in the General
Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales appears to
be such a servant hired to aid the Knight.
A letter shape used in writing Middle English and some Anglo-Saxon texts. It resembled a letter "three" often partially set below the line. In some handwriting styles, the scribe would flatten the top of the letter into a horizontal line. Here is an example of an uppercase and lowercase yogh with the more common curved top:
here to see more discussion.
THEORY: In linguistics, the idea that language
first began as a way to facilitate cooperative labor. Contrast
with the bow-wow
theory and the ding-dong
(from Sanskrit yoni, "vagina"): A yonic
symbol is a sexualized representation of femininity and
power--particularly through some object vaguely reminiscent
of the vagina. Common yonic symbols include cups, cauldrons,
chalices, goblets, wells, caves, tunnels, circles, hoops,
pots, and other containers. An example would be found in
Shakespeare's sonnet 154, where we read of how a virgin takes
the torch of love and stops the flame of "hot desire" when
"This brand, she quenched in a cool
well by, / which from Love's fire took heat perpetual." Contrast with a phallic
MAN SONNETS: The first seventeen sonnets in
the Shakespearean collection published in 1609. These sonnets
break the normal sonnet conventions in that the implied situation
is not a poetic speaker wooing a cold and distant female as
the implied audience. Instead, the speaker is addressing a
handsome young man and trying to convince him he should settle
down and have children. Sonnets 18-26 may also be considered
a part of this series, though these poems focus much more
on the destructive aspects of time. Contrast with the "dark
YOUNG VIENNA: As Shipley notes, "Young Vienna" was a movement of Austrian artists popular between 1890-1914 including Bahr, Schnitzler, Altenberg, Herzl, and Rainer Maria Rilke. The group was marked by a distrust or disillusionment with industry, science, business, politics, and imperialism more common in Germany and elsewhere in Austria. Their tales and lyrics often focuses on disillusionment, contemplation, and lost pleasures. The movement is associated with the Cafe Grienstadl as its geographic center and with the newspaper Neue Friee Presse (Shipley 632-33).
(Chinese "music bureau"): A form of Chinese poetry
in mixed meter and short lines, with a five-word line being
most common. The number of stanzas was likewise variable. The
conventions of the genre include a monologue or dialogue presented
in dramatic form revolving around some misfortune. The name
comes from the music bureaus that were a fixture of Chinese
decoration. These bureaus contained sheets of popular songs
and ballad-type lyrics. Cf. ballad.
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.
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,
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:
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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.
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Holman, C. Hugh. A
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Hopper, Vincent Foster.
Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought
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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.
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Lanham, Richard A. A
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McDonald. Questions of English. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.
Mawson, C. O. Sylvester
and Charles Berlitz. Dictionary of Foreign Terms. New York: Thomas
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McManus, Damian. Ogam Stones At University
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Metzger, Bruce M. and Michael D. Coogan,
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Palmer, Donald. Looking
At Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter. 2nd
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Peck, Harry Thurston. Harper's Dictionary of Clasical Literature and Antiquities. New York: The American Book Company, 1923. 2 vols.
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Quinn, Arthur. Figures
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Library. New York: Philosophical Library, 1943.
Supplement to the Oxford
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Smith, David P. "Glossary of Grammar Terms." [Miscellaneous
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Velásquez, Lito. E-mail communication. 26 October 2015.
Williams, Jerri. "Schemes
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Yasuda, Kenneth. The
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Zireaux. E-mail Communication. 21 June 2012.