Terms and Definitions: Z
This page is under perpetual
construction! It was last updated April 24, 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.
(Italian, "clown"): A stock
character in the commedia dell'arte,
the zani was a buffoonish servant, a jester, a butt
of jokes, i.e., what twentieth-century entertainment would call
a "stooge." The modern English word zany comes from this Italian term.
ZARZUELA (Spanish): A musical play performed before a full opera in Spanish theater of the 17th and 18th centuries. The genre was popular at court and at weddings for the upper class between 1630 and 1705. Shipley lists Lope de Vega's Selva sui Amor and Calderon's Purpura de la Rosa as two examples (633).
(German "Time-ghost" or "Spirit of the Age"):
The preferences, fashions, and trends that characterize the
intangible essence of a specific historical period.
name comes from Zeno of Elea (born c. 495-480 BCE).
Zeno proposed four
paradoxes in order to challenge accepted notions of space
and time as defined in various philosophical
circles. The term "Zeno's Paradox" is usually
applied to the paradox of the arrow or the paradox of
and the tortoise, but the other two paradoxes are often
lumped under the same designation. To illustrate
a sample paradox, Zeno asks the audience to imagine the
great athlete Achilles engaged in a race with a tortoise.
is given a head start of twelve feet or so
in front of Achilles, and the race-track is a hundred
yards long. When the race begins, Achilles begins charging
with a speed much faster than the tortoise's crawl. However,
to reach the half-way point between his starting position
must spend half of his time reaching the midway point
before he has covered half the distance. Then again,
before Achilles can ever travel a quarter of the distance
to the tortoise (the half-way point to the half-way
point), he must spend half of his
that distance. Then again, according to traditional
definitions of space and time, he must spend half his
time traveling to reach the half-way point to that half-way
distance, and so on, ad infinitum. No matter
how fast Achilles runs, by the normal definitions of
temporal distance, Achilles
will never be able to catch up with the turtle because
an endless series of "half-way" points must be crossed
first. In fact, any movement at all should be impossible
must cross an endless number of "halfway" points
before any motion can take place at all, each
movement taking an infinitely smaller slice of time to
mathematicians and logicians for millennia. It
theory of infinite sets that the paradoxes could be fully
resolved--but that idea only came about in the 1860s
and 1870s. In literature, postmodern writers such as
Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, and postmodern films like
Run Lola Run all use allusions to Zeno's Paradox
to convey ideas about the absurdity of time and distance.
ZEUGMA (Greek "yoking"
or "bonding"): Artfully using a single verb to refer
to two different objects in an ungrammatical but striking way, or artfully using
adjective to refer to two separate nouns, even though the adjective
would logically only be appropriate for one of the two. For
instance, in Shakespeare's Henry V, Fluellen cries, "Kill
the boys and the luggage." (The verb kill normally
wouldn't be applied to luggage, so it counts a zeugma.) If the resulting grammatical
construction changes the verb's initial meaning but is still grammatically correct, the zeugma
is sometimes called syllepsis--though in actual practice, most critics use the general term zeugma to include both the grammatical and ungrammatical types interchangeably.
Examples of these syllepses and zeugmas abound--particulary in seventeenth-century
we don't hang together, we shall hang separately!" (Ben
"The queen of England sometimes takes advice in that chamber,
and sometimes tea."
". . . losing her heart or her necklace at the ball." (Alexander
"She exhausted both her audience and her repertoire." (anonymous)
"She looked at the object with suspicion and a magnifying
glass." (Charles Dickens)
"Miss Bolo went home in a flood of tears and a sedan
chair." (Charles Dickens)
[King Charles I was . . .] "Circled with his royal
diadem and the affections of his people." (Mistress
you were gone down to cultivate matrimony and your estate
in the country" (Goldsmith)
"Her beauty pierced mine eye, her speech my wo[e]ful
breast, / Her presence all the powers of my discourse."
Zeugma is also known as
synezeugmenon. Some rhetoricians
subdivide zeugma according to the location of the verb that
functions as the shared connector, referring to a zeugma as
a prozeugma or protozeugma
if the connector comes before the various subsequent components
(as illustrated in the last example listed above). They refer
to the figure as a mesozeugma if
the connector appears in the middle of a phrase. For example, "And
now a bubble burst, and now a world" (Lanham
99). Rhetoricians refer to the figure as a hypozeugma if
the connector appears at the end. An example of a hypozeugma
would be "Hours, days, weeks, months,
and years do pass away" (Sherry, quoted in Lanham
"splendor"): A medieval commentary on the Pentateuch appearing
in several books written in Aramaic and Hebrew, widely considered
the most important work of Kabala. It first appeared in 13th
century Spain, published by Moses de Leon, who claimed it was
the work of a legendary second century Rabbi, Shimon bar Yochai.
ZOOMORPHIC: Another term for therianthropic or theriomorphic. The noun form is zoomorphism.
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.
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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
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[Originally published 1977 as Griechische Religion der archaischen
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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
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Row, 1974. Reprint as Barnes and Noble Edition, 1981.
Drout, Michael D. C. J.R.R. Tolkien
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Eagle, eds. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 4th ed.
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Lanham, Richard A. A
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McDonald. Questions of English. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.
Mawson, C. O. Sylvester
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Y. Crowell Company, 2nd ed. 1975.
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Palmer, Donald. Looking
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