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Literary Terms and Definitions: H

This page is under perpetual construction! It was last updated 3 September 2014.


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]

HAGIOGRAPHY (Greek, "sacred writing"; also called hagiology): The writing or general study of the lives of Christian saints, either in liturgy or in literature. A single story dealing with the life of a saint is called a vita (plural vitae) or a saint's life. Notable examples of literary vitae include Eusebius of Caesarea's record of Palestinian martyrs (4th century CE), Theodoret's account of Syrian monks (5th century CE); Gregory the Great's accounts of the Italian monks (6th century), the Byzantine Menology or Byzantine Calendar incorporating short saints' lives, the Chronicle of Nestor (c. 1113 CE), and The Golden Legend of Jacobus of Voragine (13th century CE). A calendar that incorporates brief saints' lives is called a menology or a martyrology, and these have been compiled by Heironymian (5th century CE), the Venerable Bede (8th century CE), and Adon and Usuard (9th century CE). Among Protestants, John Foxe's Actes and Monuments (alias The Book of Martyrs), published in 1559, contains both a history of the Christian Church and detailed accounts of martyrs, especially the Protestant victims killed during the reign of Queen Mary ("Bloody Mary"). See vita.

HAIKAI: Another term for haikai renga or renku. See discussion under renku and renga.

HAIKAI RENGA: Another term for renku. See discussion under renku and renga.

HAIKU (plural: haiku, from archaic Japanese): The term haiku is a fairly late addition to Japanese poetry. The poet Shiki coined the term in the nineteenth century from a longer, more traditional phrase, haikai renga no hokku ("the introductory lines of light linked verse"). To understand the haiku's history as a genre, peruse the vocabulary entries for its predecessors, the hokku and the haikai renga or renku.

The haiku follows several conventions:

(1) The traditional Japanese haiku consists of three lines. The first line contains five syllables, the second line contains seven, and the last line five. In Japanese, the syllables are further restricted in that each syllable must have three sound units (sound-components formed of a consonant, a vowel, and another consonant). The three unit-rule is usually ignored in English haiku, since English syllables vary in size much more than in Japanese. Furthermore, in English translation, this 5/7/5 syllable count is occasionally modified to three lines containing 6/7/6 syllables respectively, since English is not as "compact" as Japanese.

(2) The traditional subject-matter is a Zen description of a location, natural phenomona, wildlife, or a common everyday occurrence. Insects and seasonal activities are particularly popular topics. If the subject-matter is something besides a scene from nature, or if it employs puns, elaborate symbols, or other forms of "cleverness," the poem is technically a senryu rather than a haiku. The point was that the imagery presents a "Zen snapshot" of the universe, setting aside logic and thought for a flash of intuitive insight. The haiku seeks to capture the qualities of experiencing the natural world uncluttered by "ideas." Often editors will talk about "the haiku moment"--that split second when we first experience something but before we begin to think about it. (In many ways, this idea might be contrasted usefully with the lyric moment in the English tradition of poetry; see lyric).

(3) The haiku is always set during a particular season or month as indicated by a kigo, or traditional season-word. This brief (and often subtle) reference to a season or an object or activity associated with that time of year establishes the predominant mood of the poem.

(4) It is striking a feature of the haiku that direct discussion of the poem's implications is forbidden, and symbolism or wordplay discouraged in a manner alien to Western poetry. The poet describes her subject in an unusual manner without making explicit commentary or explicit moral judgment. To convey such ideas, the genre often relies upon allusions to earlier haiku or implies a comparison between the natural setting and something else. Simplicity is more valued than "cleverness." Again, if the poet is being clever, using puns or symbols, the poem again is technically a senryu rather than a haiku.

(5) The poet often presents the material under a nom de plume rather than using her own name--especially in older haiku.

(6) Additionally, the haiku traditionally employ "the technique of cutting"--i.e., a division in thought between the earlier and later portions of the poem. (It is comparable to the volta of a sonnet). These two divisions must be able to stand independently from the other section, but each one must also enrich the reader's understanding of the other section. In English translation, this division is often indicated through punctuation marks such as a dash, colon, semicolon, or ellipsis.

Here is an example of a haiku by a Western writer, James Kirkup:

In the amber dusk
Each island dreams its own night--
The sea swarms with gold
.

The following poem serves as an example very loosely translated from Japanese:

Yagate shinu
Keshiki wa miezu
Semi no koe
[O cricket, from your cheery cry
No one could ever guess
How quickly you must die.]

This example illustrates the haiku's lack of authorial commentary or explanation--the desire merely to present the experience of nature:

Samidare wo
Atsumete hayashi
Mogami-gawa
[Gathering all
The rains of May
The swift Mogami River.]

Many Japanese poets have used the form, the two acknowledged masters being Bashó (a nom de plume for Matsuo Munefusa, 1644-94); and Kobayashi Issa (a nom de plume for Kobayashi Nobuyuki). The Imagist Movement in 20th century English literature has been profoundly influenced by haiku. The list of poets who attempted the haiku or admired the genre includes Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, Robert Frost, Conrad Aiken, and W. B. Yeats. Contrast haiku with the tanka and the senryu. See also hokku, below, and haikai, above. See also kigo and imagism. You can click here to download a PDF handout summarizing this discussion of haiku, or you can click here to download PDF samples of haiku.

HAIR SIDE: The side of a sheet or parchment or vellum that once carried the animal's hair. It is generally darker and smoother than the flesh side, and it may carry markings such as pores or traces of hair follicles that have not been fully rubbed away during the manufacture of the manuscript. See manuscript, parchment, and vellum, below.

HALF-RHYME: See inexact rhyme. Contrast with family rhyme.

HALLEL (Hebrew, "celebrate," possibly adopted as a loanword from Eblaite): A hymn of praise, specifically in Psalms 113-18, each of which is headed with the plural imperative verb, Hallelujah. The hallel was to be sung at the four main Jewish festivals: Passover, Pentecost, Dedication, and Tabernacles.

HALLELUJAH METER: Verse written in stanzas with each stanza containing six iambic lines, four trimeter lines, and two tetrameter lines--commonly appearing in English hymns.

HAMARTIA: A term from Greek tragedy that literally means "missing the mark." Originally applied to an archer who misses the target, a hamartia came to signify a tragic flaw, especially a misperception, a lack of some important insight, or some blindness that ironically results from one's own strengths and abilities. In Greek tragedy, the protagonist frequently possesses some sort of hamartia that causes catastrophic results after he fails to recognize some fact or truth that could have saved him if he recognized it earlier. The idea of hamartia is often ironic; it frequently implies the very trait that makes the individual noteworthy is what ultimately causes the protagonist's decline into disaster. For instance, for the character of Macbeth, the same ambition that makes him so admired is the trait that also allows Lady Macbeth to lure him to murder and treason. Similarly, what ennobles Brutus is his unstinting love of the Roman Republic, but this same patriotism causes him to kill his best friend, Julius Caesar. These normally positive traits of self-motivation and patriotism caused the two protagonists to "miss the mark" and realize too late the ethical and spiritual consequences of their actions. See also hubris.

HAPAX LEGOMENON (plural: hapax legomena): Any word of indeterminate meaning appearing only once in the surviving textual records of an ancient language. The word's rarity makes it difficult for modern scholars to figure out its meaning by context. Several words in Anglo-Saxon poetry and in the Bible, for example, are hapax legomena. In fact, somewhere between 1501 and 2400 words in the Bible fall into this category, depending upon how strictly we define the term, as Frederick Greenspahn notes in Hapax Legomena in the Hebrew Bible (Ann Arbor, MI): 22-41. The Book of Hosea alone has nine such untranslatable terms in the space of 263 lines as Greenspahn points out in an article from Volume 30 of Vetus Testamentum (17).

HARLEM RENAISSANCE: A dynamic period of writing, poetry, music, and art among black Americans during the 1920s and 1930s including figures such as Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen, Sterling Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Jessie Fauset, and Langston Hughes. These decades were marked by the post-World War I return of servicemen and the mass migration of black citizens to the urban North as African-Americans sought to flee the legal segregation in effect in America's South. The period is sometimes called "the Jazz Age" because of the parallel growth of jazz and soul music at the same time among black musical artists. See also multiculturalism.

HAT: Another term for an editor's caret.

HEADLINK: See discussion under link.

HEAD RHYME: Another term for alliteration--especially alliteration of consonants at the beginning of words, rather than alliteration of internal consonants within the bodies of words. The name is something of a misnomer, since "head rhymes" usually involve no rhyme at all! See discussion under alliteration.

HEAVENS: Sometimes used synonymously with "the aloft" and "the above," the term refers more specifically to the canopy over the stage in open-air theaters to protect actors and their costumes from the elements. Greenblatt notes that the "heavens" in the Globe theater would be "brightly decorated with sun, moon, and stars, and perhaps the signs of the Zodiac" (1140).

HEAVY-STRESS RHYME: Another term for a masculine ending in a rhyme.

HELLENIC: In linguistics, the branch of Indo-European including classical and modern Greek.

HELL MOUTH: Students should distinguish between the medieval and Renaissance meanings of hell mouth. (1) In medieval art, the hell mouth was a stylized painting in which the entry to hell resembles a gaping demon's mouth. In medieval manuscripts, the image first appeared in connection with St. John's Book of Revelation and in texts dealing with the Last Judgment. Eventually, when medieval theater developed, it was common to paint the entry onto a stage so the entry would resemble a gaping demon's mouth. This "hell mouth" would either be located on one side of the stage or it would be a trap-door in the floor. During morality plays and mystery plays, actors playing demons would enter through the hell mouth in order to dramatically grab sinners and drag them off to hell. (2) By the time of the Renaissance, the term hell mouth was used to refer to any trap-door in the bottom of the stage. At Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, for instance, the cellerage, or the entire area under the stage was referred to as "hell," and the area above the stage, where musicians played, was often referred to as "the heavens." This leads to some interesting implications given that Hamlet's ghostly visitor speaks to the protagonist from this area. The diabolical connotations suggest the spirit might actually be a demon rather than Hamlet's deceased father.

HEMINGWAY CODE: Hemingway's protagonists are usually "Hemingway Code Heroes," i.e., figures who try to follow a hyper-masculine moral code and make sense of the world through those beliefs. Hemingway himself defined the Code Hero as "a man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honor, courage and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful."  This code typically involves several traits for the Code Hero:

(1) Measuring himself against the difficulties life throws in his way, realizing that we will all lose ultimately because we are mortals, but playing the game honestly and passionately in spite of that knowledge

(2) Facing death with dignity, enduring physical and emotional pain in silence

(3) Never showing emotions

(4) Maintaining free-will and individualism, never weakly allowing commitment to a single woman or social convention to prevent adventure, travel, and acts of bravery

(5) Being completely honest, keeping one's word or promise

(6) Being courageous and brave, daring to travel and have "beautiful adventures," as Hemingway would phrase it

(7) Admitting the truth of Nada (Spanish, "nothing"), i.e., that no external source outside of oneself can provide meaning or purpose. This existential awareness also involves facing death without hope of an afterlife, which the Hemingway Code Hero considers more brave than "cowering" behind false religious hopes.

The Hemingway Code Hero typically has some sort of physical or psychological wound symbolizing his tragic flaw or the weaknesses of his character, which must be overcome before he can prove his manhood (or re-prove it, since the struggle to be honest and brave is a continual one). Also, many Hemingway Code Heroes suffer from a fear of the dark, which represents the transience or meaninglessness of life in the face of eventual and permanent death.

HEMINGWAY CODE HERO: See discussion under Hemingway Code.

HENDIADYS: As Arthur Quinn defines the term in Figures of Speech, hendiadys is a peculiar type of polysyndeton involving "the combination of addition, substitution, and usually arrangement; the addition of a conjunction between a word (noun, adjective, verb) and its modifier (adjective, adverb, infinitive), the substitution of this word's grammatical form for that of its modifier, and usually rearrangement so that the modifier follows the word" (Quinn 102). This process sounds complicated, but it is a very simple way of artificially splitting a single idea into multiple subdivisions by sticking the word and in an unusual spot in a sentence. Some examples will help in understanding. For instance, medieval chroniclers might write "by length of time and siege" instead of writing "by a long siege." Instead of talking about "the furious sound" of an idiot's impassioned speech signifying nothing, Macbeth might talk about its "sound and fury." Quinn suggests that if Christ meant to say, "I am the true and living way," Christ might spruce the phrase up by saying "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." In Genesis, when God announces to Eve that he will "greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception," the King James translators are using hendiadys to refer to a single thing--the pain of childbirth--as a list of two items. Instead of simply saying God has a powerful and glorious kingdom, Matthew states, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen" (Matt. 6:13). In Hamlet, we read how one character states, "But in the gross and scope of my opinion, / This bodes some strange eruption to our state" (Hamlet 1.1.68). We would expect to read something like, "in the scope of my gross opinion" in normal speech of the day. Likewise, Cymbeline mentions "The heaviness and the guilt within my bosom" when we would expect to hear of "the heavy guilt within my bosom" (Cym.5.2.1). For these and other examples, see also Quinn 16-17 and 25.

HENGWRT MANUSCRIPT (pronounced "HENG-urt"): One of the most important manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, along with the Ellesmere text. The official designation of this book is Peniarth MS 392 D, but it is known familiarly as "the Hengwrt" in scholarly circles. The Hengwrt dates to the early fifteenth-century, shortly after Chaucer's death, and the paleographic evidence suggests that it was copied by the same scribe who copied the Ellesmere. The manuscript is currently located in the National Library of Wales. See Ellesmere and manuscript. Click here for a pdf handout discussing the various orders of Chaucer's tales as found in various manuscripts.

HENOTHEIST: The worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods or spiritual powers, as opposed to monotheism (the belief in and worship of one god), dualism (the belief that one good and one evil deity of equal power exists, often with one associated with the spiritual world and the other associated with the material world), or polytheism (the belief in and worship of multiple gods).

HEPTAMETER: A line consisting of seven metrical feet. Also called septenary.

HEPTARCHY: The seven territories or kingdoms making up Anglo-Saxon England--Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Kent, Essex, Sussex, and Wessex.

HERALD: See discussion under heraldry.

HERALDRY: The study of coats-of-arms and aristocratic insignia, or the creation of such items according to medieval custom. In late medieval times, court officers called heralds were responsible for announcing, judging, and organizing combat at tournaments; introducing aristocratic visitors at court; maintaining genealogical records; and verifying or recording the identity of knights during a variety of military and social occasions. This process began in the twelth century and developed into an elaborate art by the time of the Renaissance.

HERESY (from Greek, "choice"): A "mistaken" or heterodox religious belief, i.e., one that does not agree with traditional teachings of the Roman Catholic church. In Middle English writings, heresy is associated with the Lollards. Click here for more information. Note that by Western medieval Christian standards for what constitutes heresy and orthodoxy, all modern Protestant churches are by definition heretical for deviation from the Petrine doctrine, for antinominism, and frequently for heresies concerning transubstantiation.

HERIOT (Anglo-Saxon here + geatwe, "army-gear"): Heriot has two different meanings, depending upon whether we speak of the early Anglo-Saxon period or the later part of the medieval period. (1) In its earliest sense, heriot was the gift of arms and armor an Anglo-Saxon chieftain or hlaford would give to his thegn, a warrior who vowed to serve him, to fight for him, and to avenge his master's death. Upon the thegn's death, the heriot would return to the hlaford. This gift of weaponry was a essential part of Anglo-Saxon warrior culture. (2) In later historical periods, when the custom of direct military service became less vital, heriot degenerated into a tribute or service given to a lord on the death of his tenant, in which the eldest son of the tenant would provide the service much like the eldest son of the ancient thegn might return the arms and armor to the chieftain who originally gave it to the thegn. See Anglo-Saxon, thegn, and hlaford.

HERM (plural herma or hermai): In Greco-Roman archeology, a herm is a stone, bronze, or terracotta marker--originally placed at cross-roads or at estate and territorial boundaries, though in classical Athens, homeowners would erect herma outside the entrances of their houses for good luck. These stone carvings consisted of a bearded human head (i.e., of the god Hermes or Mercury) set on top of a rectangular or square stone column (typically between one and two meters in height) with no arms or legs but a prominent phallus carved to protrude about halfway up the column. Scholars like Walter Burkert have interpreted the original herma as apotropaic wards rather than as fertility or luck symbols, but by classical times, it was common for homeowners to place wreathes on the herm's phallus during celebrations. Before taking long journeys, wayfarers would annoint and rub the herm's phallus with olive oil as a libation to Hermes, the god of travel. In historical literature, we have accounts (such as that about Alcibiades) suggesting that vandalism of a herm was considered one of the most impious acts imaginable among classical pagans.

HEROIC AGE OF GREECE: Also known as the Homeric Age, this is the period of time between 1200-800 BCE. The term is normally used as a contrast with the Golden Age of Greece--the fifth century BCE when Athens was at its height of power.

HEROIC COUPLET: Two successive rhyming lines of iambic pentameter. The second line is usually end-stopped. It was common practice to string long sequences of heroic couplets together in a pattern of aa, bb, cc, dd, ee, ff (and so on). Because this practice was especially popular in the Neoclassic Period between 1660 and 1790, the heroic couplet is often called the neoclassic couplet if the poem originates during this time period. Note that "heroic" in this case has nothing to do with subject-matter. By all means, do not follow in the footsteps of one confused student who mistakenly listed Romeo and Juliet as an example of a "heroic couplet."

HEROICOMICAL: A humorous poem taking the conventions of heroic Greek literature and using them to comic effect. Most mock epics are heroicomical in nature, such as Pope's Rape of the Lock, which abounds in parodic imagery and spoofed situations based on The Iliad, The Aeneid, and Paradise Lost. See mock epic.

HEXAMETER: A line consisting of six metrical feet. Very common in Greek and Latin literature, less common in English. See meter.

HIGH COMEDY: Elegant comedies characterized by witty banter and sophisticated dialogue rather than the slapstick physicality and blundering common to low comedy.

HIGH GERMAN SHIFT: Also called the Second Sound Shift or the High German Sound Shift, this term describes the systematic change of certain stop sounds in High German dialects. You can see it by contrasting High German (which went through the shift) with other Germanic languages like English (which did not go through the Second Sound shift):

Original Proto-Germanic sound
High German sound
Examples from English to High German
p
pf or ff after a vowel
English pepper; High German Pfeffer
English open, High German offen
t
ts [spelled z], or ss after a vowel
English tongue; High German Zunge
English water; High German Wasser
English eat, High German essen
k
ch
English break; High German brechen
d
t
English dance; High German tanzen

HIGH VOWEL: Any vowel sound made with the jaw almost shut and the tongue elevated near the roof of the oral cavity.

HIS-GENITIVE: An unusual use of his, her, and their as the sign of the genitive by attaching them to the end of a word or locating them immediately after a word. Algeo notes this became common primarily in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--though some rare examples appear as early as King Alfred's ninth-century translation of Orosius and Aelfric's tenth-century translation of the Old Testament, where we find "We gesawon Enac his cynryn" [We saw Anak's kindred] (see Algeo 179). For instance, one gloss to Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar of 1579 uses the phrase "Augustus his daughter" when modern speakers would write "Augustus's daughter." The use of this possessive pronoun after a noun might have arisen from the mistaken belief that the -'s ending in possessive words was an abbreviated form of the pronoun his. In actual fact, the -'s ending is a remnant of an ancient genitive marker (-es) that attached to certain Anglo-Saxon words to show possession.

HISTORIA (plural: historiae): This Latin word gives us the modern word history, but the connection between the two terms is tenuous. Most modern readers think of a history or a historical treatise as a scholar's attempt at creating a factual or scholarly narrative of events from humanity's past. Some ancient texts do fit this model to a certain extent, such as certain biographies (Plutarch's Lives) or Sallust's The Jugurthine War. Other classical works have a veneer of factuality, but may disguise deliberate propaganda or accidental (but distorting) authorial assumptions, such as Julius Caesar's The Conquest of Gaul or the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. However, in ancient times, the word historia meant roughly the same thing as the modern English word "story" (i.e., any narrative whether factual or fictional). Latin writers, especially in medieval times, might on occasion use the word historia refer to history, to legends, to vitae, mythology, folklore, hearsay, gossip, and rumors. The term has no necessary connection with factuality, and this often confuses those students (and sometimes even amateur scholars!) working with medieval or Arthurian material, since many of the Arthurian works such as Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain are technically historiae rather than histories in our sense of the word. See also annals and contrast with historical novel.

HISTORIATED INITIAL: In the artwork of medieval manuscripts, a historiated initial is an enlarged, introductory letter in a written word that contains within the body of the letter a pictoral scene or figure related to the text it introduces. This might be a portrait of the author who wrote the tale, or a scene from the story. Contrast with decorated initial and inhabited initial.

HISTORICAL DICTIONARY: A dictionary that traces the changes in a word's meaning by listing its entries chronologically and providing quotations using the word in that particular sense as illustrative examples. The Oxford English Dictionary is an enormous, multi-volume example.

HISTORICAL NOVEL: A novel in which fictional characters take part in, influence, or witness real historical events and interact with historical figures from the past. Examples include Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Lloyd C. Douglas's The Robe, and James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans. Contrast with a historical romance.

HISTORICAL ROMANCE: See discussion under "romance, historical."

HLAFDIG (Anglo-Saxon hlaf+dieg, "loaf-kneader" or "loaf-deliverer"): An Anglo-Saxon wife of a warlord. The term eventually becomes modern English lady. In Beowulf, Weoltheow is the hlafdig at Heorot. Also called a hlaefdieg, hladig, or cwen. See discussion under hlaford.

HLAFORD (Anglo-Saxon hlaf+ord, "loaf-leader" or "loaf-giver," or possibly from hlaf-weard, "loaf-guardian," becomes Mod. English lord): An Anglo-Saxon warrior chieftain who was served by a number of loyal warriors called thegns. His wife, called the hlafdig ("loaf-kneader," becomes, Modern English lady) or the cwen (becomes modern English queen), may have been responsible for overseeing communal provisions. In the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, Hrothgar is the hlaford of Heorot, and Weoltheow is the hlafdig. See hlafig, Anglo-Saxon, thegn, and heriot.

HOKKU: In Japanese poetry, the term hokku literally means "starting verse." A hokku was the first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known as renga or linked verse. The hokku was traditionally three lines long, with a syllable count of 5/7/5 syllables in the three lines (i.e., the hokku was identical in structure to the modern haiku, the independent genre that later developed out of the hokku). The hokku was always the the most important and best known part of a renga much in the way that the first verse and chorus of a popular song are often well-known even when the other verses are poorly known or ignored. Because the hokku ultimately evolves into what we today call the haiku, it is common to the find scholars make a distinction between "modern haiku" (haiku) and "classical haiku" (hokku). See renga and haiku for further discussion.

HOLOCAUST (Grk, holos + kaustos "completely burnt"): Holocaust has three meanings generally. (1) The meaning most familiar to modern audiences is the genocidal mass destruction of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The event was partly ignored by Europe's disbelieving citizenry, partly obscured by Nazi propaganda, and partly supported by common citizens, but when the camps were liberated by Allied forces, the horrors of the Holocaust had a profound effect on the intellectual worlds of theology (especially in the area of theodicy), philosophy (especially in the area of existentialism), and literature (see for instance Elie Weisel's Night). Before the mass killings, Germany had been considered the most enlightened modern European nation, the fatherland of Goethe, Hegel, Bach, and Bauhaus, a garden of 19th century philosophy and culture. The Holocaust cast this idea of modern ethical and cultural progress into doubt, leading musician Theodor Adorno to declare "Nach Ausschwitz noch ein Gedicht zu schreiben ist barbarisch" ["Writing any more poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric"]. The killings contributed to a widespread sense that Western civilization as a whole had horribly failed in its 19th and 20th century ideals of moral progress and enlightened Christianity, and thus acceleratedor retreated into the on-going trends of modernism and postmodernism.

(2) In classical Greek literature, a holocaust was a sacrifice offered to the gods through burning. For instance, in The Odyssey, Odysseus offers a strip of fatty meat to the gods by throwing it in the fire after a prayer.

(3) In biblical translation from Hebrew to Greek, the Old Testament includes a Hebrew term that refers to the irrevocable surrender of plunder or captives by totally destroying them. For example, see Joshua 8:27: "For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed [i.e., ritually sacrificed] all who lived in Ai." In numerous cases, the Old Testament narratives depict the Israelites as performing such ritualized destruction of captured livestock, enemy soldiers, and sometimes even captured women and children at God's command, and God often punishes the Israelites when they choose to keep plunder or spare captives against God's orders. This Hebrew term for ritualized destruction becomes translated as holocaust in Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible. For this reason, most Jews prefer the Hebrew term shoah (calamity) to describe the Holocaust, since it lacks repugnant theological overtones.

HOMERIC AGE OF GREECE: Another term for the Heroic Age of Greece.

HOMILY: A sermon, or a short, exhortatory work to be read before a group of listeners in order to instruct them spiritually or morally. Examples include Saint Augustine's sermons during the patristic period of literature. Chaucer himself took two Latin tracts on penitence, translated them, and turned them into a single sermon by placing the text in the mouth of the Parson in "The Parson's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales. In the Renaissance, the content of English sermons was governed by law after King Henry VIII, becoming an avenue for monarchist propaganda.

HOOK: (1) In linguistics, a diacritical mark used in some eastern European languages like Polish and Lithuanian. Some modern editors transcribing Middle English vowels insert a hook under the vowels e and o to represent their open forms. (2) In composition and professional fiction writing, a hook is a snappy, quick-moving opening that gets the reader's attention early in an essay or short story.

HORATIAN ODE: See discussion under ode.

HORATIAN SATIRE: See discussion under satire.

HORROR STORY: A short story, novel, or other work of prose fiction designed to instill in the reader a sense of fear, disgust, or horror. The modern and postmodern horror story, as typified by H. P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite, and Anne Rice, grows out of the earlier conventions of gothic literature from the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries. See gothic, gothic novel, and gothic literature.

HOVERING ACCENT: Another term for spondee. See spondee.

HUBRIS (sometimes spelled Hybris): The Greek term hubris is difficult to translate directly into English. It is a negative term implying both arrogant, excessive self-pride or self-confidence, and also a hamartia (see above), a lack of some important perception or insight due to pride in one's abilities. It is the opposite of the Greek term arête, which implies a humble and constant striving for perfection and self-improvement combined with a realistic awareness that such perfection cannot be reached. As long as an individual strives to do and be the best, that individual has arête. As soon as the individual believes he has actually achieved arête, however, he or she has lost that exalted state and fallen into hubris, unable to recognize personal limitations or the humble need to improve constantly. This leads to overwhelming pride, and this in turn leads to a downfall.

HUGO AWARD: The familiar nickname for the Science Fiction Achievement Award, given each year since 1954 to an outstanding work of science fiction or fantasy literature. The categories change yearly, but typically the best novel, best short story, and best dramatic presentation are fairly constant categories. Occasionally, special Hugo Awards are given, such as the 1966 award of "Best Science Fiction Series" given to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. The term "Hugo" comes from Hugo Gernsback, the editor of Amazing Stories in the 1950s. A good way of assessing quality science fiction is to see what science fiction works have won both the Hugo award and the Nebula award.

HUMANISM: A Renaissance intellectual and artistic movement triggered by a "rediscovery" of classical Greek and Roman language, culture and literature. The term was coined in the sixteenth century from "studia humanitatis," or what we would today call the humanities (grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy). Humanists emphasized human culture, reason, learning, art, and education as a means of improving humanity. They exalted the dignity of man, and emphasized present life as a worthwhile focus for art, poetry, and literature. This attitude contrasted sharply with the late medieval emphasis on the sinful, bestial aspects of humanity, which called for treating the present life as a cesspool of temporary evil that humans must reject through ascetic practices in preparation for the afterlife.

HUMILITY TOPOS: A common rhetorical strategy in which an author or speaker feigns ignorance or pretends to be less clever or less intelligent than he or she really is. Often donning such a persona allows a writer, poet, or playwright to create humorous, self-deprecating effects, or in the case of an argument, may cause the opponent to underestimate the opposition. One of the first examples of the humility topos in action includes Socrates and his Socratic method of argument, in which Socrates pleads his own ignorance so he can ask particularly difficult questions to those who disagree with his philosophy, eventually forcing them to make self-contradictory assertions. It is possible that Chaucer frequently engaged in the humility topos by depicting himself as "a servant of the servants of love" in Troilus and Criseyde, where he claims to be merely a bookish clerk who knows little of romantic matters. Likewise, Chaucer creates "Geoffrey the pilgrim," an apparently naive persona who reports the peccadilloes and wickedness of other people in The Canterbury Tales pilgrimage company without condemnation or apparent realization of the wickedness that takes place around him, in some cases. Chaucer, the historical author writing the text, appears to be quite aware of these incongruities and ironies, but creating such a persona for himself achieves humorous or richly ambiguous effects. A more recent example of the humility topos is that employed by Ben Franklin, in his Autobiography. Here, he constantly refers to his own inabilities, his own inadequacies, and his own limitations in such a charming way that he creates a congenial rather than scornful response in readers, even as he discreetly instructs his audience in practical wisdom. See rhetoric and persona, as well. For an example of Ben Franklin's use of the humility topos in a speech to the Continental Congress, click here.

HUMORS (alias bodily humors): In ancient Greece, Hippocrates postulated that four bodily humors or liquids existed in the body corresponding to the four elements existing in matter. These four liquids determined a human's health and psychology. An imbalance among the humors--blood, phlegm, black bile (or tears), and yellow bile (or choler)--resulted in pain and disease, and good health resulted through a balance of the four humors. Unhealthy imbalances might be caused by an unbalanced diet, too much heat or cold, or even by "putrescence," in which one or more of these bodily liquids soured and began to rot. Medical theory held this imbalance could cause both physical ailments and mental disorders in the victim. Furthermore, the liquids were thought to be somewhat flammable. The ajust, or "burning" of gases and vapors coming from humors like blood, caused fevers in sick people. To cure illness, one of the most common methods to restore a balance was for a barber to "bleed" excess blood from a sick person using lances or knives (yes, barbers once were licensed to perform particular acts of medicine), or for a doctor to use leeches for the same purpose. If excessive yellow bile were the problem, an emetic or vomit-inducing agent would help the patient expel the extra choler from the body. If the patient were depressed or melancholic, the cure was to prescribe a laxative to purge black bile from the body. If a phlegmatic disorder was suspected, the doctor might suggest applying various irritants to the nose and mouth to induce violent sneezing, which eliminated the phlegm in a spectacular manner. Unfortunately, many of the powders and ointments used in the latter treatments were virulently toxic. Untold thousands of patients suffering from diseases no more severe than the flu probably died at the hands of various doctors. The neoclassic playwright Moliere ridicules this dilemma in his play, L'Amour Médecin (Love is the Doctor), but earlier Renaissance writers like Shakespeare take the theory seriously.

For many centuries the theory of the bodily humors was held as the basis of medicine; it was much elaborated upon. After Hippocrates, Galen introduced a new aspect, that of four basic temperaments reflecting the humors: the sanguine (buoyant type); the phlegmatic, (sluggish type); the choleric, (angry and quick-tempered type); and the melancholic (depressed type). In time, any personality aberration or eccentricity was referred to as a humor. In literature, a humor character was a type of flat character (see character) in whom a single passion predominated; this interpretation was especially popular in Elizabethan and other Renaissance literature. Renaissance people took the doctrine of humors seriously as a basis of medicine and psychology--thus Falstaff is depicted as being sanguine (having too much blood) while Hamlet is melancholic (having too much black bile). One of the most extensive treatments of the subject was Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. The theory found its strongest advocates among the comedy writers, notably Ben Jonson and his followers, who used humor characters to illustrate various modes of behavior. Rudolf Virchow's theory of cellular pathology superseded the Hippocratic model in the 19th century.

HUNDRED YEARS' WAR: Click here for an overview.

HUT: A structure on the top of the stage cover in the Globe theater. Here, stagehands produced special effects such as thunder and lightning and operated the machinery to let actors dressed as gods or spirits descend through a trapdoor in the heavens.

HVOT SCENE: The hvot is a conventional scene in Icelandic sagas in which a grieving or insulted woman incites a man to violent revenge, which usually triggers or perpetuates a blood-feud. The more general term for this moment in Germanic literature more broadly is an incitement passage.

HYBRID FORMATION: In linguistics, a new expression made by combining together two or more words (or two or more morphemes) whose etyma come from multiple languages. For instance, the Middle English word povreliche appears in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This adverb is a hybrid formation, with the first half (povre) coming from the French word for "poor." The suffix -liche is of Germanic origin and it equates to modern English suffixes -like and -ly.

HYMN: A religious song consisting of one or more repeating rhythmical stanzas. In classical Roman literature, hymns to Minerva and Jupiter survive. The Greek poet Sappho wrote a number of hymns to Aphrodite. More recently a vast number of hymns appear in Catholic and Protestant religious lyrics. A particularly vibrant tradition of hymn-writing comes from the South's African-American population during the nineteenth century. See also paean.

HYPALLAGE: Combining two examples of hyperbaton or anastrophe when the reversed elements are not grammatically or syntactically parallel. It is easier to give examples than to explain hypallage. Virgil writes, "The smell has brought the well-known breezes" when we would expect, in terms of proper cause-and-effect, to have "the breezes bring well-known smells." In Henry V, Shakespeare writes, "Our gayness and our gift are besmirched / With rainy marching in the painful field" (4.3.110), when logically we would expect "with painful marching in the rainy field." Roethke playfully states, "Once upon a tree / I came across a time." In each example, not just one hyperbaton appears, but two when the two words switch places with the two spots where we expect to find them. The result often overlaps with hysteron-proteron, in that it creates a catachresis. See hyperbaton, anastrophe, hysteron-proteron, and catachresis.

HYPERBATON: A generic term for changing the normal or expected order of words--including anastrophe, tmesis, hypallage, and other figures of speech. E.g.,"One ad does not a survey make." The term comes from the Greek for "overstepping" because one or more words "overstep" their normal position and appear elsewhere. For instance, Milton in Paradise Lost might write, "High on a throne of royal gold . . . Satan exalted sat." In normal, everyday speech, we would expect to find, "High on a throne of royal gold . . . Satan sat exalted." Here are some other examples:

"Arms and the man I sing"--Virgil.
"This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."--Variously attributed to Winston Churchill or Mark Twain
"I was in my life alone"--Robert Frost
"Constant you are, but yet a woman"--1 Henry IV, 2.3.113
"Grave danger you are in. Impatient you are." --Yoda, in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
"From such crooked wood as state which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned." --Kant
"pity this busy monster manunkind not." --e. e. cummings.

Hyperbaton is an example of a rhetorical scheme. Click on the scheme link to see the various subtypes.

HYPERBOLE: the trope of exaggeration or overstatement. See tropes for examples.

HYPERCATALECTIC: A hypercatalectic line is a line of poetry with extra syllables in it beyond the expected number due to anacrusis, as opposed to a catalectic line (which is missing one or more expected syllables) or an acatalectic line (which has the full number of syllables we would normally expect). See discussion under catalectic

HYPERCORRECTION: A grammatical form created when grammarians--on the basis of too little information or incorrect generalization--mistakenly try to correct a nonexistent error. For instance, a prescriptivist grammarian might tell a child not to "drop the g" in words like talkin' and somthin'--then the confused child tries to overapply the rule by "correcting" chicken to chickeng (Algeo 35).

HYPERTEXT NOVEL: Also called hyperfiction, a hypertext novel is one written using some variant of HTML programming languages and published online or on CD-ROM. The hypertext code allows a reader to click on or select options in such a way that the narration can move from one place to another in the text whenever the reader wishes to follow a specific character, trace an idea, or (in the case of interactive novels) choose between one or more courses of action for a character. Examples include Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden and Michael Joyce's Afternoon. Other writers like Michael Arnzen have experimented with The Goreletter (horror poetry that secretly installs itself in a subscriber's computer and then "pops out" unexpectedly with dramatic messages, images, or sounds).

HYPOCRITES (Greek for "One who plays a part"): The classical Athenian word for an actor. Not to be confused with Hippocrates, the physician who founded the hippocratic oath. Nor should the term be confused with the plural of English "hypocrite."

HYPOTAXIS: Using clauses with a precise degree of subordination and clear indication of the logical relationship between them--i.e., having clear subordinating and coordinating conjunctions, as opposed to parataxis. Hypotactic style involves long complex sentences. The writings of John Milton would be an example.

HYSTERON-PROTERON: Using anastrophe in a way that creates a catachresis (see under tropes), an impossible ordering on the literal level. For instance, Virgil has the despairing Trojans in the Aeneid cry out in despair as the city falls, "Let us die, and rush into the heart of the fight." Of course, the expected, possible order would be to "rush into the heart of the fight," and then "die." Literally, Virgil's sequence would be impossible unless all the troops died, then rose up as zombies and ran off to fight. In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare writes, "I can behold no longer / Th'Antoniad, the Egyptian admiral, / With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder" (3.10.1). We would expect to turn the rudder and then flee, not flee and then turn the rudder! See also anastrophe and catachresis.

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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.
  • Baugh, A. C. and Thomas Cable. A History of the English Language. 5th edition. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2002.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983.
  • Elkhadem, Saad. The York Dictionary Literary Terms and Their Origin: English, French, German, Spanish. York P, 1976.
  • 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, 1972.
  • Hopper, Vincent Foster. Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought and Expression. 1938. Republished Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.
  • 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 P, 1991.
  • 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, 1993.
  • 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.
  • Perelman, Ch. and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Notre Dame, U of Notre Dame P, 2000.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.
  • Quinn, Arthur. Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase. Davis, California: Hermagoras P, 1993.
  • Rae, Gail. Guide to Literary Terms. Staten Island, New York: Research and Educational Association, 1998.
  • 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.
  • 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 College in the Fall Term of 2006.]
  • Swain, Dwight V. Creating Characters. The Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1990.
  • 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., 1957.
  • Zenkovsky, Serge A. Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales. Rev Ed. New York: Meridian Books, 1974.
  • Zireaux. E-mail Communication. 21 June 2012.


 

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