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.
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]
: A brief story illustrating human tendencies through animal characters. Unlike the parables, fables often include talking animals or animated objects as the principal characters. The interaction of these animals or objects reveals general truths about human nature, i.e., a person can learn practical lessons from the fictional antics in a fable. However, unlike a parable, the lesson learned isnotnecessarily allegorical. Each animal is not necessarily a symbol for something else. Instead, the reader learns the lesson as anexemplum–an example of what one should or should not do. The sixth century (BCE) Greek writer Aesop is mostcredited as an author of fables, but Phaedrus and Babrius in the first century (CE) expanded on his works to produce the tales we know today. A famous collection of Indian fables was the SanskritBidpai(circa 300 CE), and in the medieval period, Marie de France (c. 1200 CE) composed 102 fables in verse. After the 1600s, fables increasingly became common as a form of childrens literature. See alsoallegory,beast fable,andparable. Click here for aPDF handoutdiscussing the difference between fables and parables.
(plural,fabliaux): A humorous, frequently ribald or dirty narrative popular with French poets, who traditionally wrote the story in octosyllabic couplets. The tales frequently revolve around trickery, practical jokes, sexual mishaps, scatology, mistaken identity, and bodily humor. Chaucer included severalfabliauxinThe Canterbury Tales, including the stories of the Shipman, the Friar, the Miller, the Reeve, and the Cook. Examples from French literature includeLes Quatre Souhais Saint Martin,Audigier,andBeranger au Long Cul(Beranger of the Long Ass).
: A booksellers term for obscene or humorous books.
, the latter being both the Otherworld realm where elves and fey creatures held sway and more generally the sense of magic and wonder associated with that place. Tolkiens understanding of the term changed over the years of his writing and scholarship, and he happily used the term as both a noun and an adjective, but in general the following were traits of Farie
(1) Farie connected with the natural or wild word rather than urban or industrial life.
In spite of those connections with nature, the area was innately supernatural, connecting more with imagination than with rationality or the mundane.
(3) It was a perilous realm that humans could temporily visit (but where they did not belong), an area of both great beauty and great danger. In following with Celtic tradition, however, creatures of that realm had the power occasionally to invade our mundane world if they so chose.
connected directly to the spoken word in literature through its etymology going back to Latin
, to speak, i.e., that which is spoekn) (Drout 184). One of the ways to enter into or experience Farie was to read stories about aventures that occured there when humans entered that Otherworld.
(5) The magic of the place by definition was a serious enchantment–experiencing Farie was incompatible with satire and humor, which distinguishes it from other imaginary worlds such as those of Jonathan Swift and so forth.
(6) Frequently, time passes differently in this Otherworld than it does in the mundane world, as is common in Irish legends about Fairy Circles, or Lewis
In Tolkiens scholarly writings, he focuses on examples such as theFairy Queenof Spenser, Annvwyn in Welsh legends like theMabinogion, the Land of the Ever-Young (Tir-na-nOg) in Irish legend, and so forth. Arguably, Lrien and the various Elf Kingdoms inThe Lord of the Ringsand the land of Faery inSmith of Wootton Majorare examples of Tolkiens fiction where we see the influence of this idea. See alsoOther Worldand fantastic sublime.
: A corrected–but not necessarily entirely correct–manuscript that a dramatist might submit to a theatre company, as distinct from the draft version known as foul papers.
: In common parlance, a tale about elves, dragons, hobgoblins, sprites, and other fantastic magical beings set vaguely in the distant past (once upon a time), often in a pseudo-medieval world. Fairy tales include shape-shifting spirits with mischievous temperaments, superhuman knowledge, and far-reaching power to interfere with the normal affairs of humanity. Other conventions include magic, charms, disguises, talking animals, and a hero or heroine who overcomes obstacles to live happily ever after. The most famous compilers include Hans Christian Anderson (Denmark), theGrimm brothers(Germany), and Charles Perrault (France). Fairy tales grew out of the oral tradition of folktales, and later were transcribed as prose narratives. Examples from the European tradition include the tales of Prince Charming, Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, and Cinderella. An example from Middle-Eastern tradition would be Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. In scholarly literature, fairy tales are also referred to by the German termmrchen. In spite of the stories surface simplicity, many critics note that fairy tales often contain psychological depth, especially in terms of childhood anxiety and wish fulfillment. Modern writers such as Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Ruskin, Anne Rice, Ursula Leguin, and Jean Ingelow have tried their hand at writing fairy tales. Some critics have suggested that the Wife of Baths narrative inThe Canterbury Talesand the lais of Marie de France also have qualities of the fairy tale–especiallywish fulfillment.
FALSE COGNATE: See discussion undercognate.Cf. faux amis, below.
: The anthropological term for a culture in which masculine behavior revolves around a code of martial honor. These cultures embody the idea of death before dishonor. Such civilizations often glorify military prowess and romanticize death in battle. Typically, such a society rewards men who display bravery by (a) engaging in risk-taking behavior to enhance ones reputation, (b) facing certain death in preference to accusations of cowardice, and (c) displaying loyalty to ones king, chieftain, liege lord, or other authoritative figure in the face of adversity. Those in power may reward such brave followers with land, material wealth, or social status, but the most important and most typical reward is fame or a good reputation. Especially in fatalistic fame/shame cultures, fame is the most valuable reward since it alone will exist after a heros death. Just as such cultures reward bravery, loyalty, and martial prowess with the promise of fame, they punish cowardice, treachery, and weakness in battlewith the threat of shame and mockery. A fame/shame culture is only successful in regulating behavior when an individuals fear of shame outweighs the fear of death.This dichotomy of fame/shame serves as a carrot and stick to regulate behavior in an otherwise chaotic and violent society. Sample behaviors linked with fame/shame cultures include thebeotin Anglo-Saxon culture, the act of counting coup among certain Amerindian tribes, displays of trophies among certain head-hunting tribes and the Irish Celts, and the commemoration of war-heros in national monuments or songs in cultures worldwide.
We can see signs of fame/shame culture in the heroic poetry of theAnglo-Saxons, where the poem The Battle of Maldon praises by name those warriors who stood their ground with Byrtnoth to die fighting the Viking invaders and condemns by name those men who fled the battle and survived. Characteristically, the poem lists the mens lineage in order to spread the honor or shame to other family members as well. The poemBeowulfalso shows signs of fame/shame culture in the behavior of Hrothgars coast-guard, who challenges over a dozen gigantic armed men, and the boasts (beot) of Beowulf himself.
It is interesting that not all militaristic or violent cultures use the fame/shame social mechanism to ensure bravery and regulate martial behavior. Fame/shame cultures require men to deliberately seek the rewards of bravery and consciously fear the social stigma of cowardice. The point isnt that a hero is unafraid of death. The point is that the hero actsin spiteof being afraid. In contrast, some martial cultures seek to short-circuit fear by repressing it or by encouraging warriors to enter altered states of consciousness. Medieval Vikings had the tradition of theberserker, in which the warrior apparently entered a hypnogogic, frenzied state to lose his awareness of fear and pain. Similarly, the path ofbushidoamong the Japanesesamauriwas heavily influenced by the Buddhist doctrine ofnirvana(mental and emotional emptiness), in which the warrior enters combat in a Zen-like emotional state, a mindset in which he is divorced from his emotions and thoughts so that his martial behavior is reflexive and automatic rather than emotional. Thesamauriclass went so far as to have a funeral for living warriors as soon as they entered the service of a Japanese lord because thesamauriaccepted their own deaths as soon as they took the path ofbushido, and were thus accordingly cut off from the ties of family and loved ones. See alsokleos.
: Not to be confused with the animal known as awitchs familiar(see immediately below), the familiar address is the use of informal pronouns in Middle English and Early Modern English. Pronouns such as Thou,thy,thee, andthine are familiar or informal pronouns used to speak either affectionately to someone of equal or lesser rank, or to speak contemptuously and callously to a lesser. Pronouns such asYou[nominative],your,you[objective], andyoursimply a more formal and respectful sort of address. This division in Middle English and Early Modern English is akin to the division in Spanish betweentuandusted, or the similar observance oftuandvousin French. In Shakespeares plays and in Middle English literature, these pronouns provide actors with a strong hint concerning the tone in which words should be spoken.
:In the eyes of medieval and Renaissance churchmen, and in much of medieval and Renaissance literature, it was a common belief that witches kept familiars. These familiars were thought to be demonic spirits masquerading as small animals–perhaps a black cat, goat, dog, or toad. Inquisitors and churchmen held that such spirits presented themselves to witches and served them after the witches struck a bargain with diabolical powers. The three Weird Sisters inMacbethopen the play in a scene in which their familiars summon them away to work mischief.
: In family rhyme, rhyming is based on phonetic similarities. For the sake of contrast, consider what most people consider normal rhymes. In common perception, the rhyming syllables must have the same vowel sounds, and the consonant sounds after the vowel (if any do appear) must also have the same sounds, and the rhyming syllables typically begin differently. However, in family rhyme, the poet tries to replace one phoneme with a member of the same phonetic family. So, a plosive (such asb,d,g,p,t, ork) will rhyme with another plosive. A fricative (such asv,z,zh,j,f,th,s,sh, orch) will rhyme with another fricative. Finally, a nasal likem,n, orngwill rhyme with another nasal. Thus, in family rhyme, the following words would be considered rhymes with each other:cut/pluck,rich/fish,fun/rung. Often the terms half-rhyme andinexact rhymeare used loosely and interchangeably for family rhyme.
FANCY: Before the 19th Century, the wordfancymeant roughly the same thing asimaginationas opposed to the mental processes of reason, logic, and memory. The Romantic poets, however, made a pivotal distinction between the two terms that proved integral in their theories of creativity. They usedfancyto refer to the mental process in which memories or sensory perceptions are jumbled together to create new chimerical ideas. This process was similar but inferior to the higher mental faculty ofimagination, which in its highest form, would create completely new ideas and entirely novel images rather than merely reassemble memories and sensory impressions in a different combination. Coleridge, in chapter thirteen ofBiographia Literaria(1817), suggests that Fancy . . . has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space. The fancy was limited to taking already-assembled ideas, images, and memories, and then reassembling them without altering or improving the components. Imagination, however, produced truly original work. Imagination was seen as (as Coleridge says) essentially vital, functioning less like the Fancys mechanical sorting and instead growing in a more organic manner. He claims imagination generates and produces forms of its own, and it is capable of merging opposites together in a new synthesis. He claims: imagination… reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities of sameness, with difference; of the general, with the concrete; the idea, with the image [sic]. Hence, imagination assimilates unlike things to create a new unity. This unity would be constituted of living, interdependent parts that could not function in a literary manner independent from the organic form of the whole, an idea that proved quite important to the New Critics of the early twentieth-century.
Many lesser critics of the late 19th Century misunderstood Coleridge, and they used the wordfancyin reference to the process of producing a light-hearted, simple, or fanciful poetry and reserve the termimaginationfor more serious, passionate, or intense poetry. However, for the original Romantic critics and poets, the distinction in terminology marked two different types of creativity. They valued imaginative creativity more than fanciful creativity regardless of whether the poetry was serious or light-hearted.
: David Sandners term for the way 19th century Romantic poetry, fantasy literature, and childrens literature partakes of the. In ancient Roman aesthetics, Longinus long ago commented on the way that especially tall mountains, especially deep ravines, especially dark caverns, or especially bright lights can inspire in the viewer a sense of the sublime–a mixture of awe, beauty, and fear that could be simultaneously attractive and repellant or overwhelming. Although Sandner Sandners focus was on 19th-century writers like George Macdonald, Kenneth Grahame, and Christina Rossetti, his observations are applicable to fantasy literature more broadly, in which fantasy writers often create in their works geographies and events in which overwhelming size, depth, distance, and so forth are striking features of those works..
: Any literature that is removed from reality–especially poems, books, or short narratives set in nonexistent worlds, such as an elvish kingdom, on the moon, in Pellucidar (the hollow center of the earth), or in alternative versions of the historical world–such as a version of London where vampires or sorcerers have seized control of parliament. The characters are often something other than humans, or human characters may interact with nonhuman characters such as trolls, dragons, munchkins, kelpies, etc. Examples include J. K. RowlingsHarry Potterseries, J.R.R. Tolkiens synthetic histories inThe Silmarilion, Michael MoorcocksThe Dreaming City, or the books in Stephen R.Donaldsons series,The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. See alsoescapist literature. Contrast withmagic realism,science fictionandspeculative fiction.
: Any novel that is removed from reality–especially those novels set in nonexistent worlds, such as an elvish kingdom, on the moon, in Pellucidar (the hollow center of the earth), or in alternative versions of the historical world–such as a version of London where vampires or sorcerers have seized control of parliament. The characters are often something other than humans, or human characters may interact with nonhuman characters such as trolls, dragons, munchkins, kelpies, etc. Examples include J.R.R. TolkiensThe Hobbit, Ursula LeGuinsA Wizard of Earthsea, Michael MoorcocksThe Dreaming City, or T.H. WhitesThe Once and Future King. See alsoescapist literature. Contrast withmagic realism,science fictionandspeculative fiction.
(from LatinFarsus, stuffed): A farce is a form oflowcomedydesigned to provoke laughter through highly exaggerated caricatures of people in improbable or silly situations. Traits of farce include(1)physical bustle such as slapstick,(2)sexual misunderstandings and mix-ups, and(3)broad verbal humor such as puns. Many literary critics (especially in the Victorian period) have tended to view farce as inferior to high comedy that involves brilliant dialogue. Many of Shakespeares early works, such asThe Taming of the Shrew, are considered farces. Contrast withcomedy of manners.
FARSA: A medieval Spanish religious play, usually performed in sets rather than alone, with a comic interlude between plays or between acts. An example is Lucas FernndezsFarsas y eglogas al modo y estilo pastoril y castellano(Cuddon 333).Farsashould not be confused withfrsa, a type of boasting poem in the African Galla tribe that recites acatalogof heroes and their deeds (Cuddon 333).
(French, medley, or rubbish): Nonsense verse popular between 1200-1400 in medieval France, usually in eleven-line verse form, often inmacaronic text. Their purpose appears to be mocking traditional closed-form poetry.
: Atemptation motiffrom German folklore in which an individual sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge, wealth, or power. MarlowesThe Tragical Historie of Doctor Faustusrevolves around this motif.
(French, false friends): (1) Words in two languages that might technically becognateswith each other (i.e., descended down two separate etymological branches to a common root word), but which are not equivalent in meaning because one or both of them have changed meaning over time from the original root word. For instance, the Spanish wordembarazarand the English wordembarrasslook like cognates, and in fact, the English term was borrowed by way of French from the Spanish word. However, the English word has changed meaning to refer to humiliation, but in the original Spanish, the wordembarazarmeans impregnate. Even though technically descended from a common ancestor, and thus cognates, the two words arefaux amisif we try to translate them as equivalents. (2) In a looser sense,faux amiscan also refer to any false cognates in which two words look so similar morphologically they lure amateur linguists into believing they are related etymologically. Faux amis and false cognates are the bane of speakers learning a second language. Cf.cognateandfalse cognateunder cognate discussion.
: As Kathleen Scott describes this sort of decoration, it isa spray form of decoration, consisting of short, slightly curving pen lines often ending in a lobe (after c. 1410 usually tinted green), gold motifs, and coloured motifs; [. . .] a basic element of 15th-century book decoration(Scott 371).
: Writing concerned with the unique experience of being a woman or alternatively writing designed to challenge existing preconceptions of gender. Examples of feminist writings include Christine de Pisans medieval work,The City of Ladies; Aemilia Lanyers Renaissance treatise,Salve Deus, Rex Judaeorum(which presented the then-shocking idea that Adam was just as much to blame for the fall of man as Eve was in the Genesis account); Mary WollstonecraftsVindication, and Susan B. Anthonys nineteenth-century essays (which presented the equally shocking idea that women in America and Canada should have the right to vote).
Many female students in my class preface their discussions of feminist writings by stating, Im not a feminist, but…. This tendency always puzzled me, since it implies that feminism is something negative, radical, or always liberal. Worse yet, it implies that its bad for women to want crazy, misguided things like education, equal health insurance, similar pay to what men earn in similar professions, freedom from harassment, and funding for medical problems concerning women, such as breast and uterine cancer research, which are the primary concerns of feminism. Somewhere toward the end of the twentieth-century, detractors of such writers have caricatured these demands as man-hating or anti-family. As an antidote to such thinking, keep in mind the broader definition: a feminist is anyone who thinks that women are people too.
FESTSCHRIFT(Ger. Celebration-Writing; pluralfestschriften): Afestschriftis a collection of essays or studies in book form, dedicated to a former teacher or professor in his or her advanced age–often when that scholar retires or reaches the rank ofemeritusprofessor. The individual scholarly writings come from his or her students, who typically collaborate to organize the work and contact the publisher, and present the collection to the teacher upon its publication. They can be as small a single slender volume or as large as a multi-volume work. Typically, the last section includes atabula gratulatoria, an extended list of academic colleagues and friends who send their regards and good will to the scholar. Seededication.
: The medieval model of government predating the birth of the modern nation-state. Feudal society is a military hierarchy in which a ruler or lord offers mounted fighters afief(medieval Latin beneficium), a unit of land to control in exchange for a military service. The individual who accepted this land became avassal; the man who granted the land became known as the vassalsliegeor hislord. The deal was often sealed by swearing oaths on the Bible or on the relics of saints. Often this military service amounted to forty days service each year in times of peace or indefinite service in times of war, but the actual terms of service and duties varied considerably on a case-by-case basis. For instance, in the late medieval period, this military service was often abandoned in preference for cash payment or an agreement to provide a certain number of men-at-arms or mounted knights for the lords use.
In the late medieval period, the fiefdom often became hereditary, and the firstborn son of a knight or lesser nobleman would inherit the land and the military duties from his father upon the fathers death. Feudalism had two enormous effects on medieval society. (1) First, it discouraged unified government because individual lords would divide their lands into smaller and smaller sections to give to lesser nobles and knights. These lesser noblemen in turn would subdivide their own lands into even smaller fiefs to give to even less important rulers and knights. Each knight would swear his oath offealty(loyalty) to the ones who gave him his lands, which was not necessarily the king or higher noblemen, let alone an abstraction like France or England. Feudal government was always an arrangement between individuals, not between nation-states and citizens. (2) Second, it discouraged trade and economic growth. Peasant farmers calledserfsworked the fields; they were tied to individual plots of land and forbidden to move or change occupations without the permission of the lord. The feudal lord might claim one-third to one-half of the serfs produce in taxes and fees, and the serfs owed him a set number of days each year in which they would work the lords fields in exchange for the right to work their own lands. Often, they were required to grind their grain in the lords mill and bake all their bread in the lords oven in exchange for other fees. In theory, the male members of the community might be divided intobellatores(the noblemen who fought),arratoresorlaboratores(the agricultural laborers who grew the food), andoratores(the clergy who prayed and attended to spiritual matters). In contrast, women were divided into their states commonly by sexual or marital status as widows, virgins, or wives. Ultimately, this simple tripartite division known as thethree estates of feudalismproved unworkable by the 1300s, and the necessity of skilled craftsmen, merchants, and other occupations was quite visible in spite of the theoretical model espoused in some sermons and political treatises.
: A deviation from what speakers of a language understand as the ordinary or standard use of words in order to achieve some special meaning or effect. Perhaps the two most common figurative devices are thesimile–a comparison between two distinctly different things using like or as (My loves like a red, red rose)–and themetaphor–a figure of speech in which two unlike objects are implicitly compared without the use of like or as. These are both examples of tropes. Any figure of speech that results in a change of meaning is called atrope. Any figure of speech that creates its effect in patterns of words or letters in a sentence, rather than twisting the meaning of words, is called ascheme. Perhaps the most common scheme isparallelism. For a more complete list of schemes and tropes, see theschemesandtropespages.
FIGURE OF SPEECH: Aschemeor atropeused for rhetorical or artistic effect. Seefigurative language, above.
FILI: A class of learned Irish poet in pre-Christian and early Christian Ireland. Legally, afilihad similar status to a Christian bishop, and in pagan times, thefilicarried out some spells and divinations appropriate to the druids, the priestly class among the Celts.
: A specialized type of folk music or alternative music, often with narrative lyrics, that usually deals withscience fictionorfantasythemesandcharacters. The subject-matter is often not original to the musician, but rather taken from literature,pulp fiction, movies, and pop culture. In some cases, the song retells a story written by a famous science fiction author or explores in greater detail a particular scene or character first created by that author. Because this subgenre often is an homage to anothers published work, it is usually performed informally rather than mass-marketed, thus avoiding copyright infringements. An example might be a song about Gene RoddenberrysStar TrekEnterprise set to the tune of Jingle Bells, or a song about H.G. WellsWar of the Worldsmeant to be performed to the tune of Handels Ode to Joy. Other filk songs might involve completely original music, and they might deal with technological or fantastic themes more generally rather than paying homage to a particular science fiction story. Likewise, a single filk song might makeallusionsto several different works simultaneously. The only prerequisiteconventionof thegenreis that it be appealing to the people who frequent science fiction conventions and enjoy such literature and movies.
Filk is often written by amateur musicians or hobbyists. Fans traditionally perform the songs at science fiction conventions late at night after other scheduled events have ended. The filk movement first began in the 1950s, though it never became particularly widespread until the mid 1970s. The adjective/noun termfilkcomes from a typo–a misspelling of folk music in Lee Jacobs essay, The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk [sic] Music. The incorrect designation stuck and science fiction authors like Poul Anderson and Robert Asprin helped popularize the name through their friendly encouragement. Back formation or linguisticfunctional shiftresulted in the verbto filk, which implies both to sing or perform filk songs and to write songs about science fiction subjects. Various annual science conventions like the Ohio Valley Filk Festival (OVFF), the Nashville Musicon, and FilkOntario schedule regular filking events. Every year, OVFF offers a Pegasus award for excellence in Filk music.
(also calledvineworkorvinery): A common type of decoration in medieval manuscripts. Scott defines it 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).
FINNO-UGRIC: One of several language families outside the Indo-Euorpean family of languages. This family includes Hungarian, Estonian, Lappish, and Finnish.
(Septuagint Greek,stereomathe beaten or hammered thing, Latinfirmamentum, the solid thing): In Genesis, a mysterious substance described as separating the lower waters from the upper waters before the separation of dry land from the rest of the lower waters. In ancient cosmology, the firmament was thought to be a semi-translucent dome or vault of the sky. By medieval times, the theory arose that this firmament was the first of several translucent spheres encompassing the earth called thecrystaline mobile. Extended discussion can be foundhere.
: A set of Shakespeares plays published in 1623. The First Folio included some thirty-six plays, and the editor of this publication took some care in the selection and accuracy of his texts, or at least more care than those editors who published earlier quartos. Seefolioandquartobelow.
: The preferred or normal language a speaker chooses to communicate in–i.e., ones native or fluent language. Bilingual individu