English 1AA3 (Longer Genres) Study Terms
Allegory - a form of storytelling in which there is a definite narrative that exists under the storytelling part of a
narrative. The allegory is usually a message, story or a fable telling us a particular message about an event.
Distinguished form the primary level (literal) an allegorical writer wants the reader to see that the plot line has
significance beyond just the plot level. It is a particular message that the narrative is trying to get across. On one level
what you’re reading might mean something, but there is still a deeper meaning behind it. It could be an allegory to a
different novel, something in society etc.
Example: A Room with a view, Lucy wants to be in a room with a view, this is allegory to having her own thoughts
and following her desires.
Anxiety of Influence – When writers create, they want to be original and produce something that reflects their
individuality. Writers also respect the fact that there are writers than become before them, and they respect that those
writers have written before them and made claim on certain ideas. Anxiety of influence is caused because writers
want to be original but others are more original and powerful and they become anxious, jealous and envious of these
Example: Shelley may have experienced this in writing Frankenstein considering how it is a story about creation and
she makes direct references to Milton’s Paradise Lost in the romance. She seems to acknowledge the influence
Milton’s work has on her own but puts her own gothic twist on the story of Creation.
Archetypal Criticism –This criticism became very famous because of Northrop Frye (Canadian). It is based on the
work of Carl Jung: Not only in Western Literature, but also in Eastern literature we notice that there are certain
symbols that are used over and over again. These symbols are worldwide in their significance and common to all
men therefore ―arche‖, and they have meanings that extend beyond time, place and nationality. Mountains, rivers and
water (purifying, rebirth etc.), have an archetypal significance. This type of criticism interprets a text by focusing on
recurring myths and archetypes in the narrative, symbols, images and character types in a literary work. An
archetype is something that is conventional to the story (hero, villain, trickster)
Example: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: The peak of a mountain is a place to gain great insight. In
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Luo and the Narrator go to visit the miller to get songs which provide
insight on culture.
Bildungsroman – It is a coming of age story. A story of apprenticeship. This is a story about how someone’s life
develops and how they become mature and come into oneself, and the narrative tends to stick to that as a very
Example: Balzac, the narrator is learning how to become a writer and live his life. Canon – Canons refers to the study of certain works in English, American and Canadian literature that are identified
as classics. In the past few years, there has been a movement away from the canon, because if we restrict ourselves
to only canonical works, although we are studying what are ―masterpiece‖ works, we aren’t discovering anything
beyond that. If you’re speaking about a canonical work it’s something that exists in a lot of anthologies. Works by
certain authors that have reached a certain status that they are considered as works that you can compare to
everything else. Canon authors would be, Jane Austen, Shakespeare…
Example: Importance of Being Ernest and Frankenstein are canonical, The Homecoming is not. (Note: Pinter is
becoming more canonical but he is not considered a canonical writer)
Comedy – A dramatic work that is light and often humorous or satirical in tone and that usually contains a happy
resolution of the thematic conflict. Even though the work may question society, it ends with a renewal of society.
Often comedies end so that society renews itself though marriage, contrarily works of tragedy usually end in death. In
other words, characters in comedies are given more time and their future is renewed through marriage and in
tragedies, characters run out of time. Incidents in which the characters finally triumph over adversity.
Example: The Importance of Being Ernest is a comedy because the play ends in marriage after they overcome mess
they got themselves into by creating false appearances. Northanger Abbey; Catherine marrying Henry Tilney and
triumphing over his father, General Tilney.
Decadence – It is often used to describe a decline due to an erosion of moral, ethical, and sexual traditions. It is a
literary expression in which a moral point of view is not necessary or important, it is anti-allegorical and anti-
symbolical. It revolves around the notion that the truth resides on the surface, so there is no deeper meaning. A
literary movement especially of late 19th-century France and England characterized by refined aestheticism, artifice,
and the quest for new sensations.
Example: Oscar Wilde (Importance of Being Earnest) doesn’t believe in looking for hidden meaning, and believes in
appearances being of great importance.
Deconstruction: Associated with several thinkers, but Jacque Derrida is the most famous. Derrida says that all
literature are extremely unstable and if you analyze the text you will see that there is a meaning underneath what
appears on the surface. Derrida disagrees with previous theorists who say a narrative can have a definitive meaning.
Example: The Importance of Being Earnest; there are many things that occur in that play that make it a revolutionary
narrative in which Wilde espouses unforbidden ideas of homosexuality into the line of the play. When Wilde and his
friends were having sex with men and paying them, it was very risky so they would pay each other with cigarette
cases, this could be symbolic to the play. Decorum – A good work of art according to this would have certain elements of décor/ rightness. One of the ways of
judging décor in plays and dramas is the concept of three unities (see below). A standard of appropriateness by
which certain styles, characters, forms, and actions in literary works are deemed suitable to one another within a
hierarchical model of culture bound by class distinctions. Requirement that the individual characters, the characters’
actions and style of speech should match the genre of the specific work.
Example: Northanger Abbey shows this because the characters actions and their speech is related the genre in
which they are found.
Dramatic Irony - This type of irony is the device of giving the spectator an item of information that at least one of the
characters in the narrative is unaware of (at least consciously), thus placing the spectator a step ahead of at least
one of the characters. Dramatic irony has three stages—installation, exploitation, and resolution. It only occurs in a
play or dramatic representation.
Example: The Importance of Being Ernest: The audience is aware that Jack and Ernest are the same person. Also,
while Cecily and Gwendolyn believe that they are in love with the same man, the audience is aware that is not the
Empathy - In writing of prose fiction there is an attempt of the writer to have the reader make some sort of emotional
identification with the subject being written about.
Example: In Frankenstein, Mary Schelly wants us to feel empathy for the creation. This is because he is abandoned
by his creator (Victor) and his true intention is just to seek companionship and become integrated into human social
interactions, but society rejects him because of his appearance.
Epiphany - a religious term, a moment of realization. It is an enlightening realization that allows a problem or
situating to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. James Joyce said that in his writing he wanted his
readers to have moments of awareness that you didn’t have before, to descend upon you. Made important in 20th
Example: Catherine has an epiphany when she realizes that General Tilney did not actually murder his wife, and
Henry gets upset at her for being childish. She realizes that she was letting her imagination get the best of her, and
she was allowing the Gothic novels to influence her perception of reality. This leads to her learning to read people
better and realize who actually cares about her.
Feminist Criticism – It is a form of criticism that privileges female experience and agrees that female experience is
very different from male experience. It looks at literature from a woman empowerment perspective. Often, male
experience is the only validated experience and women are left out of consideration. All of these points are extremely
Example: Stoker appears to be an anti-feminist; a feminist critic could say that he depicts women in a very
misogynistic way. He establishes that his view is that males can have a number of affairs, but if a woman shows
interest in many different suitors openly, she is seen unseemly (Lucy). Formalism - having mainly to do with structural purposes of a particular text, Formalism refers to critical approaches
that analyze, interpret, or evaluate the inherent features of a text. These features include not only grammar and
syntax but also literary devices such as meter and tropes. The formalist approach redu