Biblioklept’s Dictionary of Literary Terms

APHORISM

A concise, often witty, turn of phrase that should be shared out of context on Twitter or Pinterest.

BILDUNGSROMAN

Novel where someone (preferably male) matures into the ideal state of bitter disillusionment.

CATHARSIS

Evocation of fear and pity. Best exemplified in modern storytelling by Lifetime Network original movies.

DECONSTRUCTION

A form of textual analysis. No one knows what it means. Apply liberally.

EXISTENTIALIST

Use to describe any French novel of the 20th century. Serve with coffee and cigarettes.

FOIL

First, Outer, Inner, Last.

GENRE FICTION

Deride genre fiction at all times. If a writer uses genre tropes, praise her for genre bending. (See LITERARY FICTION).

HYSTERICAL REALISM

Use to describe any big ambitious novel that does not meet your aesthetic and/or moral needs.

IAMBIC PENTAMETER

All poetry is composed in iambic pentameter.

JUVENILIA

A writer’s immature work, which she usually (wisely) withholds from publication. After the writer dies, every scrap should be published, scrutinized, and passed around the internet out of context.

KAKFAESQUE

Synonym for “odd.” Apply freely.

LITERARY FICTION

A genre of fiction that pretends not to be a genre. What your book club is reading this month.

MAGICAL REALISM

Use to describe any novel by a South American writer.

NARRATOLOGY

Use structuralist techniques to analyze narrative plots—and watch the kids go wild! Narratology is the number one thing the audience of a book review is interested in.

ORPHAN

All heroes must be orphans.

PANOPTICON

Use this term liberally in any discussion of modern politics. Pairs well with film studies courses.

QUEER THEORY

A form of literary analysis that conveniently begins with the letter “Q,” making it ideal for silly alphabetized lists like this one.

ROUND CHARACTER

A character portrayed in psychological and emotional depth to the degree that she comes alive in your imagination. Round characters provide an excellent alternative to making meaningful human relationships.

SOUTHERN GOTHIC

Use to describe the style of any writer from the Southern part of the United States.

TAUTOLOGY

A tautology is a tautology.

UTOPIA

Synonym for dystopia. Argue about its pronunciation, indicating that you understand the complexities of Greek prefixes.

VERISIMILITUDE

Literary trickery.

WHODUNNIT

A genre of books that sells well in airports.

XENA

Beloved warrior princess. Look, is hardokay?

YOUNG WERTHER

The original sad bastard; he invented emo.

ZEITGEIST

Time’s ghost. You’re soaking in it, which makes it hard to see.

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Biblioklept’s Dictionary of Literary Terms”

  1. 1. Okay, so, obviously I was influenced by Teju Cole’s Dictionary of Received Ideas, published earlier this month on Twitter and The New Yorker:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/08/in-place-of-thought-twitter-received-ideas.html

    2. But what really inspired this list was something I started writing earlier today—I used the term “Southern Gothic” quite thoughtlessly in something I was writing, and then immediately realized how lazy this was—how it was just a place-holder for any kind of real thinking.

    3. So I riffed this out. Some letters were, uh, obviously harder than others to come up with a lit term for.

    Like

  2. Very funny, Mr.Biblio. My retired professor couple (UGa) think that Hemingway reads like a high school term paper, which she promptly tried imitating, and yes, her writing read like a h.s. term paper. She also commented on Teju Cole’s piece that he spent too much time indoors. I like that you make fun of the things that the ‘cognoscenti’ should know better about. Aper pos of nothing, here is Flannery O’Connor’s remark about Southern gothic: “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”
    ― Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

    Like

  3. Great stuff!!

    I note that many book/publisher’s blogs (that I accidentally click on and can’t manage to close before I catch a glimpse of their breathless drivel) are currently announcing the dawn of fabulous new trends in “literary fiction”, such as magical realism and unreliable narrators!!! Wow what a brave new world writers are discovering!!!

    Unreliable narrator: Central character with compromised point of view. Along with magical realism, obligatory ingredient of “cutting edge” English-language “literary” fiction, .

    Like

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.