A posteriori


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



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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, an 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 accelerated 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 take plunder or captives against God's command. 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. 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.

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 acatalectic line (which is missing one or more expected syllables) or a catalectic line (which has the number of syllables that would normally be expected). 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.

IAMB: A unit or foot of poetry that consists of a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable. Some words in English naturally form iambs, such as behold, restore, amuse, arise, awake, return, Noel, support, depict, destroy, inject, inscribe, insist, inspire, unwashed, and so on. A line of poetry written with syllables falling in this pattern of stress are said to be in iambic meter. See extended discussion under meter. Click here to download a PDF handout that contrasts iambs with other types of poetic feet. An iamb is also called an iambus in classical scholarship.

IAMBIC: See discussion under meter.

IAMBIC PENTAMETER: See discussion under meter.

IAMBUS: Another term for an iamb. See above.

ICTUS (Latin, "blow," or "stroke"): An artificial stress or diacritical accent placed over the top of particular syllables in a line of poetry to indicate which syllables the poet wants the reader to stress if that stress is not clear from the normal pattern of pronunciation. Sometimes, later editors will count the syllables in a line and add an ictus to flesh out the required versification. For instance, if a Shakespearean play has the word banishéd, the ictus over the final -e indicates that the word is probably pronounced as three syllables, with the heavy accent on the final syllable. Some poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins use ictuses (icti) to place an artificial stress on syllables that would not normally be stressed. J. A. Cuddon's Dictionary of Literary Terms (page 439) offers the following example from Hopkins' poem "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves": "self ín self steepéd and páshed--quite." Here, the preposition in, which would normally be unstressed, is artificially stressed by the poet, as is the -ed in steeped.

IDEAL READER: The imaginary audience who would, ideally, understand every phrase, word, and allusion in a literary work, and who would completely understand the literary experience an author presents, and then responds emotionally as the writer wished.

IDENTICAL RHYME: The use of the same words as a "rhymed" pair. For instance, putting the words stone/ stone or time/ time at the concluding positions in two lines. Many poets frown upon identical rhyme as unartful. The technique can, however, add emphasis to a poetic passage. In medieval French verse, this fashionable technique was called rime riche. Contrast with exact rhyme, perfect rhyme, rhyme, eye rhyme, and inexact rhyme. J. A. Cuddon's Dictionary of Literary Terms (page 441) offers the example of Keats's Isabella in Stanza XI:

All close they met again, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
All close they met, all eyes, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.

IDEOGRAPH: Also called a logograph or ideogram, this is a written symbol system in which a single marking or collection of markings represents not a phonetic sound but rather an entire word or idea. Classical Egyptian, Cuneiform, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese are ideographic languages. This term is contrasted with a phonetic language, in which a single marking or collection of markings represents a single sound. For instance, contrast the two markings below.



Above, we see the Mandarin symbol for tao, a term meaning "the way" or "the path." The entire marking represents in the abstract a pilgrim or traveller moving along the road. We cannot break down the symbol so that one part represents the consonant /t/ sound and another part represents the /aU/ dipthong. On the other hand, when we examine Greek, we might see a marking like this one:



Here, we see the Greek word ethos, meaning "character, authority, or charisma." However, the word is spelled out phonetically, with the first marking indicating the /e/ sound, the second marking representing the [th] sound, the next representing an /o/ sound, and the final marking representing the /s/ sound. Similarly, the Latin term for path is via, and it is written out phonetically as three letters, v, i, and a. The markings represent sounds rather than images or ideas. You can find out more about pictographic ideographs by downloading this handout. Keep in mind, modern English is a language with only delusions of being phonetic. In actual point of fact, English contains many silent letters and variations of spelling that no longer represent sounds with the same consistency as a purely phonetic language. To see how far Modern English is from being truly phonetic, read this poem.

IDIOLECT: The language or speech pattern unique to one individual at a particular period of his or her life. Because no total conformity in pronunciation is possible, each individual has a slightly different way of pronunciation, a fact that allows computer voice recognition to note unique markers in a person's voice. That uniqueness is part of idiolect, as is each person's unique set of vocabulary and ideosyncrasies of grammar. In terms of discussing linguistics, however, the specifics of idiolect are often not particularly useful, and scholars place much more emphasis on the generalities of dialect. See dialect.

IDIOM: In its loosest sense, the word idiom is often used as a synonym for dialect or idiolect. In its more scholarly and narrow sense, an idiom or idiomatic expression refers to a construction or expression in one language that cannot be matched or directly translated word-for-word in another language. For instance, the English expression, "She has a bee in her bonnet," meaning "she is obsessed," cannot be literally translated into another language word for word. It's a non-literal idiomatic expression, akin to "She is green with envy." In the same way, the Spanish phrase, "Me gustan los arboles," is usually translated as, "I like the trees," but if we were to pull the phrase apart and read it word for word, it would make no sense in analytical English (i.e., "To me pleases the trees").

IDOLA (Latin, "idols," singular form idolum): False images of the mind. Francis Bacon's Novum Organum (1620), classifies the primary fallacies in human thinking as four types: idola tribus, specus, fori, et theatri (idols of the tribe, the cave, the market, and the theater).

IDYLL: A composition in verse or prose presenting an idealized story of happy innocence. The Idylls of Theocritus (c. 250 BC), for example, is a work that describes the pastoral life of rustic Sicily. Tennyson's poem, Idylls of the King, presents the idealized, poetic account of Camelot's innocent existence before its fall to the forces of barbarism, impurity, and vice.

IMAGERY: A common term of variable meaning, imagery includes the "mental pictures" that readers experience with a passage of literature. It signifies all the sensory perceptions referred to in a poem, whether by literal description, allusion, simile, or metaphor. Imagery is not limited to visual imagery; it also includes auditory (sound), tactile (touch), thermal (heat and cold), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), and kinesthetic sensation (movement). Cf. imagism, below.

IMAGINATION: See discussion under fancy.

IMAGISM: An early twentieth-century artistic movement in the United States and Britain. Imagists believed poets should use common, everyday vocabulary, experiment with new rhythm, and use clear, precise, concentrated imagery. Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, Amy Lowell, Carl Sandburg, and T. E. Hulme are all poets who were adherents of imagism and were known as imagists. Carl Sandburg's "Fog" is an example of an imagist poem, and T. E. Hulme's "Above the Dock." Here are the opening lines to "Above the Dock":

Above the quiet dock in midnight,


Tangled in the tall mast's corded height
Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away
Is but a child's balloon, forgotten after play.

Likewise, the concrete imagery is clear in Sandburg's opening lines to "Fog": "The fog comes / on little cat feet." Imagism had its heydey slightly before World War I, but the emphasis on strong, concrete imagery appears in other literary periods as well. One could argue that Anglo-Saxon poetry with its emphasis on concrete language rather than abstraction is similar to twentieth-century imagism, for instance. The imagist movement was strongly influenced by the early translations of haiku into English. Cf. haiku, imagery, and concrete diction.

IMAGIST: See discussion under imagism, above.

IMITATIVE SOUND: See discussion under onomatopoeia.

IMPERFECT ENJOYMENT: Readers commonly associate this motif or poetic genre with 17th-century male poets in France--but it derives ultimately from Latin poetry such as Ovid's Amores 3.7. English examples have been written by the John Wilmot (the Earl of Rochester) and Aphra Behn. Typically, the motif in French literature deals with a proud or arrogant male lover who discovers in the midst of a seduction that (a) he is unable to perform sexually, (b) something unattractive about the woman ruins his desire, or (c) the woman is an incompetent lover and this ends up spoiling their loveplay. Commonly, either the male lover or the poetic speaker blames the woman for this less-than-perfect coition.

Aphra Behn, however, puts a unique spin on this perspective in "The Disappointment." In her poem, an omniscient point-of-view allows the reader to see the desires and emotions of the woman (Cloris) in her encounter with a masculine lover (Lysander); the male's inability to perform seems responsible for the woman's frustrated desires instead of the normal French convention for this motif.

IMPERFECT FOOT: A metrical foot consisting of a single syllable, either heavily or lightly stressed. See meter, cf. acephalous line.

IMPERFECT RHYME: Another term for inexact rhyme or slant rhyme.




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