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CLASSICAL HAIKU: Another term for the hokku, the predecessor of the modern haiku. See hokku and haiku.

CLASSICS: See discussion under classical, above.

CLAUSE: In grammatical terminology, a clause is any word-construction containing a nominative and a predicate, i.e., a subject "doing" a verb. The term clause contrasts with the term phrase. A phrase might contain nouns as appositives or objects, and it might contain verb-like words in the form of participles or gerunds, but it crucially lacks a subject "doing" a verb. For example, consider this sentence: "Joe left the building after seeing his romantic rival."



Clause: Joe left the building
Phrase: after seeing his romantic rival

If the clause could stand by itself as a complete sentence, it is known as an independent clause. If the clause cannot stand by itself as a complete sentence (typically because it begins with a subordinating conjunction), it is said to be a dependent clause. For expanded discussion and examples, click here. For a discusion of clauses according to functional type, click here (TBA).

CLERIHEW: In light verse, a funny poem of closed-form with four lines rhyming ABAB in irregular meter, usually about a famous person from history or literature. Typically the historical person's name forms one of the rhymes. The name comes from Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), the purported inventor. He supposedly had a habit of scribbling down such rhymes during dull lectures at school, including this one from his chemistry class:

Sir Humphrey Davy


Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

CLICHÉ: A hackneyed or trite phrase that has become overused. Clichés are considered bad writing and bad literature. Click here to download a PDF handout for more information. Cliché rhymes are rhymes that are considered trite or predictable. Cliché rhymes in poetry include love and dove, moon and June, trees and breeze. Sometimes, to avoid cliché rhymes, poets will go to hyperbolic lengths, such as the trisyllabic rhymes in Lord Byron's Don Juan.

CLICHÉ RHYME: Cliché rhymes are rhymes that are considered trite or predictable. They include love and dove, moon and June, trees and breeze. Sometimes, to avoid cliché rhymes, poets will go to hyperbolic lengths, such as the trisyllabic rhymes in Lord Byron's Don Juan.

CLICK: A sound common in some non-Indo-European languages in Polynesia made by clucking the tongue or drawing in air with the tongue rather than expelling it from the lungs--such as the sound represented by the letter combination tsk-tsk. Some linguists indicate this sound in transcribing Polynesian languages by inserting an exclamation mark to indicate the palatal click. For instance, the !chung tribe has a palatal click as part of its name.

CLIFFHANGER: A melodramatic narrative (especially in films, magazines, or serially published novels) in which each section "ends" at a suspenseful or dramatic moment, ensuring that the audience will watch the next film or read the next installment to find out what happens. The term comes from the common 1930's film-endings in which the main characters are literally left hanging on the edge of a cliff until the story resumes. The term cliffhanger has more loosely been applied to any situation, event, or contest in which the outcome remains uncertain until the last moment possible.

CLIMAX, LITERARY (From Greek word for "ladder"): The moment in a play, novel, short story, or narrative poem at which the crisis reaches its point of greatest intensity and is thereafter resolved. It is also the peak of emotional response from a reader or spectator and usually the turning point in the action. The climax usually follows or overlaps with the crisis of a story, though some critics use the two terms synonymously. (Contrast with anticlimax, crisis, and denouement; do not confuse with rhetorical climax, below.)

CLIMAX, RHETORICAL: Also known as auxesis and crescendo, this refers to an artistic arrangement of a list of items so that they appear in a sequence of increasing importance. See rhetorical schemes for more information. The opposite of climax is bathos.

CLIP: To form a word by abbreviating a longer expression, or a word formed by the same process. For instance, the word auto (as in "auto shop") is a clipped form of automobile.

CLOSE READING: Reading a piece of literature carefully, bit by bit, in order to analyze the significance of every individual word, image, and artistic ornament. Click here for more information. The term is sometimes used synonymously with critical reading, though I arbitrarily prefer to reserve close reading as a reference for analyzing literature and critical reading as a reference for breaking down an essay's argument logically. Cf. critical reading.

CLOSED POETIC FORM: Poetry written in a a specific or traditional pattern according to the required rhyme, meter, line length, line groupings, and number of lines within a genre of poetry. Examples of a closed-form poetry include haiku, limericks, and sonnets, which have set numbers of syllables, lines, and traditional subject-matter. Contrast with open poetic form.

CLOSURE (Latin clausura, "a closing"): Closure has two common meanings. First, it means a sense of completion or finality at the conclusion of play or narrative work--especially a feeling in the audience that all the problems have been resolved satisfactorily. Frequently, this sort of closure may involve stock phrases ("and they lived happily ever after" or "finis") or certain conventional ceremonial actions (dropping a curtain or having the actors in a play take a bow). The narrative may reveal the solution of the primary problem(s) driving the plot, the death of a major character (especially the antagonist, the protagonist's romantic interest or even the protagonist herself), or careful denouement. An example of extended denouement as closure occurs in George Eliot's Middlemarch, in which the author carefully explains what happened in later years to each character in the novel. Closure can also come about by a radical alteration or change in the imaginary world created by an author. For instance, in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, much of the closure to the saga comes from the departure of the elves and wizards, who sail across the sea, leaving the world of human men and women forever, an act which apparently causes magic to fade. Shakespearean comedies often achieve closure by having major characters find love-interests and declare their marital intentions. Other more experimental forms of literature and poetry may achieve closure by "circular structure," in which the poem or story ends by coming back to the narrative's original starting spot, or by returning a similar situation to what was found at the beginning of the tale. See discussion under denouement. Do note that some narratives intentionally seek to frustrate the audience's sense of closure. Examples of literature that reject conventions of closure include cliffhanger serials (see above), which reject normal closure in an attempt to gain returning audiences. Many postmodern narratives influenced by existential philosophy, on the other hand, reject closure as too "simplistic" and "artificial" in comparison with the complexities of human living.

Secondly, some critics use the term "closure" as a derogatory term to imply the reduction of a work's meanings to a single and complete sense that excludes the claims of other interpretations. For extended discussion of closure, see Frank Kermode's The Sense of An Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, as reprinted in 2001.

CLOWN: (1) A fool or rural bumpkin in Shakespearean vocabulary. Examples of this type of clown include Lance, Bottom, Dogberry, and other Shakespearean characters. (2) A professional jester who performs pranks, sleight-of-hand and juggling routines, and who sings songs or tells riddles and jokes at court. By convention, such jesters were given considerable leeway to speak on nearly any topic (even criticizing court policy) as long as the criticism was veiled in riddles and wordplay. Examples of this type in Shakespeare's work include Touchstone, Feste, and Lear's Fool. Cf. fool.

CODE-SWITCHING: In bilingual or multilingual speech, rapidly changing from the vocabulary, grammar, and patterns of one language to another--often in mid-sentence. An example sentence to illustrate this process using Latin, Spanish, German, and French might read as follows: "Imprimus, el commander qui runs his troops y sus attendants to death in a blitzkrieg isn't tres sapiens, n'est-pas?" [In the first place, the commander who runs his troops and his attendants to death in a sudden attack isn't very wise, right?]

Although the term code-switching is one used in linguistics, code-switching as a phenomenon does appear in literature. The character of Salvatori the monk in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose engages continuously in code-switching among Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, and German tongues, for instance. Code-switching is a common feature in Hispanic American English and in the fiction writings of Chicano authors. Cf. dog-latin and macaronic texts.

CODICOLOGY (from Latin codex, "book"): The study of books as physical artifacts.

COGNATE: Cognates are words that (1) match each other to some degree in sound and meaning, (2) come from a common root in an older language, but (3) did not actually serve as a root for each other. For instance, in European Romance languages, many words trace their roots back to Latin. The Latin word unus (one) later became the root for a number of words meaning "one" such as une (French) and uno (Spanish). Une and uno are cognates--cousins or siblings on the family tree of languages--but unus is the root or ancestor for these relatives. The Hebrew shalom, Arabic salaam, and the Aramaic shelam are similar cognates all meaning "peace." The amateur philologist should be cautious of false cognates and folk etymology, however. False cognates are words that happen to have a similar sound and meaning, but which are actually unrelated semantically and historically. Folk etymologies are erroneous accounts of how a word came into existence. Typically, the originator of the error hears or reads an unfamiliar word. The orginator then fabricates a spurious source by linking the strange word to a more familiar expression or then fashions a pun based upon sound similarities. Cognates play an important part in reconstructing dead languages such as proto-Indo-European.

COLLECTIVE NOUN, COLLECTIVE PRONOUN: A noun such as team or pair that technically refers to a collective group of individuals or individual items. What makes them tricky in grammar? They can be singular or plural (e.g., one team, two teams, or one pair, two pairs.) Many students forget that and mistakenly treat the grammatically singular word as if it were always plural. Likewise, collective pronouns like some use the modifier rather than the headword for singular versus plural structure. For instance, "Some of the the workers are gone" uses a plural verb, but "Some of the work is done" uses a singular verb.

COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS: In twentieth-century Jungian Psychology, this term refers to a shared group of archetypes (atavistic and universal images, cultural symbols, and recurring situations dealing with the fundamental facts of human life) passed along to each generation to the next in folklore and stories or generated anew by the way must face similar problems to those our ancestors faced. Within a culture, the collective unconscious forms a treasury of powerful shared images and symbols found in our dreams, art stories, myths, and religious icons. See more detailed discussion under archetypal criticism.

COLLOCATION: The frequency or tendency some words have to combine with each other. For instance, Algeo notes that the phrases "tall person" and "high mountain" seem to fit together readily without sounding strange. A non-native speaker might talk about a "high person" or "tall mountain," and this construction might sound slightly odd to a native English speaker. The difference is in collocation.

COLLOQUIALISM: A word or phrase used everyday in plain and relaxed speech, but rarely found in formal writing. (Compare with cliché, jargon and slang.)

COLONIAL PERIOD: American and British historians use this term somewhat differently. American scholars usually use the term "colonial period" to refer to the years in the American colonies before the American Revolution against the British Monarchy--usually dating it from 1607 (when Jamestown was founded) to 1787 (when Congress ratified the Federal Constitution). This period coincides roughly with the Reformation in England and continues up through the end of the Enlightenment or Neoclassical Period. American writers from the colonial period include Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Anne Bradstreet. See also Neoclassic. Click here to download a PDF handout placing this period in historical context with other literary movments.

When British historians use the term, they sometimes tend to apply the word "colonial" in more general reference to the British expansions into the Americas, the Indies, India, Africa, and the Middle-East over the course of several centuries, even up to the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. See colonialism, below.

COLONIALISM: The term refers broadly and generally to the habit of powerful civilizations to "colonize" less powerful ones. On the obvious level, this process can take the form of a literal geographic occupation, outright enslavement, religious conversion at gun-point, or forced assimilation of native peoples. On a more subtle level, this process can take the form of bureucratic policy that incidentally or indirectly leads to the extinction of a minority's language or culture, economic exploitation of cheap labor, and globalistic erasure of cultural differences. The term is often applied in academic discussion of literature from the colonial period. We can see the concerns of colonialism and imperial ambition in the works of George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant," in Rudyard Kipling's fictional tales about India, and in Josef Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness. See Colonial Period, above.

COMEDY (from Greek: komos, "songs of merrimakers"): In the original meaning of the word, comedy referred to a genre of drama during the Dionysia festivals of ancient Athens. The first comedies were loud and boisterous drunken affairs, as the word's etymology suggests. Later, in medieval and Renaissance use, the word comedy came to mean any play or narrative poem in which the main characters manage to avert an impending disaster and have a happy ending. The comedy did not necessarily have to be funny, and indeed, many comedies are serious in tone. It is only in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that comedy's exclusive connotations of humor arose. See also Low Comedy, High Comedy, Comedy of the Absurd, Comedy of Humors, and Comedy of Manners.

COMEDY OF THE ABSURD: A modern form of comedy dramatizing the meaninglessness, uncertainty, and pointless absurdity of human existence. A famous example is Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Cf. existentialism.

COMEDY OF HUMORS: A Renaissance drama in which numerous characters appear as the embodiment of stereotypical "types" of people, each character having the physiological and behavioral traits associated with a specific humor in the human body. The majority of the cast consists of such stock characters. (See "humors, bodily" for more information.) Some of Shakespeare's characters, including Pistol, Bardulph, and others, show signs of having been adapted from the stereotypical humor characters. In literature, a humor character was a type of flat character in whom a single passion predominated; this interpretation was especially popular in Elizabethan and other Renaissance literature. See also stock character.

COMEDY OF INNOCENCE: We have two definitions here. (1) In anthropological terms, a comedy of innocence is a ritualized symbolic behavior (or set of such behaviors) designed to alleviate individual or communal guilt about an execution or sacrifice or to hide the blame for such an action. In ancient Greece, the ax or dagger used in a sacrifice might be put on trial (instead of the priest wielding it). The sacrificial animal might be required to "volunteer" by shaking its head or by walking up to the altar to eat the grain sitting on it. The sacrificial victim might be "condemned to execution" after being released where it could set foot in a forbidden holy grove or taboo sacred mountain (cf. Exodus 19:12-13 and Judges 11:30-40). In America, we see remnants of the comedy of innocence in customs such as the 19th-century's hangman's black mask (to erase the executioner's identity) or the custom of granting the condemned prisoner's last request or final meal (to alleviate any sense of cruelty on the jailer's part).

(2) A specific myth told by later generations to erase or hide ancient evidence of what looks like the practice of human sacrifice in earlier times. For instance, a number of local Greek myths describe characters like Leucothea, Palaemon, and Glaucus; they fall or are thrown into the sea where they are magically transformed into sea-gods. Given the relative insignificance of these gods in the Greek pantheon, it is likely this sort of tale either (a) developed out of local hero cults or (b) the tale alludes to an ancient or prehistoric belief that drowned sacrificial victims would live on as animistic spirits. Another common version of the comedy of innocence is the motif of a human sacrificial victim (usually a child) who is miraculously saved (deus ex machina) and an animal substituted in his or her place. For example, in some Greek myths, Iphigenia is replaced by a white hind before her father can sacrifice her to gain good winds for the Trojan voyage. Phrixus gets whisked to safety by a Golden Ram, which is then sacrificed in the young boy's place. In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh stops Abraham from killing Isaac, and he directs Abraham's attention to a ram with its horns caught in a thicket (Genesis 22:9-13). Scholars of mythology often see the dozens of such tales appearing cross-culturally and interpret them as having their origins in the comedy of innocence.

COMEDY OF MANNERS: A comic drama consisting of five or three acts in which the attitudes and customs of a society are critiqued and satirized according to high standards of intellect and morality. The dialogue is usually clever and sophisticated, but often risqué. Characters are valued according to their linguistic and intellectual prowess. It is the opposite of the slapstick humor found in a farce or in a fabliau.

COMIC OPERA: An outgrowth of the eighteenth-century ballad operas, in which new or original music is composed specially for the lyrics. (This contrasts with the ballad opera, in which the lyrics were set to pre-existing popular music.)

COMIC RELIEF: A humorous scene, incident, character, or bit of dialogue occurring after some serious or tragic moment. Comic relief is deliberately designed to relieve emotional intensity and simultaneously heighten and highlight the seriousness or tragedy of the action. Macbeth contains Shakespeare's most famous example of comic relief in the form of a drunken porter.

COMING-OF-AGE STORY: A novel in which an adolescent protagonist comes to adulthood by a process of experience and disillusionment. This character loses his or her innocence, discovers that previous preconceptions are false, or has the security of childhood torn away, but usually matures and strengthens by this process. Examples include Wieland's Agathon, Herman Raucher's Summer of '42, Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. The most famous examples are in German. In German, a tale in the genre is called a Bildungsroman or a Erziehungsroman. Examples include Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers and Thomas Mann's Königliche Hoheit.

COMITATUS: (Latin: "companionship" or "band"): The term describes the tribal structure of the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic tribes in which groups of men would swear fealty to a hlaford (lord) in exchange for food, mead, and heriot, the loan of fine armor and weaponry. The men who swore such an oath were called thegns (roughly akin to modern Scottish "thane"), and they vowed to fight for their lord in battle. It was considered a shameful disaster to outlive one's own lord. The comitatus was the functional military and government unit of early Anglo-Saxon society. The term was first coined by the classical historian Tacitus when he described the Germanic tribes north of Rome.

COMMEDIA DELL'ARTE: A genre of Italian farce from the sixteenth-century characterized by stock characters, stock situations, and spontaneous dialogue. Typically, the plot is an intrigue plot and it involves a soubrette who aids two young lovers in foiling the rigid constraints of their parents. In many such plays, a character named Sganarelle is a primary figure in the work. Often there is a zani, or foolish-servant, who provides physical comedy in contrast to the anguish of the young lovers. In the end, the couple achieves a happy marriage. Commedia dell'arte may have influenced Shakespeare's comedies, such as The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Moliere's plays, such as L'amour Medecin, commonly translated into English as Love is the Doctor.

COMMON MEASURE: Also called common meter, common measure consists of closed poetic quatrains rhyming ABAB or ABCB, in which the lines of iambic tetrameter (eight syllables) alternate with lines of iambic trimeter (six syllables). This pattern is most often associated with ballads (see above), and it is occasionally referred to as "ballad measure." Many of Emily Dickinson's poems are in loose common measure using slant rhyme, for instance:

Much Madness is divinest Sense--
To a discerning Eye--
Much Sense--the starkest Madness--
'Tis the Majority

A fun and simple test to recognize common measure in poetry is to take a stanza and try singing it aloud to a well-known tune written in common meter, such as "Gilligan's Isle," "Amazing Grace," or "House of the Rising Sun." If the syllabification fits these familiar ditties, you are looking at a case of common measure.

COMMON METER: Another term for common measure (see above).

COMMONIZATION: The linguistic term for an eponym--a common word that is derived from the proper name of a person or place. For instance, the sandwich gained its name from its inventor, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. The word lynch comes from Captain William Lynch, who led bands of vigilantes to hang hoboes and bums residing near Pittsylvania County. The verb shanghai, meaning to kidnap or press into forced labor, comes from the practices of conscription common in the oriental city of Shanghai. The word stentorian comes from the loud-mouthed Stentor in Greek legend, and herculean comes from the muscle-bound Hercules, and so on.

COMPERT (plural: comperta): Specifically, birth-tales in Old Irish literature that detail the conception and birth of a hero. Examples include the Compert Con Culainn (Birth of Cú Chulainn). Usually supernatural or extraordinary events involve themselves in the conception, such as the Druid Cathbad's seduction of Nessa after prophesying what the hour would be lucky for (begetting a king upon a queen!) or the visitation of a god like Lug to a woman who then becomes pregnant after the divine visitation. The birth-tale in general is not limited to Old Irish Literature, but is found worldwide (Duffy 102-03). Examples outside of Irish literature include the birth of Jesus, or the Buddha, or Leda and Hercules in Greek myth, Pryderi's conception in the First Branch of The Mabinogion, or King Arthur's conception in Arthurian legends.

COMPLETENESS: The second aspect of Aristotle's requirements for a tragedy. By completeness, Aristotle emphasizes the logic, wholeness, and closure necessary to satisfy the audience.

COMPOSITE MONSTER (in architecture, often called a chimera after the Greek monster): The term is one mythologists use to describe the fantastical creatures in Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and medieval European legends in which the beast is composed of the body-parts of various animals. For instance, in Greek mythology, the chimera has the body of a lion, tale of a serpent, wings of a bat, and a goat-head, a lion-head, and a serpent's head. Likewise, the sphinx has a lion's body and a woman's head and breasts; the centaur has a horse's body and human torso and a human head where the horse-head should be; the minotaur has a bull's head and a man's body; and the harpy has an avian body and a woman's head, breasts, and arms. Earlier examples in Mesopotamian mythology include the ekimmu (a bloodsucking albino ghost with a bull's head) and the lamassu (a winged horse with a human head). In the medieval period, composite monsters include the formecolion, with an ant's body and a lion's head; the mermaid, with a human top and a fish bottom; and the cockatrice, which mingles parts of a rooster and a serpent. Contrast with additive monster, above.

Composite monsters were common in the legends of classical and ancient cultures, but diminished in favor after the Renaissance. Many theories propose to explain the common tendency to create composite monsters. Theories include mistranslation in traveler's tales, in which an animal is describing as having a head like such-and-such a creature, but the simile is lost in translation; the encounter of fossil remnants of extinct animals, or bones found jumbled together and misassembled; and the heraldic practice of dimidiation, in which a nobleman's son might take two animals found on his father's and mother's coats of arms combine them into a composite creature to illustrate his genealogy.

An example in 20th century films includes The Fly. In this 1950s horror classic, a fly and a human trade bodies and heads.Cf. therianthropic and theriomorphic.

COMPOSITOR: A typesetter in a Renaissance print shop. To speed the printing process, most of Shakespeare's plays appear to have been set by multiple compositors. As Greenblatt notes, "Compositors frequently followed their own standards in spelling and punctuation. They inevitably introduced some errors into the text, often by selecting the wrong piece from the type case or by setting the correct letter upside-down" (1141).

COMPOUNDING: A term from linguistics used to describe the creation of a new word ("neologism") that comes about by taking two existing words and sticking them together to create a brand new concept (Horobin 192). All languages do this to some extent. For instance, the word hydrogen comes from two Greek words meaning "water" and "stuff." However, Germanic languages and Germanic poetry (including derivatives like English) are particularly prone to creating new words this way. Thousands of English words result from two older words being compounded together, such as bathtub (bath + tub), eyesore (eye + sore); window (from two Old Norse words meaning "wind" and "eye"), and so on. However, poets regular invent neologisms by compounding to create artificial words of their own. Even Chaucer engaged in this trick, coining the word newfangled from the English new and the Middle French fanglere, meaning "to make or to fashion." See neologism, blending, and kenning.

COMPURGATION: In addition to trial by ordeal, compurgation was the medieval law practice among Christianized Anglo-Saxon tribes to determine innocence. A man accused of a crime would publicly swear to his innocence. The judge then gave the defendant thirty days to to collect a number of "oath-helpers" who would also swear to his innocence (or at least his good character). If he was unable to find the required number, he was either found guilty or he could appeal to trial by ordeal. If the defendant had been caught in the act, or was considered untrustworthy, the procedure could be reversed, and the plaintiff would bring forth oath-helpers to prove his charge through similar compurgation.

CONCEIT (also called a metaphysical conceit): An elaborate or unusual comparison--especially one using unlikely metaphors, simile, hyperbole, and contradiction. Before the beginning of the seventeenth century, the term conceit was a synonym for "thought" and roughly equivalent to "idea" or "concept." It gradually came to denote a fanciful idea or a particularly clever remark. In literary terms, the word denotes a fairly elaborate figure of speech, especially an extended comparison involving unlikely metaphors, similes, imagery, hyperbole, and oxymora. One of the most famous conceits is John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," a poem in which Donne compares two souls in love to the points on a geometer's compass. Shakespeare also uses conceits regularly in his poetry. In Richard II, Shakespeare compares two kings competing for power to two buckets in a well, for instance. A conceit is usually classified as a subtype of metaphor. Contrast with epic simile and dyfalu.

CONCORD: See discussion under agreement.

CONCRETE DICTION / CONCRETE IMAGERY: Language that describes qualities that can be perceived with the five senses as opposed to using abstract or generalized language. For instance, calling a fruit "pleasant" or "good" is abstract, while calling a fruit "cool" or "sweet" is concrete. The preference for abstract or concrete imagery varies from century to century. Philip Sidney praised concrete imagery in poetry in his 1595 treatise, Apologie for Poetrie. A century later, Neoclassical thought tended to value the generality of abstract thought. In the early 1800s, the Romantic poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley once again preferred concreteness. In the 20th century, the distinction between concrete and abstract has been a subject of some debate. Ezra Pound and T. E. Hulme attempted to create a theory of concrete poetry. T. S. Eliot added to this school of thought with his theory of the "objective correlative." Contrast with abstract diction / abstract imagery.

CONCRETE POETRY: Poetry that draws much of its power from the way the text appears situated on the page. The actual shape of the lines of text may create a swan's neck, an altar, a geometric pattern, or a set of wings, which in some direct way connects to the meaning of the words. Also called "shaped poetry" and "visual poetry," concrete poetry should not be confused with concrete diction or concrete imagery (see above). The object here is to present each poem as a different shape. It may appear on the page, on glass, stone, wood, or other materials. The technique seems simple, but can allow great subtlety. Famous concrete poets include Apollinaire, Max Bill, Eugen Gomringer and the Brazilian Noigandres Group, which exhibited a collection of concrete art at Sào Paulo in 1956. In Germany, this school of poetry is called konkretisten by critics. It includes Ernst Jandl, Achleitner, Heissenbüttel, Mon, and Rühm. Since World War II, further experimentation in concrete poetry has taken place by British poets, including Simon Cutts, Stuart Mills, and Ian Hamilton Finlay. See also diamante.

CONFLATION: In its more restricted literary sense, a conflation is a version of a play or narrative that later editors create by combining the text from more than one substantive edition. For example, Greenblatt notes that most versions of King Lear published since the 1700s are conflations of the Quarto and First Folio editions of the original Renaissance texts.

CONFLICT: The opposition between two characters (such as a protagonist and an antagonist), between two large groups of people, or between the protagonist and a larger problem such as forces of nature, ideas, public mores, and so on. Conflict may also be completely internal, such as the protagonist struggling with his psychological tendencies (drug addiction, self-destructive behavior, and so on); William Faulkner famously claimed that the most important literature deals with the subject of "the human heart in conflict with itself." Conflict is the engine that drives a plot. Examples of narratives driven mainly by conflicts between the protagonist and nature include Jack London's "To Build a Fire" (in which the Californian struggles to save himself from freezing to death in Alaska) and Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat" (in which shipwrecked men in a lifeboat struggle to stay alive and get to shore). Examples of narratives driven by conflicts between a protagonist and an antagonist include Mallory's Le Morte D'arthur, in which King Arthur faces off against his evil son Mordred, each representing civilization and barbarism respectively. Examples of narratives driven by internal struggles include Daniel Scott Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon," in which the hero struggles with the loss of his own intelligence to congenital mental retardation, and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," in which the protagonist ends up struggling with his own guilt after committing a murder. In complex works of literature, multiple conflicts may occur at once. For instance, in Shakespeare's Othello, one level of conflict is the unseen struggle between Othello and the machinations of Iago, who seeks to destroy him. Another level of conflict is Othello's struggle with his own jealous insecurities and his suspicions that Desdemona is cheating on him.

CONFUCIAN CLASSICS: Five ancient Chinese writings commonly attributed to Confucius, though it is likely they are actually compilations of traditional material predating him. The five classics include the I Ching (The Book of Changes), the Shu Ching (The Book of History), the Shih Ching, (The Book of Odes), the Record of Rites (Li Chi), and the Spring and Autumn Annals. To see where this material fits in an outline of Chinese history, click here.

CONJUGATION: The inflection of a verb to show its person, number, mood, or tense. Here is a sample conjugation of the present tense indicative forms of to sing in English and cantar in Spanish:




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