Definition: The term sodomy refers to any act of unnatural sex. Depending on jurisdiction, “unnatural” sex could include any non-genital to genital sex between a man and a woman. Thus, things like oral sex, anal sex, homosexual sex, non-procreational sex, and more would count as sodomy. Sentence: Pietro Aretino’s sonnets depicting sixteen various sex...
Definition: The point at which critics disagree about a work and the goal is to try to find textual evidence for support. Sentence: The interpretive crux of Aphra Behn’s poem “The Disappointment” is that it is not clear why Lysander is unable to attain an erection. The poem doesn’t tell us why he can’t have an erection. We...
Definition: A self-referential truth; A statement that’s always true because it refers back to itself Sentence: The phrase “safe haven” is tautological because a haven already refers to a place of refuge and safety.
Definition: An effort to persuade; marked by a strong urging Sentence: In Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis,” Venus gives a horatory plea to get Adonis to make love to her.
Definition: Personification is a type of metaphor in which an object or abstraction is given human characteristics Sentence: In Ben Jonson’s epigram “To Sickness,” to speaker personifies disease by asking “Why, disease dost thou molest ladies and of them the best?” Read the entire epigram...
Definition: A blazon is a list of a woman’s admirable features. It is a common feature of lyric poetry and often involves the use of hyperbole and simile in describing things. Sentence: My boyfriend wrote me a love letter and included a blazon listing off all of my body parts that he adored most and how each one had been made by a different god. Andrew...
Definition: An apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses an imaginary person, abstract idea, or object. Sentence: In his poem “81,” Sir Philip Sydney begins the poem with an apostrophe by directly addressing a kiss. “Oh kiss, which dost those ruddy gems impart” In the line, the speaker is addressing the kiss and also...
Definition: A paradox is a proposition or statement that is self-contradictory. Sentence: In Sir Philip Sydney’s “81,” the poet is using his words to try to convince the addressee to stop him from embarrassing her, but the paradox is that the only way she can stop him is by stopping his mouth with a kiss.
Definition: Cony-Catching was a practice in Renaissance England in which devious people on the street would try to con or cheat vulnerable or gullible pedestrians. In Renaissance England, you were the victim of cony-catching if someone tricked you into giving them your money Robert Greene wrote a pamphlet entitled “The Defence of Conny-catching,”...
Definition: A literary feature in which writers take on the voice of certain characters in an authoritative way Sentence: In Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare uses the character of Venus to ventriloquize women’s desire. In many Renaissance texts, it was common for male authors to ventriloquize the voice of women. Although the texts were written by male authors, they...
Definition: The Petrarchan sonnet is a verse form that traditionally refers to the concept of love that is idealized and addressed to a distant lover. The form is named after the Italian writer Francesco Petrarca. Sonnets that follow the Petrarchan form typically portray the woman being addressed in a highly exaggerated manner, placing her on a pedestal of perfection and...
Definition: In a 17th/18th century context, the word complaint refers to a poem about unhappy love; a lament in which the speaker points out the injustices done to him/her Sentence:Isabella Whitney’s “To her unconstant Lover,” is an example of a complaint because the speaker is lamenting the loss of her lover who has left her and...
Definition: A conceit is an extended metaphor, simile or pun, or a combination of all three. Conceits are used when a poet extends and expands his original trope throughout the body of a whole poem or a section of a poem. Conceit is often characterized by outrageousness and this is referred to as metaphysical conceit Sentence: John Donne utilizes conceit in his poem...
An analytical term is a concept that allows you to make sophisticated historical and/or critical analyses of texts
Definition: Friendships based on passion and erotic desire. Renaissance erotic friendship was often same-sex. Sex is still a question in erotic friendship because erotic friendship is not necessarily erotic love. The term is ambiguous because both the word love and the word friend were used to describe non-erotic love and erotic love Sentence: Shakespeare’s sonnet 42 touched...
Definition: Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women. Sentence: Literature of the Renaissance that depicted women as fickle, wandering, and inferior illustrated the misogyny of the era. Example: Shakespeare’s sonnets to the young man and dark women demonstrate the misogyny present in the Renaissance. Sonnet 20 in particular represents women as dishonest, false,...
Definition:Patriarchy is a social organization in which the role of males is supreme. Institutions of patriarchy are dependent on female subordination and males have all the privilege and authority over them. Sentence: Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays often displayed the patriarchal society in which women were inferior and daughters and wives were...
Definition: A convention is a rule or practice that is accepted and upheld by society. In literature, it’s a device that is a customary feature of a literary work or genre. Sentence: A popular convention in children’s stories is the inclusion of a moral or lesson. A popular convention in shakespearean tragedies is the use of omens ...
Definition: A Binary Opposition is a structure used in literature to highlight a structure or system that is composed of two parts of opposing classes. These opposing classes are mutually exclusive and thus, something in one state cannot be in the other. Sentence: shakespeare’s favorite bone of structure to use for his sonnets was binary opposition. ...
Definition: A pun is a humorous play on words and phrases which suggests or emphasizes different meanings. This is done by exploiting multiple meanings of words or of similar sounding words. Sentence: There is a pun on the word prick in Shakespeare’s sonnet 20, line 13, which states, “But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure.” ...
Definition: In literature, Pastoral refers to a genre that depicts rustic, shepherd life in a highly idealized fashion. The genre has its origins in Greek and Roman poetry, particularly Virgil’s epilogues (which were written by men and mostly to men). Writers that made use of the pastoral often wrote about contentment and innocent romantic love in a world that was absent of the...
Carpe Diem is a Latin phrase that is translated as “seize the day”. It was a theme that was very widely used in the works of Renaissance poets. Sentence: Renaissance poets often included the Carpe Diem philosophy in their works by describing how time and youth were both fleeting and it was important to make love right away. Example: To the Virgins to Make Much of Time, By Robert...
Definition: A trope is a figure of speech that is reoccurs across genres and different types of creative work. Examples of tropes include metaphors and oxymorons. Sentence: In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 4, words like ‘unthrifty,’ ‘usurer,’ and ‘audit,’ show the author’s use of economical/mathematic tropes. (You...
What is a Literary Term?
A literary term is a concept that specifically focuses on the formal operations of literary texts