Literary Terms I Like

I started making this list several years ago, when I was reading Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia straight through. I believe I got to the letter H before I got too busy and abandoned the project. That’s fantastic reference book, though.

Accismus
Irony involving insincere modesty

Aesthetic distance
A term that describes the ability to objectify experience in art and present it as independent from its maker.

Argus-eyed
Jealously watchful

Beatrice
Dante’s symbol of Spiritual inspiration

Bell, book and candle
Used in the ceremony of excommunication.

Berserker
Wild, warlike being, possesed of supernatural strength.

Beidermeier
Social conservatism in thought and didacticism in style, capacity of quiet resignation – a sober, resigned attitude towards the world.

Bifrost
The Rainbow Bridge between Asgard and Midgard

Brocken Mountain
Peak of Harz Mountains, scene of the witches sabbath.

Brocken Specter
Shadows of the spectators projected onto the mists by the mountain

Cabal
Political Intriguers from the court of Charles II. Any group of friends on an internet newsgroup who are targeted by trolls and other hysterics.

Caesura
A Break or pause in a line of poetry, for rhetorical effect.

Caledonian boar
A Boar wounded by Atalanta and killed by Meleager

Candlemas Day
Feb. 2nd, blessing of all the candles used in the church for the coming year

Canute
A Danish King who rebuked flatters by commanding the waves to stand still–in vain, of course– to show the limits of his power.

Cassandra
Doomed by Apollo to know the fate of Troy, but to have no one believe her.

Cenacle
Literary and Political Group

Cento
a literary composition, especially a poem, of lines or parts from the writings of established authors, but with a different meaning

Cestus
Aphrodite’s girdle

Childe
Title of an apprentice knight. Other similar terms include infant, damoysels, valets, bacheliers.

Cimmerians
"Cimmerian Darkness" where the sun never penetrates. Homer describes it as beyond Oceanus, in a land of never-ending gloom.

City of Dreadful Night
Long poem by Victorial poet James Thompson. It describes and imaginary city of misery and horror created out of the author’s own sense of despair as, afflicted by insomnia, he walked through the streets of London.

Clerihew
A comic four-line verse made up of two couplets, invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. Often satiric or ridiculous biographies of famous people, the lines being a succession of non-sequiturs.

Clytie
In classical mythology, an ocean nymph in love with the sun god.

Sui Generis
Being the only example of its kind; unique: “sui generis works like Mary Chesnut’s Civil War diary” (Linda Orr).

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