Showing posts with label Literary terms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Literary terms. Show all posts


Diagram of Two Sonnet Forms

In this post, I present a diagram of two popular sonnet forms.


Video Repost: Jacques Derrida in 1 Minute

By putting emphasis on Derrida as a literary theorist, I must say this bloke does a pretty damn good job of expounding on Deconstruction in a nutshell. 

P.S.: The last ten-second analysis of Lord of the Rings in both structuralist / deconstructive terms is entertaining.


Lesson Plan: An Example of Teaching Poetic Tone in the Classroom (with William Blake's "London" and "Jerusalem")

Class objective:  To continue the theme of Poetic tone by using examples from film and the poetry of William Blake.
The following class can be tailored to fit a high school language arts course or a college Introduction to Literature, or British Literature section.


Why Clichés Are So Horrifying (with apologies to Paul Coker, Jr.)

In this post, I write about the use of clichés and how Mad Magazine illustrator Paul Poker pokes fun at them in back issues of the magazine.
What is a cliché?
A cliché is an overwrought phrase, like "it's raining cats and dogs" or "scared to death." At one time those phrases were unique and original but over time, well, they lost their original luster, and people just kinda keep using 'em. Clichés are the spam of language. Spam. Spam. Spam.
Why do we use clichés?
I could be cute and populate this post with overwrought clichés, but I am not. We use clichés, or stock phrases because we don't know what else to say. Instead of thinking through how we want to say something, we pull from the storehouse of ready-made phrases.

Clichés are like Hallmark cards for languages. Instead of coming up with a clever way to say good morning, we use a hallmark cliché, "What's up?"

Two decent examples
When was the last time you used the expression, "it's raining cats and dogs"? Did you notice when you said it you probably had no idea to why or how the expression "cats and dogs" has anything to do with rain? If you don't know the logic behind an expression then it's a sure sign it's cliché. She flew out of the office like a "bat out of hell" would be a nice simile if it hadn't been used ad infinitum since the first bat actually did fly out of hell - whenever that was.

Why Are Clichés So Horrifying?
Because clichés enervate language. That's why.

Cliché as Euphemism
At a funeral, we might use a form of cliché called euphemism (worn-out phrases used to mollify a situation or thought) say, "She's in heaven now," or "I'm sorry for your loss" instead of saying something poignantly creative, we use stock phrases so we don't have to think or feel. "Euphemism" is from the Greek for "good word" but I'd say, the best word is the one you articulate yourself, no matter how hokey.

Mad Magazine and Cliché
Growing up, I learned about clichés not from a grammar teacher, but from Mad Magazine. Paul Coker occasionally did a column for MAD called "Horrifying Clichés."

He would take a couple of stock phrases and draw what they would look like as monsters.

It was one of those MAD columns that were funny but educated in some weird MAD way. I'm sure the Usual Gang of Idiots approved because I think the column became popular. There are several anthologies of his work, like this one, The Mad Monster Book of Horrifying Clichés
image credit: "Trying to get rid of the sniffles" by Paul Coker, Jr.


Literary Tropes: Into the Woods

In this post, I point out features of literature that attend to the trope of going into the woods.
  • The woods are a dark and scary place in fairy tale legend.  Out of a tale in Grimm's stories, Carol Anne is sucked through her TV into the Otherworld in In Poltergeist. The woods lie at a space between goodness and evil, light and dark, good and nice, deception and honesty, justice and wrong. In the woods, characters are inextricably changed forever. Lucy in C.S. Lewis's novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe enters through a wardrobe, not so scary as a monster television, into a wood called Lantern Waste in Narnia. She meets a friendly faun and is forever changed; she becomes a queen, rules the land, but returns back through the wardrobe to the real world, restored to a little girl once again. But, the woods can be simply a place of an obstacle, like Hagrid, the hefty groundskeeper in the Harry Potter series, leads his pupils into the woods to accomplish the task of pulling out mandrakes from the soil, or learning to tame a hippogriff. As a side note: in the film, we get to see the CGI splendor Harry in flight and Malfoy's almost fatal encounter with the creature. In the woods there are fauns, giants, monsters, vampires, wolves, fauns, and humans too. In "woods" stories, the hero undergoes countless obstacles, like Odysseus on his twenty years journey -- a long woods moment -- he didn't want to leave his family and son to fight in Troy, similar to our young men fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Odysseus is us. We didn't ask for the odyssey of crazy, absurd adventures, asked to eat of the Lotus flower, which makes us forget the purpose of the journey - to return home. And Odysseus does return home, eventually, restoring his home, wresting it from the inhospitable hands of the suitors.
  • The woods are like portals. In Celtic mythology, the woods are cracks in the space/time continuum, as in the Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) by Philip Pullman; the protagonist Will slices through London air with a magical knife to enter another world. Going through the woods, we leave our world for a time, to return, changed. Like Thomas Covenant Unbeliever, in Stephen R. Donaldson's epic fantasy saga about a man ridden with leprosy in our world, crosses over into an otherworld (The Land) and appears as a powerful warrior.
  • A popular woods motif is taken from William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream: young lovers run away into the woods, only to be shaken up by the fairy boy Puck who daubs lotion into their eyes, switching identities, transformations are made, all hell breaks loose (don't you get confused reading this story?). I still cannot remember who fits with who in the Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, Helena quadrangle. One thing is for sure: a guy gets turned into an ass and Helena is quite a dog! It is in the woods chaos reigns. The woods lie at boundary lines; we enter into the woods, and come out again, back into life.


Literary Terms: "P" is for Paradox

Literary terms are often tricky for students. So I came up with this guide for the perplexed. Paradox - a statement that is apparently self-contradictory or absurd, but really contains a possible truth. Sometimes the term is applied to a self- contradictory false proposition. It is also used to describe an opinion or statement which is contrary to generally accepted ideas. Often, a paradox is used to make a reader consider the point in a new way.

The term is from the Greek paradoxos, meaning “contrary to received opinion” or “expectation.” Here is a list of cogent examples. 
The child is father to the man
William Wordsworth,
“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” 1807
They have ears, but do not hear !
Psalm 115

Cowards die many times before their deaths
Bill Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act II, scene ii : line 32

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

George Orwell, Animal Farm

I can resist anything except temptation
Oscar Wilde

Death, thou shalt die
John Donne, "Death, Be Not Proud"

An example of a paradox in everyday speech:
Deep down, he's really very shallow

Theological Paradox: Christ died so we may have life!

Paradoxical Dialogue:

Me: What is better than eternal bliss?
You: Nothing.
Me: But a slice of bread is better than nothing.
You: So a slice of bread is better than eternal bliss.

Common Paradox:
Nobody goes to that restaurant; it's too crowded.

Time Machine Paradox:
A girl goes into the past and kills her Grandmother.
Since her Grandmother is dead, the girl was never born. If she were never born, she never killed her grandmother.

Physics Paradox
What happens if you are in a car going the speed of light and you turn the headlights on?

Nota Bene:
When a paradox is compressed into two words, as in “loud," silence,” “lonely crowd,” or “living dead,” it is called an OXYMORON.

For teachers:

I made a minilesson available on TpT 

Literary Terms: Paradoxes, Contradictions, and Oxymorons (Minilesson) 

The resource includes the following nifty features for a Minilesson:
  • 2-sided handout on paradoxes, contradictions, and oxymorons
  • 15 quotes and example from literature and other common sources
  • 1 "Further Reading" guide to take your students to the next level