Boring Words You Should Know If You Want To Read

Yeah.  Sorry.  Even I can’t come up with an excuse for this.

For what it’s worth, this list serves a really useful purpose, particularly if you’re a high school or college student looking to understand just what the hell your professor means when he talks about the author’s masterful use of tribal narratives as a backdrop for a post-Christian-apocalyptic novel.  Here’s why you want to understand what he means: if you do, you might be able to use those words in a paper, which means you’ll probably get a higher grade, which means you’ll hopefully get through class that much faster.[1] There’s also the really nifty possibility that you might actually learn to enjoy reading good literature. Just sayin’.

So here’s whatcha do – take a look at the terms and definitions.  If you’re a good brownnoser – student! I meant student! – like Jane, make some flashcards.  If you’re a crashing dork like me, get your copy of Pretty White People With Issues (hereafter Twilight) and put those rockin’ awesome little Hi-Liter tags on the pages where the author introduces the plot and subplot, where you see a symbol, when she uses allusion, or wherever you see these terms in action. THAT’S how you’re going to learn what these terms mean.  Eventually, (if you keep hangin’ out with us) you’ll learn the difference between good and bad uses of these devices, which will play a big role in helping you discern good literature from suck literature. I just got my Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, so count on me getting my money’s worth and updating this page, like, every day.

Start with five a day and work your way up.  They’re like mental pull-ups.  YAAAAAAAA!

Jane’s Jargon List

Plot: What happens in the story.

Subplot: Whatever happens the hero’s sidekicks when he’s not around to hog the spotlight.

Symbol: An object used to represent a theme.

Theme: A big idea or concept that ties the whole story together.

Allusion: The reference of one story by another story.  For example, Stephenie Meyer makes an attempt at allusions to Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights a lot in Twilight in order to show how Edward and Bella resemble Romeo and Juliet or Cathy and Heathcliff.[2]

Alliteration: Putting a bunch of words with the same first letter together to sound really cool.  You see this in the titles of clever, well-written blogposts like “The Glitter!  The Glory!   The Gag Reflex!”

Metaphor: When one thing is used in place of another to highlight a common identity between the two.  So, when I write, ‘Edward Cullen is a psycho’, I don’t mean that he’s literally mentally handicapped in a manner that makes him incapable of interacting with society at a reasonably safe level.  What I mean is that he exhibits many of the same pathologies as that of a psychopath – e.g., an unhealthy physiological attraction to their subject, an intense fixation with their subject’s actions and thought processes, and a violent physical reaction to their subject’s actions when they deviate from the psychopath’s perceived control.  And he sneaks into her room and watches her sleep.

Simile: When two things that seem like they have nothing to do with each other are used in a parallel comparison in order to show how they’re similar in a certain way.  For example, Alfred Hitchcock used to describe Grace Kelly’s persona as ‘sexual elegance’.  Now, we don’t usually think of sex as elegant, but when one thinks of Grace Kelly – her beauty, her charm, her manner and deportment – the comparison makes sense.  She’s beautiful, but not haughty; charming, but not flamboyant; reserved and modest, but not cold and stand-offish.

[1] Didja notice the adverbs?  The parts where I said might, probably, and hopefully? Those are there for a reason – just ‘cause you memorize these definitions doesn’t mean you’ll be able to correctly identify these concepts in literature, so don’t just pop these in your next essay and then send me pissy e-mails blaming me for your F.

[2] She did a FAILblog-worthy job of it – although Bella is the quintessential spoiled, emotional, overly-impulsive teenager, and Edward’s pathological obsession with Bella closely resembles Heathcliff’s psychotic attraction to Cathy, Meyer’s utter lack of subtlety does her in.


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