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Hamilton, Essential Literary Terms (1-31) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

Wow who knew there were so many terms to define a piece of literature. Catergories, sub catergories, sub-sub categories. Why must everything have a label? why can't it just be what it is. Can't the reader discern for themselves what type of play their reading without having to go into drama, tragedy, tragicomedy, can't they figure out what the author is trying to tell them on their own.


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Comments (4)

Lorin Schumacher:

I understand what you are saying, Jara. Sometimes it seems excessive to have so many different kinds of each type of fiction and satire and genres and each has divisions within themselves and you have to wonder, "will knowing all of these things actually enhance my knowledge and experience with literature?" Or will it instead just clutter up your brain with stuff that you don't really need and it will only stress you out to try to remember it all anyway? I guess the best thing to do is to keep an open mind and see what you find useful and what you don't.


I can agree with you that the number of literary terms we should have memorized as English majors is a liitle bit daunting; however, I still think they are completely necessary. Without these labels we would have a much harder time discussing literature in class. Just like any profession has its own lingo, these terms serve as the jargon for any professional (or student) in the field of English. I do agree with you that the reader should definitely be able to figure out what an author trying to tell him on his own, but I also think that the labels we learn are essential in aiding our ability to talk with one another about a particular work.

I'd say that college is about broadening the mind, so pretty much by definition college is the place we're supposed to encounter ideas that aren't that easy to follow on our first attempt.

A book like the Bedford Glossary will help empower you to understand more complex things, because if you don't happen to understand a word you're reading for a literature class, this glossary will give you the definition you need (and, often, examples).

I'm with Lorin on this one. I think a lot of literary terms are trying to keep literature within the limits of the human parameters. There are a lot of exceptions out there and works that only fit in between categories (hence the sub-categories).
The reason for the labels is to try and manage the influx of information that literature offers us. I don't necessarily think that all of this information must be memorized - as Dr. Jerz pointed out, there are wonderful references out there.
I also don't think it is completely necessary to know exactly what type of literature you are reading beforehand to get something out of it. Not necessary, but helpful when at a loss for words.

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