Agency. The freedom or ability to act on behalf of ourselves as subjects. Think in terms of children and adults. Children generally have less agency than adults because children are usually under the control of adults. Adults are in a position of power to tell children what to do. In children's literature, however, we will see children subvert adult power and assume a higher degree of agency.
Having more than one possible meaning or interpretation
Novels of education and/or development: The plot centers on the protagonist's
of age and reaching adulthood.
Constructivism: The concept that social and cultural influences create who we are as humans. As Trites writes regarding gender roles, "the belief that people are constructed into their gender roles by what they learn about 'performing' their gender from societal influences" (Disturbing the Universe 81). We can say the same thing about children, that they learn from our culture what it means to be a child and then "perform" that role. (See also essentialism).
Literature that has the primary purpose of teaching its readers, particularly
Dystopia. Literally "bad place." A community or world (often set in the future) wherein conditions at first glance might appear to be wonderful or ideal, utopian in fact. However, further investigation reveals that it is often repressive in that it severely restricts freedom of thought, speech, or movement. Lois Lowry's novel, The Giver, or the movie, The Stepford Wives, are two examples of dystopias.
A novel wherein the protagonist demonstrates
his or her growth but does not actually mature to the point of adulthood.
Entwicklungsroman. A novel wherein the protagonist demonstrates his or her growth but does not actually mature to the point of adulthood.
Linking specific inherent traits to one's gender, race, or state of being
as if they are biologically determined. (See also constructivism)
Essentialism. Linking specific inherent traits to one's gender, race, or state of being as if they are biologically determined. (See also constructivism)
or Defamiliarization: John Stephens believes that many authors of historical
fiction use "estrangement" or "defamiliarization" as a way
to block a reader's easy or naiveidentification with the focalizer. In other
words, they employ techniques that make occurrences seem unfamiliar, or strange.
As a result (theoretically) the text does not meet readers' expectations and
lets them view the world portrayed in a more objective light. Thus, readers
are not so easily manipulated to agree with the ideals suggested by the focalizer.
Estrangement or Defamiliarization: John Stephens believes that many authors of historical fiction use "estrangement" or "defamiliarization" as a way to block a reader's easy or naiveidentification with the focalizer. In other words, they employ techniques that make occurrences seem unfamiliar, or strange. As a result (theoretically) the text does not meet readers' expectations and lets them view the world portrayed in a more objective light. Thus, readers are not so easily manipulated to agree with the ideals suggested by the focalizer.
Focalizer. Related to point of view. The character(s) through whose eyes we see the story unfold.
Foil. “In literature, the term is applied to any person whothrough contrast underscores the distinctive characteristics of another” (Harmon and Holman 216).
The presentation of material in a work in such a way that readers are given
clues to what will happen later in the text.
Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA). As explained by Louis Althusser, institutions that reproduce existing ideologies and conditions by consent. Schools, family, church, and mass media function as ISAs as they convey and perpetuate dominant ideologies. Differs from Repressive State Apparatuses (RSA) in that ISAs rely on consent rather than coercion or force. The police, the military, and dictators function as RSAs.
Identity. Human essence associated with a unique view of self. Identity implies a fixed and undivided sense of self or self-ownership wherein, as articulated by Roberta Trites, "the individual's inner self is the ultimate source of meaning." However, as Trites and several other post structural theorists posit, the term "identity" is misleading. For an alternative and more accurate term, see "subjectivity."
Ideology: If you examine the parts of this word, it literally means the science or study of ideals, just as biology means the science or study of life. "Ideology," however, carries several connotations. However, we are going to focus on the social definition: "any set of opinions, beliefs, attitudes (for example, the 'world view' of a social group or class)." It's important to remember that ideologies change, and they are not held by everyone. Additionally, ideologies can be expressed in several ways in literature for the young:
ideology is that which is very obvious.
You can almost see someone wagging a finger and saying the character (and by
extension the reader) should or should not do something: "Don't steal!"
or "Share with your sister." Explicit ideology is often didactic.
implied or passive ideology isn't as easy to identify. Passive
ideologies are an author's unexamined ideals and value system and often coincides
with dominant cultural values at the time the text was written. For instance,
at the time Mary Poppins was written, the father works, the mother doesn't,
and they hire a nanny to take care of the children. This mirrors acceptable
behavior of the time the text was written.
third type of ideology is linguistically/culturally constructed.
This ideology represents the most difficult to identify because it is so deeply
engrained in our consciousness. If I were to use the word "child,"
you might think in positive terms--of the wide-eyed innocence of a young human,
an imaginative being, unspoiled by age and experience. The word conjures
images of sweetness and goodness. However, "child," as we know
the term, is relative because it carries the burdens of whatever the culture
attaches to it.
Implied Reader: The reader suggested by a text. A term used by Wolfgang Iser to describe a hypothetical reader of a text. The implied reader "embodies all those predispositions necessary for a literary work to exercise its effect -- predispositions laid down, not by an empirical outside reality, but by the text itself. Consequently, the implied reader as a concept has his roots firmly planted in the structure of the text; he is a construct and in no way to be identified with any real reader." One might think that Iser's definition suggests a male reader by his use of "his roots."
Inculcate: To fix something firmly in somebody’s mind through frequent (and sometimes forceful) repetition.
Ideal Reader: A reader who comes to a text equipped to read that text in terms of ideology, level of understanding, cultural knowledge, and sympathies.
Interpellate. A term used by Althusser that indicates how we are "hailed" or recruited into a system of beliefs. One might think of that belief system as saying "Hey, You!" and you responding accordingly. For instance, we are interpellated (hailed, recruited) as consumers by the commercials that encourage us to buy certain products.
The relationship that exists between different texts, especially literary texts,
or the reference in one text to others. For instance, when reading Missing
May, the narrator consistently refers to Wizard of Oz. Those
references are intertextual references--bringing one text into another.
In general, intertextual references contribute to plot development.
A broad term referring to the recognition of reality different from appearance.
Verbal irony is a figure of speech in which the actual intent is expressed in
words that carry the opposite meaning.
A story which details the growth of a character as an artist
Kunstleroman. A story which details the growth of a character as an artist
Canon. A body of work that consists of texts generally praised and
accepted as being worthy of study. We often refer to these works as the
literary masterpieces. The "traditional" romantic canon, for
instance, would consist of works by Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, and
Shelley. However, by studying a "canon," we often leave out
or marginalize other works.
Metafiction. Fiction that emphasizes the nature of fiction, the techniques and conventions used to write it, and the role of the author.
An implied comparison identifying one object with another and ascribing to the
first object one or more qualities of the second. A metaphor evokes an
object in order to illustrate an idea or demonstrate a quality, whereas a symbol
embodies the idea or the quality. Metaphor makes the abstract become concrete
by introducing an image, resulting in quicker comprehension of a situation.
Consider the following sentence: "Lawmakers torpedo peace
plan." "Torpedo" functions as a metaphor.
A reoccurring element in literature. "Once upon a time," "lived
happily ever after," and the number three are motifs associated with folk
and fairy tales.
Multiple Subject Positions. According to Karen Coats, "flexible, ironic, multiple body/self images" constitutes multiple subject positions. Coats indicates that if people are unable to maintain "flexible, ironic, multiple body/self images," they may consider only one view of the world and only one view of what is right, thus forming an position that is "too wedded to a single, imaginary, fused identity." Accordingly, "Challenges to that identity are hugely threatening and often result in violence." If, however, we can assume more than one position, we "question our ideological positioning in the public discourses of race, ethnicity, spiritual heritage, nationalities, gender, etc." and are thus able to consider different sides of the problem, and perhaps different answers than violence, which "suggests the importance of being able to adopt, critique and move between multiple subject/reader/author positions."
(definitions provided by Chris McGee). Narrator - the storyteller A narrator who lies, is too
naive for readers to believe, is noticeably biased and thus doesn't consider
different perspectives, is misguided regarding his/her conclusions, or exaggerates
to the point that we can't believe her/him.
1st person - a narrator who uses "I" or "me"
2nd person - narrator speaks to "you" in the present tense; very rare
3rd person - most common type of narrator - narrator who speaks in the past tense about events that have happened or are happening - uses "he, she, it"
omniscient - this is the type of narrator who knows everything that happens in the story, both the past and the present - who knows what all or most characters are thinking, and who constructs the story in such a way that the reader is told everything he or she needs to know whenever he or she needs to know it
limited - this is a narrator who is primarily omniscient, but because of constraints in the narration, can only tell certain points of view - often, 1st person narrators are limited
unreliable - this is the type of narrator who is flawed, who doesn't know everything that is happening in a story - this is a narrator who is clearly telling the story from only particular point of view, a narrator who isn't telling you everything - the narrator in Winnie-the-Pooh is unreliable when he gives up or doesn't know what happened in the rest of the story.
A narrator who lies, is too naive for readers to believe, is noticeably biased and thus doesn't consider different perspectives, is misguided regarding his/her conclusions, or exaggerates to the point that we can't believe her/him.
Objective Correlative. According to T.S. Eliot, "The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an 'objective correlative'; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is evoked." In English: an event, series of events, or object that metaphorically reveals a character's psychological or emotional state.
Panopticon. An "all-seeing device." A device that allows surveillance without those being watched actually knowing whether or not they are being observed to ensure that that those being watched will self-regulate their activities. 18th century philosopher, Jeremey Bentham, came up with this idea for more "humane" prisons. Basically, it's a device or method which permits seeing without being seen. Bentham suggested a guard tower where those in the tower could observe the prisoners, but the prisoners couldn't see inside the guard tower. Surveillance cameras can be considered panopticons. The advantage for the person or institution using a panoptic device is that the person or people being watched are never quite certain when or if they are being watched. Thus, it encourages self-regulation out of fear. This from David Engberg: "Bentham's central goal of the panopticon was control through both isolation and the possibility of constant surveilance. A prisoner will constrain his own behavior with the knowledge that some guard may be observing every action, regardless whether anyone is watching at a given moment. Bentham found this Utilitarian ideal of oppressive self-regulation to be appealing in many other social settings, including schools, hospitals, and poor houses, although he achieved only limited success in promoting the idea during his lifetime. Michel Foucault seized on this idea of a controlling space and applied it as a metaphor for the oppressive use of information in a modern disciplinary society. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault observed that control no longer requires physical domination over the body, but can be achieved through isolation and the constant possibility of observation. In modern society, our spaces are organized 'like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible' (Foucault, 1979). We are seen without seeing our controllers -- information is available on us without any communication."
Phallic and Yonic. Terms that are sometimes used in psychosexual readings (used as a noun: the phallus is a powerful symbol in western literature; the adjective is "phallic": a key can be recognized as a phallic symbol).The terms can be loosely equated to male (penis) and female (vagina), although phallic symbols are often seen as being more powerful. So, metaphorically, protruding objects such as towers, keys, spades, knives, etc. can be seen as phallic symbols.
Plot. The sequence of events involving character in conflict.
Postcolonialism: An approach to literature, art, and culture, that examines the effects of colonization on countries. For instance, India at one time was a British colony, which inevitably changed the literature, art, and cultural attitudes that came from India after that colonization. A postcolonial approach also examines the process of colonization. Follow this link.
Tale. A story that explains natural phenomena.
The main character or characters in the text--the character(s) upon whom the
Reader. A reader who engages in questioning a text, who reads against
the text rather than passively accepting the ideologies conveyed in that text.
Resistant Reader. A reader who engages in questioning a text, who reads against the text rather than passively accepting the ideologies conveyed in that text.
An oversimplified standardized image or idea held by one person or group of
Subjectivity. As articulated by Roberta Trites, subjectivity "implies that every individual is multiply constructed by a variety of socioloinguistic forces that act upon her or him." We have no one "identity." Rather, as participants of various discourse or social communities, language, because it is fluid, constructs who and what we are and how we act at any given moment. Additionally, we are always subject to change. Accordingly we can never fully define ourselves because there is no one "essence" to define. See also "multiple subject positions."
To undermine or disrupt authority or conventional thought.
When one thing stands for another. A symbol evokes an object that suggests
the meaning. A metaphor evokes an object in order to illustrate an idea
or demonstrate a quality, whereas a symbol embodies the idea or the quality.
Symbols often embody universal suggestions of meaning, as flowing water suggests
time and eternity, a voyage suggests life, spring suggests birth or rebirth
(note that Easter occurs in the spring). A forest might symbolize danger
or uncertainty (think of "Little Red Riding Hood"). However,
sometimes it will symbolize safety. Names also assume symbolic importance.
Statement providing a significant cultural truth about people, society, or the
human condition, either explicitly or implicitly.
Theme. Statement providing a significant cultural truth about people, society, or the human condition, either explicitly or implicitly.
When the theme is stated in the novel, as when Buddy in The Planet of Junior Brown states that "we have to live for each other"
Implicit Theme. A theme not specifically stated but implied through the text: In Charlotte's Web, a pig, a spider, and a rat become friends. The implicit theme here can be that we can find friendship in unexpected places.
Themes in Folk and Fairy Tales: Quite often, the theme of folk and fairy tales is "good can overcome evil." Sometimes that "evil" might be jealousy ("Snow White") or deception ("Goose Girl"). Sometimes the good is humility, patience, pureness of heart, etc.
Story. A story wherein the protagonist, who in reality should not
win, does win. The underdog might be the individual who is consistently
and unfairly teased or picked on, small in size, poor, or mistreated, but who
either uses those characteristics to improve his or her situation or overcome
them. Folk and fairy tales are often based on underdog stories (think