General References for Prof. Huang's Film & Literature Courses

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Glossary of Critical Terms

Glossary of Critical Terms | Glossary for Film Studies | For Advanced Students

Adapted from The Bedford Anthology of World Literature. Ed. Paul Davis et al (Boston: Beford/St. Martin's, 2003).

Act: A major division in the action of a stage play in the Anglo-European traditions. In traditional Chinese drama, zhe is the closest concept to "act" in Western drama. The division marks changes in scenes, time or locations.

Allegory: A narrative in which the characters and episodes stand metaphorically for something else, usually in spiritual or political contexts, such as Dante's Divine Comedy (1321), Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West (1590s) and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Allusion: A brief reference to a historical person, event, or idea, such as references to Shakespearean lines or characters. When using allusions, the writer assumes that s/he and the reader share similar knowledge.

Antagonist: The character (or force) in film or literary works that opposes the protagonist and leads to the dramatic conflicts.

Antihero: A protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero. He or she may be bewildered, pathetic, or on weak ground morally.

Archetype: A universal symbol that evokes deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader. In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolize universal meanings and basic human experiences are considered archetypes. Common literary archetypes include quests, initiations, scapegoats, descents of the underworld, and ascents to heaven.

Aside: A comment or speech directed to the audience that supposedly is not audible to the other characters onstage. Aside is occaionsally used in films.

Bourgeoisie: Prosperous urban middle class that emerged in the wake of the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION and gained wealth and power in the nineteenth century. In MARXIST theory, the bourgeoisie is identified as the owners and operators of industry, as opposed to the PROLETARIAT, who live by the sale of their labor.

Buddhism: A religion founded in India in the sixth century B.C.E by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. While Buddhism has taken different forms in the many areas of the world to which it has spread, its central tenet is that life is suffering caused by desire. In order to obtain salvation, or nirvana, one must transcend desire through following an eightfold path that includes the practice of right action and right mindfulness. Buddhism has become a major spiritual tradition in different forms in Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, among other countries.

Bunraku: New name for JORURI, traditional Japanese puppet theater.

Bushido: The code of honor and conduct of the Japanese SAMURAI class. Bushido emphasizes self-discipline and bravery.

Canon: The works generally considered to be the most important to read and that collectively constitute the masterpieces of literature. Since the 1960s, the traditional English and American literary canons, consisting mostly of works by white male writers, have been expanding to include many female writers and writers of varying ethnic backgrounds

Character, characterization: A character is a person presented in a work of fiction (novel, drama, film, poetry); characterization is the process by which an artist makes a character seem real to the reader, a process through which various aspects of the character are revealed.

Closet drama: A play that is to be read rather than performed onstage. In closet dramas, literary art outweighs all other considerations such as coherence and the feasibility of the drama to be staged.

Colloquial: Informal diction that reflects casual conversational language and often includes slang expressions.

Comic relief: A humorous scene or incident that alleviates tension in an otherwise serious work. Often these moments enhance thematic significance of a story in addition to providing humor.

Communism: A political system derived largely from the theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (The Communist Manifesto, 1848) in which all wealth is owned collectively and shared equally among all members of society. The People's Republic of China is one of the few remaining Communist countries today.

Confucianism: A philosophy that has influenced Chinese and East Asian culture for over two thousand years. It has evolved to include many characteristics of a religion and spiritual tradition. Its core texts include The Analects (Lunyu). Based on the writings of Confucius (Kongzi, 551-479 B.C.E.), Confucianism asserts that humans can improve and even perfect themselves through education and moral reform. Confucianism has remained the center of several philosophical and political debates, including anti-traditionalism in Meiji Japan and early twentieth-century China as well as neo-Confucianism.

Daoism (Taoism): A religion / philosophy based on the Daode jing of Laozi (Lao-tzu) that emphasizes individual freedom, spontaneity, mystical experience, and self-transformation, and is the antithesis of CONFUCIANISM. In pursuit of the dao, or the Way (the eternal creative reality, the essence of all things), practitioners embrace simplicity and reject learned wisdom. The Daoist tradition has flourished in China and East Asia for two thousand years.

Denouement: French term meaning "unraveling" or "unknotting" used to describe the resolution of a PLOT following the climax.

Diaspora: The wide dispersion of a people or a culture that was formerly located in one place Two historical diasporas of note are the diaspora of the Jews from Palestine following the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the African diaspora caused by the slave trade. Both the Jews and the Africans were dispersed across many continents. The term "Diaspora" has been expanded to describe the general movement and dispersion, forced or voluntary, of people and cultures across the globe, such as the Asian Diaspora.

Edo: The ancient name for Tokyo. During the TOKUGAWA period (1600-1868), Edo became the imperial capital of Japan.

Eight-legged essay: The bagu wen, an essay of eight parts written on a Confucian theme and developed during the Ming Dynasty in China (1368-1644) as a requirement for the civil service examinations.

Enlightenment: Refers to a period of time in Europe from the late seventeenth through the eighteenth century, also called the Age of Reason, in which reason, human progress, and order were venerated. The Enlightenment intensified the process of secularization that had begun during the Renaissance and favored the use of empirical science to resolve social problems. Enlightenment philosophers questioned the existing forms of education and politics and fought tyrannical and social injustice. Enlightenment ideas led to the American and French Revolutions in the late 1700s. Leading philosophers also questioned the Bible and gave rise to a new movement of freethinkers -- people who rejected the church's dogma and encouraged rational inquiry and speculation.

Epiphany: In fiction, drama or film, when a character suddenly experiences a deep realization about himself or herself in an ordinary moment.

Farce: A form of humor based on exaggerated, improbable incongruities. Farce involves rapid shifts in action and emotion as well as slapstick comedy and extravagant dialogue.

Fascism: An ideology that combines dictatorial government, militarism, control of the personal freedom, extreme nationalism, and government control of business. Fascism peaked between the 1920s and '40s, when Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Francisco Franco gained power in Germany, Italy, and Spain respectively.

Feminism: A school of though that examines the oppression, subjugation, or inequality of women. Feminism has flourished since the middle of the twentieth century and has taken different forms, focusing variously on language, the construction of power, and the institutions that perpetuate sexism.

Feminist criticism: An approach to literature that seeks to correct or supplement a male-dominated critical perspective with a feminist consciousness. Feminist criticism places literature in a social context and uses a broad range of disciplines, including history, sociology and psychology to provide interpretations that are sensitive to feminist issues.

Feudalism: A mode of agricultural production in which peasants worked for landowners, or lords, in return for debt forgiveness, food, and governmental responsibilities such as military protection. The lords or landowners constitute the upper class, or aristocracy, but at the top of the hierarchy was the monarch who controlled the government and the granting of fiefs, or tracts of land.

Fin de siécle: The final years of the nineteenth century, a time characterized by decadence. Artists of this era romanticized drug addiction and prostitution; open sexuality, including homosexuality, also marked the period. In Paris and Vienna, the Art Nouveau movement in the fine arts flourished and was informed by the blossoming of radical ideas in the wake of the Paris Commune of 1871. Notable fin-de-siécle figures include artists such as Aubrey Beardsley and writers such as Oscar Wilde.

Flashback: A dramatic device that allows a past occurrence to be interested into the chronological order of a narrative, stage play, or film sequence.

Floating World (ukiyo-e): A Japanese artistic movement that flourished in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries in Tokyo. Ukiyo-e depicts the floating or sorrowful world; its most frequent media are wood-block prints, books, and drawings. Originally considered a popular rather than a high art, ukiyo-e treated literary, classic, and historical themes within a contemporary context, and it was particularly appealing to the emerging merchant classes.

Foreshadowing: Providing hints of what is to happen next in order to build suspense.

Formalism: A type of criticism dominant in the early twentieth century that emphasizes the form of an artwork. Two of its prominent schools are Russian formalism, which favors the form of an artwork over its content and argues for the necessity of literature to defamiliarize the ordinary objects of the world, and American NEW CRITICISM, which treats a work of art as an object and seeks to understand it through close reading.

Framed narration: Also called framed tale. A story within a story. Three prominent examples are Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and The Arabian Nights.

German Romanticism: A German form of nineteenth-century Romanticism. In addition to German Romantic poets like Friedrich Hoelderlin (1770-1843), Novalis (1772-1801), and Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), Germany produced the Romantic theorists Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), F.W.J. Schelling (1775-1854), and August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1845), who believed that the Christian myth needed to be replaced with a modern one.

Giri: Japanese term for social duty and responsibility.

Haiku: Unrhymed Japanese poetic form that consists of seventeen syllables arranged in three lines. Although its origins can be traced to the seventeenth century, it is the most popular poetic form in Japan today. See HAIKAI.

Image: The two types of images are literal and figurative. Literal images are very detailed, almost photographic; figurative images are more abstract and often use symbol.

Irony: A device use in writing and speech to deliberately express ideas so they can be understood in two ways. In drama, irony occurs when a character does not know something that the other characters or the audience knows.

Kabuki: A popular form of Japanese theater primarily about and aimed at the middle classes and that uses only male actors; Kabuki developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, parallel to JORURI, or puppet theater, which often shares the same plots and stories and even the same plays.

Leitmotifs: Themes, brief passages, or single words repeated within a work.

Liberalism: An ideology that rejects authoritarian government and defends freedom of speech, association, and religion as well as the right to own property. Liberalism evolved during the ENLIGHTMENT and became the dominant political idea of the nineteenth century. Both the American and French Revolutions were based on liberal thought.

Manchu: Also known as the Jurchen, a people who lived northeast of the Great Wall of China, in the area now known as Manchuria; when civil disturbances weakened the authority of the Ming emperor, the Manchu, with the assistance of some from inside China, took control of Beijing and founded a new empire. Their dynasty known as the QING or Manchu dynasty lasted from 1644 to 1911.

Marxism: A school of though based on writings of German Socialist thinker Karl Marx. Among its main tenets are the ideas that class struggle is the central element of Western culture, that a capitalist thrives by exploiting the labor of a working class, and that workers must struggle to overcome their capitalist exploiters through revolution and thereafter establish a socialist society in which private property does not exist and all people have collective control of the means of production and distribution.

Marxist criticism: Literary criticism that evolved from Karl Marx's political and economic theories. Marxist critics believe that texts must be understood in terms of the social class and the economic and political positions of their characters and plot.

Meiji Restoration: After years of feudal reign in Japan, the emperor was restored to his position in 1868. He adopted Meiji, meaning "enlightened rule," as the name of his era. In this period, massive industrialization took place in Japan, which became a significant competitor for world power. The military was also strengthened to combat European and American imperialism.

Melodrama: A dramatic genre characterized by suspense, romance, and sensation. Melodramas typically have a happy ending.

Metaphor: A comparison of two things that does not use the words like or as. For example, "love is a rose."

Ming dynasty (1368-1644): Founded by Zhu Yuan-zhang, who restored native Chinese rule from the Mongols who had ruled China during the previous Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) established by Kubla Khan. The Ming dynasty saw a flourishing of Chinese culture, the restoration of Confucianism, and the rise of the arts, including porcelain, architecture, drama, and the novel.

Modernism: In its broadest sense, this term refers to European writing and art form approximately 1914, the beginning of World War I, to about 1945, the end of World War II. Although many writers of this tie continued to work with the forms of fiction and poetry that had been in place since the nineteenth century, others such as James Joyce (1882-1941), Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), William Faulkner (1897-1962), Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), and Thomas Mann (1875-1955) broke with the past, introducing experimentation and innovation in structure, style, and language. Modernism can refer to a spirit of innovation and experimentation, or the break with nineteenth-century aesthetic and literary thinking and forms, or the exploration of psychological states of mind, alienation, and social rupture that characterized the era between the two world wars.

Monologue: A speech of significant length delivered by one person; in drama, a character talks to himself or reveals personal secrets without addressing another character.

Narrator: The voice that in fiction describes the PLOT or action of a story. The narrator can speak in the first or third person, and depending on the effect the author wishes to create, can be very visible or almost invisible (an explicit or implicit narrator); he or she can be involved in the plot or be more distant See also POINT OF VIEW and speaker.

Naturalism: A late-nineteenth-century literary school that sought to apply scientific objectivity to the novel. Led by Emile Zola (1840-1902) and influenced by Darwinism, Naturalists created characters who were ordinary people, whose lives were shaped by the forces of heredity and the environment.

Neoclassicism: A style of art and architecture that was characterized by the simple, symmetrical forms of classical Greek and Roman art. It originated as a reaction to the Rococo and Baroque styles and was the result of a revival of classical though in Europe and America. Neoclassical writing characterized the Augustan Age, a period comprising roughly the first half of the eighteenth century. Its name suggests an analogy to the reign of Emperor Augustus in the Roman Empire (63 B.C.E.-14 C.E.), when many of the great Latin poets, especially Virgil, were writing.

Neo-Confucianism: Refers generally to the philosophical tradition in China and Japan based on the thought of Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) and his commentators, particularly Mencius (370-290 B.C.E.) and Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Neo-Confucianism, which arose during the Sung dynasty (960-1279), asserts that the understandings of things must be based on an understanding of their underlying principles; in moral and political philosophy, it emphasizes the study of history, loyalty to family and nation, and order.

New Criticism: A type of formalist literary criticism that completely disregards historical and biological information to focus on the actual text. The New Critics perform a close reading of a work and give special attention to technical devices such as symbols and images and, in poetry, rhythm.

New Historicism: A literary school developed as a reaction to NEW CRITICISM in the 1980s; presently, it is one of the leading schools of literary criticism. Like the nineteenth-century historicists, the New Historicists argue that historical and other external contexts must be part of textual analysis.

Noh: The highly elaborate and ritualistic classical theater of Japan, known for its minimalist approach to plot, scenery, and stage effects and the stately performance and Zen-like mastery of its actors; n? means "talent" or "accomplishment." The great master and the orist of N? drama is Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), who wrote several of the most famous N? plays, including Atsumori and The Lady Aoi.

Orientalism: The academic study and knowledge of the Middle East ad Asia that developed during the imperialism of the nineteenth century. Orientalism is a Western approach to understanding the cultures, languages, and religions of the East. Especially in the early studies, the Orient was seen as exotic and romantic, but its inhabitants were regarded as uncivilized and inferior. Although by now these views have bee challenged and changed, they are arguably still prevalent.

Parable: A short narrative designed to teach a lesson about life in which the moral isn't directly stated; a form popular during biblical times

Paradox: An argument or opinion that is contradictory but true. For instance, "You have to be cruel to be kind."

Persona: Literally, a person is a mask. In literature, a persona is a speaker created by a writer to tell a story or to speak in a poem. A persona is not a character in a story or narrative, nor does a persona necessarily directly reflect the author's personal voice. A person is a separate self, created by and distinct from the author, through which he or she speaks.

Personification: A figure of speech in which abstractions or inanimate objects are given human qualities or form.

Picaresque: Term used to describe a novel that is loosely structured around a succession of episodes that focus on a rather thinly drawn picaro, or hero. The hero's adventures generally provide a sweeping and detailed view of a society and its customs, which are often satisfied by the writer. Examples include Cervantes's Don Quixote and Voltaire's Candide.

Picture poem: A poem whose lines form the image of the object it describes.

Plot: The pattern of events or the story told in a narrative or drama.

Point of view: The perspective form which the author, speaker, or NARRATOR presents a story. A point of view might be localized within a character, in which case the story is told from a first-person point of view. There is a range of possibilities between first-person point of view and omniscience, wherein the story is told from a perspective unlimited by time, place, or character.

Postcolonial criticism: Literary analysis of works produced in countries such as India, Africa, and the Caribbean that were once under the control of a colonial power. In some cases the term refers to the analysis of works about the colony written by authors who have been heavily influenced by the colonizing culture.

Postcolonialism: The social, political, cultural, and economic practices that arose in the response and resistance to colonialism and imperialism. This term also refers to the historical period following the colonial era, corresponding roughly to the second half of the twentieth century.

Postmodernism: A literary and artistic movement that flourished in the late twentieth century as both a departure from and development of MODERNISM. Postmodernism is frequently characterized by self-consciousness and self-reflexiveness: Postmodern literature is aware of the way it operates in a long literary tradition and responds to this awareness by revealing or referring to itself. Postmodern literature differs from modern literature in its emphasis on surface rather than depth, humor rather than psychological anguish, and space rather than time.

Pragmatism:   A philosophical approach that explains meaning and truth in terms of the application of ideas and beliefs to practical action.

Proletariat:   The modern industrial working class, which, as defined by Karl Marx, lives solely by the sale of its labor.   See also BOURGEOISIE.

Protagonist:   A leading figure or the main character in a drama or other literary work.

Pun:    A play on words that relies on a word's having more than one meaning or sounding like another word.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911):   Also known as the Manchu dynasty, named after the MANCHU, a people from the north of China who took over China in 1644 with the help of revel Chinese; the last dynasty in Chinese history, the Qing saw an increase in the influence of foreign interests and trade.

Reader-response criticism:   A critical approach to literature in which the primary focus falls on the reader, or the process of reading, not on the author.   Reader-response critics believe that a literary work does not possess a fixed idea or meaning; meaning is a function of the perspective of the reader.

Realism:   Most broadly defined, realism is the attempt to represent the world accurately in the literature.   As a literary movement, Realism flourished in Russia, France, England, and America in the latter half of the nineteenth century.   It emphasized not only accurate representation of the "truth," usually expressed as the consequence of a moral choice.   Realist writes deemphasized the shaping of power of the imagination and concerned themselves with the experiences of ordinary, middle-class subjects and dilemmas they faced.

Reformation: Also known as the Protestant Reformation, this sixteenth-century challenge to the authority of the Catholic Church caused a permanent rift in the Christian world, with those loyal to the pope remaining Catholic, with those rejecting papal authority forming new Protestant faiths such as the Anglican, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist, and Presbyterian.   The Reformation originated--and was the most successful--in Northern Europe, especially Germany; its notable leaders include Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Romanticism:   A literary and artistic movement that swept through Europe in the early nineteenth century; its defiance of neoclassical principles and rationalism roughly parallels the political upheaval of the French Revolution, with which it is often associated.   Romanticism in its simplest form exalts nature, the innocence of children and rustics, private emotion and experience, and the pursuit of political freedom and spiritual transcendence.

Samurai:   Japanese feudal aristocrat and member of the hereditary warrior class. Denied recognition in the MEIJI RESTORATION (1867).

Satire:   A literary or dramatic genre whose works, such as Jonathan Swift's (1667-1745) Gulliver's Travels , attack and ridicule human behavior.

Shogun:   A military ruler of feudal Japan between 1192 and 1867.   The shogunate was an inherited position in the military that operated under the nominal control of the emperor.

Simile:   A figure of speech, introduced by like or as , in which two things are compared as equals.

Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895):   A conflict between Japan and China that revealed the weakness of the declining Chinese empire and the emerging strength of Japan.   The war, which developed from a conflict over the control of Korea, culminated in Japan's victory: China recognized the independence of Korea, ceded Taiwan, and lifted trade restrictions with Japan.

Socialist Realism:   A standard for art and literature developed in the Soviet Union in the 1930's; it demanded that art depict the life of the people realistically and celebrate the ideals of the revolution. Mao Zedong (1893-1976) enforced similar standards in China after the People's Republic was established in 1949.

Sociological criticism:   School of literary criticism that seeks to place a work of art in its social context and define the relationship between the two.   Like Marxist critics, sociological critics are oriented toward social class, political ideology, gender roles, and economic condition in their analyses.

Subplot:   A PLOT subordinate to the main plot of a literary work or drama.

Surrealism:   An aesthetic movement centered in twentieth-century France that extolled the direct and free expression of the unconscious as understood by Freudian psychology; proponents of surrealism include the writer André Breton (1896-1966), who wrote Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924; the filmmaker Jean Cocteau (1889-1963); and the painters Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) from France and Joan Miró (1893-1983) from Spain.   A combination of precise, realistic detail and dreamlike fantasy characterizes surrealism.

Symbol:   A representative of something by association.   Though a symbol is often confused with a metaphor, a metaphor compares two dissimilar things while a symbol associated two things.   For example, the word "tree" is a symbol for an actual tree.   Some symbols have values that are accepted by most people.   A flag, for instance, is for many a symbol of national pride, just as a cross is widely seen as a symbol of Christianity.   Knowledge of a symbol's cultural context is sometimes necessary to understand its meaning; an apple pie is an American symbol of innocence that a Japanese person, for example, would not necessarily recognize.

Symbolism:   As the French writer Paul Valéry (1871-1945) notes in The Existence of Symbolism (1939), Symbolism "was not a school.   On the contrary, it included many schools of the most divergent types."   Symbolism generally refers to a movement among poets in France anticipated in the work of Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) and Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) but practiced as a self-conscious movement Stéphane Mallarmé(1842-1898), Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), and Jules Laforgue (1860-1887).   Symbolists sought to convey the fluidity and evocative harmony of music in their work, and to capture tones, fragrances, sensations, and intuitions rather than concrete images or rational ideas.

Tokugawa era (1600-1868):   Period of Japanese history named after Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), who was named shogun in 1603; also known as the EDO era because Tokugawa made Edo (now Tokyo) the capital.   The early Tokugawa was a period of international isolation, political stability, nation building, and prosperity for the middle classes; it was also a time of great literary and cultural growth, particularly in the popular cultural forms such as KABUKI and JORURI (puppet) theater, the popular novel, and colored woodblock art, all aimed at the flourishing middle classes.

Totalitarianism:   A system of centralized government in which a singled unopposed party exerts total and repressive control over a country's political, social, economic, and cultural life.

Tragedy:   A dramatic or literary form originating in Greece that deals with serious human actions and issues.   The actions must create feelings of fear and compassion in the spectator that are later released (CATHARSIS).   Typically, the main character is of high stature or rank, so his or her fall is substantial.   Even though tragedies are sad, they seem both just and believable.   The tragedy raises serious moral and philosophical questions about the meanings of life and fate.

Tragicomedy:   A drama that combines tragedy and comedy and in which moral values are particularly questioned or ridiculed.

Transcendentalism:   A philosophy derived from ROMANTICISM that flourished in the United States in the early nineteenth century.   American writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau championed and articulated the philosophy, which contends that the individual mind has the capability to transcend the human institutions that seek to fetter it.   The transcendentalists believed that the most valuable pursuit was to experience, reflect upon, and study nature and its relation to the individual.

Travel narratives:   A form of narrative that recounts the incidents that occur and the people and things that the narrator meets and sees while visiting a place with which she or he is typically unfamiliar.   Prose and poetic accounts about exploration and adventure in unfamiliar lands and places as well as in more or less familiar locations are considered travel narratives.   Such narratives typically are told episodically and chronologically, engage in elaborate strategies to validate their authenticity, and raise important and complex questions about the representation of the "other"--that is, the ability of the traveler to depict accurately the people, places and cultures he or she is describing.

Ukiyo-e:   A school of Japanese woodblock printing arising in the EDO period that captured images of everyday life in the FLOATING WORLD (ukiyo).   The greatest ukiyo-e artists include Moronbu (c.1618-c.1694), Harunobu (1725-1770), and Hiroshige (1979-1858).

Ukiyo-zoshi:   "Stories of the FLOATING WORLD" or "tales of the floating world"; a Japanese style of fiction associated with hundred-year period from about 1683-1783 that took as its subject matter the everyday lives of chonin , or townspeople, and was written in colloquial language.   Ihara Saikaku is said to be the originator of ukiyo-zoshi ; many authors in this tradition not only imitated his style, but plagiarized his works.

Utilitarianism:   An ethical tradition dating from the lath eighteenth century that assumes an action is right if it promotes happiness of both the agent and those affected by the act.   Judgments of right and wrong depend upon the consequence of an action rather than strictly on motives.

Weltliteratur:   Term coined by Goeth for works of literature that transcend local and national concerns to treat universal human themes.

Ying and yang:   A pair of opposites derived from a dualistic system of ancient Chinese philosophy; symbolically representing the sun and the moon, yang is positive, active, and strong, while yin is negative, passive and weak.   All things in the universe are formed from the dynamic interaction of these forces.

Zen:   A prominent school of Buddhism that seeks to reveal the essence of the enlightened mind.   Zen teaches that everyone has the potential to attain enlightenment but that most are unaware of this potential because they are ignorant.   The way to attain enlightenment is through transcending the boundaries of common thought, and the method of study is most frequently the intense, personal instruction of a student by a Zen master.

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Glossary for Film Studies

From David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art. 5th Ed. (New York: The McGraw-Hill, 1997).

aerial perspective:   A cue for suggesting represented depth in the image by presenting objects in the distance less distinctly than those in the foreground.

angle of framing:   The position of the frame in relation to the subject it shows: above it, looking down (a high angle); horizontal, on the same level (a straight-on angle); looking up (a low angle).   Also called "camera angle."

animation:   Any process whereby artificial movement is created by photographing a series of drawings, objects, or computer images one by one. Small changes in position, recorded frame by frame, create the illusion of movement.

auteur:   The presumed or actual "author" of a film, usually identified as the director. Also sometimes used in an eval­ uative sense to distinguish good filmmakers (auteurs) from bad ones.

backlighting:   Illumination cast onto the figures in the scene from the side opposite the camera, usually creating a thin outline of highlighting on those figures.

boom:   A pole upon which a microphone can be suspended above the scene being filmed and which is used to change the microphone's position as the action shifts.

camera angle:   See angle of framing.

canted framing: A view in which the frame is not level; either the right or left side is lower than the other, causing objects in the scene to appear slanted out of an upright position.

cheat cut:   In the continuity editing system, a cut which presents continuous time from shot to shot but which mismatches the positions of figures or objects.

cinematography: A general term for all the manipulations of the film strip by the camera in the shooting phase and by the laboratory in the developing phase.

close-up: A framing in which the scale of the object shown is relatively large; most commonly a person's head seen from the neck up, or an object of a comparable size that fills most of the screen.

closure: The degree to which the ending of a narrative film reveals the effects of all the causal events and resolves (or "closes off) all lines of action.

continuity editing:   A system of cutting to maintain contin­uous and clear narrative action. Continuity editing relies upon matching screen direction, position, and temporal re­ lations from shot to shot. For specific techniques of conti nuity editing, see axis of action, crosscutting, cut-in, estab­ lishing shot, eyeline match, match on action, reestablishing shot, screen direction, shot/reverse shot.

contrast: In cinematography, the difference between the brightest and darkest areas within the frame.

crane shot: A shot with a change in framing- accomplished by having the camera above the ground and moving through the air in any direction.

cut-in: An instantaneous shift from a distant framing to a closer view of some portion of the same space.

deep focus: A use of the camera lens and lighting that keeps both the close and distant planes being photographed in sharp focus.

deep space : An arrangement of mise-en-scene elements so that there is a considerable distance between the plane closest to the camera and the one farthest away. Any or all of these planes may be in focus.

depth of field: The measurements of the closest and far­ thest planes in front of the camera lens between which everything will be in sharp focus. A depth of field from five to sixteen feet, for example, would mean everything closer than five feet and farther than sixteen feet would be out of focus.

diegesis:   In a narrative film, the world of the film's story. The diegesis includes events that are presumed to have occurred and actions and spaces not shown onscreen. See also diegetic sound, nondiegetic insert, nondiegetic sound.

direct sound: Music, noise, and speech recorded from the event at the moment of filming; opposite of postsynchronization.

dissolve:   A transition between two shots during which the first image gradually disappears while the second image gradually appears; for a moment the two images blend in superimposition.

distance of framing: The apparent distance of the frame from the mise-en-scene elements. Also called "camera dis­ tance" and "shot scale." See also close-up, extreme close- up, extreme long shot, medium close-up, medium shot, plan américain.

dubbing: The process of replacing part or all of the voices on the sound track in order to correct mistakes or rerecord dialogue. See also postsynchronization.

duration: In a narrative film, the aspect of temporal manip­ ulation that involves the time span presented in the plot and assumed to operate in the story. See also frequency, order.

ellipsis: In a narrative film, the shortening of plot duration achieved by omitting intervals of story duration.

extreme close-up : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very large; most commonly, a small object or a part of the body.

extreme long shot: A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very small; a building, landscape, or crowd of people would fill the screen.

fade: 1. Fade-in: A dark screen that gradually brightens as a shot appears. 2. Fade-out: A shot gradually darkens as the screen goes black. Occasionally fade-outs brighten to pure white or to a color.

film noir : "Dark film," a term applied by French critics to a type of American film, usually in the detective or thriller genres, with low-key lighting and a sombre mood.

flashback:   An alteration of story order in which the plot moves back to show events that have taken place earlier than ones already shown.

flashforward: An alteration of story order in which the plot presentation moves forward to future events, then returns to the present.

focal length: The distance from the center of the lens to the point at which the light rays meet in sharp focus. The focal length determines the perspective relations of the space represented on the flat screen. See also normal lens, telephoto lens, wide-angle lens.

frame: A single image on the strip of film. When a series of frames is projected onto a screen in quick succession, an illusion of movement is created by the spectator.

framing: The use of the edges of the film frame to select and to compose what will be visible onscreen.

genres : Various types of films which audiences and filmmakers recognize by their familiar narrative conven­tions. Common genres are musical, gangster, and Western films.

hard lighting:   Illumination that creates sharp-edged shadows.

height of framing:   The distance of the camera above the ground, regardless of the angle of framing .

ideology:   A relatively coherent system of values, beliefs, ideas shared by some social group and often taken for granted as natural or inherently true.

intellectual montage:   The juxtaposition of a series of images to create an abstract idea not present in any other image.

interpretation:   The viewer's activity of analyzing the implicit and symptomatic meanings suggested in a film. See also meaning .

linearity:   In a narrative, the clear motivation of a series of causes and effects that progress without significant, digressions, delays, or irrelevant actions.              

meaning: 1. Referential meaning: Allusion to particular pieces of shared prior knowledge outside the film which the viewer is expected to recognize. 2. Explicit meaning: Sig­nificance presented overtly, usually in language and often near the film's beginning or end. 3. Implicit meaning: Sig­ nificance left tacit, for the viewer to discover upon analysis or reflection. 4. Symptomatic meaning: Significance which the film divulges, often "against its will," by virtue of its historical or social context.

mise-en-scene:   All of the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed: the settings and props, lighting, costumes and make-up, and figure behavior.

montage:   1. A synonym for editing. 2. An approach to editing developed by the Soviet filmmakers of the 1920s; it emphasizes dynamic, often discontinuous, relationships be­tween shots and the juxtaposition of images to create ideas not present in either shot by itself. See also discontinuity editing, intellectual montage.

motif: An element in a film that is repeated in a significant way.

motivation: The justification given in the film for the pres­ ence of an element. This may be an appeal to the viewer's knowledge of the real world, to genre conventions, to nar rative causality, or to a stylistic pattern within the film.

narration: The process through which the plot conveys or withholds story information. The narration can be more or less restricted to character knowledge and more or less deep in presenting characters' mental perceptions and thoughts.

narrative form:   A type of filmic organization in which the parts relate to each other through a series of causally related events taking place in a specific time and space.

nonsimultaneous sound:   Diegetic sound that comes from a source in time either earlier or later than that of the images it accompanies.

offscreen sound: Simultaneous sound from a source assumed to be in the space of the scene but in an area outside what is visible onscreen.

pan:   A camera movement with the camera body turning to the right or left. On the screen, it produces a mobile framing which scans the space horizontally.

plot:   In a narrative film, all the events that are directly presented to us, including their causal relations, chrono­logical order, duration, frequency, and spatial locations. Opposed to story, which is the viewer's imaginary construc­ tion of all the events in the narrative. See also duration, ellipsis, frequency, order, viewing time.

point-of-view shot (POV shot):   A shot taken with the cam­ era placed approximately where the character's eyes would be, showing what the character would see; usually cut in before or after a shot of the character looking.

postsynchronization: The process of adding sound to im­ ages after they have been shot and assembled. This can include dubbing of voices, as well as inserting diegetic music or sound effects. It is the opposite of direct sound.

rhythm: The perceived rate and regularity of sounds, series of shots, and movements within the shots. Rhythmic factors include beat {or pulse), accent (or stress), and tempo (or pace).

scene:   A segment in a narrative film that takes place in one time and space or that uses crosscutting to show two or more simultaneous actions.

segmentation:   The process of dividing a film into parts for analysis .

sequence :   Term commonly used for a moderately large segment of a film, involving one complete stretch of action, if a narrative film, often equivalent to a scene.

space:   Most minimally, any film displays a two-dimension graphic space, the flat composition of the image. In films which depict recognizable objects, figures, and locales, a three-dimensional space is represented as well. At any moment, three-dimensional space may be directly depicted, as onscreen space, or suggested, as offscreen space. In narrative film, we can also distinguish between story space, the locale of the totality of the action (whether shown or not), and plot space, the locales visibly and audibly rep­ resented in the scenes.

special effects:   A general term for various photographic manipulations that create fictitious spatial relations in the shot, such as superimposition, matte shots, and rear projection.

story:   In a narrative film, all the events that we see and hear, plus all those that we infer or assume to have oc­ curred, arranged in their presumed causal relations, chron­ ological order, duration, frequency, and spatial locations. Opposed to plot, which is the film's actual presentation of certain events in the narrative. See also ellipsis and space.

storyboard:   A tool used in planning film production, consisting of comic-strip-like drawings of individual shots or phases of shots with descriptions written below each drawing.

style:   The repeated and salient uses of film techniques char­acteristic of a single film or a group of films (for example, a filmmaker's work or a national movement).

swish pan: A quick snap of the camera from one object to another. This high speed movement causes the image to go completely blurry. Imagine yourself in the center of a merry-go-round that's moving really really fast. Aside from making you totally dizzy, the world becomes a blur, swished out in the movement, like a giant and constant swish pan. Cuts are often hidden in swish pans. Or they can be used to disorient or shock the audience. For a good example of swish pan, watch certain old episodes of The Twilight Zone.

unity:   The degree to which a film's parts relate systematically to each other and provide motivations for all the elements used.

wide-angle lens:   A lens of short focal length that affects a scene's perspective by distorting straight lines near the edges of the frame and by exaggerating the distance between foreground and background planes. In 35mm filming, a wide-angle lens is 30mm or less.

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For Advanced Students

Contemporary Film Theory in China by Hu Ke, Director of the Film Theory Department of the China Film Art Research Centre, also known as the China Film Archives

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism Online

Introductory Guide to Literary and Critical Theory, Purdue University

Research Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, University of Toronto

Internet Resources of Literary Criticism, American Library Association

Introduction to Modern Literary Theory, Dr. Kristi Siegel, Mount Mary College

A Literary Lexicon by D. Simpson, DePaul University

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Copyright © 2008-2009 by Alexander C.Y. Huang. All rights reserved.