Handbook of Literary Terms: Literature, Language, Theory

X. J. Kennedy / Dana Gioia / Mark Bauerlein  
Total pages
September 2012
Related Titles


From the author team of the discipline's most widely used literature anthology, this accessible and instructive guide introduces students to the language of literary study.


Featuring an engaging and accessible writing style, this supplemental reference manual for the introductory student serves to demystify literature and the terms, techniques, and analysis tools that literary scholars use.


  • This comprehensive guide features over 400 entries, covering a wide array of literary terms and concepts.
  • Clear, concise, accessible definitions stimulate and motivate students to write better papers about the literature.
  • Pronunciation guidance helps students use terms with confidence in class discussions.
  • Contemporary and culturally diverse literary examples are used to illustrate and explain the concepts.
  • All of the major schools of literary theory are presented to give students thorough background in the critical approaches.

New to this Edition

 The new edition of the Handbook has added 32 new terms and revised or expanded many others.  Among the key changes are:


1) Expanded Coverage of Terms for Rhetoric and Argumentation: we have greatly expanded our coverage of key terms and concepts such as analogy, argument, deduction, essay, forms of discourse, induction, parenthesis, and rhetorical question. The new Handbook now reflects the contents for the writing sections of every book in the Kennedy/Gioia franchise, including the new Literature for Life.


2) Expanded Coverage of New Technological Terminology: we have added important new terms, such as digital humanities and e-book, and added further discussion of Web 2.0 and Information Age.


3) Ancient Drama: we have revised and expanded the terms on ancient drama to meet the needs of today's students with new versions of terms such as antistrophe, choral ode, exodus, stasimon, strophe, and tragic hero.


4) General updating and expansion of other entries: we have gone through the text to improve existing literary terms, such as dramatic poetry, graphic novel, ode, and postcolonialist criticism.


Table of Contents

This is a glossary and will not include a Table of Contents.


X.J. Kennedy, after graduation from Seton Hall and Columbia, became a journalist second class in the Navy ('Actually, I was pretty eighth class'). His poems, some published in the New Yorker, were first collected in Nude Descending a Staircase (1961). Since then he has written five more collections, several widely adopted literature and writing textbooks, and seventeen books for children, including two novels. He has taught at Michigan, North Carolina (Greensboro), California (Irvine), Wellesley, Tufts, and Leeds. Cited in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and reprinted in some 200 anthologies, his verse has brought him a Guggenheim fellowship, a Lamont Award, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an award from the American Academy for Poetry for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English. He now lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, where he and his wife Dorothy have collaborated on four books and five children.

Dana Gioia is a poet, critic, and teacher. Born in Los Angeles, he attended Stanford and Harvard before taking a detour into business. ('Not many poets have a Stanford M.B.A., thank goodness!') After years of writing and reading late in the evenings after work, he quit a vice presidency to write and teach. He has published three collections of poetry: Daily Horoscope (1986); The Gods of Winter (1991); Interrogations at Noon (2001), winner of the 2001 American Book Award; an opera libretto, Nosferatu (2002); several anthologies; and an influential study of poetry’s place in contemporary America, Can Poetry Matter? (1992). Gioia has taught at Johns Hopkins, Sarah Lawrence, Wesleyan (Connecticut), Mercer, and Colorado College. He is also the co-founder of the summer poetry conference at West Chester University in Pennsylvania and a frequent commentator on literature for the British Broadcasting Corporation. He currently lives in Santa Rosa, California, with his wife, Mary, two sons, and an ever growing number of cats.

(The surname Gioia is pronounced JOY-A. As some of you may have already guessed, gioia is the Italian word for joy.)

Mark Bauerlein is Professor of English at Emory University. He is author of Literary Criticism: An Autopsy (1997), Negrophobia: A Race Riot in Atlanta, 1906 (2001), and other books on American literary, history, and philosophy. His commentaries and reviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post , The Weekly Standard, Commentary, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other national periodicals.