Cover image for A multicultural dictionary of literary terms
A multicultural dictionary of literary terms
Carey, Gary.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., [1999]

Physical Description:
vii, 184 pages ; 26 cm
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Call Number
Material Type
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PN41 .C28 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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What is a corrido? What is the difference between a tanka, a choka and a renga? What does it mean when you're doing the dozens? What is a Bildungsroman?This dictionary of literary terms provides the student, scholar, librarian, or researcher with definitions, explanations, and models of the styles and forms of works of literature. Along with novel, tone, tragedy, and scansion are haiku, noh, griot, and other terms that derive from works long undervalued by the literary world. The examples come from a very broad field of authors--reflecting a spirit of inclusion of all people, races and literary traditions. The editors have elected to quote from literary examples that students are likely to have read and to which they most readily relate (for instance, Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was preferred over a work such as Paradise Lost, which fewer students have read and understand). Included is a listing of poets laureate to the Library of Congress, literature winners of the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, Booker McConnell Prize winners, a time line of world literature and an index.

Author Notes

Mary Ellen Snodgrass was born on February 29, 1944 in Wlimington, North Carolina. She is an award-winning author of textbooks and general reference works, and a former columnist for the Charlotte Observer. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Appalachian State University, and holds degrees in English, Latin, psychology, and education of gifted children. She teaches English and Latin at Lenoir Rhyne University. In addition to her membership on the North Carolina Library Board, she serves the N.C. Humanities Commission as a traveling lecturer. She has also held jobs as a freelance writer for the Charlotte Observer along with being a columnist, and book reviewer for them. She has also worked on the Canadian Medical Association Journal, American Guidance Service, American Reference Books Annual and Cliffs Notes along with being a professor of Latin and English, Lenoir Rhyne University, 2008-2010. Her works include Michel Faber and Feminism: The Neo-Gothic Novel, Leslie Marmon Silko, The Civil War Era and Reconstruction: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural, and Economic History, and World Food.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Including the popular buzzword multicultural in a book title almost assuredly boosts sales to libraries. The compilers of this new guide to literary terms justify titling it multicultural by noting that they include foreign language terms and offer examples from writings representative of a wide range of nationalities, cultures, and eras. Carey, an editor of Cliffs Notes, and Snodgrass, author of Encyclopedia of Southern Literature [RBB Ap 15 98] and various other reference sources, state in their preface to this slim volume that their intent is to "present terms essential to a thorough, comprehensive study of world literature, including print literature as well as stage drama." Although the dictionary includes only 468 entries, the actual number of terms it defines is higher because many are treated within more general articles; for example, stream of consciousness is defined under point-of-view. The lack of cross-references from such terms to the appropriate entry is a major deficiency. Some entries indicate pronunciation, and many provide see also references to other entries. Definitions vary from excellent to barely adequate, for, in a number of cases, the compilers' penchant for listing illustrative works and authors takes precedence over exposition. In fact, the work's real distinction lies in its exceptional number of illustrative examples drawn from a broad chronological, geographical, and cultural spectrum and covering nonfiction works as well as novels, poetry, and other imaginative writings. Writers cited range from Akhenaten to Marie de France to Sonia Sanchez, and, although many canonical authors are represented, contemporary figures, such as Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, and Michael Ondaatje, receive strong emphasis. This feature could be especially helpful to teachers seeking to go beyond the established canon in selecting works for their students to study, but the lack of an index to authors and titles cited hampers that kind of use. Following the dictionary section are lists of winners of major literary prizes, a 10-page chronological chart of significant works of world literature, and a brief bibliography. The index covers terms that are accorded separate entries as well as those defined or simply mentioned in other entries. Unfortunately, this work falls far short of the comprehensiveness alluded to in its ambitious goal. It ignores major literary groups, movements, and periods, such as the Agrarians, the Harlem Renaissance, and Restoration comedy; and it omits many important terms and concepts, among them, georgic, light verse, and mise-en-scene. On the other hand, it does include some terms not generally found in similar works (dog drama, happening, lauda) and also encompasses a smattering of literary terms from other cultures (corrido, makta, Ritterdrama). Librarians attracted by the wide variety of examples in this work should be aware that Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray's Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (Bedford Books, 1997), a dictionary containing more than 700 entries, also identifies examples from diverse nationalities and cultural groups. Emphasizing literature of the Western world, Murfin and Ray achieve a better balance between explanation and example, and they include an index to the authors and works cited. In addition, libraries on small budgets will continue to be well served by such standard sources as William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman's Handbook to Literature, seventh edition (Prentice Hall, 1996) and Karl Beckson and Arthur Ganz's Literary Terms: A Dictionary, third edition (Noonday, 1989).

Library Journal Review

As this unique dictionary proves, the literary world can no longer be defined by the works of dead white males. Using the full spectrum of literature, including drama, poetry, and novels, the authors (a prolific editor of literary encyclopedias and the editor of Cliff Notes, respectively) draw from a cross section of works by people of many races and traditions for both literary terms and the examples used to define them. The terms defined, for instance, include "noh," "griot," and "barnstormer" as well as the traditional "novel" and "ballade," and the authors listed under "Caricature" include Voltaire, Gore Vidal, Jane Austen, Terry McMillan, and Tsao Hsuehchin. Included is a list of poet laureates and Pulitzer, Nobel, and Booker prize winners as well as a time line of world literature. This dictionary should help students and teachers as they explore new literary forms and terms. A one-of-a-kind reference; highly recommended for most collections.‘Lisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

"Cliffs Notes" editor Carey and prolific compiler Snodgrass register more than 450 critical and rhetorical terms for fiction, poetry, and drama/theater. Entries range in length from one sentence to three double-column pages (with most running a few paragraphs), offer pronunciation guidance for less familiar terms, and range widely for examples. A bibliography, chronology of writers and works, lists of winners of four literary prizes, and an index of words entered or subsumed in entries fill out the volume. The authors laudably hope the dictionary will "compel" extension of the boundaries of what it means to be well read, but don't be fooled by the title's capacious honorific "multicultural." The dictionary's catholic range of reference notwithstanding, only about 20 of its entries fall outside the "Western" tradition, and the awards listed are only the most familiar Euro-US prizes. Writing definitions--getting at the bare bone(s) of something without creating a skeletal muddle--is difficult business; in this dictionary's case, too many definitions wander, employ inappropriate, confusing examples, or otherwise give the impression of not having received a sufficiently critical reading in draft. The prose is often overblown and word choice careless, and the authors' claim to present "terms essential to a thorough, comprehensive study of world literature" is risible given the quodlibet of entries chosen. Libraries should stay with William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman's Handbook to Literature (7th ed., 1996), J. A. Cuddon's Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4th ed., CH, Mar'99), or Merriam-Webster's Reader's Handbook (CH, May'98), which provide more entries and much cleaner writing. Not recommended. R. H. Kieft; Haverford College