Few students have escaped the humiliating experience of having a learned lecturer discuss a play, novel short story, essay, or poem in wholly unintelligible language. It is humiliating because, though sharing a common experience, reader and lecturer are unable to reach a level of intelligible communication. Terms which the lecturer, often speaking to new student, takes for granted even without hesitation may be utterly new to some and only vaguely familiar to others. It is especially exasperating both to lecturer and to listener when the terms are taken in an absolutely contrary sense. The experience of most teachers of literature will confirm them that the earlier an elementary vocabulary of English literary terms is acquired the better; and hence, they will wish to see their students possess at the very outset of their studies a book which will continue to be useful to them. There is of course no end to the study of meanings and there is as surely no limit to the number of books of reference, beginning with pocket dictionaries and ending with the philosophy of meaning itself. It is the modest aim of the present list to afford easy access to short, practical definitions of the most commonly used terms.

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