Literary Theory Vs. Literary Criticism
Classical Literary Theory
Literary Theory from Renaissance to Victorian Age
Neo Classical Literary Theory
Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaylovich (1895 -1975)
Barthes, Roland (1915 - 80)
Beauvoir, Simone De (1908 - 86)
Bloom, Harold (1930 - )
Derrida, Jacques (1930 - 2004)
Fish, Stanley (1938 -)
Foucault, Michel (1926 - 84)
Freud Sigmund (1856 -1939)
Frye Herman Northrop (1912 - 91)
Kristeva, Julia (1941)
Lacan Jacques (1901-81)
Langue and parole
Leavis, Frank Raymond (1895 - 1978)
Marx, Karl (1818 - 83)
Said Edward William (1935 - 2003)
Saussure, Ferdinand De (1857-1913)
The relationship between literature and literary theory is symbiotic. Literary criticism
is not a new concept. It was a development that ran parallel to the history of literature in
ancient Greece. Critical theory stresses the reflective assessments and critique of society and
culture by applying knowledge from the social sciences and the humanities.
Q. What comes first -- Literature or Literary theory?
The questions that researchers often face in this area is whether theory as a conceptual
model generate practice or practice (writing of literature) generates theory. An etymological
understanding of the word ‘theory’ provides the answer. Etymology is the study of the origin
The word ‘theory’ is of Greek origin. It is derived from the Greek word ‘Theoria’
which means - Contemplation and speculation. By this logic theory is the contemplation of
the practice of writing literature and comes after it.
Literary theory vs Literary Criticism
Literary theory is a conceptual model and provides a theoretical framework for the
study of a work of Literature. Literary criticism is the practical application of literary theory.
It is the study, interpretation and evaluation of literature. It judges the quality of a literary
work. Thus the terms, literary theory and literary criticism are closely related. Literary
criticism is fundamentally the estimation of the value of a particular work or body of work on
such grounds as: the personal and/or cultural significance of the themes and the uses of
language of a text; the insights and impact of a text; and the aesthetic production (or,
performance) of the text; particularly as these areas are seen to be mutually dependent,
supportive or inflective.
CLASSICAL LITERARY THEORY
Literary criticism has probably existed for as long as literature. In the 4th century
BC Aristotle wrote the Poetics, a typology and description of literary forms with many
specific criticisms of contemporary works of art. Poetics developed for the first time the
concepts of mimesis and catharsis, which are still crucial in literary studies. Plato's attacks
on poetry as imitative, secondary, and false were formative as well. Around the same
time, Bharata Muni, in his Natya Shastra, wrote literary criticism on ancient Indian
literature and Sanskrit drama.
The classical theory revolves around the three key figures. They are:
Plato gave us the Theory of Mimesis, according to which all art is mimetic by nature.
It is an imitation of life. he believed that ‘idea’ is the ultimate reality and art imitates idea.
Therefore it is an imitation of reality. He exemplified this with the example of a carpenter and
The idea of the chair came first in the carpenter’s mind. He gave physical shape to the
idea and created a chair out of wood. The painter (an artist) imitated the carpenter’s creation
in his picture. Thus the painter’s chair is twice removed from reality. Hence, he believed, art
is twice removed from reality.
Philosophy vs Poetry
According to Plato, philosophy is superior to poetry. Philosophy deals with ideas
whether poetry deals with illusion. Plato rejected poetry as it is mimetic in nature on moral
and philosophical grounds. Plato authored two seminal critical texts:-
2. The Republic
ION- it is a very short dialogue which involves two speakers - Socrates, who is Plato’s
mouthpiece in the dialogues, and Ion, who is a Rhapsode (classical Greek performer of epic
As Ion recites and praises Homer’s epic in public performances, his range is limited. Socrates
questions the geniuses of Ion’s art. In fact, he observes that Ion’s gift of word is not an art, he
has no real skill. He is like a soothsayer or prophet in being divinely possessed.
THE REPUBLIC- It is an extended conversation and the central argument is advanced by
the proponent of the argument, Socrates. In it, Plato’s intent is to philosophically establish an
ideal state. Plato here presents us with a negative view of literature. Though the work has a
dominant social and political concern, Plato discusses the role of poets in his perfect
commonwealth at several place. This work is written in 10 books.
He wrote a major critical treatise called The Poetic, in which he gave us the Theory of
Imitation. He defined Art as mimesis but his theory differs radically from Plato’s views on
art. For him, mimesis is not a mere portrayal of representation of reality but a re- presentation
of the world or human life in all its happiness and misery. Hence, for him, as poetry presents
a slice of real life, it is a constructive activity, an idealized representation of human action.
Defination of tragedy
1. Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude.
2. It is embellished with an artistic language.
3. It is highly action based/ not narrative based) and contains incidents arousing pity and
fear out of sympathy for the plight of the protagonist.
4. The aim of the tragedy is to bring about the Catharsis of the emotions of pity and fear.
5. Every tragedy must have six paths: Plot, character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle and
The detailed description of these six paths are given below:
a. Plot: It refers to how incidents are arranged and presented to the audience. It presents
a well structured cause and effect chain of action.
Features of the plot:
It must be whole- with a beginning, middle and an end.
It must be complete having Unities of Time, Place and Action. Though Aristotle
never mentioned about unity of Place.
It must be of certain magnitude.
b. Character : The protagonist should be a man of high stature with a noble nature.
He must possess ethical goodness but not perfection.
A completely blameless character is not suitable for tragedy.
Hero’s downfall is not caused due to his depravity but due to a tragic flaw
c. Thought: Aristotle says very little about this aspect and most of what he says is
associated with how speeches should reveal character.
d. Diction: It is the expression of meaning in words, the stylistic aspects of tragedy.
e. Melody: It refers to the musical element of the chorus.
f. Spectacle : It refers to the external stage mechanics that produces spectacular effects.
Anagnorisis: It is a moment in a play or other work where the character makes a critical
He was a Greek critic who authorized the critical treatise On the Sublime. It may be
termed as the Bible of modern poetics because of its laying down a number of rules and
postulating many a principle for poetic performance. Longinus happens to be both a
classicists and romanticist and his On the Sublime presents a happy blend of romantic as well
as classical traits.
He introduces the concept of sublimity as the primary characteristics of great writings.
The sublime style, according to him, is a blend of great conceptions, noble passions and
elevated diction. According to Longinus, Sublimity has five characteristics:
Grandeur of thought
Strong and inspired motion
The proper construction of figures(use of metaphors + ornamental language)
Nobility of diction
Dignity of composition
Longinus also gave the Theory of Transport which states that the test of great
literature lies not in the instruction, delight or persuasion but in transport i.e. the ability of
ecstasy by the irresistible power of sublime language.
He was a Latin critic whose Ars Poetica is a great treatise on poetry. According to
him the function of poetry is either to edify or delight.
The following is a brief outline of the main subjects of the work:
(a) A poem demands unity, to be secured by harmony and proportion, as well as a wise
choice of subject and good diction. Meter and style must be appropriate to theme and to
character. A good model will always be found in Homer.
(b) Dramatic poetry calls for special care - as to character drawing, propriety of
representation, length of a play, number of actors, use of the chorus and its music, special
features for the satiric type, verse-forms, and employment of Greek models.
(c) A poet's qualifications include common sense, knowledge of character, adherence to high
ideals, combination of the dulce with the utile, intellectual superiority, appreciation of the
noble history and lofty mission of poetry, and above all a willingness to listen to and
profit by impartial criticism.
The work is also known for its discussion of the principle of decorum (the use of
appropriate vocabulary and diction in each style of writing)
Literary Theory from the Renaissance to the Victorian Era
The renaissance was the period of revival of learning. With the exposure to the new
ideas, there was an active interest in Literature coupled with a critical bent of mind.
Aristotle’s Poetics was rediscovered and there was intellectual discussion on that
treatise among the Italian Humanist scholars. This activity laid the foundations and
determined the course of English criticism of that period. The English renaissance criticism
festered critical discussion of classical texts and Aristotelian theory.
Contributions to dramatic theory in the Renaissance was by two figures -
Thomas More- In his book Utopia (1516), objected to the mingling of tragic and comic
elements in a play. According to him, a tragicomedy world be a farce and a violation of
the basic principle of propriety.
Roger Ascham- He was a Cambridge scholar whose dramatic theories were based on the
classical domestic principles of Aristotle and Horace. He considered comedies (written by
the Roman dramatists Plautus and Terence) inferior because they dealt with the
frivolous themes of ordinary life. he raised tragedy to a higher pedestal than comedy as it
dealt with issues of greater import. Tragedy raises fundamental questions about the
universe and the fate of human kind. The tragedies written by (Sophocles and Euripides)
were treated by as Greek Models to be emulated which the Roma tragedies written by
Seneca were considered inferior.
Though some scholars argue that the Elizabethan Age was more creative than critical
one, a closer scrutiny reveals that literary criticism was an integral element of the intellectual
life and integral element of the intellectual life and literary development of the tome. The best
English literary critics of the period were Sir Philip Sidney, Ben Johnson and Francis
Sir Philip Sidney- In his Apology for Poetry(1595) he defended against poetry against
the hostile arguments of Plato in his Republic. He wrote this treatise to demonstrate that
poetry is a valuable source of instruction with a moral purpose. Poetry, according to him,
is the product of inspiration and some thing more than mere copying and imitation as
Plato pined. As per Sidney, the poet does not mechanically reproduce Nature or reality,
he employs creativity to make the new form better than the natural form. Sidney
considers poetry superior to philosophy and history. Philosophy is abstract while history
is concrete and poetry combines the merits of both. The world of poetry is an ideal world.
Only poetry has the dynamic power through its delightful teaching to inspire and elevate
the conduct of human kind.
Ben Jonson- As a dramatist and drama critic did not follow the classical tradition. he
theorized on the difficulties of observing the Aristotelian “Unities of Time, place and
action.” And the use of a proper chorus throughout the play. Johson’s contribution to
dramatic theory are twofold-
He gave a new conception of tragedy distinct from the Aristotelian concept.
His theory of comedy made a case for the comedy of Humors.
Theory of Tragedy.
For Jonson, the essential qualities of a tragedy are : Dignity of persons, lofty style,
verisimilititude (likeness to reality) and sententious observations (oratorical language). For
him, tragic plots portray a catastrophe, a fall from prosperity to adversity but he does not deal
with the concept of tragic flaw or pity.
Theory of Comedy( theory of comedy of humors)
Jonson insisted on the need for greater realism in comedy to bring it closer to life. For
him, the purpose of comedy was to portray human follies not crimes. On this front, he made
an innovation by identifying human follies with Humors.
Johnson used medieval physiology to explain in human beings were determined. By a
mixture of certain fluids (called Humours) in the body. The temperament of an individual is
determined by a combination of these fluids. The four cardinal humors are:
Yellow Bile (choler)
Black Bile (melancholy)
A normal personality has a natural balance of these fluids. An abnormal mixture disturbed
this balance leading to follies or foibles.
With his critical insight into the artistic merits of Shakespeare’s plays, he laid the
foundation of Shakespearean criticism. Jonson commented Shakespeare for his originality,
universality and permanence of appeal and said, ‘He was not of an age but of all ages’.
Neoclassical Literary Theory
The neoclassical Age was an age of enlightenment. The pseudo-classicists of the age
took inspiration from the classical masters and let out to define the rules of writing literature.
Three prominent figures came in this category to take criticism to a different level by
providing their theories. John Dryden, Alexander pope and Dr. Johnson.
John Dryden- He was called ‘the father of English Criticism’. He gave us ‘An Essay of
Dramatic Poesy’ which is his major treatise on criticism. He also wrote critical prefaces
on famous poems and plays of other literary masters like Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare and
Dryden theorized mostly on the nature of poetry and dramatic poetry.
Dryden’s Theory of Poetry
Dryden’s view of poetry is in line with Aristotle’s view of poetry as an Imitation. Such
imitation presents an idealized picture of life without its deformities and faults. Imitation
inspires and illuminates and elevates our thoughts.
The chief purpose of poetry, according to Dryden, is to delight and transport the reader
Instruction can also be provided but it is a subordinate function and not the primary
For Dryden, the poet is more a creator than an imitator as he employs the faculty of
imagination to breathe life into the formless raw material from nature. Using imagination,
he builds, modifies and rebuilds new worlds.
Dryden’s Theory of Dramatic Poesy
In An essay of Dramatic Poesy, Dryden makes a comparative study of English and
French dramatists and proves that English dramatist were in no way inferior to the French
The French dramatist carefully observed the classical rules of Drama which the
Elizabethan dramatists consciously ignores them. Dryden finds the three Classical unities
irrelevant to drama and if they are strictly observed, the scope of imagination and length
of the plot is considerable reduced.
By doing this comparative study, Dryden gave a new dimension to criticism by
introducing comparative analysis.
Dryden, like Aristotle saw Comedy as a representation of human life in inferior persons
and low subjects. Its purpose is to teach through laughter.
But unlike Aristotle, for Dryden, the chief aim of Tragedy was not emotional purgation
by means of Catharsis but to administer a moral cure. Tragedy served as a correction of
Pope’s greatest critical work is his Essay on Criticism. He focused exclusively on
devising a proper methodology and standards of criticism. He vehemently attacked faulty
critical practices. The essay has three main sections-
The first section deals with the study of classics to set benchmarks for great literature.
The second deals with the causes of erroneous critical practices.
The third section prescribes rules for critics derived from the great Greek and Roman
masters of literary theory.
For Pope, the function of criticism is judging correctly. A critic needs proper training
to make right judgments. According to him, one must be a great author in order to be a great
critic. Strict adherence to classical rules does not constitute great literary merit according to
Pope. Essay on criticism is a storehouse of critical maxims that have found a way into our
Dr. Samuel Johnson
Johnson was of the view that the literary merit of a work rests on the foundations of
classical criticism. Rules governing the writing of literature should be based on nature or
reason. He defined nature as the practice of the classicists and reason. As the historical sense
of a learned critic to interpret the practices of the ancient literary masters in the light of
existing conditions. As a critic, his objective was to amend the neo-classical laws.
Johnson wrote three important works in this area:
Lives of the Poets: it is a work by Samuel Johnson comprising short biographies and
critical appraisals of 52 poets, most of whom lived during the eighteenth century. As
criticism, the work is often misleading, giving praise to artificial poets like Cowley and
Pope, and doing scant justice to nobler poets like gray and Milton. As Biography, it is an
excellent work as it paints the best pictures of some of the early English poets.
In his Life Of Milton, he defines poetry as an art that unites pleasure with truth and
imagination and is employed along with reason to write good poetry.
In his Preface to Shakespeare, Johnson asserts that a writer’s milieu (surroundings,
environments) influences the literary works he produces. The right way to assert literary
excellence of a work is not to see it against the historical backdrop but in the context of
the age. A work considered great in the present age may not have any intrinsic merit for
the succeeding centuries. Great literature, according to Johnson, represents the Universal
through the particular aspects contained in it.
Dr. Johnson deserves the credit for turning literary criticism into a rigorous intellectual
discipline that offers brilliant insights and true appraisal of literature.
BAKHTIN, MIKHAIL MIKHAYLOVICH (1895 -1975)
Russian literary historian, critic and philosopher best known for his theories about
language and the novel. Bakhtin's output was remarkably dive-se, but critics have noticed his
sustained interest in 'dialogism', the way in which meaning and artistic form always emerge
in the social world, as part of a dialogue.
Bakhtin's discussions of language stress that all utterances are socially situated. In his
influential essay 'Discourse in the Novel' (in The-Discourse Imagination, 1981), he
describes language as a rich dialogue of voice, each permeated with its own ideology and
culture. In this dynamic account, the unity of national languages such as Russian is
intersected by a multiplicity of other languages, such as dialects, jargon and generational
differences. Bakhtin calls this diversity 'heteroglossia', a term which signals the social
conflict over values built into all speech. According to Bakhtin, the novel exploits this
linguistics dynamism, replicating the social tensions between the elite and the popular within
the apparent unity of a national language.
Interest in dialogism also shapes Bakhtin's literary criticism. Problems of
Dostoevsky's Art (1929) praises Dostoevsky for inventing the 'polyphonic novel'. Bakhtin
uses this term not simply to indicate multiple voices in the novel, but also to characterize the
relationship between the characters and the narrator. According to Bakhtin, what is
distinctive about Dostoevsky's fiction is that the characters are given voices in their own right
and granted as much authority as the narrator. A further version of this dialogism is Bakhtin's
attention to popular rather than learned sources through his ideas on carnival/carnivalesque.
Bakhtin's theories are important because they offer a way of discussing the novel in social
terms, as a space where differing views of the world collide and conflict. This emphasis on
multiple voices has been picked up by theorist eagar to recover marginalized voice. Henry
Louis Gates Jr. for instance, adopts a Bakhtinian approach to theorize a distinctive African-
American vernacular tradition in The Signifying Monkey (1987).
BARTHES, ROLAND (1915 - 80)
Barthes studies French literature and classics at University in Paris, and after working
as a schoolteacher and as a lecture in universities in Romania and Egypt, he returned to Paris
to work at the Center National de Recherehe Scientifique, and became chair of Literary
Semiology at the College de France.
Mythologies, published in French in 1957, launched Bakhtins' career as one of the
most important cultural critics of the twentieth century. It is also one of the fundamental text
of modern cultural studies. A series of short essays about such diverse topics as amateur
wrestling, steak and chips, and literature and criticism, the book applies a Saussurean
account of language and the linguistic sign to a series of reading of the objects that
constituted French culture. The essays are incisive and witty explorations of cultural meaning
that Barthes calls 'myths'.
Throughout the 1960s Barthes continued to develop the new discipline of semiology.
One of Barthes' boldest theoretical arguments came in his famous 1968 essays 'The Death of
the Author' in which he states that the literary critical institution has controlled the meanings
of text by insisting on identifying the author as their primary explanation and guarantee.
DERRIDA, JACQUES (1930 - 2004)
Algerian born French philosopher whose work has been extremely influential within
literature and philosophy departments in Europe and America, giving rise to a philosophy
and method of reading known as deconstruction.
Derrida was an enormously prolific writer,- and first came to attention with a spate of
publications in 1967 (Speech and Phenomena; Of Grammatology; Writing and Difference)
and again in 1972 (Positions Dissemination; Margins of Philosophy). These early works
established his fundamental concern with language, text and meaning, and displayed his
distinctively playful 'literary' style which continually draws attention to the rhetorical,
figurative and metaphorical potential of language and the ever - present possibility of
misapprehension and miscommunication Derrida's self- consciously 'different' style as earned
him praise and condemnation in equal measure: his work is often seen as blurring the
boundaries between philosophical and literary discourse. His most vociferous critics have
been analytic philosophers seeking to maintain the alleged purity of their discipline and its
modes of expression. He is known for deriving the concept of "arche-writing".
Deconstruction is primarily directed against what Derrida has called the 'metaphysics
of presence' or logocentrism; by this he means the dominant tradition of Western philosophy
and the logic upon which it is founded - a logic which he consequently attempts to reveal as
dependent upon certain founding metaphors, rhetorical gestures and self- fulfilling
assumptions. His own emphasis is upon difference rather than identity, absence rather than
presence, although he concedes that he is still working within the system of philosophy which
Much of Derrida's work involves close reading of text by thinkers as diverse as Plato,
Heidegger, Husserl, Nietzche, Austin, Marx, Rousseau, Saussure and Freud. In such reading
he often picks out an apparently marginal comment or motif and makes it central to his
account, showing a text's internal tensions and contradiction, the moments when it
undermines its own central messages. It is not that he deconstructed text; rather they
deconstruct themselves, hence his claims that deconstruction defines definition and is not,
strictly speaking, a 'method' at all.
While Structuralist criticism generally looks to identify and reinforce the binary
oppositions underpinning a text, Derrida, as a poststructuralist, sets out to deconstruct
binaries such as presence/ absence, sensible/ intelligible, ideal/ real and speech/ writing. He
reveals the dependence of one term upon the other (their fundamental inextricability) and
also the hierarchical and asymmetrical nature of the binary (the fact that one term will be
privileged, the other seen as derivative or secondary, as with white/black, man/woman).
Poststructuralist feminist critic such as Helene Cixous and Judith Butler reveal Derrida's
influence in their interrogation of such binaries.
His recent work has been demonstrably political and ethical in its concerns, ranging
from an examination of Marxist philosophy in Soecters of Marx (1993) to more personal
works of Jewish theology, death, mourning, forgiveness and friendship; the former is perhaps
in response to critics of deconstruction who have regarded it as worryingly apolitical in its
refusal to privilege any form of knowledge and its tendency to treat all truth and knowledge
claims as more or less textual construction. The latter more ethically minded works put him
in dialogue with philosophical contemporaries such as De Man and Levinas.
FIGURES OF SPEECH
A figure of speech is a departure from the ordinary form of expression or the ordinary course
of ideas in order to produce a greater effect. The word figure is derived from the Latin word "Figura"
which means "Something remarkable." When we say that Rabindranath is a great figure in Bengali
literature we mean that he stands out as remarkable among other Bengali writers.
Likewise a figure of speech is nothing but a remarkable way of saying something. It is a
stylistic device which often provides emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity in literature. We use
figures of speech in "figurative language" to add colour and interest, and to awaken the imagination. It
makes the reader or listener use their imagination and understand much more than the plain words.
Figurative language is the opposite of literal language. Literal language means exactly what it
says. Figurative language means something different to (and usually more than) what it says on the
surface. For example: - He ran fast. (Literal) and He ran like the wind. (Figurative).
A figure of Speech is the pictorial or poetic way of expressing an idea. Like when we say
Happiness "the occasional episode in the general drama of pain" or Life "is a tale told by an idiot", we
are using stylistic device (figure of speech) in the both cases. So in the continuation we can say that a
figure of speech is as rich and ornamental garb in which an idea is clothed for the sake of making it
impressive and remarkable.
Classification of Figures of Speech
There are many figures of speech which may be classified as follows:-
A. Figures based on similarity or agreement:-
B. Figures based on association –
C. Figures based on difference :-
D. Figures based on Imagination
2. Pathetic fallacy
E. Figures based on indirectness
F. Figures based on sound
G. Figures based on construction
FIGURES BASED ON SIMILARITY
(A) Simile: A stated comparison (usually formed with "like" or "as") between two fundamentally
dissimilar things or actions that have certain qualities in common.
"It consists of placing two different things side by side and comparing them with regard to
some features common to both"
(a) He moved like a ghost.
Here, he and the ghost are different things and he resembles the ghost in one particular, namely
(b) He is as ferocious as a tiger.
In this example he is compared to a tiger. Now the tiger and he are two different things but are
alike in possessing one characteristic in common, namely ferocity.
But every comparison is not SIMILE.
When we say Pope is as intelligent as Dryden, there is no simile because the comparison is
not between something of the different kind or quality. Pope and Dryden are of the same kind.
In the same way, He is as ferocious as his wife; there is no simile because he and his wife are
of the same kind.
So, the things or actions must be different in simile and the point of similarity between two
things compared must be clearly stated.
1. I wandered lonely as cloud.
2. Thy soul was like a star.
3. My love is like a red, red rose.
4. Like a high-horn maiden, in a place tower
Woothing her love-laden, soul in secret hour.
5. And we drop like the fruits of tree.
(B) Metaphor: (a compressed simile)-The word 'Metaphor' comes from the Greek Meta 'change'
and phero 'I bear' and therefore means a transfer of significance. Metaphor is an implied
comparison, a simile without like or as. The simile says merely that one thing is like another;
the metaphor says the one thing is another.
In other words, Metaphor is "A trope or figure of speech in which an implied comparison is
made between two unlike things that actually have something in common."
1. The skies of his future began to darken. (Darkness is a threat; therefore, this implies that the
coming times are going to be hard for him.)
2. Her voice is music to his ears. (This implies that her voice makes him feel happy)
3. Afghanistan is the Switzerland of Asia. (Switzerland is a mountainous country in Europe,
therefore Afghanistan implies to Switzerland.)
4. My brother was boiling mad. (This implies he was too angry.)
5. The camel is the ship of desert. (The camel crosses the dessert as the ship crosses the sea).
FIGURES BASED ON ASSOCIATION
(A) METONYMY: A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another
with which it's closely associated; also, the rhetorical strategy of describing something
indirectly by referring to things around it. E. G.- Crown for king, City for its inhabitants. The
figure consists in the substitution of the thing named for the thing meant.
The following are the different kinds of substitution used in this figure of speech, can be
remembered as WISECAP:-
(a) W- Writers’ name for the works, name the place for the product of place. Example:
1. Have read T.S. Eliot? (works of T. S. Eliot)
2. All Arabia (perfumes of Arabia) breaths from yonder box.
3. Her volume of books bound in Morocco. (Leather made in Morocco)
4. He learnt Euclid (Euclid's geometry) at school.
(b) I- Instrument or organ for agent.
1. The pen( writer) is mightier than the sword.(fighter)
2. Give every man thine ear (the instrument by which a man hears.)
3. The press (journalists) is becoming more and more influential.
4. A smooth tongue (a instrument that produce the effect) wins favour.
(c) S- Symbol or sign for thing symbolized.
1. The two princes fought for the throne.( the monarchy or sovereignty)
2. He is too fond of red-tape. (official routine)
3. Grey hairs (old age or old men) should be respected.
4. From the cradle to the grave (from childhood to death)
(d) E- Effect for the cause and cause for the effect.
1. A Thing of beauty is a joy (cause of joy) forever.
2. His failure was the death (cause of death) of him.
3. The hedges are white with May. (May is the cause of Hawthorne blooming.)
4. Do not sit in the Sun (sunshine) for too long time.
(e) C- Container for thing contained.
1. He is addicted to bottles. (wine)
2. I depend solely on your purse.
3. The whole house (the inmates of the house) were waked up.
(f) A- Act for the object of act.
1. Actor and sportsmen are young people's prayer.( inspiration)
(g) P- Passion for the object of passion.
1. Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more,
For Lycidas, Your sorrow (object of sorrow) is not dead.
2. Neta ji is the pride (Object of passion-pride) of India.
3. Tajmahal is wonder. (Object of wonder.)
(B) SYNECDOCHE – Literally, it means the understanding of one thing by another. "This figure
usually consists in changing one noun for another of kindred meaning." It is really a special
form of Metonymy.
The following are the different ways of designating one thing by means of another, it can be
understood by PWACIM like Metonymy:-
(a) P- A part or species is used to designate the whole or genus-
1. More hands (workmen) will be employed in this factory.
2. I have been living here for three summers (years).
3. Rather I would abjure all roofs (houses).
4. Silver and gold (riches) I have none.
5. Uneasy lies the head (man) that wears the crown.
(b) W- The whole or genus is used to designate the part or agencies:
1. He is the poor creature (man).
2. The lavish moisture of the melting year (rainy season).
3. England (English cricket team) won the match.
4. Police (few police) has arrested the criminal.
(c) A- The Abstract is used to designate the concrete.
1. I am out of humanity's (man's) reach.
2. All the rank and fashion (people of rank and fashion) came to see light.
3. Let not ambition (ambitious people) mock their useful toil.
4. Tyranny (Tyrant) is dead.
(d) C- The concrete is used to designate the abstract.
1. There is a good deal of fox (cunning) in man.
2. The mother (motherly affection) rose in her breast.
3. There is the mixture of the tiger and ape (tigerly ferocity and tendency to imitate others)
in the character of Frenchman.
(e) I-An individual is used to designate a class.
1. Rohan was the Cicero (Cicero was a good orator) of the college.
2. He is the Newton (astronomer) of this country.
3. Subhash is not the Shakespeare of India.
(f) M- The material is used to designate the thing made.
1. Her hands and feet were bound in chains (made of irons).
2. The canvas (the picture painted on a canvas).
3. The knight was clad in complete steel (armour made of steel).
Synecdoche is often confused with another figure of speech called Metonymy. They
resemble each other but are not the same. Synecdoche refers to a thing by the name of one of its parts.
For example, calling a car “a wheel” is a synecdoche. A part of a car, i.e. “a wheel” stands for the
whole car. In a metonymy, on the other hand, the word we use to describe another thing is closely
linked to that particular thing, but is not a part of it. For example, “Crown” which means power or
authority is a metonymy.
(C) HYPALLAGE or TRANSFERRED EPITHET- The word Hypallage is from the Greek
word Hypallage which means 'Interchange'.
It is a figure in which an adjective or an adverb is not used with the word it qualifies but is
associated with some other word to which it transfers its meaning.
1. I have led you through fifteen hundred long, weary miles.
2. They left the warm precincts of the cheerful day.
3. He lay all night on his sleepless pillow.
4. He lives a busy life.
5. The prisoner was placed in the condemned cell.
A hypallage should not be confused with a metaphor which is also a figure of transference. In a
metaphor a comparison is implied when a word (which may be an adjective) is transferred from the
object to which it really belongs to another: in hypallage transference involves no such comparison.
FIGURES FOUNDED ON DIFFERENCE OR CONTRAST
(A) ANTITHESIS: In this figure of speech, contrasted ideas of words are set against each other
in a balanced form for the sake of emphasis.
“It establishes a clear, contrasting relationship between two ideas by joining them together or
juxtaposing them, often in parallel structure.”
1. Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.
2. Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
3. Many are called, but few are chosen.
4. United we stand, divided we fall.
5. Let us be sacrificers but not butchers.
(B) EPIGRAM: An epigram is a brief pointed saying frequently introducing contrasting ideas
which excite surprise and arrest attention.
An epigram is a terse, pithy saying. It depends for its effect on the brevity of expression, and
appears at first reading to obscure the meaning of a statement.
1. The child is the father of man.
2. Cowards die many times before their death.
3. They also serve who only stand and wait.
4. Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
5. In the midst of life, we are in death.
(C) OXYMORON: A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side
by side. It is special kind of Antithesis. But in Antithesis contradict ideas are not put side by
1. His honor rooted in dishonor stood
And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.
2. So innocent arch, so cunningly simple.
3. She accepted it as the kind cruelty of the surgeon’s knife.
4. He lived a life of active idleness.
5. Do that good mischief which may make this island thine forever.
(D) PARADOX: A statement that seems contradictory on the surface but often expresses a
At first reading it may seem absurd or impossible, but on examination it is found to express in a
memorable way a truth.
1. "I must be cruel to be kind."
2. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
3. "What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young."
4. Drowning in the fountain of eternal life.
(E) CLIMAX: The word Climax is from the Greek word Klimax, means ladder. In this figure of
speech a series of words or ideas are presented in such a way that the sense rises by
successive steps to what is more and more important and impressive. For example: That
consolation, that joy that triumph was afforded him. In this sentence there are progressive
stages: consolation, joy and then triumph.
1. To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.
2. I came, I saw, I conquered.
3. He had a heart to resolve, a head to contrive, a hand to execute.
4. There is tears for his love: joy for his fortune: honour for his valour and death for his
1. Who wrote the book "On Grammatology"?
(A) Jacques Lucan (B) Michal Foucault
(C) Jacques Derrida (D) Ronald Barthes
(June 2003, Paper II)
2. The concept of “arche writing” is developed by
(A) Fish (B) Foucault (C) Derrida (D) Paul de Man
(Dec. 2005, Paper II)
3. ‘Anagnorsis’ is a term used by Aristotle for describing:
(a) the moment of discovery by the protagonist
(b) the reversal of fortune for the protagonist
(c) the happy resolution of the plot
(d) the convergence of the main plot and the sub plot
(Dec. 2007, Paper II)
4. Choose the correct sequence of the following schools of criticism:
(a) Structuralism, New Criticism, Deconstruction, Reader Response
(b) New Criticism, Structuralism, Deconstruction, Reader Response
(c) Reader Response, Deconstruction, Structuralism, New Criticism
(d) Deconstruction, New Criticism, Structuralism, Reader Response
(June 2006, Paper II)
5. A figure of speech in which two terms opposite in meaning are placed side by
side in one phrase is known as :
(A) paradox (B) oxymoron (C) sarcasm (D) antithesis
(Dec. 2005, Paper II)