Literature homework help

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DramaA play, written for actors to perform.  Dramas are considered a script for the actors who perform them.

FormHow the drama is divided.  Dramas are normally divided in to acts, which are commonly subdivided into scenes.

TragedyA type of drama in which the protagonist fails to overcome the conflict.

ComedyA type of drama in which the protagonist overcomes the conflict.  Comedies are typically humorous, absurd, and contain happy endings.

Character List

Provides the characters that are involved in a dramaStage DirectionsInstructions provided by the play’s author to show the actor how the words should be read or what action(s) should go along with them.

SettingThe place and time the play takes place.  It is described beforehand, unlike fiction where the setting is contained in the exposition.

DialogueThe characters’ speech.  Aside from standard dialogue, there are special types of dialogue: aside, monologue, and soliloquy.

AsideA comment, usually brief, delivered by a character directly to the audience.  It is understood by the audience that the character’s speech is unheard by the other characters on stage.

MonologueA long speech delivered in front of other characters, revealing the speaker’s thoughts.


SoliloquyA speech delivered by a character when he/she is alone on stage.  The character “thinks out loud,” letting the audience know what he or she is thinking or feeling.

NaturalismAn offshoot of 19th century realism.  It has the same emphasis on detailed, accurate descriptions.  However, it goes further, stressing the determining influence of social and environmental forces on individual lives.  These influences are usually not positive.  There is a sense that people are fated to live life based on their heredity, environment, and social conditions.  Characters in naturalist texts are often portrayed as victims of their society and/or economy.

ModernismA movement dated from roughly 1900-1950.  In short, modernism is about changes–changes in society and changes in literary form.  Modernist literature represents the change a traditional society experiences as it becomes modern, a transformation that may be painful.  In this time period, Americans witnessed the devastating effects of World War I, Black Friday and the subsequent stock market crash, the Great Depression, and World War II, and many people were disillusioned.  Also in this time period came Darwin’s theory of evolution, challenging traditional ideas about religion; Karl Marx’s theories on communism, challenging the current idea of government; and Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind, challenging traditional ideas about humanity.  Many modernist writers reflect this disillusionment and confusion by questioning traditional values and beliefs and/or portraying the failure of the American Dream.  As the editors of your textbook point out, modernism is “an experience of loss” (Baym et al, 2013, p. 1847).  This loss and uncertainty is sometimes reflected in literature that might end without a true resolution, echoing the loss many felt in their lives.  The traditional “happy ending” is certainly not a staple in modernist literature.

Harlem RenaissanceA truly American movement.  It took place during the Modernist Period and is perhaps the only truly original American art form.  Following the end of the Civil War, more African Americans had access to education and opportunity, which resulted in the forming of a black middle class.  However, in 1896, the Plessy v. Ferguson case heard by the Supreme Court established segregation as constitutional, stunting the hope of racial equality.  Segregation and racism was especially powerful in the South, and a result of continued oppression and poor economic conditions in the South, millions of African Americans moved north.  This movement was known as the Great Migration.

An abundance of housing in Harlem led to many African Americans settling there, including many talented artists and entrepreneurs.  Art, music, and literature celebrated African American culture and became a way to express ideas related to civil rights.  This explosion of cultural expression became known as the Harlem Renaissance.  Writers such as Langston Hughes, a poet, and Richard Wright, a novelist, had a significant impact on the Harlem Renaissance.  They wrote about African American life, racism, and identity in America.

The Jazz Age
A term that F. Scott Fitzgerald invented to describe a period of wild economic prosperity, cultural flowering, and a shaking up of social mores, much like the late 60s were an earthquake of mores later in the century.  It was also the defining era for Fitzgerald, who reached the peak of his fame with the 1925 publication of The Great Gatsby, a novel that perfectly captured the era’s moods and styles.  The novel is also considered one of the best examples of American modernism.  The fun of the Jazz Age lasted for ten years and then, as Fitzgerald said, it “leaped to a spectacular death in October 1929.”  This was the crash of the banks and Wall Street and the start of the Great Depression.

A style that portrays the habits, speech, manners, history, folklore, and beliefs of a particular geographical section of the U.S.   Regionalism came about in part because the writers themselves were no longer of the upper class in America.  At this time, regional writers, especially noticeable in the south, go beyond simply portraying cultural idiosyncrasies.  Instead, they attempt to portray a sociological and anthropological view of the culture, perhaps a result of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Examples of regionalist writers include William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Kate Chopin, and Stephen King

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