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World Literature – Practice Test Questions & Chapter

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Abandon hope, all ye who enter here
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An inscription at the entrance to Hell as described by Dante in The Divine Comedy
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Aeneid
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An epic in Latin by Virgil. The Aeneid begins with he adventures of Aeneas and his men after the Trojan War, and ends when Aeneas gains control of the Italian peninsula, which will eventually become the base of the Roman Empire.
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Aeschylus
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An ancient Greek poet, often considered the founder of Tragedy. He was the first of the three great Greek authors of tragedies, preceding Sophocles and Euripides.
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Aesop’s fables
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A group of stories thought to have been written by Aesop, a Greek storyteller. The main characters in these stories are animals, and each story demonstrates a moral lesson.
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Aladdin’s lamp
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The subject of a story in the Arabian Nights. The young boy Aladdin acquires a magic lamp that, when rubbed, brings forth a genie, a magic spirit prepared to grant his every wish. Aladdin uses his wishes to win the hand of the sultan’s beautiful daughter and to build a magnificent palace. The magician who first gave Aladdin the lamp steals it back. Aladdin regains the lamp, and he and the sultan’s daughter live happily ever after.
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Ali Baba
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The title character in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” a story from the Arabian Nights. Ali Baba gains the treasure of the thieves, which they keep in a cave with a magical entrance. Ali Baba opens the door of the thieves’ cave with the magical password “Open, Sesame.”
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All Quiet on the Western Front
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A German novel by Erich Maria Remarque, published in the late 1920’s, about the horrors of World War I.
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Andersen, Hans Christian
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A Danish author of the nineteenth century, noted for his fairy tales, including the stories “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Princess and the Pea,” and “The Ugly Duckling.”
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Anna Karenina
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A novel by Leo Tolstoy; the title character enters a tragic adulterous affair and commits suicide by throwing herself under a train. Anna Karenina begins with the famous sentence “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
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Antigone
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A tragedy by Sophocles. It concerns the punishment of Antigone for burying her brother, an act that was forbidden by law.
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Arabian Nights
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A famous collection of Persian, Indian, and Arabian folk tales. Supposedly, the legendary queen Scheherazade told these stories to her husband the king, a different tale every night for 1001 days; therefore, the collection is sometimes called The Thousand and One Nights. The Arabian Nights includes the stories of such familiar characters as Aladdin and Ali Baba.
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Aristophanes
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An ancient Greek dramatist, the author of such comedies as The Clouds and Lysistrata.
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Aristotle
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One of the greatest ancient Greek philosophers, with a large influence on subsequent Western thought. Aristotle was a student of Plato and tutor to Alexander the Great.
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Around the World in Eighty Days
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A novel by Jules Verne about a fictional journey around the world made in 1872 by an Englishman, Phileas Fogg and his French servant. Fogg bets other members of his club that he can circle the world in eighty days.
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Babar
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An elephant who appears in a series of French books for children by Jean de Brunhoff.
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Balzac, Honore de
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A French author of the early nineteenth century. In his long series of novels known as La Comedie humaine (The Human Comedy), he portrays the complexity of the society of France in his time.
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Baudelaire, Charles
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A French poet of the middle nineteenth century, whose poetry is noted for its morbid beauty and its evocative language. His famed collection of poems is called Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil).
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Beatrice
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A woman, beloved of Dante, who guides him through Paradise in The Divine Comedy.
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Brothers Karamazov, The
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A novel by Feodor Dostoevsky; the plot concerns the trial of one of four brothers for the murder of his father. The Brothers Karamazov is known for its deep ethical and psychological treatment of its characters.
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Candide
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A novel of satire by Voltaire, in which a long series of calamities happens to the title character, an extremely naĂŻve and innocent young man, and his teacher, Doctor Pangloss. Panglass, who reflects the optimistic philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, nevertheless insists that, despite the calamities, “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”
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Casanova, Giovanni Jacopo
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An Italian author of the eighteenth century, whose adventurous life and Memoirs gave him a permanent reputation as a lover.
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Cervantes, Miguel de
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A Spanish writer of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the author of Don Quixote.
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Chekhov, Anton
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A Russian author of the late nineteenth century. Chekhov wrote plays, including The Cherry Orchard and The Three Sisters, and short stories.
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Cicero
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An orator, writer, and statesman of ancient Rome. His many speeches to the Roman Senate are famous for their rhetorical techniques. A “Ciceronian” sentence is clear, rhythmic, and powerful, and is often composed of many subordinate clauses and figures of speech.
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Cid, El
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The hero of a Spanish epic from the twelfth century, Poema del Cid, or Poem of the Cid (cid comes from the Arabic word for “lord”). At different times, he fought both for and against the Moslem Moors who ruled Spain.
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courtly love
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A set of attitudes toward love that were strong in the Middle Ages. According to the ideal of courtly love, a knight or nobleman worshipped a lady of high birth, and his love for her inspired him to do great things on the battlefield and elsewhere. There was usually no physical relationship or marriage between them, however; the lady was usually married to another man.
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Crime and Punishment
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A novel by Feodor Dostoevsky about Rodya Raskolnikov, who kills two old women because he believes that he is beyond the bounds of good and evil
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Dante
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An Italian poet of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; his full name was Dante Alighieri. Dante is remembered for his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, an epic about Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The Divine Comedy was written as a memorial to Beatrice, a woman whom Dante loved, and who died at an early age.
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Diary of a Young Girl, The
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The diary of Anne Frank, a young Jewish teenager who hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam from 1942 to 1944.
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Divine Comedy, The
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The long epic written by Dante in the early fourteenth century, and describing Dante’s journey through the afterlife. It has three parts, each of which is concerned with one of the three divisions of the world beyond: The Inferno (Hell), the Purgatorio (Purgatory), and the Paradiso (Heaven). The Divine Comedy has had a major influence on the Western literary tradition.
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Doll’s House, A
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A play by Henrik Ibsen about a woman who leaves her husband, who has always treated her like a doll rather than a human being, in order to establish a life of her own.
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Don Juan
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A legendary Spanish nobleman and chaser of women; he first appears in literature in Spain in the seventeenth century. Many authors and composers have depicted him: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in the opera Don Giovanni; Lord Byron, in the long poem “Don Juan”; and George Bernard Shaw, in the play Man and Superman.
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Don Quixote
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A novel written in the seventeenth century by Miguel de Cervantes. The hero, Don Quixote (don is a Spanish title of honor), loses his wits from reading too many romances, and comes to believe that he is a knight destined to revive the golden age of chivalry. A tall, gaunt man in armor, he has many comical adventures with his fat squire, Sancho Panza. At one point in the story, Don Quixote’s inability to distinguish reality from the delusions of his imagination leads him to attack a windmill, thinking it is a giant. thus, to say that someone is “tilting at windmills” is to say that the person is taking on a task that is noble but unrealistic. The word quixotic, meaning idealistic to the point of impracticality, refers to Don Quixote.
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Dostoevsky, Feodor
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A Russian author of the nineteenth century, whose books include Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy were the two greatest Russian authors of novels in their century.
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Euripides
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An ancient Greek poet. He was the author of numerous tragedies, including the Bacchae, Medea, and The Trojan Women. He often used the device of deus ex machina to resolve his plots.
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Existentialism
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A movement in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, with some forerunners in earlier centuries. Existentialism stresses that people are entirely free and therefore responsible for what they make of themselves. With this responsibility comes a profound anguish or dread. Soren Kierkegaard and Feodor Dostoevsky in the nineteenth century, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Albert Camus in the twentieth century, were existentialist writers.
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Faust
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A legendary magician and practitioner of alchemy of the sixteenth century, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for youth, knowledge, and power. Christopher Marlowe, an English poet of the sixteenth century, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote famous plays about him.
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Figaro
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A scheming Spanish barber who appears as a character in French plays in the eighteenth century. The operas The Marriage of Figaro, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and The Barber of Seville, by Gioacchino Rossini, are about Figaro.
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Flaubert, Gustave
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A French author of the middle nineteenth century, known for his careful choice of words and exact descriptions. Flaubert’s best-known is Madame Bovary.
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Francis of Assisi
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A saint of the Roman Catholic Church who lived in Italy in the thirteenth century, and is known for his simplicity, devotion to poverty, and love of nature.
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Frank, Anne
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The author of The Diary of a Young Girl. After her capture by the Nazis, she died in a concentration camp.
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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
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A German author of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, who greatly influenced European literature. Among his celebrated works, are a drama telling the story of Faust, and the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.
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Grimm, the brothers
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Two German authors of the early nineteenth century, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm, remembered mostly for their collection of fairy tales. Usually called Grimm’s Fairy Tales, it includes “Hansel and Gretel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and many others.
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Haiku
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A form of Japanese poetry. A haiku expresses a single feeling or impression, and contains three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables respectively.
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Hara-kiri
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A ritual of suicide, associated with warriors in traditional Japanese society.
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Homer
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An ancient Greek poet, author of the Illiad and the Odyssey. Many literary critics have considered him the greatest and most influential of all poets. According to tradition, Homer was blind.
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Horace
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An ancient Roman poet, known for his odes. Horace insisted that poetry should offer both pleasure and instruction.
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Hugo, Victor
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A nineteenth-century French romantic author. He wrote poetry, plays, and novels; among his novels are Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
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Hunchback of Notre Dame, The
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A historical novel by Victor Hugo. Set in the Middle Ages, it tells the story of Quasimodo, a grotesquely deformed bell ringer at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, who falls in love with a beautiful gypsy girl.
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I think; therefore I am
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A statement by the seventeenth-century French philosopher Rene Descartes. “I think; therefore I am” was the end of the search Descartes conducted for a statement that could not be doubted. He found that he could not doubt that he himself existed, since he was the one doing the doubting in the first place. In Latin (the language in which Descartes wrote), the phrase is “Cogito, Ergo sum.”
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Ibsen, Henrik
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A Norwegian author of the nineteenth century. Ibsen wrote many powerful plays on social and political themes, including A Doll’s House, Ghosts, An Enemy of the People, and Hedda Gabler.
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Iliad
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An epic by Homer that recounts the story of the Trojan War.
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Inferno
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The first section of The Divine Comedy, by Dante. Inferno is the Italian word for “Hell.” By extension, an “inferno” is a hot and terrible place or condition
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Kafka, Franz
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An Austrian author of the early twentieth century. His works, all written in German, have a surreal, dreamlike quality; they frequently concern characters who are lonely, tormented, and victimized, and who represent the frustrations of modern life. He is author of “The Metamorphosis” and The Trial.
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King James Bible
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The best-known English translation of the Bible, commissioned by King James I of England, and published in the early seventeenth century. It is also known as the Authorized Version
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Lysistrata
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An ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes. The title character persuades the women of Athens and Sparta, which are at war, to refuse sexual contact with their husbands until the two cities make peace.
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Machiavelli, Niccolo
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An Italian political philosopher of the Renaissance. Machiavelli was the author of The Prince, a book that advises rulers to retain their power through cunning and ruthlessness. A “Machiavellian” leader is one who subordinates moral principle to political goals
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Madame Bovary
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The best-known novel of Gustave Flaubert. The title character is dissatisfied with her marriage, seeks happiness in adultery, and finally commits suicide.
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Mann, Thomas
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A German author of the twentieth century. Among his best-known works are the novels The Magic Mountain and Death in Venice.
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Mephistopheles
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In the drama Faust by Goethe, a devil who tempts Faust into selling his soul to the powers of darkness. Mephistopheles also appears, with his name spelled Mephistophilis, is the sixteenth-century English play Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
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Metamorphoses
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A long poem by the ancient Roman poet Ovid, in which he relates numerous stories from classical mythology. Many of the stories deal with miraculous transformations, or metamorphoses.
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“Metamorphosis, The”
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A story by Franz Kafka. It is a tale of psychological terror, in which a salesman named Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect.
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Moliere
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Nom de Plume of Jean Baptiste Poquelin, a French playwright of the seventeenth century, best known for his comedies of satire, such as The Misanthrope and Tartuffe.
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Nietzsche, Friedrich
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German thinker of the nineteenth century. Nietzsche, who asserted that “God is dead,” was passionately opposed to Christianity. He developed the concept of the superman or “Overman” (Ubermensch), an ideal superior human condition, not bound by conventional notions of right and wrong. Some of Nietzsche’s ideas influenced Nazism.
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noble savage
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Someone who belongs to an “uncivilized” group or tribe and is considered to be, consequently, more worthy than people who live within civilization. Many writers and thinkers through the centuries of Western civilization have believed in the noble savage. The expression is particularly associated with Jean Jacques Rousseau.
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Odyssey
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An ancient Greek epic by Homer that recounts the adventures of Odysseus during his return from the war in Troy to his home in the Greek island of Ithaca. Figuratively, an “odyssey” is any difficult, prolonged journey.
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Oedipus Rex
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A tragedy by Sophocles that dramatizes the fall of Oedipus.
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Omar Khayyam
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A Persian poet of the twelfth century; author of the “Rubaiyat.”
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Paradiso
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The last part of The Divine Comedy of Dante, describing Heaven.
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Pasternak, Boris
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A Russian author of the twentieth century, famous for his poetry and for Doctor Zhivago, a novel
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Pinocchio, The Adventures of
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A children’s story of the nineteenth century by the Italian author Carolo Collodi. Pinocchio is a puppet who is brought to life by a fairy and learns moral lessons through his adventures. The fairy also provides that Pinocchio’s nose will grow longer whenever he tells a lie
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Plato
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An ancient Greek philosopher, often considered the most important figure in Western philosophy. Plato was a student of Socrates, and later became the teacher of Aristotle. He founded a school in Athens called the Academy. Most of his writings are dialogues. He is best known for his theory that ideal forms or ideas, such as truth or the good, exist in a realm beyond the material world. In fact, however, his chief subjects are ethics and politics. His best-known dialogues are the Republic, which concerns the just state, and the Symposium, which concerns the nature of love.
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Prince, The
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The best-known work of Niccolo Machiavelli, in which he asserts that a prince must use cunning and ruthless methods to stay in power.
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Proust, Marcel
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A French author of the twentieth century, best known for a series of novels called Remembrance of Things Past. Proust’s writing explores the influence of past experience on present reality.
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Rabelais, Francois
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A French writer of the sixteenth century; the author of Gargantua and Pantagruel.
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Realism
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An approach to philosophy that regards external objects as the most fundamentally real things, and perceptions or ideas as secondary. Realism is thus opposed to idealism. Materialism and Naturalism are forms of realism. Realism is also used to describe a movement in literature that attempts to portray life as it is.
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Republic
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The best-known dialogue of Plato, in which Socrates is shown outlining an ideal state, ruled by philosopher-kings.
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Romanticism
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A movement in literature and the fine arts, beginning in the early nineteenth century, that stressed personal emotion, free play of the imagination, and freedom from rules of form. Among the leaders of romanticism in world literature were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Victor Hugo, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Friedrich von Schiller.
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Rousseau, Jean Jacques
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A French philosopher of the eighteenth century; one of the leading figures of the Enlightenment. He held that, in the state of nature, people are good, but that they are corrupted by social institutions; this notion became a central idea of Romanticism. Some of Rousseau’s best-known writings are The Social Contract, an important influence on the French Revolution; Emile, a statement of his views on education; and his autobiography, Confessions.
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“Rubaiyat”
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A poem by the twelfth century Persian poet Omar Khayyam. This is the poem’s best known stanza, in a celebrated translation by Edward FitzGerald: A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou Bside me singing in the Wilderness— Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
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Sade, Marquis de
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A French author of the eighteenth century, notorious for works deal with sexual perversity. Sadism, or taking pleasure in inflicting pain on others, is named for the Marquis de Sade.
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Sancho Panza
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In Don Quixote, the down-to-earth peasant who accompanies the idealistic, deluded Don on his adventures. Sancho is a delightful coward, more interested in material comfort and safety than in performing courageous acts.
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Scheherazade
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The sultan’s wife who narrates the Arabian Nights.
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Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr
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A Russian author of the twentieth century; the author of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago. Solzhenitsyn has criticized the government of the Soviet Union and has been living outside the country for several years.
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Sophocles
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An ancient Greek poet, author of Oedipus Rex and Antigone. He is counted, with Euripides and Aeschylus, among the great Greek authors of tragedies.
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Swiss Family Robinson, The
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A Swiss adventure novel of the nineteenth century by Johann Wyss; the title characters are shipwrecked, and live for many years on a desert island.
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Three Musketeers, The
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A novel by the nineteenth-century French author Alexandre Dumas, set in seventeenth-century France. The Three Musketeers are comrades of the central character, D’Artagnan, a man younger than they, who becomes a musketeer after performing many daring deeds. The motto of the Three Musketeers is “All for One and One for All.”
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Tolstoy, Leo
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A Russian author of the nineteenth century, thought to be among the greatest novelists, whose books paint a vivid portrait of Russian life and history. His best-known works are War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
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Verne, Jules
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A French author of the nineteenth century, known for his adventure novels, many of which were set in the future. Verne’s books include Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, From the Earth to the Moon, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
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Virgil
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An ancient Roman poet; the author of the Aeneid, one of the great epics of Western literature.
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Voltaire
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The Nom de Plume of Francois Arouet, a French philosopher and author of the eighteenth century, and a major figure of the Enlightenment. Voltaire was known for a wit and freethinker. The most famous of his works is Candide.
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War and Peace
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A novel by Leo Tolstoy. It recounts the histories of several Russian families during the wars against the emperor Napoleon. Many consider it the greatest novel ever written.