May ,8 2016
Writing Wisdom #8: All Those Crazy Terms

wisdom 8We are up to numero otto, with my ‘Writing Wisdom; series. You can catch up on the last instalment (here!) or if you’ve missed out on the fun thus far, why not start at the beginning (here!). Today’s topic is about all those crazy terms often thrown around in literary journals or psychology papers. Mainly these literary terms get there names from authors or characters which, when used, are meant to portray that character or author’s attributes onto a particular character in a different unrelated work. I’m sure you’ve heard of some of these terms in your own time. I’ve picked out three I find are particularly popular and I’ll give you a few examples along the way. Off we go!


Faustian comes from the character Faust from traditional German fairytales. The character is well known from Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s play Faust. In essence, Faust is an unhappy, but well-accomplished man who sells his soul to the devil to achieve infinite knowledge and wisdom. The term infers a person who is ambitious or in search of some sort of improvement to their life and willing trades away morality or something of value with little regard for the consequences. [caption id="attachment_3058" align="aligncenter" width="800"]f&a "Dr. Faust" by Jean-Paul Laurens and Ariel from Disney's "The Little Mermaid".[/caption] A good example of a character who could be considered Faustian is Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Ariel desires a human life and trades her singing voice and life as a mermaid in an attempt to woo Prince Eric. However, if she fails she is bound in slavery to the evil sea with, Ursula. Ariel willingly trades away her life for a hypothetical chance at happiness with very little thought.


The famous English poet Lord Byron is namesake of this term. Byron’s characters often exuded character traits which are closely linked to the man himself. In this regard, a character who is Byronic, or a Byronic hero, could possess traits similar to Lord Byron or one of Byron’s characters. The term infers a person who is capable of great love, passion, and emotion, yet are tormented by self-destructive tendencies like arrogance, cruelty, a lack of respect for others, etc. [caption id="attachment_3060" align="aligncenter" width="757"]b&h "Lord Byron" painted by Richard Westall and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights".[/caption] The famous protagonist Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is a great example. Heathcliff is desperately in love with Catherine even when she breaks his heart. He dedicates the rest of his life to making himself into the man Catherine wanted him to be and in turn, makes himself miserable and does his best to act cruelly to those around him, including Catherine. Heathcliff’s fault and greatest strength is his intense love and it damns both he and Catherine.


I find Machiavellian to be the most commonly misused terms, myself. Machiavellian originates from the Italian diplomat, political and man of many trades, Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli is most famous for his work The Prince, detailing the characteristics necessary for a politician to be successful. One of the more interesting reads I had in my first years of university. Unlike Byronic, the term does not necessarily refer to Machiavelli himself, but the characteristics Machiavelli attributes to his ideal political figures. The term infers a person who is manipulative, with immoral, tyrannical behaviour to achieve their own ends. [caption id="attachment_3061" align="aligncenter" width="800"]m&m Santi di Tito's painting "Niccolo Machiavelli" and Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty in BBC's "Sherlock".[/caption] An example of a character who I would call Machiavellian is Jim Moriarty from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Homes stories, more specifically the BBC mini series Sherlock. Moriarty is willing to commit indescribable acts of cruelty to rule his terroristic empire. There is no end to what Moriarty will do to ensure he ends up winning, even taking his own life to disadvantage someone else. There we have it! I have a few more these terms up my sleeve but I’ll save them for another post in the future. See you all next week! Happy Sunday! xo Novellette

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