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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown


A term used by classical, Renaissance, and neoclassical critics (Horace, Sir Philip Sidney, John Dryden, and others) to describe the mutual appropriateness of genre, style, action, subject matter, and character. For example, a high style is fit and proper for royalty, a grave style for old men, a rustic style for shepherds, and a prosaic style for clowns. According to the dictates of correctness and good taste, the genre (tragedy, comedy, epic, or another), style (high, middle, low), action (whether serious or comic), subject matter (death, marriage, and so on), and character (age, rank, and status) must decorously merge. (See also Art, Delight, Instruction, Nature.)

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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Last modified: March 31, 1997