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

Pathetic fallacy:

A term used by John Ruskin to decry the ascription of human attributes, traits, feelings, and so forth to nonhuman objects. Such ascriptions, he argues, "produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things." The term is also used nonpejoratively to denote a common feature of descriptive poetry; it is related to but somewhat less formal than the rhetorical trope of prosopopoeia, or personification.

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