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Reader-response theory
A theory, which gained prominence in the late 1960s, that focuses on the reader or audience reaction to a particular text, perhaps more than the text itself. Reader-response criticism can be connected to poststructuralism’s emphasis on the role of the reader in actively constructing texts rather than passively consuming them. Unlike text-based approaches such as New Criticism, which are grounded upon some objective meaning already present in the work being examined, reader-response criticism argues that a text has no meaning before a reader experiences—reads—it. The reader-response critic’s job is to examine the scope and variety of reader reactions and analyze the ways in which different readers, sometimes called “interpretive communities,” make meaning out of both purely personal reactions and inherited or culturally conditioned ways of reading. The theory is popular in both the United States and Germany; its main theorists include Stanley Fish, David Bleich, and Wolfgang Iser.

A phrase or line repeated at intervals within a poem, especially at the end of a stanza. See the refrain “jump back, honey, jump back” in Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “A Negro Love Song” or “return and return again” in James Laughlin’s “O Best of All Nights, Return and Return Again.” Browse poems with a refrain.


A Japanese form composed of a series of half-tanka written by different poets. The opening stanza is the basis of the modern haiku  form.


The repetition of syllables, typically at the end of a verse line. Rhymed words conventionally share all sounds following the word’s last stressed syllable. Thus “tenacity” and “mendacity” rhyme, but not “jaundice” and “John does,” or “tomboy” and “calm bay.” A rhyme scheme is usually the pattern of end rhymes in a stanza, with each rhyme encoded by a letter of the alphabet, from a onward (ABBA BCCB, for example). Rhymes are classified by the degree of similarity between sounds within words, and by their placement within the lines or stanzas.

-Eye rhyme rhymes only when spelled, not when pronounced. For example, “through” and “rough.”

-End rhyme, the most common type, is the rhyming of the final syllables of a line. See “Midstairs” by Virginia Hamilton Adair:
          And here on this turning of the stair
          Between passion and doubt,
          I pause and say a double prayer,
          One for you, and one for you;
          And so they cancel out.

-Feminine rhyme applies to the rhyming of one or more unstressed syllables, such as “dicing” and “enticing.” Ambrose Bierce’s “The Day of Wrath” employs feminine rhyme almost exclusively. Half rhyme is the rhyming of the ending consonant sounds in a word (such as “tell” with “toll,” or “sopped” with “leapt”). This is also termed “off-rhyme,” “slant rhyme,” or apophany. See consonance.

-Identical rhyme employs the same word, identically in sound and in sense, twice in rhyming positions.

-Internal rhyme is rhyme within a single line of verse When a word from the middle of a line is rhymed with a word at the end of the line.

-Masculine rhyme describes those rhymes ending in a stressed syllable, such as “hells” and “bells.” It is the most common type of rhyme in English poetry.

-Monorhyme is the use of only one rhyme in a stanza. See William Blake’s “Silent, Silent Night.” 

-Pararhyme is poet Edmund Blunden’s term for double consonance, where different vowels appear within identical consonant pairs. For example, see Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting”: “Through granites which Titanic wars had groined. / Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned.”

See also alliteration,assonance, and onomatopoeia. Browse poems with rhymed stanzas.

Rhyme royal (rime royale)
A stanza of seven 10-syllable lines, rhyming ABABBCC, popularized by Geoffrey Chaucer and termed “royal” because his imitator, James I of Scotland, employed it in his own verse. In addition to Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, see Sir Thomas Wyatt’s “They flee from me” and William Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence.”
An audible pattern in verse established by the intervals between stressed syllables. “Rhythm creates a pattern of yearning and expectation, of recurrence and difference,” observes Edward Hirsch in his essay on rhythm, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” See also meter.
French in origin, a genre of long narrative poetry about medieval courtly culture and secret love. It triumphed in English with tales of chivalry such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” and Troilus and Criseyde.

A poetic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that turned toward nature and the interior world of feeling, in opposition to the mannered formalism and disciplined scientific inquiry of the Enlightenment era that preceded it. English poets such as William Wordsworth,Samuel Taylor Coleridge,John Keats,Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron produced work that expressed spontaneous feelings, found parallels to their own emotional lives in the natural world, and celebrated creativity rather than logic. Browse more Romantic poets.

Originating in France, a mainly octosyllabic poem consisting of between 10 and 15 lines and three stanzas. It has only two rhymes, with the opening words used twice as an unrhyming refrain at the end of the second and third stanzas. The 10-line version rhymes ABBAABc ABBAc (where the lower-case “c” stands for the refrain). The 15-line version often rhymes AABBA AABc AABAc. Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Now welcome, summer” at the close of The Parlement of Fowls is an example of a 13-line rondeau.

A rondeau redoublé consists of six quatrains using two rhymes. The first quatrain consists of four refrain lines that are used, in sequence, as the last lines of the next four quatrains, and a phrase from the first refrain is repeated as a tail at the end of the final stanza. See Dorothy Parker’s “Roudeau Redoublé (and Scarcely Worth the Trouble at That).”
Rondel (roundel)
A poetic form of 11 to 14 lines consisting of two rhymes and the repetition of the first two lines in the middle of the poem and at its end. Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “The Roundel” is 11 lines in two stanzas.

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