Glossary of Katabatic Terms a/k/a IDENTIFICATION BAIT

The appreciation of beauty strictly for its own sake, as opposed to any benefit it can confer to the one hearing or seeing it. Traditionally associated with the arts and/or with nature. To those who claim that aesthetics are utterly useless to human experiences, the Deluxe Yours Truly has two words: Bohemian Effing Rhapsody.

Allegory (figurative language)
Best described as an elaborate metaphor, or an extended symbolic comparison. Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in Republic 7 is probably the most famous: human perception of reality is compared to viewing shadows created by others holding objects between a bright fire and the cave wall. Dante's Inferno is an excellent example of a religious allegory.
Alter ego
Latin for "another I." Term for a character who is a near equivalent of another character, usually the protagonist. For example, Enkidu is expressly created as an alter ego for Gilgamesh. The Nose may be an alter ego for Major Kovalyov; alternatively, it may not be. Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout are alter egos in Breakfast of Champions; Vonnegut becomes their alter ego when he enters into the text.

Greek for an "upward journey." A term for a return from a katabasis. More often than not, it is treated in literature and film as somewhat of an afterthought. Vergil, on the other hand, says it is the toughest part: click this link for the specific reference in the Aeneid, read in the original Latin and (thank Jupiter) translated for your reading pleasure.

A universally recognized symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated. For purposes of this class, it refers primarily to personality types such as the Mother Figure, the Bartender, and the Dead Dude. Some believe that these archetypes have always existed within the human subconscious. This may be true. If you want to know more, please feel free to inquire at the Psychology Department.

Bartender (archetype)
Dispenser of drinks and good (usually unheeded, though) advice to katabatic heroes passing through. Often connected with a liminal experience. The bartender can also give directions, in which role he or she can also be construed as a guide.

The combination of physical environment, historical background, or other unique circumstances with which a given story or artistic work is best understood. Ability to apply the proper context is a function of CULTURAL COMPETENCE.

Dead Dude (archetype)
Often, the hero's descent to the underworld is provoked by the death of an acquaintance, a friend, or a family member. Confronted by this (usually) unexpected loss, the hero travels to the underworld either for consolation or to address his/her own fears of mortality. The loss of the Dead Dude can also be explained as a "sacrifice," in return for which the hero is permitted to descend to the underworld and return to his or her previous life on Earth.

The opposite of a Utopia (eu-topia). Often mistaken - intentionally so - for a symbolic hell. Gogol's Saint Petersburg in Nose and Vonnegut's Midland City in Breakfast of Champions are good examples.

Epic Poetry
Originally a term for poetry composed by non-literate poets for non-literate audiences on a serious topic: often a great mythological or historical (or both) event. Epic poetry is by nature repetitive because neither the epic poet nor the audience have access to writing. The repetitions are literally the poetic building blocks of the entire story. Originally, epic poetry was "made from scratch" every time the epic poet began singing: despite the poetic building blocks, human nature (e.g. memory failure, inspiration) invariably caused variations.

, the Iliad, and the Odyssey are examples of true epic poetry: they existed in oral form before they were written down. The Aeneid and the Inferno, however, were conceived and constructed as written epic poetry.

Figurative language
Using imagery, metaphors, and stuff like that to convey meanings which cannot be explained in mere words. Closely related to the sublime. How can you explain in mere words the awesomeness of Bohemian Rhapsody?

Imagery (figurative language)
The use of words and terminology related to the natural world, intended to suggest ideas and emotions rather than attempting to describe them literally.

Liminal Experience
From the Latin limen, meaning "threshold." Usually a "point of no return" crossed by the katabatic hero on route to his or her destination. For instance, Gilgamesh and Enkidu have a liminal experience at the gate of the Cedar Forest; likewise Mount Mashu provides a liminal experience for Gilgamesh on his journey to speak with Utnapishtim.

A literalist is someone who cannot or will not understand
figurative language. A literalist processes information

The common name for a number of ancient civilizations which arose in "Mesopotamia" (the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates in modern day Iraq). Also a really cool song by They Might Be Giants. Note that the following dates are not precise, and overlap at times; also, the Assyrians and the Babylonians occasionally dominated each other for up to centuries at a time.

Metaphor (figurative language)
A metaphor uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea. The earliest and probably best example is "Life is a road." Another outstanding example is the scene in which the eponymous protagonist of Forrest Gump explains that life is like a box of chocolates.

Joseph Campbell's term for the hero's quest in his earliest and most famous work, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. I've read it several times; it offers some extremely valuable insights. On the other hand, I believe the traditions he cites (and of which he certainly demonstrates mastery) are too diverse in their cultural basis and their narratological idiosyncrasies to admit of the syntheses he so loves to create in this and in his other works. If you've made it this far into the glossary entry, you should definitely read it.

Parable (figurative language)
A short, concise story (as opposed to an allegory, which can be very lengthy) featuring human characters, which explains a concept via an analogy. The parable of the Good Shepherd (Matthew 18:12–14 and Luke 15:3–7) does not state that God is employed as a shepherd, but describes God's love in terms of a shepherd searching for a stray sheep in a storm. A literalist would infer that God the Creator is a weatherbeaten dude who spends all of his time wading through drainage ditches and looking for lost livestock.

Utnapishtim's story of the Great Flood is in effect a parable, which Gilgamesh pretty much misses entirely.

Conductor of souls to the world of the dead; Hermes is a good example from Greek mythology. The term can also be used of a guide, which is the role Vergil plays for Dante in the Inferno.

Name for a nation or society where human existence is as perfect as human beings can possibly make it. Plato's Republic was probably the first literary example of a utopia, but the term itself was invented by Saint Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book. Probably not exactly the same as a Garden of Eden or Hesiodic Golden Age, since each of those societies is a gift from the supreme god.