Term of Art: Atmosphere

“Atmosphere: The mood and feeling, the intangible quality which appeals to extra-sensory as well as sensory perception, evoked by a work of art. For instance, the opening scene in Hamlet where the watch is tense and apprehensive, even “jumpy.” By contrast, the beginning of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist indicates clearly that the play is going to be comic to the point of knockabout. An excellent example in the novel is Hardy’s depiction of Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

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