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A critical term with a confusing variety of meanings. It can refer to a genre (e.g. ‘the short story form’), or to an established pattern of poetic devices (as in the various fixed forms of European poetry), or, more abstractly, to the structure or unifying principle of design in a given work. Since the rise of Romanticism, critics have often contrasted the principle of organic form, which is said to evolve from within the developing work, with ‘mechanic form’, which is imposed as a predetermined design. When speaking of a work's formal properties, critics usually refer to its structural design and patterning, or sometimes to its style and manner in a wider sense, as distinct from its content.

Subjects: Literature.

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