what does denouement mean?

Friday, April 10, 2009

1. the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot, as of a drama or novel.
2. the place in the plot at which this occurs.
3. the outcome or resolution of a doubtful series of occurrences.

What I want to know is when and why did everyone start using this?

I mean, I'm an English major, and I don't remember covering it in any class. Maybe at the college level we're expected to know it, but then I know we didn't cover it in high school--because in Freshman English our teacher was a firm believer in rote and made us memorize and regurgitate the terms and definitions of everything she deemed important. And while I have to admit that, going back over her definitions, they were pretty damn good, we never covered "denouement."

So where did it come from? More importantly, how do we stop people from using it instead of "outcome"?