Rhetorical Strategies & Literary Devices

Created by liongiraffe 

Upgrade to
remove ads

Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition

Allegory

a story in which the narrative or characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical, or ethical meaning

Alliteration

the repetition or one or more initial consonants in a group of words or lines of poetry or prose

Allusion

a reference to something literary, mythological, or historical that the author assumes the reader will recognize; creates and effect or enhances the meaning

Ambiguity

a vagueness of meaning; a conscious lack of clarity meant to evoke multiple meanings of an idea

Anachronism

a person, scene, event, or other element in literature that fails to correspond with the time or era in which the work is set

Analogy

a comparison that points out similarities between two dissimilar things

Antagonist

a character or force in a work of literature that, but opposing the protagonist produces tension or conflict

Antithesis

a statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced

Aphorism

a concise, statement that expresses succinctly a general truth or idea

Apostrophe

a rhetorical device in which a speaker addresses a person or personified thing not present

Archetype

an original model or form

Assonance

repetition of similar vowel sounds, preceded and followed by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words

Ballad

a simple narrative verse that tells a story that is sung or recited

Bathos

the use of insincere or overdone sentimentality

Bildungsroman

a German word referring to a novel structured as a series of events that take place as the hero travels in quest of a goal

Blank verse

poetry written in iambic pentameter, the primary meter used in English poetry; it is "blank" because the lines generally do not rhyme

Bombast

inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects

Cacophony

grating, inharmonious sounds

Caesura

a pause somewhere in the middle of a verse, often (but not always) marked by punctuation

Canon

the works considered most important in a national literature or period; works widely read and studied

Catharsis

a cleansing of the spirit brought about by the pity and terror of a dramatic tragedy

Climax

the high point, or turning point, of a story or play

Conceit

a fanciful, particularly clever thought often stated in figurative language

Connotation

the implied or associative meaning of a word

Consonance

the repetition of two or more consonant sounds in a group of words or a line of poetry

Couplet

a pair of rhyming lines in a poem; two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter is called heroic couplet

Denotation

the literal meaning of a word

Denouement

the resolution that occurs at the end of a play or work of fiction

Diction

the word choices made by a writer

Dramatic irony

a circumstance in which the audience or reader knows more about a situation than a character

Elegy

a poem or prose selection that laments or meditates on the passing or death of something or someone of value

End stopped

describes a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause often indicated by a mark of punctuation

Enjambment

in poetry, the use of successive lines with no punctuation or pause between them

Euphony

pleasing, harmonious sounds

Euphemism

a mile or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term

Extended metaphor

a series of comparisons between tow unlike objects

Falling action

the action in a play or story that occurs after the climax and that leads to the conclusion and often to the resolution of the conflict

Farce

a comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose

Figurative language

language employing one or more figures of speech to imply meaning (simile, metaphor, personification,etc.)

First person narrative

a narrative told by a character involved in the story

Foil

a minor character whose personality or attitude contrasts with that of the main character; juxtaposing one character against another intensifies the qualities of both

Foot

a unit of stressed and unstressed syllables used to determine the meter of a poetic line

Foreshadowing

providing hints of things to come in a story or play

Frame

a structure that provides premise or setting for a narrative

Hubris

excessive pride that often leads tragic heroes to their death

Hyperbole

intentional exaggeration to create an effect

Imagery

the use of language to create vivid images that appeal to the five senses (taste, touch, sound, smell, sight)

Irony

the use of words in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated; incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs (situational, verbal, dramatic)

Jargon

the specialized language or vocabulary of a particular group or profession

Juxtaposition

placing two elements side by side to present a comparison or contrast

Litotes

a form of understatement in which the negative of the contrary is used to achieve emphasis or intensity. (Ex. He is not a bad dancer.)

Lyric poetry

personal, reflective poetry that reveals the speaker's thoughts and feelings about the subject

Melodrama

a literary form in which events are exaggerated in order to create an extreme emotional response

Metaphor

a direct comparison of two unlike things

Meter

the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in poetry

Metonymy

a figure of speech that uses the name of one thing to represent something else with which it is associated

Mood

the emotional atmosphere of a work of literature

Motif

a phrase, idea, or event that through repetition serves to unify or convey a theme in a work of literature

Narrative

a form of verse or prose that tells a story

Ode

a lyric poem usually marked by serious, respectful, and exalted feelings toward the subject

Omniscient narrator

a narrator with unlimited awareness, understanding, and insight of characters,setting, background, and all other elements of the story

Onomatopoeia

the use of words whose sounds suggest their meaning (Ex. bubbling, murmuring brooks)

Oxymoron

a term consisting of contradictory element juxtaposed to create a paradoxical effect (Ex. loud silence, jumbo shrimp)

Paradox

an apparently contradictory statement that actually contains some truth

Parody

an imitation of a work meant to ridicule its style and subject

Pathos

the quality in a work that prompts the reader to experience emotions such as pity or sorry

Pentameter

a verse with five poetic feet per line

Personification

endowing non-human objects or creatures with human qualities or characteristics

Plot

the interrelationship among the events in a story; the plot line is the pattern of events

Point of view

the relation in which a narrator or speaker stands to the story or subject matter of a poem; a story told in the first person has an internal point of view; an observer uses an external point of view

Prosody

the grammar of meter and rhythm in poetry

Protagonist

the main character in a work of literature

Pun

a humorous play on words, using similar- sounding or identical words to suggest different meanings

Quatrain

a four-line poem or a four-line unit of a longer poem

Rhetoric

the language of a work and its style; words, often highly emotional, used to convince or sway an audience

Rhyme

the repetition of similar sounds at regular intervals, used mostly in poetry

Rhyme scheme

the pattern of rhymes within a given poem

Rhythm

the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that make up a line of poetry

Satire

a literary style used to poke fun at, attack or ridicule and idea, vice, or foible, often for the purpose of inducing change

Setting

the total environment for the action in a novel or play; includes time, place, historical milieu, and social, political, and even spiritual circumstances

Simile

a comparison of two things using "like," "as," or other specifically comparative words

Sonnet

a form of verse consisting of fourteen lines and a prescribed rhyme scheme

Stanza

a group of two or more lines in poetry combined according to subject matter, rhyme, or some other plan

Stream of Consciousness

a style of writing in which the author tries to reproduce the random flow of thoughts in the human mind

Structure

the arrangement or framework of a sentence, paragraph, essay, or entire work

Style

the manner in which an author uses and arranges words, shapes, ideas, forms sentences, and creates a structure to convey ideas

Subplot

a subordinate or minor collection of events in a novel or play, usually connected to the main plot

Symbolism

the use of one object to evoke ideas and associations not literally part of the original object

Synecdoche

a figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole or the whole signifies the part

Syntax

the manner in which words are arranged in sentences

Theme

a central idea of a work; the writer's perspective/view about the topic; often an abstract idea upon which a work of literature is built

Tone

the attitude of a writer, usually implied, toward the subject or audience; emotion that pervades a work of a part of a work

Tragedy

a form of literature in which the hero is destroyed by some character flaw and a set of forces that cause the hero considerable anguish

Verbal irony

a discrepancy between the true meaning of a situation and the literal meaning of the written or spoken words

Verse

a synonym for poetry; also a group of lines in a song or poem; also a line of poetry

Voice

the real or assumed personality used by a writer

Please allow access to your computer’s microphone to use Voice Recording.

Having trouble? Click here for help.

We can’t access your microphone!

Click the icon above to update your browser permissions above and try again

Example:

Reload the page to try again!

Reload

Press Cmd-0 to reset your zoom

Press Ctrl-0 to reset your zoom

It looks like your browser might be zoomed in or out. Your browser needs to be zoomed to a normal size to record audio.

Please upgrade Flash or install Chrome
to use Voice Recording.

For more help, see our troubleshooting page.

Your microphone is muted

For help fixing this issue, see this FAQ.

Star this term

You can study starred terms together

NEW! Voice Recording

Create Set