Literary Terms for English II Pre-AP 2012-2013
|ad hominem|| an argument made that (a.) appeals to a person's feelings or prejudices rather than intellect or (b.) is marked by an attach on an opponent's character rather than his contentions/arguments. |
Ex. He doesn't know about health care reform; he was arrested ten years ago for speeding.
|allegory|| a story in which objects, characters, and actions are symbols of something outside the narrative.|
Ex. Alice in Wonderland is about the British government.
|alliteration|| the repetition of initial sounds|
Ex."The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew..." -Coleridge
|allusion|| a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art. |
Ex. Author Herman Melville names a ship the Pequod in Moby Dick. The Pequod trip is extinct, and this foreshadows the vessel's own extinction.
|anachronism-||something out of its normal time|
Ex. In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare is guilty of anachronism when he allows Hector (of Trojan War fame) to make a reference to Aristotle Troy was destroyed by 1100 BCE and the Iliad was probably composed in the 7th century BC; Aristotle was born in 384 BC. In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," Jesus wears a watch.
|anaphora|| repetition when it is specifically used at the beginning of two or more lines, clauses, or sentences.|
Ex. "I have a dream..." -Martin Luther King
|anastrophe|| inversion of the usual, normal, or logical order of the parts of a sentence. Inversion is a synonym for anastrophe.|
Ex. She looked at the sky dark and menacing.
|analogy|| a comparison that explains or describes one subject by pointing out its similarities to another subject.|
Ex. Cat: Meow: Dog: Bark
|antithesis|| involves a direct contrast of structurally parallel word groupings, generally for the purpose of contrast. |
Ex. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
|aphorism|| a concise statement of a principle or precept given in pointed words.|
Ex. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana; "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
|apostrophe||a figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses an absent person or a personified quality. |
Ex. Early in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cassius, who is actually talking to Brutus, exclaims, "Age thou art sham'd / Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!" Anthony exclaims, "O Judgement! Thou are fled to brutish beasts..." In Romeo & Juliet, Juliet says, "O Happy Dagger" before she kills herself with the dagger.
|apposition|| the placing next to a noun another noun or phrase that explains it. |
Ex. Pollution, the city's primary problem, is an issue. My friend Alice is a doctor (Julie is in apposition to my friend).
|archetype||this term is applied to an image, a descriptive detail, a plot pattern, or a character type that occurs frequently in literature, myth, religion, or folklore and is, therefore, believed to evoke profound emotion because it touches the unconscious memory and thus calls into play illogical but strong responses. |
Ex. the rebel, the Don Juan (womanizer), the conquering hero, the country bumpkins, the self-made man, the femme fatale.
|assonance|| repetition of vowel sounds in words that don't rhyme|
Ex. "The bows glided down, and the coast Blackened with birds took a last look at his thrashing hair and whale-blue hair; The trodden town rang its cobbles for luck." -Thomas's "Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait"
|asyndeton|| condensed form of expression in which a series is presented without conjunctions. |
Ex. "I came, I saw, I conquered." "I have done. You have heard me. The facts are before you. I ask for your judgement." -Aristotle
|bathos||when a writer, striving at the sublime, overreaches himself and topples into the absurd. The writing becomes melodramatic.|
|categorical assertion (or claim)|| states how one thing relates to another in its entirety|
Ex. Every flower is a thing of beauty. No man is an island. All parents worry about their children.
|catharsis|| a moral and spiritual cleansing; an empathetic identification with others|
Ex. Watching a protagonist overcome great odds to survive can create catharsis; confession purges the soul.
|chiasmus||a figure of speech by which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. This may involve a repetition of the same words (Pleasures's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure"- Byron) or just a reversed parallel between two corresponding pairs of ideas. This word goes back to the ancient Greeks and their fascination with language and rhetoric. The "chi" comes from chi, the letter "X" in the Greek alphabet. The word itself comes from the Greek word khiasmos, meaning "crossing". (Antimetabole is a very strict form of chiasmus where the exact words or ideas are repeated in reverse order.)|
Ex. It's not the men in my life; it's the life in my men; You should eat to live, not live to eat; Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall blood be shed; A magician is a person who pulls rabbits out of hats. An experimental psychologist is a person who pulls habits out of rats.
|climax|| when a writer arranges ideas in order of importance|
Ex. I spent the day cleaning the house, reading poetry, and putting my life in order.
|conceit||an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem. By juxtaposing, usurping and manipulating images and ideas in surprising ways, a conceit invites the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison. |
Ex. A famous example is [John] Donne's "A Valedictorian Forbidding Mourning." He is comparing two lovers' souls:
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth if th' other do.
And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
|connotation|| the set of associations that occur to people when they hear or read a word|
Ex. The word home evokes feelings of warmth, love, safety, comfort, etc.; the word house does not have the same effect.
|consonance|| repetition of consonant sounds.|
Ex. Even, Heaven, striven; pitter patter
|denotation|| the dictionary meaning of a word |
Ex. The word "house" means a dwelling or an abode.
|details||the facts given by the author or speaker as support for the attitude or tone|
|deus ex machina||a person or thing that suddenly appears, providing a solution to a difficult problem. The person or thing is lowered to the stage by means of a crane in classic drama.|
|dialect||the form of a language spoken by people in a particular region or group (pronunciation, vocabulary, and sentence structure are are affected by dialect.)|
|dialogue||a conversation between characters|
|diction||(word choice) To discuss a writer's diction is to consider the vocabulary used, the appropriateness of the words, and the vividness of the language.|
|direct characterization||the author directly states a character's traits|
|dramatic irony||a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader or audience knows to be true|
|ellipsis||the deliberate omission of a word or words which are readily implied by the context; it creates an elegant or daring economy of words. |
Ex. "This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery kitchens; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered" (Jane Eyre). The words "it was" have been omitted.
Or: "My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room no fears."
|epanalepsis|| repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurs at the beginning.|
Ex. "Blood hath brought blood, and blows answer'd blows"
|epiphany||a sudden understanding or realization which prior to this was not thought of or understood|
|epistrophe|| repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses (the opposite of anaphora).|
Ex. Shylock: "I'll have my bond! Speak not against my bond! I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond!" (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice)
|epitaph|| an inscription used to mark burial places|
Ex. One of the most famous inscriptions is that marking Shakespeare's burial place:
Good friend, for Jesus sake forbear
To digg the dust encloased here;
Bleste be ye man y spares these stones,
and curst be he y moves my bones.
|epithet|| a word or phrase used in place of a person's name; it is characteristic of that person|
Ex. Alexander the Great, Material Girl, Ms. Know-It-All, Richard the Lionhearted
|euphemism|| a device where being indirect replaces directness to avoid unpleasantness|
Ex. "at liberty" instead of "out of work". "senior citizen" instead of "old person". "pass away" instead of "die".
|extended metaphor||it differs from a regular in that several comparisons are made and are extended throughout the passage.|
|first-person narrator||A character in a story who is telling the story; readers see only what this character sees, hears, etc.|
|figurative language|| writing or speech not meant to be interpreted literally|
Ex. simile, metaphor, personification
|flashback||a section of a literary work that interrupts the sequence of events to relate an event from an earlier time|
|foreshadowing||the use in a literary work of clues that suggest events that have yet to occur|
|homily||a form of oral religious instruction given by a minister to a church congregation. It usually gives practical moral counsel rather than discussion of doctrine.|
|hubris||derived from the Greek word hybris, means "excessive pride". In Greek tragedy, hubris is often viewed as the flaw that leads to the downfall of the tragic hero.|
|hyperbole|| a deliberate exaggeration or overstatement|
Ex. "That story is as old as time."
|imagery|| the descriptive of figurative language used in literature to appeal to one or more of the five senses |
Ex. "The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were wet and sloppy." -Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
|imperative|| a command or order|
|indirect characterization||the conclusion a reader draws about a character based on the appearance, behavior, speech, private thoughts, effects he/she has on other characters|
|inversion||a change in the normal word order. Instead of "I have never seen such a mess," one might write: "Never have I seen such a mess." This is a device in which typical sentence patterns are reversed to create an empathetic or rhythmic effect. |
Ex. "Long did the hours seem while I waited the departure of the company, and listened for the sound of Bessie's step on the stairs" (Jane Eyre). Bronte focuses attention on long before stating what seemed long- the hours. She wants to recreate Jan's restlessness as she waits for Bessie to finish her duties and then come to say goodnight to her.
|irony||the general name given to literary technique that involve differences between: a. appearances and reality b. expectations and result c. meaning and intention|
|juxtaposition||a poetic and rhetorical device in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another|
|literal language||uses words in their ordinary senses (the opposite of figurative language)|
|litotes||(opposite of hyperbole) an understatement usually through a form of negation. |
Ex. To say "She was not not unmindful" when one means that "she gave careful attention." OR "my dachshund's legs are not the longest I've seen on a dog." OR "We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all." (Ronald Reagan, Farewell Address to the Nation, January 20, 1989)
|loose sentence|| follows the basic subject, verb, complement pattern. |
Ex. a car hit him, just as he bent over to tie his shoelace
|malapropism|| a type of pun that results when two words become jumbled in the speaker's mind.|
Ex. In Sheridan's comedy, The Rivals, the characters, Mrs. Malaprop, is constantly mixing up her words, as when she says "as headstrong as an allegory [she means alligator] on the banks of the Nile."
|maxim|| (similar to an aphorism) an adage, a concise statement, usually drawn from experience, and inculcating some practical advise. |
Ex. Hoyle's "When in doubt, win the trick: is a maxim in bridge.
|metaphor|| a comparison between two unlike things not using "as," "like," "than," or "resembles."|
Ex. "Every word was once a poem...Language is fossil poetry." -Emerson
|metonymy|| a figure of speech in which the name of one object is substituted for that of another closely associated with it.|
Ex. We commonly speak of the monarch as "the crown". "Blood, sweat, and tears" represent "hard work".
|monologue||a speech by one character in a play, story, or poem in which he/she has listeners who do not speak|
|mood||the feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage|
|motif|| a simple device that serves as a basis for an expanded narrative... The motif is a recurring feature in the work. |
Ex. In Sandra Cisneros's House on Mango Street, the house is a motif. Ghosts are a motif in To Kill a Mockingbird.
|motivation||the reason that explains or partially explains a character's thoughts, feelings, actions, or beavior|
|narrator||a speaker or character who tells a story... He/She may be either a character in the story or an outside observer.|
|non sequitur||a logical fallacy, a comment which has no relation to the comment it follows.|
Ex. "She is thin; therefor, she is hungry." or "Bill lives in a large building, so his apartment must be large."
A non sequitur is also a literary device, often used for comical purposes (as opposed to its use in formal logic). It is a comment which, due to its lack of meaning relative to the comment it follows, is absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing. Its use can be deliberate or unintentional. Literally, it is Latin for "it does not follow". In other literature, a non sequitur can denote an abrupt, illogical, unexpected, or absurd turn of plot or dialogue not normally associated with or appropriate to that preceding it.
|omniscient narrator||an all-knowing third person narrator... this type of narrator can reveal to readers what the characters think and feel.|
|onomatopoeia|| the use of words that imitate sounds|
Ex. hiss, buzz, whirr, sizzle, coo, cuckoo
|oxymoron|| a figure of speech that combines two opposing or contradictory ideas.|
Ex. peace force, tough love, jumbo shrimp
|paradox|| a statement that seems contradictory or absurd but that expresses the truth |
Ex. "For when I am weak, then I am strong." -2 Corinthians and "The couch considered this a good loss."
|parallelism||the repetition of grammatical structure. It consists of phrases or sentences of similar construction and meaning placed side by side, balancing each other.|
Ex. One side sees Lincoln as a bold and shrewd leader, sincerely committed to abolishing slavery; the other sees him as an opportunistic politician, concerned only to defend the Union in any way possible.
|parenthesis|| the insertion of words, phrases, or a sentence that is not syntactically related to the rest of the sentence. It is set off by dashes or parentheses. |
Ex. He said that it was going to rain -I could hardly disagree- before the game was over.
|pathetic fallacy|| a form of personification where human traits are attributed to nature or inanimate objects|
Ex. cruel wind; angry clouds
|periodic sentence|| (opposite of a loose sentence) a sentence withholding its main idea until the end|
Ex. Just as he bent over to tie his shoelace, a car hit him (main idea).
|personification|| giving human characteristics to a nonhuman subject|
Ex. The rock stubbornly refused to move.
|point of view||the perspective from which a story is told|
|pun|| a play on words based on different meanings of words that sound alike. |
Ex. "Son, stay out of the sun." "Did you see that ewe?"
|polysyndeton||(opposite of asyndeton) the deliberate use of many conjunctions for special emphasis - to highlight quantity or mass of detail or to create a flowing continuous sentence pattern; it slows the pace of the sentence. |
Ex. "I had no communication by letter or message with the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and notions, and voices, and faces and phrases, and costumes, and preferences, and antipathies: such was what I knew of existence." (Jane Eyre)
The extra ands in this sentence effectively capture the monotony of Jan'es years of routine at Lowood and her desire for a different life.
|repetition||the use, more than once, of nay element of language- a sound, a word, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence|
|rhetorical shift||a change from one tone, attitude, etc... look for key words like but, however, even though, although, yet, etc.|
|sarcasm|| a type of irony in which a person appears to be praising something but is actually insulting it|
Ex. She's a real winner.
|simile|| a comparison between two unlike things using words such as "as," "like," "than," or "resembles".|
Ex. "She stood in front of the altar, shaking like a freshly caught trout." -Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
|situational irony|| an event occurs that directly contrasts the expectations of the characters, the reader, or the audience|
Ex. The fire house burns down.
|soliloquy||a speech delivered by a character when he or she is alone on stage|
|style||a writer's distinctive mode of expression|
|subjunctive mood|| is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgement, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred.|
Ex. "OH that I were a glove upon that hand." Romeo and Juliet
|suspense||a feeling of curiosity or uncertainty about the outcome of events in a literary work|
|syllogism||a formula for presenting an argument logically... It affords a method of demonstrating logic through analysis. It consists of three divisions: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. |
Ex. Maj.- all libraries should serve the people
Min.- this is a public library.
Conc.- therefore, this library should serve the people.
|symbol||anything that stands for or represents something else... an object that serves as a symbol has its own meaning, bu it also represents abstract ideas.|
|synecdoche|| a form of metaphor which a part of something is used to stand for the whole thing.|
Ex. "threads" for "clothing" and "wheels" for "a car"
|syntax||the physical arrangement of words in a sentence|
|theme||a central message or insight into life revealed throughout the literary work... a generalization about human beings or about life that the lit. work communicates (it must be expressed in sentence form.)|
|third person narrator||the narrator reveals the thoughts and feelings of only one character|
|tone||the writer's attitude toward his/her audience and subject|
|tongue-in-cheek|| characterized by insincerity , irony, whimsy. If you say something tongue-in-cheek, what you have said is humorous, perhaps sarcastic, although at face value it appears to be serious. |
Ex. "And we all know how devoted I am to extreme sports!" said the elderly librarian.
|understatement|| (see litotes) saying less than is actually meant, generally in an ironic way. |
Ex. when someone says "pretty fair" but means "splendid"
|verbal irony||the type of irony in which words are used to suggest the opposite of what is meant|
|zeugma|| a. when an object-taking word has two or more objects on different levels such as concrete and abstract, figurative and literal. Ex. "...you were gone down to cultivate matrimony and your estate in the country."|
b. or with two different concrete verbs: "He bolted the door and his dinner."