literary vocab

78 terms by katie_g 

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alienation

this term, from Marxism, suggests that under Capitalism we live estranged from our true human natures.

allegory

a story of some complexity that corresponds to another situation on a deeper level. Animal Farm is about a community of animals, but reflects the Russian Revolution and satirizes Communism. The dual perspective, the link between animal story and political story gives it its interest and wit.

alliteration

repetition of an identical consonant sound at the beginning of stressed words, usually close together ("So dawn goes down to day": Frost) Look at the effect alliteration creates. It may for example draw together unlike ideas for contrast, or suggest meaning through the sound effect (as in the Frost line, suggesting depressing inevitability), or link similar things for emphasis. Used in both poetry and prose.

allusion

a reference to an event, person, place, work of literature etc. that gives additional layers of meaning to a text or enlarges its frame of reference. Look at the biblical allusion to the "whited sepulcher" in the Conrad essay sample, Chapter Two of this Guide

ambiguity

where language and tone are (usually deliberately), unclear and may have two or more interpretations or meanings

ambivalence

where the writer's attitude to, for example, a character or event is not clear-cut, but may seem to hold at least two responses (Marlow's attitude to Kurtz in Congrad's Heart of Darkness-both understanding and critical?)

antithesis

contrasting ideas by balancing words of opposite meaning and idea ("and wretches hang, that jurymen may dine": Alexander Pope)

apostrophe

an exclamatory passage where the speaker or writer breaks off in the flow of a narrative or poem to address a dead or absent person, a particular audience, or object (often personified). Gaev in Chekhov's Cherry Orchard addresses a bookcase at length, symbol of his past and the family home

assonance

repetition of similar vowel sounds close to one another ("Down some profound dull tunnel" Wilfred Owen). Can create atmosphere in descriptive poetry. Sound this aloud to hear the effect.

atmosphere

often confused with 'mood', it refers specifically to place, a setting, or surroundings. ("There was a holiday ____ in the town")

bathos

a sudden descent from the sublime or serious, to the ridiculous or trivial. "his pride and his bicycle tyre were punctured in the first hour".

bildungsroman

german term for a novel focusing on the development of a character from youth to maturity. (Joyce: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a famous example of a male; Jane Eyre of a female)

blank verse

unrhymed poetry not broken into stanzas, keeping to a strict pattern in each line usually in iambic pentameter. Used by Shakespeare, epic poets, and much of Frost. It is close to the rhythm of speech (chapter four: orals - "upon my head they placed a fruitless crown.") Sound it out to find the pattern of those five stressed syllables, but observe how close to speech rhythms it is

caesura

a break or pause within a line of poetry by comma or full stop or unmarked pause, used for emphasis, or to change direction or pace. Quite frequently used, so worth knowing. ("he was always late. That evening he was later".)

caricature

an exaggerated representation of a character often by emphasizing a small number of features, usually for comic and satiric purposes. Jane Austen and Dickens frequently use this

protagonist

main character in a work

quatrain

stanza or group of four lines that can have different rhyme schemes. Shakespeare's sonnets often contain three quatrains and a couplet

refrain

repetition in a work of literature of a phrase or lines

rhythm

applies to both prose and poetry and has to do more generally with the flow of sound created by stressed and unstressed syllables.

satire

exposing and ridiculing of human follies in a society, sometimes with the aim to reform, sometimes predominantly to deflate. May be gentle, comic, biting or bitter, or a combination. Chaucer, Swift, Jane Austen and Dickens use this tool memorably

setting

context in which a work of literature takes place: geographical, social, historical, generalized, conventional, symbolic, etc.

simile

where a comparison is made explicit with 'as' or 'like'; can make descriptions vivid and unusual. Dickens is a master of this

skaz

a technique of narration that mirrors oral narration with its hesitations, corrections, grammatical mistakes, interactions, etc. Cather in the Rye uses this, but also Huckleberry Finn, amongst others

soliloquy

a speech by a character alone on stage, thinking aloud, revealing thoughts and emotions, or communicating directly with the audience. Powerful tool for revealing psychological complexity, used often by Shakespeare

sonnet

14 line rhyming poem often in iambic pentameter. Rhyme schemes and organization of lines vary, depending on the type of sonnet (i.e Shakespearian), but often set out as a block of 8 lines (octave) and six lines (sestet).

stanza

the blocks of lines into which a poem is organized. in traditional forms of poetry each stanza follows a scheme governing meter, lines, and rhymes

story

the events of a narrative in the chronological order in which they actually happened.

stream of consciousness

the impression of a random stream of thoughts

style

necessary concept to know and use, but tricky to define and discuss. it has to do with the distinctive traits in an author's work. the 'how' of writing. it concerns theme, diction (emotional, abstract, poetic), sentence construction, imagery, sound, etc

subtext

ideas, feelings, thoughts, not dealt with directly in the text but existing underneath. Quite a useful concept especially when reading plays, as characters don't always express their real thoughts

symbol

objects that represent or evoke an idea or concept of wider, abstract significance, as roses represent love, walls divisions

syntax

the grammatical structure of words in a sentence. the normal order of words can be slightly displaced to create a particular effect, without losing the sense. Macbeth: "upon my head they placed a fruitless crown".

theme

central ideas or issues, often abstract (i.e. racial injustice) explored or illustrated in a text. can also refer to an argument raised or pursued in a text, like a thesis

tone

the technique of writing to convey the attitude of the writer towards his/her subject. Created through aspects of language like diction, syntax, rhythm, which will suggest a 'tone of voice'. emotional meaning.

trochee/trochaic

the reverse of iambic, as in "mary had a little lamb". it may be used as a contrast within an iambic line, to stress an idea (as at the beginning of lines 2 or 3 of "the Eagle", Chapter 1 where it emphasizes the visual image

colloquial

everyday speech and language as opposed to literary or formal register. the inclusion of the odd ___ word or phrase in an otherwise formal work can be striking.

conceit

a witty thought or image, a fanciful or deliberately far-fetched comparison, as found in 16th and 17th century English poetry. Donne compares two lovers to the points of a mathematical compass

concrete

refers to objects or aspects that may be perceived by the senses

connotation

an association that a word may suggest. Very useful word when discussing diction

consonance

where the final consonants are the same in 2 or more words close together, as in Macbeth's "poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage"

contradiction

stating or implying the opposite of what has been said or suggested

couplet (rhyming couplet)

two consecutive rhyming lines of verse. May clinch or emphasize an idea (Nature's first green is gold/ Her hardest hue to hold" : Frost)

defamiliarization

the technique of making the familiar seem new and strange, and thus making us see more vividly. Coined by the Russian "formalists". This may be done through point of view, as in Gulliver's Travels

denouement

'unknotting'. How the ending of a novel or play turns out, how the plot is unravelled or revealed

diction

the writer's choice of words or vocabulary.

didactic

describes the tone or intention to preach a (usually) moral, political, or religious point. It usually has a negative connotation

dramatic irony

a very powerful tool especially in drama, used for tragic or comic purposes. where a character (or characters) is/are unaware of something that the audience/reader and possibly other characters on stage are aware of

elegy

a mournful lament for times past or the dead. it has a particular poetic from but the term can be used more generally. describes a meditative mood in prose or verse, reflecting on the past

end-stopped line

a line of poetry where the meaning pauses or stops at the end of the line ("Nature's first green is gold": Frost) A statement or idea can stand out clearly, and provide a pause for reflection

enjambement

the sense flows over from one line to another, perhaps even to the next stanza. This can reflect a build-up of emotion or create dramatic effect

epigram

a concise, pointed, witty statement. --- style i prose or poetry has those qualities. oscar wilde is a master-"The truth is rarely pure and never simple"

form

a word that often crops up and seems vague, but is important. it is the shape of a work, the arrangement of its parts, the patterns, divisions, and structures used. In poetry there are traditional, metrical and rhyming '___' (ode, ballad, sonnet, etc.) and modern, non-metrical ___. If you want to know what these are, consult further resources for this

free verse

verse written without any fixed or traditional structure in meter or rhyme. Commonly used since the early 20th century. it is very flexible b/c it follows the speech rhythms of the language

genre

a specific type or kind of literature, such as drama, prose, poetry, essay, autobiography

grain

a reader can go acceptingly along with assumptions and values in a text, or go 'against the ___', resisting and questioning values and assumptions in that text, as Feminist critics advocate when reading books by male authors. it can also apply to a number of other situations including, i.e. the reading of books written in the colonial period

hyperbole

a deliberate exaggeration for various effects, comic, tragic, etc. When Frost writes that the beauty of spring "is only so an hour", he emphasizes the tragic brevity of life

iambic

metrical measure, or foot, in which an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable ("He clasps") ---- pentameter is the commonest metrical pattern in English poetry, including Shakespeare ("upon my head they placed a fruitless crown": Macbeth. Sound it out to find 5 stresses) can also have tetrameter

idyll/idyllic

refers to innocent simple life in idealized rural setting. A(n) ___ childhood or county scene or experience has those untroubled, and simple qualities. Useful adjective

imagery

used frequently. means concrete descriptions (images) we can see and sense in works of literature. Wilfred Owen describes a dying soldier with "white eyes writhing in his face". We see (whites of eyes rolling, his face) and feel ("writhing) the agony

interior monologue

a piece of writing expressing a character's inner thoughts

irony

a difficult term to describe, often used wrongly, and an effect that is missed when analyzing literature. It means a gap or mismatch b/w what is being said, and what is intended, perhaps b/w the way a character or group see him/her/itself, and the way the author wishes us to see him/her/it. a powerful tool for a writer as it exposes hypocrisies and lack of awareness.

lyric

originally a song performed to an early harp; now, a songlike poem expressing personal feeling. a common form. Prose can be ____ too, expressive of feelings

metaphor

a comparison of two things without using a comparing word such as "like". To see a striking similarity between 2 normally unlike things can be an indicator of originality. It provides richness of sensation and meaning. The comparison may be implied rather than spelt out. Wilfred Owen's description of the dying soldier "guttering" is comparing him implicitly with a candle flame on the point of going out

meter

the organization of lines of verse into regular patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables to achieve a rhythmic effect. Seems frightening and complicated, but a good resource book or teacher can make it clear. Helpful to understand the essentials, but not mandatory

mimesis

a term not commonly used, but it describes an interesting and common effect: the use of words that suggest movement, shape, size, texture (smooth, rough, soft). Wilfred Owen's description of the gas attack: "An ecstasy of fumbling/ Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time" has a mimetic effect, suggesting panic and confusion of movement

mood

Describes a person's ( a character's or the narrator's) frame of mind or state of feeling. It may also indicate the emotional response the author hopes to evoke in the mind of the reader

monologue

speech, usually of some length, by a single speaker. dramatic ___ (usually a whole poem) has a listener present and reveals the character of the speaker in a striking way.

motif

meaning recurrent elements (images, ideas) in a work. These are not as significant as themes but have a cumulative effect like a refrain, and can assume symbolic importance. Candles and fire in Great Expectations could be seen this way

omniscient narrator

it literally means 'all-knowing' , describing one who stands outside and can see into all characters and happenings, like Jane Austin

onomatopoeia

the effect of words that imitate the sound of things ("hiss", "crash")

oxymoron

where 2 words of opposite meaning are joined - "An open secret". It can suggest something quite complex or provocative

paradox

seemingly contradictory statement , but on reflection, it makes sense, contains its own resolution or truth ('Nature's first green is gold': Robert Frost. Green can't be gold literally, but the earliest signs of life in spring may be precious, like gold)

parody

usually comic imitation of another work

pastiche

a literary work composed in the style of a well-known author

persona

the identity or character assumed by the author in a work of literature

personification

where human feelings or sensations are attributed to an inanimate object. Human qualities may also be given to abstract ideas

plot

refers to the events of a narrative in the order the author has chosen to present them. chronology may be distorted fro particular effects, as in flashbacks or flash forwards. A novel may begin with the ending of the story, i.e.

point of view

the angle from which the narrative is seen or told. it may shift in a work

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