English 12 Literary Terms

198 terms by i4t3r 

Create a new folder

Advertisement Upgrade to remove ads

active voice

Describes the relationship between the action (and state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is the agent or actor of the verb, the verb is in the active voice.

allegory

An extended narrative, which carries a second meaning along with its surface story; the people and events are symbolic.

alliteration

The repetition of similar consonant sounds at the beginning of words.

allusion

Referring metaphorically to persons, places, and things from history or previous literature. Enrich their contexts by reminding the reader of relevant associations.

analogy

An explanation of one thing by comparing it point by point with something else.

antagonist

The forces arrayed against the main character (persons, things, conventions of society, or traits of the protagonist's own character).

anti-climax

An abrupt declension (either deliberate or unintended) on the part of a speaker or writer from the dignity of idea which he appeared to be aiming at. (ex. "The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.")

antithesis

Using contrasts for effect (ex. Deserts are dry; oceans are wet)

apostrophe

The direct addressing of a person, an inanimate entity, or an abstract quality as though it were present and listening.

argumentative essay

An essay, which attempts to convince the reader of the truth of a premise by means of logic and other forms of persuasion.

anecdotal evidence

Usually relate to how certain types of evidence cannot be used to logically conclude something.

archaic language

Old-fashioned, out-of-date language and expressions.

aside

A stage convention used to indicate words spoken by a character but heard only by the audience and not by other characters on stage.

assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds without the repetition of the same consonants. (ex. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.)

atmosphere

The mood the reader gets from the setting, the characterization and the tone of the narrator.

audience

The people for whom a written work or presentation is intended.

autobiography

A non-fictional account of a person's life written by the subject.

ballad

Traditionally, narrative poems that began as songs and were handed down orally.

ballad stanza

Four-line stanzas (quatrains) with alternating four-beat and three-beat lines, and rhymes in the second and fourth lines.

bias

A subjective point of view in which the writer's opinion affects the integrity of the work.

biography

A non-fictional account of someone's life.

blank verse

Usually iambic pentameter but no rhyme. (ex. Shakespeare's plays)

cacophony

A combination of harsh, unpleasant sounds, which create an aggregate effect.

caricature

A description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others for comic reasons.

case study

A detailed analysis of an individual, group, or event.

catastrophe

One name for the concluding action of a tragedy; a disaster of huge proportions.

cause and effect

Two events are related when one event brings about or causes the other. The event that happens first is the cause; the one that follows is the effect.

character

A person who is responsible for the thoughts and actions within a story, poem, or other literature.

characterization

A method of presenting the special qualities or features of a character.

character foil

A character that contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) and so highlights various facets of the main character's personality.

chorus

A group of people who serve mainly as commentators on the characters and events. Add to the audience's understanding of the play by expressing traditionally moral, religious, and social attitudes.

chronological order

The order in which events happen in time.

cliché

An over-used, time-worn expression or idea.

climactic order

To save the most important to last.

climax

Turning point, point of maximum interest, and highest tension in the plot of a story, play, or film. Usually occurs towards the end of story after the reader has understood the conflict and become emotionally involved with the characters.

colloquialism

A word or phrase used in an easy informal style of writing or speaking.

colloquial language

Informal language; language that is "conversational".

comedy

A ludicrous and amusing event or series of events in a work of literature.

comedic relief

The inclusion of a humorous character or scene in an otherwise serious work of literature.

compare and contrast

To note the similarities and differences between two things.

comparison

The process of identifying similarities.

conflict

The tension or problem of a story; a struggle between opposing forces. (man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself)

connotation

The cluster of implications that words or phrases may carry with them, as distinguished from their denotative, or exact, meanings.

consonance

A special type of alliteration in which the repeated pattern of consonants are marked by changes in the intervening vowels.

contrast

Showing differences between or among things.

couplet

A pair of rhymed lines that form a stanza.

denotation

The specific, exact meaning of a word, independent of its emotional coloration or associations.

denouement

The outcome of a series of events, the resolution that occurs after the climax of a work of literature.

descriptive essay

An essay that describes a person, place, or object.

dialect

Language from a particular place, era, or social class.

dialogue

Lines spoken between characters of a work of literature.

diary

An informal record of a person's private life.

diction

The choice of words and word order in a work of literature.

didactic

Writing used to teach or convince the reader of a particular point.

dilemma

A problem that creates conflict within or between characters.

direct presentation

When the writer tells readers what kind of personality the character possesses rather than allowing the character to show his or her personality and allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

dissonance

The deliberate use of syllables or words that sounds harsh together.

drama

Writing presented in the form of a pantomime, play, or dialogue in front of an audience.

dramatic irony

A situation in a narrative or drama where the audience knows more than the character.

dramatic monologue

When a single character addresses a silent audience at a critical moment and reveals something about himself or herself.

dramatic form

Various literary forms that are related and include dramatic material.

dynamic character

A character that develops and changes in a work of literature.

editorial

An opinion piece about any topic.

elegy

A mournful poem; a lament for the dead.

emotional appeal

Persuading an audience through the use of emotion.

epic

A poem that is a long narrative, has a hero or anti-hero, uses elevated language, and in which the outcome of a group of people is based on the success or failure of the protagonist.

epilogue

A short addition of concluding section at the end of a literary work, often dealing with the future of its characters.

epiphany

A revelation of such power and insight that it alters the world-view of the person who experiences it.

epigram

A short verse at the beginning of a poem or novel.

epitaph

An inscription on a tombstone or monument in memory of the person buried there; a summary statement of commemoration for a dead person.

euphemism

A "nicer" word or phrase used to replace an offensive word or phrase.

euphony

Agreeable sounds produced by a succession of mellifluous words.

expert testimony

An opinion given by a person highly educated in a topic.

exposition

The "exposing" of the story behind the story; an act of writing a speech for the purpose of conveying information.

expository essay

A simple essay usually factual and written without emotion.

extended metaphor

A metaphor that is extended through a stanza or entire poem, often by multiple comparisons of unlike objects or ideas.

external conflict

A struggle between two opposing characters or forces.

fable

A short tale with animal characters that teaches a moral lesson.

falling action

The action that occurs after the climax of a work of literature.

fantasy

Literature that contains characters and a plot involving magic and invented characters.

farce

A light humorous play.

figurative language

Language that contains many poetic devices; a way of saying something other than the literal meaning of words.

first person point of view

A POV in which an "I" or "we" serves as a narrator of a piece of literature.

flashback

The presentation of a scene that takes place before the present in a work of literature.

flat character

A minor character who has little depth of personality.

foil

A character that contrasts with and reveals various aspects of the main character's personality.

foreshadowing

A hint of things to come.

form

The structure of a piece of writing.

formal essay

An essay that uses academic language, logical organization, and serious purpose.

formal language

The use of "high" language or dialect in preference to "low" language or dialect; academic language

frame story

Employs a narrative technique whereby an introductory main story is composed, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage for a fictive narrative or organizing a set of shorter stories, each of which is a story within a story.

free verse

A poem that has no limitations in its use of meter or rhyme.

genre

A category of literary work- horror, comedy, tragedy, chick lit., pastoral, etc.

graphic text

A combination of pictures and words to tell a story.

hero

The central character of a story, usually possesses positive qualities (as opposed to a protagonist who can be positive or negative).

historical reference

A reference to something historical.

hyperbole

Obvious and intentional exaggeration.

iambic pentameter

A common meter in poetry consisting of an unrhymed line with five feet or accents, each foot containing an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable.

idiom

An expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements or from the grammatical rules of a language.

image

Concrete details and figures of speech that help the reader to form vivid sense impressions of what is being described.

imagery

Representation through language of sense experience. Most often suggests a mental picture, but may also represent a sound, smell, taste, or tactical experience.

indeterminate ending

Literature with an uncertain ending or where some problem or conflict may remain undecided.

indirect presentation

The writer presents the character in action, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about the personality of that character.

informal essay

An essay that does not follow the restrictions of a formal paper. Personal pronouns and casual, spoken language are acceptable.

informal language

The casual language we use every day.

interior monologue

A type of stream of consciousness that depicts the inner thoughts of a character.

internal conflict

The problem or struggle that takes place in the main character's minds (person vs. self).

internal rhyme

Rhyme which comes within lines.

irony

A literary device which reveals concealed or contradictory meanings.

jargon

Language especially the vocabulary peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group.

juxtaposition

An act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.

legend

A story handed down from the past about a specific person, usually someone of heroic accomplishments.

limited omniscient point of view

Author tells the story in third person, but from the viewpoint of a single character. The thoughts and feelings of other characters are not shown.

literal language

What is said is based exactly in reality without the comparisons used in figurative language.

lyric

Any short poem intended mainly to express a state of mind or feeling.

melodrama

A dramatic form characterized by excessive sentiment, exaggerated emotion, sensational and thrilling action, and an artificially happy ending.

metaphor

A comparison between two things which are essentially dissimilar. Usually implied rather than directly stated.

meter

Any regular pattern of rhythm based on stressed and unstressed syllables.

monologue

An extended speech by one person.

mood

The overall emotional atmosphere of a scene or situation.

mystery

A suspense story which contains a crime and a solution by a detective.

myth

Applies particularly to a story connected with the religion of a primitive civilization. Usually about gods or superhuman beings and are invented to explain certain beliefs or some aspect of nature.

narrative

The story or account itself.

narration

The telling of a story.

narrator

The person telling the story.

objective (language, tone, etc.)

Not about the thoughts of the speaker or writer; giving the facts as they are without bias.

objective point of view

The narrator knows only what can be heard and seen from outside the characters' thoughts and emotions.

octave

An eight line stanza.

ode

A lyric poem of some length, serious in subject and dignified in style.

omniscient point of view

God-like scope; able to enter the mind of any character at any time to reveal his thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

onomatopoeia

The use of words which sound like what they mean.

oxymoron

Two contradictory words placed side by side for emphasis (ex. jumbo shrimp).

paradox

A statement in which there is an apparent contradiction which is actually true.

parallelism

A repetition of sentences using the same structure.

parody

A work designed to ridicule the style and substance of another literary work.

passive voice

The subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed.

pastoral

A literary work that has to do with shepherds and rustic settings.

pathos

Occurs when the audience experiences the emotions of pity, tenderness, or sorrow.

personal essay

A first person narrative.

personification

Giving human characteristics to an animal, object, or idea.

persuasive essay

An essay designed to convince a reader of a writer's point of view.

persuasive technique

Strategies employed (such as emotional appeal or bias) to convince a reader of a writer's point of view.

plot

The story line or organization of incidents in a story. Consists of episodes and conflict, usually has a rising and falling action.

point of view

Who tells the story and how the story gets told.

pro and con argument

Expressing arguments that are both for and against a position.

prologue

An introductory speech or written passage at the start of a work of literature.

propaganda

Biased writing with extreme examples meant to sway an audience to a certain POV.

protagonist

The main character.

proverb

A phrase, describing an example of a basic truth that is transferred to common situations.

See More

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