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a list of common ap literary terms for students

Alliteration

the repetition of initial identical consonant sounds or iny vowel sound in successive or closely associated syllables. Ex: fair breeze blew, the white foam flew...

allusion

a reference to another work of literature, person, or event

ambiguity

unclearness by virtue of having more than one meaning

anapest

a metrical unit with unstressed-unstressed-stressed syllables

anecdote

short story of an amusing or interesting event

antagonist

the character who works against the protagonist in the story

antithesis

a statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced

argument

a summary of the subject or plot of a literary work or play or movie

assonance

the repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words

atmosphere

The emotional feeling -or mood- of a place, scene, or event

ballad

a type of poem that is meant to be sung and is both lyric and narrative in nature

blank verse

unrhymed verse (usually in iambic pentameter)

cadence

rhythmic rise and fall (of words or sounds); beat; regular beat of sound; rhythm

characterization

achieved through description, thoughts, words, actions, and reactions of characters

climax

Most exciting moment of the story; turning point

conceit

A far-fetched simile or metaphor a literary _____occurs when the speaker compares two highly dissimilar things.

conflict

opposition between or among characters or forces in a literary work that spurs or motivates the action of a plot (internal, external; person vs. person, self, nature, society)

connotation

suggested or implied meaning of an expression

couplet

a stanza consisting of two successive lines of verse

diction

A writer's or speaker's choice of words

end rhyme

Rhyme that occurs at the end of two or more lines of poetry

enjambment

the continuation of meaning, without pause or break, from one line of poetry to the next

epic

a long narrative poem telling of a hero's deeds

falling action

events after the climax, leading to the resolution

figurative language

Writing or speech that is used to create vivid impressions by setting up comparisons between dissimilar things, [examples are metaphor, simile, and personification.

flat character

a character who embodies a single quality and who does not develop in the course of a story

flashback

a scene or event from the past that appears in a narrative out of chronological order, to fill in information or explain something in the present

flashforward

Plot presentation moves forward to future events, then returns to the present.

foil

a character whose personality and attitude contrast sharply with those of another

foreshadowing

the use of hints and clues to suggest what will happen later in a plot

free verse

Poetry that does not have a regular meter or rhyme scheme

Freytag's pyramid

exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, reslolution

genre

type or category of literary work (e.g., poetry, essay, short story, novel, drama)

gothic novel

A novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terrors pervades the action

heroic couplet

a couplet consisting of two rhymed lines of iambic pentamenter and written in an elevated style

hyperbole

a figure of speech that uses exaggeration to express strong emotion, make a point, or evoke humor

iamb

a metrical unit with unstressed-stressed syllables

image

A concrete representation of a sense impression, a feeling, or an idea.

internal rhyme

rhyme between words that occurs within a single line of poetry

irony

incongruity or discrepancy between the implied and expected; verbal, dramatic, situational

italian sonnet

a sonnet consisting of an octave with the rhyme pattern abbaabba, followed by a sestet with the rhyme pattern cdecde or cdcdcd

metaphor

a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things without the use of such specific words of comparison as like, as, than, or resembles

mood

the overall emotion created by a work of literature

motif

a theme or idea in a work of art or literature that is developed or repeated

motivation

the reasons, justifications, explanations for a character's actions

narrative

consisting of or characterized by the telling of a story

ode

a poem usually addressed to a particular person, object, or event that has stimulated deep and noble feelings in the poet

onomatopoeia

using words that imitate the sound they denote

oxymoron

n. a figure of speech combining apparently contradictory terms, e.g., "darkness visible"

parallelism

phrases or sentences of a similar construction/meaning placed side by side, balancing each other

pentameter

a verse line having five metrical feet

personification

the act of attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas etc.

prologue

a speech, passage, or event coming before the main speech or event

protagonist

the principal character in a work of fiction

pun

a humorous play on words

quatrain

a stanza of four lines

stanza

a fixed number of lines of verse forming a unit of a poem

rhetorical question

a statement that is formulated as a question but that is not supposed to be answered

rhyme

be similar in sound, especially with respect to the last syllable

round character

this character is fully developed - the writer reveals good and bad traits as well as background

satire

form of literature in which irony, sarcasm, and ridicule are employed to attack human vice and folly

scansion

The process of marking lines of poetry to show the type of feet and the number of feet they contain

setting

The time and place of a story

slant rhyme

rhyme in which the vowel sounds are nearly, but not exactly the same (i.e. the words "stress" and "kiss"); sometimes called half-rhyme, near rhyme, or partial rhyme

sonnet

a verse form consisting of 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme

symbol

Anything that stands for or represents something else.

tone

the quality of something (an act or a piece of writing) that reveals the attitudes and presuppositions of the author

tragic flaw

the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall

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