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AP Literary Terms

Aesthetics

"Philosophical investigation into the nature of beauty and the perception of beauty especially in the arts; the theory of art or artistic taste."""

Allegory

"A story or visual image with a second distinct meaning partially hidden behind its literal or visible meaning. In written narrative _____ involves a continuous parallel between two (or more) levels of meaning in a story so that its persons and events correspond to their equivalents in a system of ideas or a chain of events external to the tale."""

Allusion

An indirect or passing reference to some event person place or artistic work the nature and relevance of which is not explained by the writer but relies on the reader's familiarity with what is thus mentioned.

Ambiguity

-A statement which can contain two or more meanings. For example when the oracle at Delphi told Croesus that if he waged war on Cyrus he would destroy a great empire Croesus thought the oracle meant his enemy's empire. In fact the empire Croesus destro

Analogy

-A resemblance of relations; an agreement or likeness between things in some circumstances or effects when the things are otherwise entirely different.

Anaphora

"-repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases clauses or sentences. ""We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France"

Anecdote

"-A very short tale told by a character in a literary work. In Chaucer's ""Canterbury Tales"" ""The Miller's Tale"" and ""The Carpenter's Tale"" are examples."

Antagonist

the character, force, or collection of forces in fiction or drama that opposes the protagonist and gives rise to the conflict of the story

Anti-hero

a protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero. [A character who] may be bewildered ineffectual deluded or merely pathetic.

Aphorism

"A brief statement which expresses an observation on life usually intended as a wise observation. Benjamin Franklin's ""Poor Richard's Almanac"" contains numerous examples one of which is Drive thy business; let it not drive thee."

Apostrophe

A figure of speech wherein the speaker speaks directly to something nonhuman

Archetype

a term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader. In literature characters images and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human experiences

Aside

A device in which a character in a drama makes a short speech which is heard by the audience but not by other characters in the play

Asyndeton

The omission of a conjunction from a list ('chips beans peas vinegar salt pepper')

Canon

a Greek word that implies rule or law and is used in literature as the source which regulates which selection of authors or works would be considered important pieces of literature.

Catharsis

"Meaning ""purgation"" _____ describes the release of the emotions of pity and fear by the audience at the end of a tragedy. In his Poetics Aristotle discusses the importance of ______. The audience faces the misfortunes of the protagonist which elicit pity and compassion. Simultaneously the audience also confronts the failure of the protagonist thus receiving a frightening reminder of human limitations and frailties."

Chiasmus

A term from classical rhetoric that describes a situation in which you introduce subjects in the order A B and C and then talk about them in the order C B and A.

Climax

The decisive moment in a drama the ______ is the turning point of the play to which the rising action leads. This is the crucial part of the drama the part which determines the outcome of the conflict.

Colloquialism

spoken or written communication that seeks to imitate informal speech

Comedy

A literary work which is amusing and ends happily. Modern ______ tend to be funny while Shakespearean _____ simply end well.

Conceit

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

Connotation

The emotional implications and associations that words may carry as distinguished from their denotative meanings

Denotation

The basic dictionary meaning of a word as opposed to its connotative meaning

Deus Ex Machina

"An unrealistic or unexpected intervention to rescue the protagonists or resolve the conflict. The term means ""The god out of the machine"" and refers to stage machinery."

Diction

An author's choice of words. Since words have specific meanings and since one's choice of words can affect feelings a writer's choice of words can have great impact in a literary work.

Didactic

"A work ""designed to impart information advice or some doctrine of morality or philosophy."""

Dystopia

see utopia

Epigraph

A brief quotation which appears at the beginning of a literary work.

Epigram

A pithy sometimes satiric couplet or quatrain which was popular in classic Latin literature and in European and English literature of the Renaissance and the neo-Classical era.

Epithet

In literature a word of phrase preceding or following a name which serves to describe the character. For example in the Iliad: Zeus-loved Achilles

Exegesis

"Critical interpretation of a text especially a biblical text; from the Greek ex- + egeisthai meaning ""to lead out."

Farce

A type of comedy based on a humorous situation such as a bank robber who mistakenly wanders into a police station to hide. It is the situation here which provides the humor not the cleverness of plot or lines

Formalism

strict observance of the established rules traditions and methods employed in the arts. _____ can also refer to the theory of art that relies heavily on the organization of forms in a work rather than on the content.

Framing Device

A story in which one or more other stories are told. Examples include the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales and the play at the beginning of the Taming of the Shrew.

Genre

A literary _____ is a recognizable and established category of written work employing such common conventions as will prevent readers or audiences from mistaking it [with] another kind

Gothic

characterized by gloom and mystery and the grotesque; gothic novels include Frankenstein

Homily

An inspirational saying or platitude.

Hubris

a common theme in Greek tragedies and mythology whose stories often featured protagonists suffering from hubris and subsequently being punished by the gods for it.

Hyperbole

A figure of speech in which an overstatement or exaggeration is used for deliberate effect

Idiom

A specialized vocabulary used by a group of people; jargon or A style or manner of expression peculiar to a given people

Imagery

the collection of images within a literary work. Used to evoke atmosphere mood tension. For example images of crowded steaming sidewalks flanking streets choked with lines of shimmering smoking cars suggests oppressive heat and all the psychological tensions that go with it.

In Media Res

in or into the middle of a sequence of events as in a literary narrative

Intentional Fallacy

assuming from the text what the author intended to mean

Interpolation

A passage included in an author's work without his/her consent

Intertextuality

_____is thus a way of accounting for the role of literary and extra-literary materials without recourse to traditional notions of authorship. A literary work then is not simply the product of a single author but of its relationship to other texts and to the strucutures of language itself.

Inversion

reversal of the normal order of words for dramatic effect

Irony

A device that depends on the existence of at least two separate and contrasting levels of meaning embedded in one message. Verbal irony is sarcasm when the speaker says something other than what they really mean. In dramatic irony the audience is more aware than the characters in a work. Situational irony occurs when the opposite of what is expected happens. This type of irony often emphasizes that people are caught in forces beyond their comprehension and control.

Magical Realism

" a literary technique where the disbelief of the reader and writer produces a momentary shift in the real world wherein an element of the surreal enters and leaves with ease."""

Malapropism

"is an incorrect usage of a word usually with comic effect. ""He is the very pineapple of politeness."""

Metaphor

a type of figurative language in which a statement is made that says that one thing is something else but literally it is not. In connecting one object event or place to another a _____ can uncover new and intriguing qualities of the original thing that we may not normally notice or even consider important. _____ language is used in order to realize a new and different meaning.

Metonymy

A figure of speech in which a word represents something else which it suggests. For example in a herd of fifty cows the herd might be referred to as fifty head of cattle

Minimalism

a style of art in which objects are stripped down to their elemental geometric form and presented in an impersonal manner. In literature _____ use short descriptions and simple sentences.

Monologue

thoughts of a single person directed outward.

Motif

A recurrent image word phrase represented object or action that tends to unify the literary work or that may be elaborated into a more general theme

Naturalism

The term naturalism describes a type of literature that attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human beings. Unlike realism which focuses on literary technique naturalism implies a philosophical position

Nemesis

a villain who has a particular interest in defeating a hero or group of heroes and who is often of particular interest to the hero(es) in return.

Oxymoron

A combination of contradictory terms like compassionate conservative.

Parallelism

the repetition of words phrases sentences that have the same grammatical structure or that restate a similar idea. Restatement is repetition of an entire idea in different words. Structuralism Parallelism is the repetition of a word or entire sentence pattern. Antithesis is connecting ideas that are opposite rather than similar.

Parable

a brief and often simple narrative that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. Some of the best-known are in the Bible where Jesus uses them to teach his disciples.

Pathetic Fallacy

The attribution of human emotions or characteristics to inanimate objects or to nature; for example angry clouds; a cruel wind.

Parody

a literary form in which the style of an author or particular work is mocked in its style for the sake of comic effect

Pastoral

Of relating to or being a literary or other artistic work that portrays or evokes rural life usually in an idealized way.

Persona

In literature the is the narrator or the storyteller of a literary work created by the author. As Literature: An Introduction to Fiction Poetry and Drama puts it the persona is not the author but the author's creation--the voice "through which the author speaks."

Personification

"A figure of speech where animals ideas or inorganic objects are given human characteristics. One example of this is James Stephens's poem ""The Wind"" in which wind preforms several actions. In the poem Stephens writes "The wind stood up and gave a shout. He whistled on his two fingers.""

Point of View

"a way the events of a story are conveyed to the reader it is the "vantage point" from which the narrative is passed from author to the reader. In the omniscient point of view the person telling the story or narrator knows everything that's going on in the story. In the first- person point of view the narrator is a character in the story. Using the pronoun ""I"" the anrrator tells us his or her own experiences but cannot reveal with certainty any other character's private thoughts. In the limited third-person point of view the narrator is outside the story- like an omniscient narrator- but tells the story from the vantage point of one character."

Polemic

A controversial argument especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine.

Protagonist

the central character of a literary work

Realism

"Broadly defined as ""the faithful representation of reality"" or ""verisimilitude"" _____is a literary technique practiced by many schools of writing. Although strictly speaking realism is a technique it also denotes a particular kind of subject matter especially the representation of middle-class life."

Rhetoric

The art of persuasive argument through writing or speech--the art of eloquence and charismatic language.

Roman a Clef

a novel in which actual persons and events are disguised as fictional characters

Romance

The mythos of literature concerned primarily with an idealized world. A form of prose fiction practised by Scott Hawthorne William Morris etc. distinguishable from the novel.

Romanticism

______ which was a reaction to the classicism of the early 18th century favored feeling over reason and placed great emphasis on the subjective or personal experience of the individual. Nature was also a major theme.

Satire

A literary work which exposes and ridicules human vices or folly. Historically perceived as tending toward didacticism it is usually intended as a moral criticism directed against the injustice of social wrongs.

Scansion

The analysis of a poem's meter. This is usually done by marking the stressed and unstressed syllables in each line and then based on the pattern of the stresses dividing the line into feet.

Semantics

the study of the meaning of language as opposed to its form

Semiotics

theories regarding symbolism and how people glean meaning from words sounds and pictures.

Stock Character

a fictional character that relies heavily on cultural types or stereotypes for its personality manner of speech and other characteristics. Stock characters are instantly recognizable to members of a given culture.

Stream of Consciousness

technique that records the multifarious thoughts and feelings of a character without regard to logical argument or narrative sequence. The writer attempts by the _______ to reflect all the forces external and internal influencing the psychology of a character at a single moment.

Subtext

the hidden meaning lying behind the overt.

Synecdoche

A figure of speech in which a part of something stands for the whole or the whole for a part as wheels for automobile or society for high society.

Syntax

The way in which linguistic elements (words and phrases) are arranged to form grammatical structure.

Soliloquy

A dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character talks to himself or herself or reveals his or her thoughts without addressing a listener.

Tone

the writer's attitude toward the material and/or readers. ____ may be playful formal intimate angry serious ironic outraged baffled tender serene depressed or combinations

Theme

(1) the abstract concept explored in a literary work; (2) frequently recurring ideas such as enjoy-life while-you-can; (3) repetition of a meaningful element in a work such as references to sight vision and blindness in Oedipus Rex.

Tragedy

A serious play in which the chief figures by some peculiarity of character pass through a series of misfortunes leading to a final devastating catastrophe.

Tragic Flaw

(hamartia)-the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall)

Trope

The intentional use of a word or expression figuratively i.e. used in a different sense from its original significance in order to give vividness or emphasis to an idea. Some important types of____ are: antonomasia irony metaphor metonymy and synecdoche.

Utopia/Dystopia

a ____ is an imaginary and indefinitely remote place of ideal perfection especially in laws government and social conditions. A ______ is an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives; an imaginary place or state where everything is as bad as it possibly can be: or a description of such a place.

Vernacular

the everyday speech of the people (as distinguished from literary language)

Vignette

a small illustrative sketch

Voice

in writing a metaphor drawn from the spoken encompassing the writer's tone style and manner.

Litotes

a figure of speech by which an affirmation is made indirectly by denying its opposite, usually with an effect of understatement: common examples are no mean feat and not averse to a drink. This figure is not uncommon in all kinds of writing.

bildungsroman

A "coming of age" novel

cacophony

An unpleasant sound

consonance

the repetition of consonant sounds within words (not beginning)

epistolary novel

a novel written as a series of letters

fabliau

a "dirty story", such as Chaucer's The Miller's Tale

foil

a secondary character whose purpose is to highlight the characteristics of a main character, usually by contrast

Horatian satire

Satire that pokes fun in a gentle or comical way

Juvenalian satire

Satire that is bitter or biting

juxtaposition

the deliberate positioning of two elements (words, ideas, etc.) in order to emphasize the relationship between the two

dynamic character

A character who grows, learns, or changes as a result of the story's action

static character

A character who does not change during the story.

flat character

a character who is not very well developed; has few identifiable characteristics

round character

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

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