AP English Glossary of Literary Terms

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Abstract Diction

Words that express general ideas or concepts. (metaphorically diction: light means wisdom, light means truth.

Allusion

a reference in work of literature to something outside the work, especially to a well-known historical or literary event, person, or work.

Oxymoron

Two words back to back that mean opposite things. Pretty Ugly, or wise fool

Paradox

A truth within a seemingly contradictory statement. Examples: War is Peace, Doublethink

Anthropomorphism

It's a very human personification. Giving things that shouldn't be human, human abilities. Examples: Spongebob eating hamburgers and talking.

Epithet

A nickname associated with a certain character. Dog is man's best friend. Calling the creature demon or wretch.

denouement

falling action

quatrain

a poem consisting of four lines of verse with a specific rhyming scheme.

antithesis

a figure of speech characterized by strongly contrasting words, clauses, sentences, or ideas, as in "Man proposes; God disposes." balancing one term against another for emphasis.

apostrophe

a figure of speech in which someone, some abstract quality, or a nonexistent personage is directly addressed as though present.

assonance

the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds.

ballad meter

a four-line stanza rhymed abcd with four feet in lines one and three and three feet in lines two and four.

blank verse

unrhymed iambic pentameter

caesura

a pause, usually near the middle of a line of verse, usually indicated by the sense of the line, and often greater than the normal pause.

conceit

an unusual or startling analogy pointing to a striking parallel between two seemingly dissimilar things. comparing his soul and his wife's to legs of a mathematical compass.

couplet

a two-line stanza, usually with end-rhymes the same.

devices of sound

rhyme, alliteration, assonance, consonance, and onomatopoeia. The techniques of deploying the sound of words, especially in poetry.

diction

the use of words in a literary work. (colloquial is everyday usage in a group)

didactic poem

a poem which is intended primarily to teach a lesson.

dramatic poem

a poem which employs a dramatic form or some element or elements of dramatic techniques as a means of achieving poetic ends.

elegy

a sustained and formal poem setting for the poet's meditations upon death or another solemn theme.

end-stopped

a line with a pause at the end. Lines that end with a period, a comma, a colon, a semicolon, an exclamation point, or a question mark.

enjambment

the continuation of the sense and grammatical construction from one line of poetry to the next.
"Or if Sion hill
Delight thee more"

extended metaphor

an implied analogy, or comparison, which is carried throughout a stanza or an entire poem.

eye rhyme

rhyme that appears correct from spelling, but is half-rhyme or slant rhyme from the pronunciation. (watch and match, love and move)

feminine rhyme

a rhyme of two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed, sometimes called double rhyme. "audition and rendition"

free verse

poetry which is not written in a traditional meter but is still rhythmical.

heroic couplet

two end-stopped iambic pentameter lines rhymed aa, bb, cc with the thought usually completed in the two-line unit. "But when to mischief mortals bend their will,
How soon they find fit instruments of ill!"

hyperbole

a deliberate, extravagant, and often outrageous exaggeration.

imagery

the sensory details of a work. When AP asks you to discuss this, look carefully at sensory details, metaphors, and similes.

internal rhyme

rhyme that occurs within a line, rather than at the end.

lyric poem

any short poem that presents a single speaker who expresses thoughts and feelings. (sonnets and odes are a form of this)

masculine rhyme

rhyme that falls on the stressed and concluding syllables of the rhyme-words. (keep and sleep) (glow and no)

meter

the repetition of a regular rhythmic unit in a line of poetry. each unit of ____ is known as a foot.

metonymy

a figure of speech which is characterized by the substitution of a term naming an object closely associated with the word in mind for the word itself. The kind is the "crown"

narrative poem

a non-dramatic poem which tells a story or presents a narrative, whether simple or complex, long or short. (epics and ballads are a form of this)

octave

an eight-line stanza. commonly refers to the first division of an Italian sonnet.

parallelism

a similar grammatical structure within a line or lines of poetry. You need to work quickly and decisively. My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country

paraphrase

a restatement of an idea in such a way as to retain the meaning while changing the diction and form.

poetic foot

a group of syllables in verse usually consisting of one accented syllable and one or two unaccented syllables associated with it.

refrain

a group of words forming a phrase or sentence and consisting of one or more lines repeated at intervals in a poem, usually at the end of a stanza.

rhyme royal

a seven-line stanza of iambic pentameter rhymed ababbcc.

rhythm

the recurrence of stressed and unstressed syllables.

sarcasm

a type of irony in which a person appears to be praising something but is actually insulting it. Its purpose is to injure or to hurt.

satire

writing that seeks to arouse a reader's disapproval of an object by ridicule. usually a comedy that exposes erros with an eye to correct vice and folly.

scansion

a system for describing the meter of a poem by identifying the number and the types of feet per line.

sestet

a six-line stanza. commonly referred to as the second division of an Italian sonnet.

sonnet

normally a fourteen-line iambic pentameter poem.

stanza

usually a repeated grouping of three or more lines with the same meter and rhyme scheme.

strategy

the management of language for a special effect. The planned placing of elements to achieve an effect. also known as rhetorical ________.

structure

the arrangement of materials within a work; the relationship of the parts of a work to the whole; the logical divisions of a work.

style

the mode of expression in language of an author.

symbol

something that is simultaneously itself and a sign of something else.

synecdoche

a form of metaphor which in mentioning a part signifies the whole. "field hands" for manual laborers.

tercet

a stanza of three lines in which each line ends with the same rhyme.

terza rima

a three-line stanza rhymed aba, bcb, cdc.

tone

the manner in which an author expresses his or her attitude; the intonation of the voice that expresses meaning. the result of allusion, diction, figurative language, imagery, irony, symbol, syntax, and style.

understatement

the kind of irony that deliberately represents something as being much less than it really is.

villanelle

a nineteen-line poem divided into five tercets and a final quatrain. uses only two rhymes repeated as: aba, aba, aba,aba,aba,abaa

Aphorism

A short, pithy and instructive statement of truth. Same thing as a Maxim.

Catastrophe

The concluding action of a drama, especially a classical tragedy, following the climax and containing a resolution of the plot.

Chiasm

A literary structure used by Homer and other writers, including some Biblical authors, in which parallel ideas are first stated in one order, and then repeated in reverse order.

Climax

The decisive moment and the turning point of the action in the plot of a play or story. The part which determines the outcome of the conflict.

Conflict

The struggle between opposing forces that provide the central action and interest in any literary plot.

Connotation

A literary device: a suggested, implied or evocative meaning.

Deconstruction

A movement in literary criticism which denies that literature has any objective enduring, or universal meaning. disassembling old ways of thinking (political motives)

Denotation

The author uses literal meaning of a word to emphasize a specific or important fact.

Deus ex machina

When authors throw in a random solution to the character's problem.

Digression

A literary device in which the author creates a temporary departure from the main subject or narrative in order to focus on a related matter.

Double-entendre

double-meaning, especially when the second is impolite.

Essay

a short work of nonfiction prose in which a writer attempts to fulfill a specific purpose.

Frame Story

The literary device of creating a larger story for the purpose of combining a number of shorter stories in a unity.

Hyperbole

Exaggeration for effect.

Interpretation

The general explanation of the meaning of a literary work.

Malapropism

A comic misuse of common words.

Modernism

A literary movement in the early 20th century which prided itself on its novelty in breaking away from the established rules and traditions.

Mood

That atmosphere of a literary work with the intention of evoking a certain emotion from the audience. may be created by setting, voice, tone, and theme.

Motif

One of the key ideas which contributes to the main Theme of a literary work.

Parody

A literary technique which imitates and ridicules another author or genre.

Post Modernism

A term used for the pessimistic, contemporary worldview which began in the 1960's, rejecting tradition, resisting authority, and denying purpose in life and literature. Postmodern literature tends to focus upon how institutions use power to deny individuals their freedom.

Prose

The ordinary use of language, without rhythm, meter, or rhyme. not poetry.

Soliloquy

An extended speech in which a lone character expresses his or her thoughts

Voice

An author's distinctive literary style, basic vision, and general attitude toward the world.

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