AP English Literature and Composition; Perrine Terms ~ General

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Allegory

a narrative or description having a second meaning beneath the surface one.

Allusion

a reference, explicit or implicit, to something in previous literature or history. (The term is reserved by some writers for implicit references only, such as those in "On His Blindness," and "In the Garden," but the distinction between the two kinds of reference is not always clear-cut.)

Antagonist

any force in a story that is in conflict with the protagonist. An antagonist may be another person, an aspect of the physical or social environment, or a destructive element in the protagonist's own nature.

Apostrophe

a figure of speech in which someone absent or dead or something nonhuman is addressed as if it were alive and present and could reply.

Artistic unity

that condition of a successful literary work whereby all its elements work together for the achievement of its central purpose. In an artistically unified work nothing is included that is irrelevant to the central purpose, nothing is omitted that is essential to it, and the parts are arranged in the most effective order for the achievement of that purpose.

Aside

a brief speech in which a character turns from the person being addressed to speak directly to the audience; a dramatic device for letting the audience know what a character is really thinking or feeling as opposed to what the character pretends to think or feel.

Blank verse

unrimed iambic pentameter.

Cacophony

a harsh, discordant, unpleasant-sounding choice and arrangement of sounds.

Catharsis

a term used by Aristotle to describe some sort of emotional release experienced by the audience at the end of a successful tragedy.

Chance

the occurrence of an event that has no apparent cause in antecedent events or in predisposition of character.

Character

(1) Any of the persons involved in a story or play. (2) The distinguishing moral qualities and personal traits of a character.

Chorus

a group of actors speaking or chanting in unison, often while going through the steps of an elaborate formalized dance; a characteristic device of Greek drama for conveying communal or group emotion.

Climax

the turning point or high point in a plot.

Coincidence

the chance concurrence of two events having a peculiar correspondence between them.

Comedy

a type of drama, opposed to tragedy, having usually a happy ending, and emphasizing human limitation rather than human greatness.

Commercial fiction

fiction written to meet the taste of a wide popular audience and relying usually on tested formulas for satisfying such taste.

Conflict

a clash of actions, desires, ideas, or goals in the plot of a story or drama. Conflict may exist between the main character and some other person or persons; between the main character and some external force - physical nature, society, or "fate"; or between the main character and some destructive element in his or her own nature.

Connotation

what a word suggests beyond its basic definition; a word's overtones of meaning.

Denotation

the basic definition or dictionary meaning of a word.

Denouement

that portion of a plot that reveals the final outcome of its conflicts or the solution of its mysteries.

Deus ex machina ("god from the machine")

the resolution of a plot by use of a highly improbably chance or coincidence (so named from the practice of some Greek dramatists of having a god descend from heaven at the last possible minute - in the theater by means of a stage machine - to rescue the protagonist from an impossible situation).

Developing (or dynamic) character

a character who during the course of a story undergoes a permanent change in some aspect of character or outlook.

Dilemma

a situation in which a character must choose between two courses of action, both undesirable.

Direct presentation of character

that method of characterization in which the author, by exposition or analysis, tells us directly what a character is like, or has someone else in the story do so.

Dramatic convention

any dramatic device which, though it departs from reality, is implicitly accepted by author and audience as a means of representing reality.

Dramatic exposition

the presentation through dialogue of information about events that occurred before the action of a play, or that occur offstage or between the staged actions; this may also refer to the presentation of information about individual characters' backgrounds or the general situation (political, historical, etc.) in which the action takes place.

Dramatic framework

the situation, whether actual or fictional, realistic or fanciful, in which an author places his or her characters in order to express the theme.

Dramatic irony

an incongruity or discrepancy between what a character says or thinks and what the reader knows to be true (or between what a character perceives and what the author intends the reader to perceive).

Dramatization

the presentation of character or of emotion through the speech or action of characters rather than through exposition, analysis, or description by the author.

Editorializing

writing that departs from the narrative or dramatic mode and instructs the reader how to think or feel about the events of a story or the behavior of a character.

Escape literature

literature written purely for entertainment, with little or no attempt to provide insights into the true nature of human life or behavior.

Euphony

a smooth, pleasant-sounding choice and arrangement of sounds.

Extended figure (also known as sustained figure)

a figure of speech (usually metaphor, simile, personification, or apostrophe) sustained or developed through a considerable number of lines or through a whole poem.

Falling action

that segment of the plot that comes between the climax and the conclusion.

Farce

a type of drama related to comedy but emphasizing improbable situations, violent conflicts, physical actions, and coarse wit over characterization or articulated plot.

Figurative language

language employing figures of speech; language that cannot be taken literally or only literally.

First person point of view

the story is told by one of its characters, using the first person.

Flat character

a character whose character is summed up in one or two traits.

Foil character

a minor character whose situation or actions parallel those of a major character, and thus by contrast sets off or illuminates the major character; most often the contrast is complimentary to the major character.

Form

the external pattern or shape of a poem, describable without reference to its content, as continuous form, stanzaic form, fixed form (and their varieties), free verse, and syllabic verse.

Happy ending

an ending in which events turn out well for a sympathetic protagonist.

Imagery

the representation through language of sense experience.

Indeterminate ending

an ending in which the central problem or conflict is left unresolved.

Indirect presentation of character

that method of characterization in which the author shows us a character in action, compelling us to infer what the character is like from what is said or done by the character.

Interpretive literature

literature that provides valid insights into the nature of human life or behavior.

Irony of situation

a situation in which there is an incongruity between appearance and reality, or between expectation and fulfillment, or between the actual situation and what would seem appropriate.

Irony

a situation, or a use of language, involving some kind of incongruity or discrepancy.

Limited omniscient point of view

the author tells the story, using the third person, but is limited to a complete knowledge of one character in the story and tells us only what that one character thinks, feels, sees, or hears.

Metaphor

a figure of speech in which an implicit comparison is made between two things essentially unlike. It may take one of four forms: (1) that in which the literal term and the figurative term are both named; (2) that in which the literal term is named and the figurative term implied; (3) that in which the literal term is implied and the figurative term named; (4) that in which both the literal and the figurative terms are implied.

Metonymy

a figure of speech in which some significant aspect or details of an experience is used to represent the whole experience. In this book the single term metonymy is used for what are sometimes distinguished as two separate figures: synecdoche (the use of the part for the whole) and metonymy (the use of something closely related for the thing actually meant).

Moral

a rule of conduct or maxim for living expressed or implied as the "point" of a literary work.

Motivation

the incentives or goals that, in combination with the inherent natures of characters, cause them to behave as they do. In poor fiction actions may be unmotivated, insufficiently motivated, or implausibly motivated.

Mystery

an unusual set of circumstances for which the reader craves an explanation; used to create suspense.

Narrator

in drama a character, found in some plays, who, speaking directly to the audience, introduces the action and provides a string of commentary between the dramatic scenes. The narrator may or may not be a major character in the action itself.

Objective (or dramatic) point of view

the author tells the story, using the third person, but is limited to reporting what the characters say or do; the author does not interpret their behavior or tell us their private thoughts or feelings.

Omniscient point of view

the author tells the story, using the third person, knowing all and free to tell us anything, including what the characters are thinking or feeling and why they act as they do.

Onomatopoeia

the use of words that supposedly mimic their meaning in their sound (for example, boom, click, plop).

Overstatement (hyperbole)

a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used in the service of truth.

Paradox

a statement or situation containing apparently contradictory or incompatible elements.

Personification

a figure of speech in which human attributes are given to an animal, an object, or a concept.

Playwright

a maker of plays.

Plot manipulation

a situation in which an author gives the plot a twist or turn unjustified by preceding action or by the characters involved.

Plot

the sequence of incidents or events of which a story is composed.

Point of view

the angle of vision from which a story is told.

Prose

non-metrical language; the opposite of verse.

Protagonist

the central character in a story.

Quality fiction

fiction that rejects tested formulas in an attempt to give a fresh interpretation of life.

Realistic drama

drama that attempts, in content and in presentation, to preserve the illusion of actual, everyday life.

Rising action

that development of plot in a story that precedes and leads up to the climax.

Round character

a character whose character is complex and many sided.

Sarcasm

bitter or cutting speech; speech intended by its speaker to give pain to the person addressed.

Satire

a kind of literature that ridicules human folly or vice with the purpose of bringing about reform or of keeping others from falling into similar folly or vice.

Setting

the context in time and place in which the action of a story occurs.

Simile

a figure of speech in which an explicit comparison is made between two things essentially unlike. The comparison is made explicit by the use of some such word or phrase as like, as, than, similar to, resembles, or seems.

Soliloquy

a speech in which a character, alone on the stage, addresses himself or herself; a solilo1uy is a "thinking out loud," a dramatic means of letting an audience know a character's thoughts and feelings.

Static character

a character who is the same sort of person at the end of a story as at the beginning.

Stock character

a stereotyped character: one whose nature is familiar to us from prototypes in previous literature.

Surprise ending

a completely unexpected revelation or turn of a plot at the conclusion of a story or play.

Surprise

an unexpected turn in the development of a plot.

Suspense

that quality in a story that makes the reader eager to discover what happens next and how it will end.

Symbol (literary)

something that means more than what it is; an object, person, situation, or action that in addition to its literal meaning suggests other meanings as well, a figure of speech which may be read both literally and figuratively.

Synecdoche

a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. In this book it is subsumed under the term metonymy.

Theme

the central idea of a literary work.

Tone

the writer's or speaker's attitude toward the subject, the audience, or herself or himself; the emotional coloring, or emotional meaning, of a work.

Tragedy

a type of drama, opposed to comedy, which depicts the causally related events that lead to the downfall and suffering of the protagonist, a person of unusual moral or intellectual stature or outstanding abilities.

Understatement

a figure of speech that consists of sayings less than one means, or of saying what one means with less force than the occasion warrants.

Unhappy ending

an ending that turns out unhappily for a sympathetic protagonist.

Verbal irony

a figure of speech in which what is said is the opposite of what is meant.

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