Rhetorical Strategies & Literary Devices

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Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition


a story in which the narrative or characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical, or ethical meaning


the repetition or one or more initial consonants in a group of words or lines of poetry or prose


a reference to something literary, mythological, or historical that the author assumes the reader will recognize; creates and effect or enhances the meaning


a vagueness of meaning; a conscious lack of clarity meant to evoke multiple meanings of an idea


a person, scene, event, or other element in literature that fails to correspond with the time or era in which the work is set


a comparison that points out similarities between two dissimilar things


a character or force in a work of literature that, but opposing the protagonist produces tension or conflict


a statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced


a concise, statement that expresses succinctly a general truth or idea


a rhetorical device in which a speaker addresses a person or personified thing not present


an original model or form


repetition of similar vowel sounds, preceded and followed by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words


a simple narrative verse that tells a story that is sung or recited


the use of insincere or overdone sentimentality


a German word referring to a novel structured as a series of events that take place as the hero travels in quest of a goal

Blank verse

poetry written in iambic pentameter, the primary meter used in English poetry; it is "blank" because the lines generally do not rhyme


inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects


grating, inharmonious sounds


a pause somewhere in the middle of a verse, often (but not always) marked by punctuation


the works considered most important in a national literature or period; works widely read and studied


a cleansing of the spirit brought about by the pity and terror of a dramatic tragedy


the high point, or turning point, of a story or play


a fanciful, particularly clever thought often stated in figurative language


the implied or associative meaning of a word


the repetition of two or more consonant sounds in a group of words or a line of poetry


a pair of rhyming lines in a poem; two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter is called heroic couplet


the literal meaning of a word


the resolution that occurs at the end of a play or work of fiction


the word choices made by a writer

Dramatic irony

a circumstance in which the audience or reader knows more about a situation than a character


a poem or prose selection that laments or meditates on the passing or death of something or someone of value

End stopped

describes a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause often indicated by a mark of punctuation


in poetry, the use of successive lines with no punctuation or pause between them


pleasing, harmonious sounds


a mile or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term

Extended metaphor

a series of comparisons between tow unlike objects

Falling action

the action in a play or story that occurs after the climax and that leads to the conclusion and often to the resolution of the conflict


a comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose

Figurative language

language employing one or more figures of speech to imply meaning (simile, metaphor, personification,etc.)

First person narrative

a narrative told by a character involved in the story


a minor character whose personality or attitude contrasts with that of the main character; juxtaposing one character against another intensifies the qualities of both


a unit of stressed and unstressed syllables used to determine the meter of a poetic line


providing hints of things to come in a story or play


a structure that provides premise or setting for a narrative


excessive pride that often leads tragic heroes to their death


intentional exaggeration to create an effect


the use of language to create vivid images that appeal to the five senses (taste, touch, sound, smell, sight)


the use of words in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated; incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs (situational, verbal, dramatic)


the specialized language or vocabulary of a particular group or profession


placing two elements side by side to present a comparison or contrast


a form of understatement in which the negative of the contrary is used to achieve emphasis or intensity. (Ex. He is not a bad dancer.)

Lyric poetry

personal, reflective poetry that reveals the speaker's thoughts and feelings about the subject


a literary form in which events are exaggerated in order to create an extreme emotional response


a direct comparison of two unlike things


the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in poetry


a figure of speech that uses the name of one thing to represent something else with which it is associated


the emotional atmosphere of a work of literature


a phrase, idea, or event that through repetition serves to unify or convey a theme in a work of literature


a form of verse or prose that tells a story


a lyric poem usually marked by serious, respectful, and exalted feelings toward the subject

Omniscient narrator

a narrator with unlimited awareness, understanding, and insight of characters,setting, background, and all other elements of the story


the use of words whose sounds suggest their meaning (Ex. bubbling, murmuring brooks)


a term consisting of contradictory element juxtaposed to create a paradoxical effect (Ex. loud silence, jumbo shrimp)


an apparently contradictory statement that actually contains some truth


an imitation of a work meant to ridicule its style and subject


the quality in a work that prompts the reader to experience emotions such as pity or sorry


a verse with five poetic feet per line


endowing non-human objects or creatures with human qualities or characteristics


the interrelationship among the events in a story; the plot line is the pattern of events

Point of view

the relation in which a narrator or speaker stands to the story or subject matter of a poem; a story told in the first person has an internal point of view; an observer uses an external point of view


the grammar of meter and rhythm in poetry


the main character in a work of literature


a humorous play on words, using similar- sounding or identical words to suggest different meanings


a four-line poem or a four-line unit of a longer poem


the language of a work and its style; words, often highly emotional, used to convince or sway an audience


the repetition of similar sounds at regular intervals, used mostly in poetry

Rhyme scheme

the pattern of rhymes within a given poem


the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that make up a line of poetry


a literary style used to poke fun at, attack or ridicule and idea, vice, or foible, often for the purpose of inducing change


the total environment for the action in a novel or play; includes time, place, historical milieu, and social, political, and even spiritual circumstances


a comparison of two things using "like," "as," or other specifically comparative words


a form of verse consisting of fourteen lines and a prescribed rhyme scheme


a group of two or more lines in poetry combined according to subject matter, rhyme, or some other plan

Stream of Consciousness

a style of writing in which the author tries to reproduce the random flow of thoughts in the human mind


the arrangement or framework of a sentence, paragraph, essay, or entire work


the manner in which an author uses and arranges words, shapes, ideas, forms sentences, and creates a structure to convey ideas


a subordinate or minor collection of events in a novel or play, usually connected to the main plot


the use of one object to evoke ideas and associations not literally part of the original object


a figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole or the whole signifies the part


the manner in which words are arranged in sentences


a central idea of a work; the writer's perspective/view about the topic; often an abstract idea upon which a work of literature is built


the attitude of a writer, usually implied, toward the subject or audience; emotion that pervades a work of a part of a work


a form of literature in which the hero is destroyed by some character flaw and a set of forces that cause the hero considerable anguish

Verbal irony

a discrepancy between the true meaning of a situation and the literal meaning of the written or spoken words


a synonym for poetry; also a group of lines in a song or poem; also a line of poetry


the real or assumed personality used by a writer

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