AP Lit Terms

Any widely accepted literary device, style, or form; eg. A soliloquy.
An author's personal use of diction, ace tense structure, rhythm, figures of speech, rhetorical principles, and other elements of composition. It reflects the author's personality and suits the author's purpose of writing. It may be classified according to period: Metaphysical, Augustan, Georgian; individual authors: Chaucerian; different level: grand, middle, low, plain; or language: Scientific, poetic, journalistic; etc.
The selection and arrangement of words in a literary work; either or both may vary depending on the desired effect. There are four main types: formal, informal, colloquial (everyday speech), and slang.
Language used or understood only by a select group; eg: the terminology in a specific profession.
A word construction or verbal expression that cannot be explained using the literal meaning. Eg: "how come" instead of "why" - "a piece of cake" to describe a task that is easily done.
Figurative Language
The opposite of literal language. Examples include hyperbole, irony, simile, metaphors, and apostrophe.
Literal Language
A type of diction in which every word is truthful, accurate, and free of exaggeration or embellishment.
A category of literary work, which may refer to the content (tragedy, comedy, pastoral), the form (poetry, novel, or drama) or type of popular literature (science fiction, detective, etc).
The time period, place, and historical milieu, as well as the social, political, and spiritual environment in a literary work.
A manner of thinking characteristics of an individual, group, or culture.
The deliberate repetition of internal vowel sounds to create rhythm, mood, and emphasis on certain words. "Tide" and "Hide" are rhymes; "Tide" and "Mine" are an example of [this literary term].
The repetition of the same or similar beginning consonance sounds in two or more words that are close together. This creates a musical effect, establishes mood, and helps us remember.
This often occurs in poetry; describes words that have similar consonant sounds but have vowel sounds that differ, as with "stuff" and "off", or "The curfew tolls the knells of parting day." (Known as 'half rhyme' or 'slant rhyme' when it occurs at the end of lines).
A combination of harsh, jarring, or discordant sounds within the language of a literary work (and is especially found in poetry). Such combinations may be accidental or intentional but always result in a particular effect on the reader.
A combination of pleasant or mellifluous sounds in the language of a literary work; the opposite of a cacophony.
The invention or use of a word whose sound echoes or suggests it's own meaning. (A "sound").
End-stopped line (poetry)
(In poetry), a line of verse that ends with a grammatical break such as a comma, colon, semi-colon, or full-stop, etc; the opposite of an enjambment.
Enjambment (poetry)
(In poetry), the breaking of a syntactic unit (a phrase, clause, or sentence) by the end of a line or between two verses. E.g: "...the clean-cut, airtight / lies that laid out our lives..."
Caesura (poetry)
(In poetry), an audible pause that breaks up a line of verse; it can be indicated using punctuation, or it can occur naturally in speech or rhythms.
The natural rhythm of language caused by the alternation of accented and unaccented syllables. Much modern poetry deliberately manipulates this natural flow to create complex rhythmic effects.
A regular pattern of sound, time intervals, or events occurring in writing, most often and most discernibly in poetry. Authors use it and manipulate it to produce a desired reaction in the reader.
Perfect / Exact Rhyme (poetry)
(In poetry), occurs when differing consonant sounds precede identically stressed vowel-sounds. E.g: foe - toe; meet - fleet; buffer - rougher; fix - sticks.
Slant / Half / Near Rhyme (poetry)
(In poetry), occurs when only the final consonant sounds of the rhyming words are identical (also called Consonance). E.g: soul - oil; firth - forth; trolley - bully.
Eye rhyme (poetry)
(In poetry), is not a real rhyme, but the syntax makes it look like a rhyme. E.g: Cough - Bough - Rough
End rhyme (poetry)
(In poetry), describes rhyme that occurs at the end of a line / lines.
Internal rhyme (poetry)
(In poetry), a rhyme that occurs within a single line of verse. E.g: "each narrow cell in which we dwell / ... "
Masculine rhyme (poetry)
(In poetry), occurs when the rhyming sound falls in a single accented syllable, as with "heat" and "eat".
Feminine rhyme (poetry)
(In poetry), a rhyme of two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed, as in "merry" and "tarry".
Terza rima (poetry)
(in poetry), an interlocking three-line rhyme scheme: aba, bcb, cdc, ded, and so on. Dante's "Divine Comedy" and Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" are written with this.
Stanza (poetry)
(In poetry): a group of lines.
Couplet (poetry)
(In poetry): a stanza of two lines, usually also with end rhyme.
Heroic Couplet (poetry)
(In poetry): a rhyming couplet written in Iambic Pentameter (a line with five Iambic Feet).
Tercet (poetry)
(In poetry): a three-line stanza, usually with one rhyme.
Quatrain (poetry)
(In poetry): a four-lined stanza.
Cinquain (poetry)
(In poetry): a five-lined stanza.
Sestet (poetry)
(In poetry): a six-lined stanza.
Heptastich (poetry)
(In poetry): a seven-lined stanza.
Octave (poetry)
(In poetry): an eight-lined stanza.
A comparison made to explain something unfamiliar through similarity to something familiar, or to prove one point based on the acceptance of another. Metaphor and simile are types of this.
A comparison of two things using "like" or "as".
A figure of speech using implied comparison of seemingly unlike things.
A clever and fanciful metaphor, usually expressed through elaborate and extended comparison, that presents a striking parallel between two seemingly dissimilar things - e.g: elaborately comparing beautiful women to an object such as a garden or a sun. This was a popular device throughout the Elizabethan and Baroque Ages and was a principal technique of the 17th century English metaphysical poets.
A cross-sensory metaphor; for example, a 'deafening yellow'.
A figure of speech that presents a kind of metaphor in which:
-a part of something is used for the whole
-the whole is used for a part
-the species is used for the genus OR the genus is used for the species
-The "stuff" in which something is made of is used for the "thing".
Very similar to, and easily confused with Metonymy.
A type of metaphor in which the name of one object is substituted for that of another closely associated with it (e.g: "the White House" for the President). Very similar to, and easily confused with Synecdoche.
The process by which an author creates believable characters through (1) direct descriptions of characters by the narrator, (2)the direct presentation of the speech, thoughts, and actions of each character, and (3) how other characters react to the other(s).
Static Character
A type of character that does not undergo any real or important changes throughout a work of literature.
Flat Character
A type of character who is not psychologically complex. Some flat characters are also Stock Characters.
Stock Character
A type of character that embodies one or two stereotypical qualities, ideas, or traits that can be described in brief summary. These characters become 'types' more than they are 'individuals'.
Foil Character
A type of character that is used to contrast with those of another character, therefore highlighting each character's distinct temperament.
Allegorical Character
A type of character that has a symbolic role beyond their literal function in the work. The name of one of these characters often hints at what they represent.
Dynamic Character
A type of character that undergoes many important changes (changes in values, emotions, insight, understanding, commitment, etc.) throughout a work of literature.
Round Character
A type of character that is complex and displays inconsistencies and many internal conflicts that can be found in real people.
A protagonist that lacks the traditional attributes of a hero. This character may be bewildered, ineffectual, deluded, or merely pathetic. These types of characters are often outcasts.
Doppleganger (also known as The Double)
A "duplicate" character, usually in the form of an alter ego, though sometimes as ghosts or counterparts)
A character divided into two distinct, usually opposite, personalities.
Freytag's Pyramid
Explication, complication, climax, turning point/reversal, and resolution/catastrophe. Originally designed to describe the structure of a five-act drama.
A device that allows the writer to present events that happened before the time of the current events in fiction. Techniques include memories, dreams, stories of the past, or even authorial sovereignty.
A device that hints of future events or plot points in a work of literature.
A secondary story in a narrative which may serve as a motivating or complicating force for the main plot of the work, or it may provide emphasis (or relief from) the main plot.
Parallel Plot
A secondary plot or story line that mimics and reinforces the main plot.