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Glossary from Leland Ryken's book; F - N


something within a work of literature that heightens or sets off a main element in the work. A foil is usually a contrast (either a character, event, or image), but sometimes it is parallel.

folk literature

literature couched in the language of everyday speech and appealing to the common person (also called popular literature)


a literary type or kind


a protagonist who is exemplary and representative of a whole community

hero story

a story built around the character and exploits of a protagonist who is exemplary and representative of a whole community (also called heroic narrative)

hybrid forms

Gospel stories that combine elements of one or more genres


a figure of speech in which a writer uses conscious exaggeration for the sake of effect, usually emotional effect


any concrete picture of reality or human experience, including any sensory experience, a setting, a character, or an event


the human capacity for image-making and image-perceiving


a situation in which the full meaning of a text depends on its interaction with another text (also called intertextual reading)


an incongruity or discrepancy. There are three main types of literary irony: dramatic, verbal, and situational.

verbal irony

when a writer states something but means exactly the opposite

situational irony

when a situation is the opposite of what is expected or appropriate


a short poem containing the thoughts or feelings of a speaker. The emotional quality, even more than the reflective is usually considered the differentia of lyric


a figure of speech in which the writer makes an implied comparison between two phenomena

miracle stories

Gospel narratives that focus on miracles that Jesus performed


the generalized, composite story that encompasses the whole body of literature in a single circular story


a discernible pattern composed of individual units, either in a single work or in literature generally. Roughly synonymous with "pattern".


a story; a series of events


the character or "voice" of the writer as it exists in a work of literature

normative character

a character in a story who expresses or embodies what the storyteller wishes us to understand is correct

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