American Studies Literary Terms

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Allusion
a reference to a well-known work of literature, person, subject or event
Analogy
drawing a comparison in order to show a similarity in some respect between two things or ideas
Bias
prejudice or predisposition toward one side of a subject or issue
Conflict
the problem or struggle facing the main character(s), and driving the plot of a story
Context
information surrounding a word, passage, situation or event that help clarify its meaning
Epiphany
a moment of sudden clarity, revelation or insight
Ethos
An appeal to credibility; seeking to convince the audience that he or she has the background, history, skills, and/or expertise to speak on an issue.
Figurative Language
language employing figures of speech; language that cannot be taken literally or only literally
Flashback
When the narrative of a story returns to an earlier time for the purpose of filling in details necessary to to understand the present
Foreshadowing
hints or clues to prepare the reader for what will happen later in the plot
Hyperbole
the use of exaggeration to express strong emotion, make a point or evoke humor
Imagery
The use of sensory details to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind
Irony
a contrast between what is expected and what actually exists or happens
Juxtaposition
placing elements close together to emphasize similar or contrasting traits
Logos
An appeal to reason and logic; may use inductive or deductive argumentation, examples, and a rational tone to the language.
Metafiction
A story that is aware of itself as fiction and consciously explores its own nature
Metaphor
a figure of speech using analogy to compare two unlike things, without using like or as
Meter
A regular pattern or rhythm of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry
Paradox
A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
Pathos
An appeal to emotion; an attempt to make the audience feel guilty, lonely, worried, insecure, proud, afraid, confused, etc.
Personification
assigning human or life-like characteristics to non-human entities
Point of View
the perspective from which a story is told
Propaganda
Media techniques aimed at positively or negatively influencing the opinions or behaviors of large numbers of people.
Rhyme Scheme
A pattern of rhyming lines in a poem or verse of a poem often indicated with matching letters to show which lines rhyme.
Satire
A literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness.
Setting
the time, place and atmosphere in which a story takes place
Simile
a comparison using like or as
Speaker
the "narrator" of a poem
Symbolism
when one thing represents another thing or idea
Theme
a topic, major idea or focusing question that carries throughout literary work
Thesis
a statement of opinion or theory
Tone
the author's "attitude" or "tone of voice" reflected in the style of the text
1st Person Narration
when a story is told by a character within the story
3rd Person Narration
when a story is told by a sometimes omniscient voice that is not a character in the story