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Lit Terms A-L
Terms in this set (82)
An abbreviated synopsis of a longer work of scholarship or research
a saying or proverb containing a truth based on experience and often couched in a metaphorical language
a story in which the narrative or characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical, or possibly an ethical meaning. In works such as Spenser's The Fairie Queen and Bunyon's Pilgrims Progress, the story and characters represent values beyond themselves.
the repetition of one or more initial consonants in a group of words or lines of poetry or prose.
Writers use it for ornament or for emphasis, as in words such as film-flam and tittle-tattle. Also used in epithets (fickle fortune, sunless sea), phrases (bed and board), and slogans (look before you leap). It generally enhances the aesthetic quality of a prose passage or poem, as in these lines from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner": The white foam flew/The furrow follows free.
A reference to a person, place, or event meant to create an effect or enhance the meaning of an idea.
A vagueness of meaning; a conscious lack of clarity meant to evoke multiple meanings and interpretation.
A person, scene, 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 brief explanation, summary, or evaluation of a text or work of literature
a character or force in a work of literature that, by opposing the protagonist produces tension or conflict
a rhetorical opposition or contrast of ideas by means of a grammatical arrangement of words, clauses, or sentences, as in the following:
"They promised freedom but provided slavery."
"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
A short, pithy, statement of a generally accepted truth or sentiment.
a rhetorical device in which a speaker addresses a person or personified thing not present. An example: "Oh, you cruel streets of Manhattan, how I detest you!"
an abstract or ideal conception of a type; a perfectly typical example; an original model or form.
the repetition of two or more vowel sounds in a group of words or lines in poetry or prose. "Meet Pete Green; he's as mad as a hatter."
a simple narrative verse that tells a story that is sung or recited.
The use of insincere or overdone sentimentality
a list of works cited or otherwise relevant to a subject or other work.
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.
poetry written in iambic pentameter, the primary meter used in English poetry and the words of Shakespeare and Milton. It is "blank" because the lines generally do not rhyme.
inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects
a work of literature meant to ridicule a subject; a grotesque imitation
grating, inharmonious sounds
a pause somewhere in the middle of a verse, often (but not always) marked by punctuation.
Example by William Butler Yeats (after "loosed"):
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
the works considered most important in a national literature or period; works widely read and studied
a grotesque likeness of striking qualities in persons and things.
literally, "seize the day"; enjoy life while you can, a common theme in literature
a cleansing of the spirit brought about by the pity and terror of a dramatic tragedy
a highly regarded work of literature or other art form that has withstood the test of time
deriving from the orderly qualities of ancient Greek and Roman culture; implies formality, objectivity, s
the high point, or turning point, of a story or play
a tale in which a young protagonist experiences an introduction to adulthood. The character may develop understanding via disillusionment, education, does of reality, or any other experiences that alter his or her emotional or intellectual maturity. Examples include Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, and Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses.
a witty or ingenious thought; a diverting or highly fanciful idea, often stated in figurative language
the suggested or implied meaning of a word or phrase
the repetition of consonance 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 sometimes called a heroic _________________
the dictionary definition of a word
the resolution that occurs at the end of a play or work of fiction
Deus Ex Machina
in literature, the use of an artificial device or gimmick to solve a problem
the choice of words in oral and written discourse
a circumstance in which the audience or reader knows more about a situation than a character. Kind Oedipus, for example, unwittingly kills his own father, yet later declares that he shall find and punish his father's killer
a poem or prose selection that laments or meditates on the passing or death of something or someone of value
three periods (. . .) indicating the omission of words in a thought or quotation
a sentence containing a deliberate omission of words. In the sentence "May was hot and June the same," the verb was is omitted from the second clause
a feeling of association or identification with an object or person
a term that describes a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause often indicated by a mark punctuation, as in these lines from "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot:
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
In poetry, the use of successive lines with no punctuation or pause between them, as in these lines from Dylan Thomas's "Poem in October":
A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
an extended narrative poem that tells of the adventures and exploits of a hero that is generally larger than life and is often considered a legendary figure such as Odysseus or Beowulf. Homer's Iliad and Vergil's Aeneid are examples.
a concise but ingenious, witty, and thoughtful statement
pleasing, harmonious sounds
an adjective or phrase that expresses a striking quality of a person or thing; sun-bright topaz, sun-lit lake, and sun-bright lake are examples.
a term for the title character of a work of literature
a mild or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term; pass away is a ____ for die.
a piece of writing that reveals weaknesses, faults, frailties, or other shortcomings
the background and events that lead to the presentation of the main idea or purpose of a work of literature
the interpretation or analysis of a text
a short tale often featuring nonhuman characters that act as people whose actions enable the author to make observations or draw useful lessons about human behavior. Aesop's fables are obvious examples. In some respects, Orwell's Animal Farm is also a _____.
a story containing unreal, imaginary features.
a comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose
Figure of Speech, Figurative Language
in contrast to literal language, ____________ implies meanings. ______________ include metaphors, similes, and personification, among many others.
a narrative told by a character involved in the story, using first-person pronouns such as I and we.
a return to an earlier time in a story or play in order to clarify present action or circumstances. An author may simply state "The was a time when Henry loved June with great passion... " A ___ might also be a character's account of the past, a dream, or a sudden association with past events. Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, for example, repeatedly relives events that occurred in the past.
a minor character whose personality or attitude contrasts with that of the main character. Juxtaposing one character against another intensifies the qualities of both, to advantage or sometimes to disadvantage. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, Lydia serves as a foil for her sister, Elizabeth Bennet. Lydia is a flight and immature flirt. In contrast, Elizabeth is sensible and insightful, qualities that she demonstrates again and again in her relationships with Darcy and other characters.
a unit of stressed and unstressed syllables used to determine the meter of a poetic line. While scanning the meter of a poem, mark unstressed syllables with U; mark stressed syllables with /. For example:
U / U / U / U /
She walks in beauty, like the night.
U / U / U / U /
Of cloudless climes and starry skies...
providing hints of things to come in story or play
a structure that provides premise or setting or a narrative. A group of pilgrims exchanging stories while on the road is the ______ for Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
a kind of poetry without rhymed lines, rhythm, or fixed metrical feet.
a term used to describe literary forms, such as novel, play, and essay
a novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terrors pervades the action. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a popular example.
Two rhymed lines written in iambic pentameter and used widely in eighteenth-century verse, as in this stanza from "An Essay on Criticism" by the English poet, Alexander Pope:
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance.
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an Echo of sense.
the excessive pride that often leads tragic heroes to their death.
a belief that emphasizes faith and optimism in human potential and creativity
overstatement; gross exaggeration for rhetorical effect.
a lyric poem or passage that describes a kind of ideal life or place.
a word or phrase representing that which can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or felt.
In Medias Res
a Latin term for a narrative that starts not at the beginning of events but at some other critical point
a rendering of a quotation in which actual words are not stated but only approximated or paraphrased.
a mode of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated, often implying ridicule or light sarcasm a state of affairs or events that is the reverse of what might have been expected.
a mocking, satirical assault on a person or situation.
a variety of poetry meant to entertain or amuse, but sometimes with a satirical thrust.
a form of understatement in which the negative of the contrary is used to achieve emphasis or intensity. Example: He is not a bad dancer.
a sentence that follows the customary word order of English sentences, i.e. subject-verb-object. The main idea of the sentence is presented first and is then followed by one or more subordinate clauses.