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235 terms

AP English Literature Terms

sources of definitions are The Princeton Review (TPR) and Barron's AP study guides. and class notes that Mr. Enns distributed :)
STUDY
PLAY
abstract
an abbreviated synopsis of a longer work of scholarship or research
adage
a saying/proverb containing a truth based on experience and often couched in metaphorical language
allegory
a story in which the narrative/characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical or possibly an ethical meaning
alliteration
the repetition of one or more initial consonant in a group of words or lines of poetry or prose. writers use this for ornament or for emphasis
allusion
a reference to a person, place, or event meant to create an effect or enhance the meaning of an idea
ambiguity
a vagueness of meaning; a conscious lack of clarity meant to evoke multiple meanings and interpretation
anachronism
a person, scene, event, or other element in literature that fails to correspond with the time/era in which the work is set
analogy
a comparison that points out similarities between two dissimilar things
annotation
a brief explanation,summary, or evaluation of a text or work of literature
antagonist
a character or force in a work of literature that, by opposing the protagonist produces tension or conflict
antithesis
a rhetorical opposition or contrast of ideas by means of a grammatical arrangement of words, clauses, or sentences
aphorism
a short, pithy statement of a generally accepted truth or sentiment
Apollonian
in contrast to Dionysian, it refers to the most noble, godlike qualities of human nature and behavior
apostrophe
a locution that addresses a person/personified thing not present
archetype
an abstract or ideal conception of a type; a perfectly typical example; an original model/form
assonance
the repetition of two or more vowel sounds in a group of words or lines in poetry and prose
ballad
a simple narrative verse that tells a story that is sung or recited; a long narrative poem, usually in very regular meter and rhyme, typically has a naive folksy quality
bard
a poet, in olden times, a performer who told heroic stories to musical accompaniment
bathos
the use of insincere or overdone sentimentality
belle-lettres
the French term for the world of books, criticism, and literature in general
bibliography
a list of works cited or otherwise relevant to a subject or other work
Bildungsroman
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 and the works of Shakespeare and Milton. its lines generally do not rhyme
bombast
inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects
burlesque
a work of literature meant to ridicule a subject; a grotesque imitation; a broad parody and exaggerates it into ridiculousness
cacophony
grating, inharmonious sounds
caesura
a pause somewhere in the middle of a verse, often (but not always marked by punctuation)
canon
the works considered most important in national literature or period; works widely read and studied
caricature
a grotesque likeness of striking qualities in persons and things; a portrait that exaggerates a facet of personality
carpe diem
"seize the day"
catharsis
a cleansing of the spirit brought about by the pity and terror of a dramatic tragedy
classic
a highly regarded work of literature or other art form that has withstood the test of time, similar to canon
classicism
deriving from the orderly qualities of ancient Greek and Roman culture; implies formality, objectivity, simplicity and restraint
climax
the high point, or turning point, of a story/play
novel
a tale in which a young protagonist experiences an introduction to adulthood. the character may develop understanding via disillusionment, education, doses of reality, or any other experiences that alter his/her emotional/intellectual maturity. e.g. Invisible Man
conceit
a witty or ingenious thought; a diverting or highly fanciful idea, often stated in figurative language; a startling or unusual metaphor, or a metaphor developed and expanded upon several lines
anticlimax
this occurs when an action produces far smaller results than one had been led to expect, it is frequently comic in effect
antihero
a protagonist who is markedly unheroic: morally weak, cowardly, dishonest, or any number of other unsavory qualities
aside
a speech (usually just a short comment) made by an actor to the audience, as though momentarily stepping outside of the action on stage
aspect
a trait of characteristic, as in "an aspect of the dew drop"
atmosphere
the emotional tone or background that surrounds a scene
black humor
this is the use of disturbing themes in comedy. e.g. two tramps comically debating over which should commit suicide first, and whether the branches of a tree will support their weight
cadence
the beat or rhythm of poetry in a general sense
canto
is a divider in long poems, much like chapters in a novel
coinage
a.k.a. neologism, inventing a word
colloquialism
this is a word or phrase used in everyday conversational English that isn't a part of accepted "schoolbook" English
controlling image
when an image dominates and shapes the entire work
metaphysical conceit
a type of conceit that occurs only in metaphysical poetry
connotation
the suggest or implied meaning of a word/phrase
consonance
the repetition of two or more consonant sounds within a group of words or a line of poetry
couplet
a pair of lines that end in rhyme
heroic couplet
two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter are called this
denotation
the literal, dictionary definition of a word
denouement
the resolution that occurs at the end of a play or work or fiction
deus ex machina
in literature, the use of an artificial device or gimmick to solve a problem
Dionysian
as distinguished from Apollonian, the word refers to sensual, pleasure seeking impulses
diction
the choice of words in oral and written discourse
syntax
the ordering and structuring of the words in a sentence
dirge
a song for the dead, its tone is typically slow, heavy, and melancholy
dissonance
the grating of incompatible sounds
doggerel
crude, simplistic verse, often in sing-song rhyme
dramatic irony
when the audience knows something that the characters in the drama do not
dramatic monologue
when a single speaker in literature says something to a silent audience
elegy
a poem or prose selection that laments or meditates on the passing/death of something/someone of value
elements
the basic techniques of each genre of literature. IN SHORT STORY: characters, irony, theme, symbol, plot, setting. IN POETRY: figurative language, symbol, imagery, rhythm, rhyme. IN DRAMA: conflict, characters, climax, conclusion, exposition, rising action, falling action, props. IN NONFICTION: argument, evidence, reason, appeals, fallacies, thesis.
ellipsis
three periods (...) indicating the omission of words in a thought or quotation
empathy
a feeling of association or identification with an object/person
end stopped
a term that describes a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause often indicated by a mark of punctuation
enjambment
the continuation of a syntactic unit from one line or couplet of a poem to the next with no pause
epic
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
mock epic
a parody form that deals with mundane events and ironically treats them as worthy of epic poetry
epitaph
lines that commemorate the dead at their burial place. usually a line or handful of lines, often serious or religious, but sometimes witty and even irreverent
epigram
a concise but ingenious, witty and thoughtful statement
euphony
when sounds blend harmoniously; pleasing, harmonious sounds
epithet
an adjective or phrase that expresses a striking quality of a person or thing
eponymous
a term for the title character of a work of literature
euphemism
a mild or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term
exegesis
a detailed analysis or interpretation of a work of literature
expose
a piece of writing that reveals weaknesses, faults, frailties, or other short comings
explicit
to say or write something directly and clearly
explication
the interpretation/analysis of a text
extended metaphor
a series of comparisons between two unlike objects that occur over a number of lines
fable
a short tale often featuring nonhuman character that act as people whose actions enable the author to make observations or draw useful lessons about human behavior. i.e Orwell's "Animal Farm"
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
fantasy
a story containing unreal, imaginary features
farce
a comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose
figurative language
in contrast to literal language, this implies meanings. It includes devices such as metaphors, similes, and personification, etc.
foil
a secondary character whose purpose is to highlight the characteristics of a main character, usually by contrast
first person narrative
a narrative told by a character involved in the story, using first-person pronouns such as "I" and "we"
flashback
a return to an earlier time in a story or play in order to clarify present actions or circumstances i.e. Invisible Man
foreshadowing
an event or statement in a narrative that suggests, in miniature, a larger event that comes later
foot
the basic rhythmic unit of a line in poetry. it is formed by a combination of two or three syllables, either stressed or unstressed
frame
a structure that provides premise or setting for a narrative
free verse
a kind of poetry without rhymed lines, rhythm or fixed metrical feet
genre
a term used to describe literary forms, such as novel, play, and essay
Gothic novel
a novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terror pervades the action. i.e. "Frankenstein"
harangue
a forceful sermon, lecture, or tirade
hubris
the excessive pride/ambition that leads to the main character's downfall
hyperbole
exaggeration/deliberate overstatement
humanism
a belief that emphasizes faith and optimism in human potential and creativity
implicit
to say or write something that suggests and implies but never says it directly or clearly
in medias res
Latin for "in the midst of things"; a narrative that starts not at the beginning of events but at some other critical point
idyll
a lyric poem or passage that describes a kind of ideal life or place
image
a word or phrase representing that which can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled or felt
inversion
switching customary order of elements in a sentence or phrase. when done badly it can give a stilted, artificial look-at-me-I'm-poetry feel to the verse. type of syntax
irony
a mode of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated, often implying ridicule or light sarcasm
invective
a direct verbal assault; a denunciation. i.e. Candide
kenning
a device employed in Anglo-Saxon poetry in which the name of a thing is replaced by one of its functions/qualities, as in "ring-giver" for king and "wale-road" for ocean
lament
a poem of sadness or grief over the death of a loved one or over some other intense loss
lampoon
a satire
light verse
a variety of poetry meant to entertain or amuse, butt sometimes with a satirical thrust
loose sentence
a sentence that is complete before its end. follows customary word order of English sentences i.e. subject-verb-object
periodic sentence
a sentence not grammatically complete until it has reached its final phrase; sentence that departs from the usual word order of English sentences by expressing its main thought only at the end
lyric
personal, reflective poetry that reveals the speaker's thoughts and feelings about the subject; the word is used to describe tone, it refers to a sweet, emotional melodiousness
melodrama
a form of cheesy theater in which the hero is very, very good, the villain mean and rotten, and the heroine oh-so-pure.
litotes
a form of understatement in which the negative of the contrary is used to achieve emphasis or intensity
maxim
a saying or proverb expressing common wisdom or truth
metaphor
a figure of speech that compares unlike objects
metaphysical poetry
the work of poets, particularly those of 17th c., that uses elaborate conceits, is highly intellectual, and expresses the complexities of love and life
meter
the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in poetry
metonymy
a figure of speech that uses the name of one thing to represent something else with which it is associated. e.g. "The White House says..."
mode
the general form, pattern, and manner of expression of a work of literature
montage
a quick succession of images/impressions used to express an idea
mood
the emotional tone in a work of literature
nemesis
the protagonist's archenemy or supreme and persistent difficulty
objectivity
this treatment of a subject matter is an impersonal/outside view of events
subjectivity
this treatment of a subject matter uses the interior/personal view of a single observer and is typically colored with that observer's emotional responses
onomatopoeia
words that sound like what they mean
moral
a brief and often simplistic lesson that a reader may infer from a work of literature
motif
a phrase, idea, event that through repetition serves to unify or convey a theme in a work of literature.
muse
one of the ancient Greek goddesses presiding over the arts. the imaginary source of inspiration for an artist or writer
myth
an imaginary story that has become accepted part of the cultural or religious tradition of a group/society. often used to explain natural phenomena.
narrative
a form of verse or prose that tells a story
naturalism
a term often used as a synonym for "realism"; also a view of experiences that is generally characterized as bleak and pessimistic
non sequitur
a statement or idea that fails to follow logically from the one before
novel of manners
a novel focusing on and describing the social customs and habits of a particular social group
ode
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
oxymoron
a phrase composed of opposites; a contradiction. juxtaposition of contradictory element to create a paradoxical effect
opposition
one of the most useful concepts in analyzing literature. it means that you have a pair of elements that contrast sharply.
ottava rima
an eight-line rhyming stanza of a poem
parable
like a fable or an allegory, it's a story that instructs; a story consisting of events from which a moral or spiritual truth may be derived
paradox
a statement that seems self-contradictory yet true
parallelism
repeated syntactical similarities used for effect
parody
an imitation of a work meant to ridicule its style and subject
paraphrase
a version of a text put into simpler, everyday, words
pastoral
a work of literature dealing with rural life
pathetic fallacy
faulty reasoning that inappropriately ascribes human feelings to nature or nonhuman objects
pathos
that element in literature that stimulates pity or sorrow
pentameter
a verse with five poetic feet per line
persona
the role/facade that a character assumes or depicts to a reader, viewer, or the world at large; the narrator in a non-first-person novel
personification
giving an inanimate object human like qualities or form
plot
the interrelationship among the events in a story, including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution
picaresque novel
an episodic novel about a roguelike wanderer who lives off his wits. e.g. "Don Quixote", "Moll Flanders"
plaint
a poem or speech expressing sorrow
point of view
the perspective from which the action of a novel in presented.
omniscient narrator
3rd person narrator who sees like God into each character's mind and understands all the action going on.
limited omniscient narrator
3rd person narrator who generally reports only what one character (usually the main) sees, and who only reports the thoughts of that one privileged character.
objective narrator
3rd person narr. who only reports on what would be visible to a camera, doesn't know what the character is thinking unless the character speaks of it.
first person narrator
this is a narrator who is a character in the story and tells the tale from his/her POV. when the narrator is crazy, a liar, very young, or for some reason not entirely credible, the narrator is "unreliable"
prosody
the grammar of meter and rhythm in poetry
protagonist
the main character in a work of literature
prelude
an introductory poem to a longer work of verse
pun
the usually humorous use of a word in such a way to suggest two or more meanings
pseudonym
also called "pen name", a false name or alias used by writers. i.e Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) George Orwell (Eric Blair)
quatrian
a four-line poem or a four-line unit of a longer poem
refrain
a line or set of lines repeated several times over the course of a poem
requiem
a song of prayer for the dead
realism
the depiction of people, things, and events as they really are without idealization or exaggeration for effect
rhetoric
the language of a work and its style; words, often highly emotional, used to convince or sway an audience
rhetorical question
a question that suggests an answer. in theory, the effect is that it causes the listener to feel they have come up with the answer themselves
rhapsody
an intensely passionate verse or section of verse, usually of love or praise
rhyme
the repetition of similar sounds at regular intervals, used mostly in poetry
rhyme scheme
the patterns of rhymes within a given poem i.e. abba
rhythm
the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that make up a line of poetry. similar to meter
romance
an extended narrative about improbable events and extraordinary people in exotic places
sarcasm
a sharp, caustic expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt
satire
a literary style used to poke fun at, attack or ridicule an idea, vice, or foible, often for the purpose of inducing change. great subjects for this include hypocrisy, vanity and greed, especially if those characteristics have become institutionalized in society
simile
figurative comparison using the words "like" or "as"
setting
the total environment for the action in a novel/play. it includes time, place, historical milieu, and social, political and even spiritual circumstances
sentimental
a term that describes characters' excessive emotional response to experience; also nauseatingly nostalgic and mawkish
sentiment
a synonym for "view" or "feeling"; also refined and tender emotion in literature
scansion
the act of determining the meter of a poetic line.
sonnet
a popular form of verse consisting of fourteen lines and a prescribed rhyme scheme. two types: Shakespearean and Petrarchan
soliloquy
a speech spoken by a character alone on stage. meant to convey the impression that the audience is listening to the character's THOUGHTS. unlike an aside, it is not meant to imply that the actor acknowledges the audience's presence
stanza
a group of lines in verse, roughly analogous in function to the paragraph in prose; 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, e.g. Ernest Hemingway
stock characters
standard or cliched character types: the drunk, the miser, the foolish girl, etc.
suggest
to imply, infer indicate. goes along with the concept of implicit
style
the manner in which an author uses and arranges words, shapes ideas, forms sentences and creates a structure to convey ideas
subplot
a subordinate or minor collection of events in a novel or play, usually connected to the main plot
subtext
the implied meaning that underlies the main meaning of a work of literature
summary
a simple retelling of what you've just read. what you DON'T want to do in the Open Essay section :)
symbolism
a device in literature where an object represents an idea
synecdoche
a figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole or the whole signifies the part
theme
the main idea or meaning, often an abstract idea upon which a work of literature is built
thesis
the main position of an argument. the central contention that will be supported
tone
the author's attitude toward the subject being written about. it's the characteristic emotion that pervades a work or part of a work
tragic flaw
in a tragedy, this is the weakness of a character in an otherwise good individual that ultimately leads to his demise
tragedy
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, or even death
travesty
a grotesque parody
truism
a way-too-obvious truth
utopia
an idealized place. imaginary communities in which people are able to live in happiness, prosperity and peace. Sir Thomas More came up with this idea.
verbal irony
a discrepancy between the true meaning of a situation and the literal meaning of the written or spoken words
verse
a synonym for poetry. also a group of lines in a song or poem; also a single line of poetry
verisimilitude
similar to the truth; the quality of realism in a work that persuades readers that they are getting a vision of life as it is
versification
the structural form of a line of verse as revealed by the number of feet it contains. i.e. monometer = 1 foot; tetrameter = 4 feet; pentameter = 5 feet, etc.
villanelle
a French verse form calculated to appear simple and spontaneous but consisting of 19 lines and a prescribed pattern of rhymes
voice
the real or assumed personality used by a writer or speaker. a verb is in the active voice when it expresses an action performed by its subject. a verb is in the passive voice when it expresses an action performed upon its subject or when the subject is the result of the action. Active: The crew raked the leaves. Passive: The leaves were raked by the crew.
wit
the quickness of intellect and the power and talent for saying brilliant things that surprise and delight by their unexpectedness; the power to comment subtly and pointedly on the foibles of the passing scene
zeugma
the use of a word to modify two or more words, but used for different meanings. "He close the door and his heart on his lost love."
anastrophe
inversion of the natural or usual word order
parenthesis
insertion of some verbal unit in a position that interrupts the normal syntactical flow of the sentence
apposition
placing side by side two coordinate elements, the second of which serves as an explanation or modification of the first. "The mountain was the earth, her home."
ellipsis
deliberate omission of a word or words which are readily implied by context
asyndeton
deliberate omission of conjunctions between a series of related clauses. used to produce a hurried rhythm in the sentence.
polysyndeton
the deliberate use of many conjunctions. its effect is to slow down the rhythm of the sentence
anaphora
repetition of the same words or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses. e.g. "I have a dream..."
epistrophe
repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses "When we first came we were very many and you were very few. Now you are many and we are getting very few."
epanalepsis
repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause. "Blood hat bought blood, and blows have answer'd blows"
anadiplosis
repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause. "The crime was common, common be the pain."
climax
the arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of importance
antimetabole
repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse grammatical order. "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
chiasmus
reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses. "Exalts his enemies, his friends destroys."
polyptoton
repetition of words derived from the same root. "But in this desert country they may see the land being rendered USELESS by OVERUSE."
antanaclasis
repetition of a word in two different senses. "Your argument is sound, nothing but sound."
paronomasia
use of words alike in sound but different in meaning. "ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a GRAVE man."
syllepsis
the use of a word understood differently in relation to two or more other words, which it modifies/governs. "The ink, like our pig, keeps running out of the pen."
anthimeria
the substitution of one part of speech for another "I'll UNHAIR they head."
periphrasis
substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name or of a proper name for a quality associated with the name. "They do not escape JIM CROW; they merely encounter another, not less deadly variety."
autobiography
an account of a person's own life
dialect
a way of speaking that is characteristic of a particular region/group of people
epiphany
in a literary work, a moment of sudden insight/revelation that a character experiences
essay
a short piece of non-fiction prose that examines a single subject from a limited POV
suspense
the uncertainty/anxiety we feel about what is going to happen next in a story