44 terms

ISKL Grade 9 Literary Terms

Literary terms for grade 9 English at ISKL
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Alliteration
A poetic device where the first consonant sounds or any vowel sounds in words or syllables are repeated. The following description of the Green Knight from the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight gives an example of alliteration:
And in guise all of green, the gear and the man:
A coat cut close, that clung to his sides
An a mantle to match, made with a lining
Of furs cut and fitted — the fabric was noble....
(Compare with Assonance and rhyme.) Gale
Allusion
A reference to a familiar literary or historical person or event, used to make an idea more easily understood. For example, describing someone as a "Romeo" makes an allusion to William Shakespeare's famous young lover in Romeo and Juliet. Gale
Analogy
A comparison of two things made to explain something unfamiliar through its similarities to something familiar, or to prove one point based on the acceptedness of another. Similes and metaphors are types of analogies. Analogies often take the form of an extended simile, as in William Blake's aphorism: "As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys." (Compare with Simile and Metaphor.) Gale
Antagonist
The major character in a narrative or drama who works against the hero or protagonist. Gale
Aside
A device in which a character in a drama makes a short speech which is heard by the audience but not by other characters in the play. In William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," the Chamberlain, Polonius, confronts Hamlet. In a dialogue concerning Polonius' daughter, Ophelia, Polonius speaks this aside:
How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter.
Yet he knew me not at first; 'a said I was a fishmonger.
'A is far gone. And truly in my youth I suffered much extremity for love,
very near this. I'll speak to him again.- Lit Terms
Blocking
The process of roughing out the moves to be made by the actors especially as not to "block" another's performance. David's
Characterization
The process by which an author creates vivid, believable characters in a work of art. This may be done in a variety of ways, including (1) direct description of the character by the narrator; (2) the direct presentation of the speech, thoughts, or actions of the character; and (3) the (indirect) responses of other characters to the character. Gale
Climax
The turning point in a narrative, the moment when the conflictis at its most intense. Typically, the structure of stories, novels, and plays is one of rising action, in which tension builds to the climax, followed by falling action, in which tension lessens as the story moves to its conclusion. The climax in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicansoccurs when Magua and his captive Cora are pursued to the edge of a cliff by Uncas. Magua kills Uncas but is subsequently killed by Hawkeye. Gale
Conflict
The conflict in a work of fiction is the issue to be resolved in the story. It usually occurs between two characters, the protagonist and the antagonist, or between the protagonist and society or the protagonist and himself or herself.
Conflict in Theodore Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie comes as a result of urban society, while Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire" concerns the protagonist's battle against the cold and himself. Gale
Connotation
The impression that a word gives beyond its defined meaning. Connotations may be universally understood or may be significant only to a certain group. Both "horse" and "steed" denote the same animal, but "steed" has a different connotation, deriving from the chivalrous or romantic narratives in which the word was once often used. Gale
Denotation
The definition of a word, apart from the impressions or feelings it creates in the reader. The word "apartheid" denotes a political and economic policy of segregation by race, but its connotations — oppression, slavery, inequality — are numerous. Gale
Diction
The selection and arrangement of words in a literary work. Either or both may vary depending on the desired effect. There are four general types of diction: "formal," used in scholarly or lofty writing; "informal," used in relaxed but educated conversation; "colloquial," used in everyday speech; and "slang," containing newly coined words and other terms not accepted in formal usage. Gale
Exposition
Writing intended to explain the nature of an idea, thing, or theme. Expository writing is often combined with description, narration, or argument. In dramatic writing, the exposition is the introductory material which presents the characters, setting, and tone of the play.
An example of dramatic exposition occurs in many nineteenth-century drawing-room comedies in which the butler and the maid open the play with relevant talk about their master and mistress; in composition, exposition relays factual information, as in encyclopedia entries. Gale
Figurative Language
A technique in writing in which the author temporarily interrupts the order, construction, or meaning of the writing for a particular effect. This interruption takes the form of one or more figures of speech such as hyperbole, irony, or simile. Figurative language is the opposite of literal language, in which every word is truthful, accurate, and free of exaggeration or embellishment.
Examples of figurative language are tropes such as Metaphor and rhetorical figures such as apostrophe. Gale
Literal Language
An author uses literal language when he or she writes without exaggerating or embellishing the subject matter and without any tools of figurative language.
To say "He ran very quickly down the street" is to use literal language, whereas to say "He ran like a hare down the street" would be using figurative language. (Compare with Figurative Language.) Gale
Foreshadowing
A device used in literature to create expectation or to set up an explanation of later developments.
In Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, the graveyard encounter at the beginning of the novel between Pip and the escaped convict Magwitch foreshadows the baleful atmosphere and events that comprise much of the narrative. Gale
Imagery
The array of images in a literary work. Also, figurative language.
William Butler Yeats's "The Second Coming" offers a powerful image of encroaching anarchy:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart.... Gale
Irony
In literary criticism, the effect of language in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated.
The title of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is ironic because what Swift proposes in this essay is cannibalism — hardly "modest." Gale
Metaphor
A figure of speech that expresses an idea through the image of another object. Metaphors suggest the essence of the first object by identifying it with certain qualities of the second object. An example is "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?/ It is the east, and Juliet is the sun" in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Here, Juliet, the first object, is identified with qualities of the second object, the sun. (Compare with Simile.) Gale
Mood
The prevailing emotions of a work or of the author in his or her creation of the work. The mood of a work is not always what might be expected based on its subject matter. The poem "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold offers examples of two different moods originating from the same experience: watching the ocean at night. The mood of the first three lines —
The sea is calm tonight
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straights....
is in sharp contrast to the mood of the last three lines —
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night. Gale
Narrative
A Verse or prose accounting of an event or sequence of events, real or invented. The term is also used as an adjective in the sense "method of narration." For example, in literary criticism, the expression "narrative technique" usually refers to the way the author structures and presents his or her story.
Narratives range from the shortest accounts of events, as in Julius Caesar's remark, "I came, I saw, I conquered," to the longest historical or biographical works, as in Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as well as diaries, travelogues, novels, ballads, epics, short stories, and other fictional forms. Gale
Onomatopoeia
The formation or use of words such as buzz that imitat3e the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to. The American Heritage College Dictionary
Personification
A figure of speech that gives human qualities to abstract ideas, animals, and inanimate objects.
William Shakespeare used personification in Romeo and Juliet in the lines "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,/ Who is already sick and pale with grief." Here, the moon is portrayed as being envious, sick, and pale with grief — all markedly human qualities. (Compare with Anthropomorphism.) Gale
Plot
In literary criticism, this term refers to the pattern of events in a narrative or drama. In its simplest sense, the plot guides the author in composing the work and helps the reader follow the work. Typically, plots exhibit causality and unity and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Sometimes, however, a plot may consist of a series of disconnected events, in which case it is known as an "episodic plot." In his Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster distinguishes between a story, defined as a "narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence," and plot, which organizes the events to a "sense of causality." This definition closely mirrors Aristotle's discussion of plot in his Poetics. Gale
Point Of View
The vantage point or perspective from which a story is told. Point of view refers to both position (the narrator's proximity to the action in time and space), and person (the narrator's character and attitude).
Third-person omniscient (point of view)
The narrator, usually assumed to be the author, tells the story. He or she can move at will through time, across space, and into the mind of each character to tell us anything we need to know to understand the story.
Third-person limited omniscient (point of view)
Although the author is still the narrator, he or she gives up total omniscience and limits the point of view to the experience and perception of one character in the story. Instead of knowing everything, the reader knows only what this one character knows or is able to learn.
First-person (point of view)
The author selects one of the characters in the narrative to tell the story. This character may be involved in the action or may view it from the position of an observer. This character may tell about events as they are happening or many years after they have taken place
First-Person Narrator
"The story is told from the point of view 'I,' as in Charles Boxter's "Gryphon." The I-narrator may be part of the action or an observer. As readers, we cannot know or witness anything the narrator does not tell us. We therefore share all the limitations of the narrator. This technique has the advantage of a sharp and precise focus. Moreover, you feel part of the story because the narrator's 'I' echoes the 'I' already in your own mind" (Jacobus 121). Elements
Second-Person Narrator
This narrator speaks directly to the reader: "You walk in the room and what do you see? It's Mullins again, and you say, 'Out. I've done with him.'" This point of view is rare primarily because it is artificial and self-conscious. It seems to invite identification on the part of the reader with the narrator, but it often fails"(Jacobus 121). Elements
Third-Person Narrator
"This is the most common narrative style, illustrated by John Cheever's "The Swimmer":"His life was not confining and the delight he took in this observation could not be explained by its suggestion of escape" [(Cheever 2044).] Third-person narration permits the author to be omniscient (all-knowing) when necessary but also to bring the focus tightly in on the central character by limiting observation only to what that character could possible witness or recall. One emotional effect of the technique is the acceptance of the authority of the narrator. In essence, the narrator sounds like the author" (Jacobus 121). Elements
Protagonist
The central character of a story who serves as a focus for its themes and incidents and as the principal rationale for its development. The protagonist is sometimes referred to in discussions of modern literature as the hero or anti-hero.
Well-known protagonists are Hamlet in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Gale
Resolution
The portion of a story following the climax, in which the conflict is resolved. The resolution of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is neatly summed up in the following sentence: "Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang and every body smiled." Gale
Rising Action
The part of a drama where the plot becomes increasingly complicated. Rising action leads up to the climax, or turning point, of a drama.
The final "chase scene" of an action film is generally the rising action which culminates in the film's climax. (Compare with Denouement.) Gale
Rhyme
When used as a noun in literary criticism, this term generally refers to a poem in which words sound identical or very similar and appear in parallel positions in two or more lines. Rhymes are classified into different types according to where they fall in a line or stanza or according to the degree of similarity they exhibit in their spellings and sounds.
Setting
The time, place, and culture in which the action of a narrative takes place. The elements of setting may include geographic location, characters' physical and mental environments, prevailing cultural attitudes, or the historical time in which the action takes place. Examples of settings include the romanticized Scotland in Sir Walter Scott's "Waverley" novels, the French provincial setting in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, the fictional Wessex country of Thomas Hardy's novels, and the small towns of southern Ontario in Alice Munro's short stories. Gale
Simile
A comparison, usually using "like" or "as", of two essentially dissimilar things, as in "coffee as cold as ice" or "He sounded like a broken record."
The title of Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" contains a simile. (Compare with Metaphor.) Gale
Soliloquy
A monologue in a drama used to give the audience information and to develop the speaker's character. It is typically a projection of the speaker's innermost thoughts. Usually delivered while the speaker is alone on stage, a soliloquy is intended to present an illusion of unspoken reflection.
A celebrated soliloquy is Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. (Compare with Monologue.) Gale
Stage direction
A playwright's descriptive or interpretive comments that provide readers (and actors) with information about the dialogue, setting, and action of a play. Modern playwrights, including Ibsen, Shaw, Miller, and Williams tend to include substantial stage directions, while earlier playwrights typically used them more sparsely, implicitly, or not at all. See Gesture. Drama Terms McGraw Hill
Stanza
A subdivision of a poem consisting of lines grouped together, often in recurring patterns of rhyme, line length, and Meter. Stanzas may also serve as units of thought in a poem much like paragraphs in prose. Examples of stanza forms include the quatrain, terza rima, ottava rima, Spenserian, and the so-called In Memoriam stanza from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem by that title. The following is an example of the latter form:
Love is and was my lord and king,
And in his presence I attend
To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring. Gale
Symbol
Something that suggests or stands for something else without losing its original identity. In literature, symbols combine their literal meaning with the suggestion of an abstract concept. Literary symbols are of two types: those that carry complex associations of meaning no matter what their contexts, and those that derive their suggestive meaning from their functions in specific literary works.
Examples of symbols are sunshine suggesting happiness, rain suggesting sorrow, and storm clouds suggesting despair. (Compare with Archetype and Symbolism.) Gale
Symbolism
This term has two widely accepted meanings. In historical criticism, it denotes an early modernist literary movement initiated in France during the nineteenth century that reacted against the prevailing standards of realism. Writers in this movement aimed to evoke, indirectly and symbolically, an order of being beyond the material world of the five senses. Poetic expression of personal emotion figured strongly in the movement, typically by means of a private set of symbols uniquely identifiable with the individual poet. The principal aim of the Symbolists was to express in words the highly complex feelings that grew out of everyday contact with the world. In a broader sense, the term "symbolism" refers to the use of one object to represent another.
Early members of the Symbolist movement included the French authors Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud; William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot were influenced as the movement moved to Ireland, England, and the United States. Examples of the concept of symbolism include a flag that stands for a nation or movement, or an empty cupboard used to suggest hopelessness, poverty, and despair. (Compare with Realism and Symbol.) (See also Modernism.) Gale
Theme
The main point of a work of literature. The term is used interchangeably with thesis. The theme of William Shakespeare's Othello — jealousy — is a common one. Gale
Thesis
A thesis is both an essay and the point argued in the essay. Thesis novels and thesis plays share the quality of containing a thesis which is supported through the action of the story.
A master's thesis and a doctoral dissertation are two theses required of graduate students. (See also Theme.) Gale