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134 terms

AP English Literature: Literary Terms

Literary Terms for the AP English Literature Exam.
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Accent
the stressed portion of a word
Allegory
a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one
Alliteration
the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.
Allusion
an expression designed to bring something to mind without mentioning it plainly
Anachronism
a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists; something that is old-fashioned
Analogy
a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification
Anecdote
a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person
Aphorism
a witty observation that contains a general truth about life, such as, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Apostrophe
an exclamatory passage in a speech or poem addressed to a person or thing
Aside
a remark or passage by a character in a play that is intended to be heard by the audience but unheard by the other characters in the play.
Assonance
in poetry, the repetition of the sound of a vowel in non-rhyming stressed syllables near enough to each other for an echo effect
Ballad
a long narrative poem or song narrating a single story, which is often tragic or violent, in short stanzas.
Caesura
a break between words within a metrical foot; "To err is human forgive, divine"
Folk Ballad
Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next as part of the folk culture.
Literary Ballad
also called an art ballad that imitates the form and spirit of the folk ballad, but is more polished and uses a higher level of poetic diction
Blank Verse
poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter; often found in Shakespeare's works
Burlesque
an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something in a literary or dramatic work; a parody
Cacophony
a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds; opposite of euphony
Caricature
a picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect
Catharsis
the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.
Chorus
a group of performers, in Greek drama, who comment on the main action, typically speaking and moving together.
Classicism
the following of ancient Greek or Roman principles and style in art and literature, generally associated with harmony, restraint, and adherence to recognized standards of form and craftsmanship
Colloquialism
a word or phrase that is not formal or literary, typically one used in ordinary or familiar conversation.
Conceit
a fanciful expression in writing or speech; an elaborate metaphor
Consonance
the recurrence of similar sounds, such as consonants, in close proximity
Conundrum
a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun; may also be a paradox or difficult problem
Description
the picturing in words of something or someone through detailed observation of color, motion, sound, taste, smell, and touch; one of the four modes of discourse
Diction
word choice; also called syntax
Discourse
written or spoken language and literary works
Dissonance
the grating of sounds that are harsh or do not go together
Elegy
a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead
End Rhyme
a rhyme that comes at the end of lines of poetry
Epic
a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation
Epigram
a pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way; a short poem having a witty or ingenious ending
Euphony
the quality of being pleasing to the ear through a harmonious combination of words
Exemplum
a model moralizing or illustrative story
Exposition
the part of a play or work of fiction in which the background to the main conflict is introduced and revealed
Farce
a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations
Figurative Language
language that contains figures of speech such as similes and metaphors in order to create associations that are imaginative rather than literal
Figures of Speech
expressions such as similes, metaphors, and personifications that make imaginative, rather than literal, comparisons or asscociatons
Foil
a character who, by contrast, highlights the characteristics of another character
Folklore
the traditional beliefs, customs, stories, and songs of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth
Foot
the combination of stressed and unstressed syllables that makes up the basic rhythmic unit of a line of poetry
Anapest
a metrical foot consisting of two short or unstressed syllables followed by one long or stressed syllable; in-ter-rupt
Dactyl
a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables or one long syllable followed by two short syllables; beau-ti-ful
Iamb
a metrical foot consisting of one short unstressed syllable followed by one long stressed syllable; dis-turb
Spondee
a foot consisting of two long or stressed syllables; hodge-podge
Trochee
a foot consisting of one long or stressed syllable followed by one short or unstressed syllable; in-jure and con-stant
Foreshadowing
be a warning or indication of a future event in a story
Free Verse
poetry that is written without a regular meter, usually without ryme
Genre
a category of literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter
Gothic
referring to a type of novel that emerged in the eighteenth century that uses mystery, suspense, and sensational and supernatural occurrences to evoke terror
Hubris
in Greek tragedies, excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis
Humor
anything that causes laughter or amusement
Hyperbole
exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally
Idyll
a short description in verse or prose of a picturesque scene or incident, esp. in rustic life
Imagery
visually descriptive or figurative language in a literary work
Interior Monologue
writing that records the conversation that occurs inside a character's head
Internal Rhyme
a rhyme occurring within a line of poetry
Inversion
reversal of the normal order of words, typically for rhetorical effect but also found in the regular formation of questions in English
Irony
the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect
Loose Sentence
a sentence that is grammatically complete before its end
Lyric
expressing the writer's emotions, usually short and briefly and in stanzas or recognized form
Metaphor
a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable
Meter
the repetition of a regular rhythmic unit in a line of peotry
Monometer
One foot
Dimeter
Two feet
Trimeter
Three feet
Tetrameter
Four feet
Pentameter
Five feet
Hexameter
Six feet
Heptameter
Seven feet
Metonymy
the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant
Mode
the method or form of a literary work: a manner in which a work of literature is written
Mood
similar to tone, it is the primary emotional attitude of a work
Myth
a traditional story, concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events
Narration
the action or process of narrating a story
Naturalism
19th-century artistic and literary movement, influenced by contemporary ideas of science and society, that rejected the idealization of experience and adopted an objective and often uncompromisingly realistic approach to art.
Objectivity
an impersonal presentation of events and characters
Ode
a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter
Onomatopoeia
the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named; cuckoo; sizzle
Oxymoron
a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction
Parable
a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels
Paradox
a statement or proposition that leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory
Parallelism
the use of successive verbal constructions in poetry or prose that correspond in grammatical structure, sound, meter, meaning
Parody
an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect
Pastoral
a work of literature portraying or evoking country life, typically in a romanticized or idealized form
Periodic Sentence
a sentence that is not grammatically complete until it's last phrase
Personification
the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman
Persuasion
a mode of discourse in which the action or fact of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something
Petrarchan Sonnet
one of the most important types of sonnets, composed of an octave with abba abba rhyme scheme and ending in a sestet with cde cde rhyme scheme; also called an Italian sonnet
Point of View
the perspective from which a story is presented
First Person Narrator
character in a story who relates their actions and thoughts through his or her perspective
Stream of Consciousness Narrator
similar to first person, but places the reader in the character's head
Omniscient Narrator
a third person narrator who is able to see into other character's minds and understand all their actions
Limited Omniscient Narrator
a third person narrator who only reports the thoughts of one character and generally only what the one character sees
Objective Narrator
a third person narrator who only reports what would be visible to a camera; thoughts and feelings are only revealed if the character speaks of them
Protagonist
the leading character or one of the major characters in a literary work
Realism
late 19th-century movement that meant to portray and focus on simple and unidealized treatment of contemporary life
Refrain
repeated line or number of lines in a poem or song, typically at the end of each verse
Regionalism
an element in literature that conveys a realistic portrayal of a specific geographical locale, using the locale and its influences as a major part of the plot
Rhyme
a similarity of accented sounds between two words
Masculine Ryhme
the rhyme sound is the last syllable of a line
Feminine Ryhme
the accented syllable is followed by an unaccented syllable
Romanticism
a movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual
Sarcasm
the use of irony to mock or convey contempt
Simile
a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid
Soliloquy
an act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play
Sonnet
a poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line
Speaker
the voice of a poem; an author may speak as himself or herself or as a fictional character
Stanza
a group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem; a verse
Couplet
the simplest stanza, consisting of two rhymed lines
Tercet
three lines, usually having the same rhyme
Quatrain
Four lines
Cinquain
Five lines
Sestet
Six lines
Octave
Eight lines
Stereotype
a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing
Stock Character
a standard character who may be stereotyped such as the miser or fool
Style
an author's characteristic manner of expression
Subjectivity
based on or influenced by the authors personal feelings, tastes, or opinion
Suspension of Disbelief
the demand made of a theater audience to provide some details with their imagination and to accept the limitations of reality and staging; also the acceptance of the incident of the plot by the reader or audience
Symbolism
the use of symbols to represent both literal and representative ideas or qualities with a more complex significance
Synecdoche
a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa
Syntax
the word choice of diction
Theme
the central idea or message of a literary work
Tone
the characteristic emotion of attitude of an author toward the characters, subject, and audience
Tragic Flaw
the one weakness that causes the downfall of the hero in a tragedy
Villanelle
a lyric poem consisting of five tercets ad a final question
Voice
the way a written work conveys an author's atittude
Rhythm
Four strong beats; "To err is human forgive, divine"
Kenning
Two word poetic renaming; sea-paths (rivers); Lord of life, Ruler of glory (God)
Epithets
Brief, descriptive phrases used to characterize people or things
Hamartia
Greek word for character flaws. (Often used instead of "character flaws" on AP Test)