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63 terms

Literary Terms

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Accent
In poetry, it refers to the stressed portions of a word or phrase.
Allegory
It is a story in which each aspect of the story has an additional, symbolic
meaning outside the story itself.
Alliteration
Consonant clusters closely collected are no coincidence.
Allusion
An indirect reference to another work or famous figure. A classical _____ is a
reference to Greek or Roman mythology or history. A topical _____ refers to a current event.
A popular allusion
refers to something from popular culture such as television, a popular song
or a hit movie.
Anachronism
The word is derived from the Greek and means 'misplaced in time.' While it is usually a mistake, it can be purposeful, usually with comic effect. If Snow White
uses her GPS when she gets lost in the woods...
Analogy
a comparison. They involve two or more symbolic parts and are
employed to clarify an action or relationship. Just as the mother eagle spreads her wings to
shelter her brood from the storm, so does Acme Insurers of America spread its wings of coverage
to protect its customers from the storms of life.
Anecdote
a short narrative. The kind of story you might tell to entertain your friends.
Anthropomorphism
when inanimate objects or animals are given human characteristics. For
example, In the forest, the darkness was watching me patiently. ______is often
confused with personification, but personification requires that the non-human quality or thing
take on human shape - the reader must see the person.
Anticlimax
when an action produces far smaller results than one has been led to expect.
It is frequently comic.
Antihero
A protagonist who is markedly unheroic: morally or physically weak, cowardly,
dishonest, or any number of unsavory qualities. She isn't necessarily wicked but may merely be
confused, bewildered, confounded, bumbling, graceless or inept.
Aphorism
A short and usually witty saying. A classic? That's a book that people praise and
don't read
Apostrophe
A figure of speech wherein the speaker directly addresses something not human
or not present.
Archaism
The use of deliberately old-fashioned language. The user is going for a certain
antique effect. An example would be a store called 'Ye Olde Icecream Shoppe.'
Aside
A speech (usually just a short comment) made by an actor to the audience that is
presumed to be unheard by the other characters onstage.
Assonance
The repeated use of vowel sounds, as in, "Old King Cole was a merry old soul."
Atmosphere
The emotional tone or backround of a scene. Compare to tone and mood.
Ballad
A long narrative poem (not as long as an epic). Originally meant to be sung, the folk
_____ is distinguished from the literary ballad.
Bathos and Pathos
Not the same thing! When the writing of a scene evokes feelings of
dignified pity and sympathy from the reader - that's _____. When writing strains for grandeur it
can't support and ineffectually tries to wring tears from the reader - that's ______.
Black Humor
The use of disturbing topics in comedy. Dead baby jokes, for instance.
Blank Verse
Unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. Compare to free verse.
Bombast
Pretentious, exaggeratedly learned language.
Burlesque
Broad parody, one that takes a style or form, such as tragic drama, and exaggerates
it into ridiculousness. A parody usually takes on a specific work, such as Hamlet.
Cacophony
the use of deliberately harsh, awkward sounding language.
Cadence
The rhythm established in the sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables in a
poem; the rhythmical movement of writing. Essentially, the beat or rhythm of the language.
Think of the difference between a waltz and a polka.
Canto
A section or division of a long poem.
Caricature
A verbal portrait that exaggerates a facet of a personality.
Carpe Diem
"Seize the day." A theme in literature that refers to the view that one should
enjoy life to the fullest while one is able.
Catharsis
A term drawn from Aristotle's writings on tragedy, this refers to the purging or
cleansing of emotion which the audience experiences after bonding with the characters on stage.
Chorus
In Greek drama, the group of citizens who stand outside the action and comment on it.
Do you remember the functions of the chorus? Review!
Classical
Refers to the arts of ancient Greece and Rome, and the qualities of those arts.
Coinage (Neologism)
A newly invented word.
Colloquialism
A word or phrase used in conversational English that is not acceptable in
formal writing.
Conceit
An extended metaphor which is startling and unusual. When the metaphor dominates
the entire work, it is called a controlling image.
Connotation, Denotation
The _____ of a word is its literal meaning. The ______ are
everything else that the word implies.
Consonance
The repetition of consonant sounds within words. See alliteration and
assonance.
Couplet
A pair of lines that end in rhyme.
Deus Ex Machina
Literally, "god from the machine." The employment of any artificial device
or gimmick that the author uses to solve a difficult situation. Think of the ending to The Cat in
the Hat.
Diction
word choice on the part of the writer.
Didactic
a term applied to a work whose primary aim is to teach a lesson.
Diegetic, Non-Diegetic
In literature and film diegesis refers toe the fictional world in which
the events narrated occur. A _____ narrator is one who takes part in the action, a ______
narrator does not.
Diction, Syntax
_____ refers to the author's choice of words. _____ refers to the ordering
and structuring of those words.
Dirge
This is a song for the dead. Its tone is typically slow, heavy, depressed and melancholy.
See lament, plaint, elegy and requiem.
Doggerel
Crude, simplistic verse, often in sing-song rhyme. Limericks are a kind .
Double Entendre
A statement that is deliberately ambiguous, with one meaning risqué or
suggestive. It is related to a pun, but where a pun involves a play on different words that happen
to sound alike,it involves a single word that has more than one meaning. "the
bawdy handle of the dial is now upon the prick of noon" is a double entendre.
Dramatic Irony
When the audience knows something the characters in the drama do not.
Dramatic Monologue
When a single speaker says something to a silent audience.
Elegy
A type of poem that involves meditation on death in a serious, thoughtful manner.
they usually use the recent death of a particular person as a starting point for a meditation on
mortality in general. See dirge, lament, plaint, requiem.
Epic
A very long narrative poem on a serious theme in a dignified style. They typically deal
with glorious or profound subject matter: a heroic journey, the fall of man, a battle with
supernatural forces, a trip into the underworld, etc. The mock-___ is a parody form which deals
with mundane events and ironically treats them as worthy of epic poetry.
Epiphany
A moment of sudden insight or understanding by which one's attitude or life are
greatly altered.
Epitaph
Lines that commemorate the dead at their burial place, on a tombstone, for instance.
Euphemism
A word or phrase that takes the place of a harsh, unpleasant or impolite reality.
The use of passed away for died or pass gas for fart are two examples.
Euphony
The use of harmonious, pretty words and phrases.
Existential
Expressing a view of life that emphasizes existence as opposed to essence; human
beings are unable to solve the basic enigmas of life.
Farce
A dramatic piece intended to incite laughter, the humor arising from gross incongruities,
course wit or horseplay. Today we use the term to refer to extremely broad humor. Writers of
earlier times used farce as a more neutral term, meaning simply a funny play.
Feminine Rhyme
Lines of poetry rhymed by their final two syllables. A pair of lines ending
with running and gunning would be one. Properly, in a one, the
penultimate syllables are stressed and the final syllables are unstressed. See masculine rhyme.
First person narrator
diegetic narrator who tells the story from her point of
view. This narrator can be reliable or unreliable.
Flashback
A sudden return to an earlier time in the story.
Foil
A secondary character whose purpose is to highlight the characteristics or actions of a
main character, usually by contrast.
Foot
The basic rhythmic unit of poetry. It is formed by a combination of two or three
syllables, either stressed or unstressed.
Foreshadowing
An event or statement in a narrative that, in miniature, suggests a larger event
that comes later.
Free Indirect Discourse
a style of third person narration which combines some
elements of third person report with elements of first person direct speech.
Passages written in free indirect discourse are often ambiguous as to whether
they convey views of the narrator or of the character being described, allowing a
flexible and sometimes ironic interaction of external and internal perspectives.
Free Verse
Poetry written without regular rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. See blank verse.