178 terms

Literary, Poetic, & Rhetorical Devices

STUDY
PLAY
ALLEGORY
A story or poem in which characters, settings, and events stand for other people or events or for abstract ideas or qualities.
ALLITERATION
The repetition of the same or similar consonant sounds in words that are close together.
ALLUSION
A reference to someone or something that is known from history, literature, religion, politics, sports, science, or another branch of culture. An indirect reference to something (usually from literature, etc.).
AMBIGUITY
Deliberately suggesting two or more different, and sometimes conflicting, meanings in a work.
ANALOGY
Comparison made between two things to show how they are alike.
ANECDOTE
Brief story, told to illustrate a point or serve as an example of something, often shows character of an individual.
ANTAGONIST
Opponent who struggles against or blocks the hero, or protagonist, in a story.
ANTHROPOMORPHISM
The presentation of animals or objects in human shape or with human characteristics.
ANTIHERO
Central character who lacks all the qualities traditionally associated with heroes. May lack courage, grace, intelligence, or moral scruples.
APHORISM
brief, cleverly worded statement that makes a wise observation about life, or of a principle or accepted general truth. Also called maxim or epigram.
APOSTROPHE
Calling out to an imaginary, dead, or absent person, or to a place or thing, or a personified abstract idea.
ARCHETYPE
Commonly used to describe an original pattern or model from which all other things of the same kind are made. The literary images that grow out of the "collective unconscious." They appear in literature as incidents and plots that repeat basic patterns of life. They may also appear as stereotyped characters.
ASIDE
A comment made by a stage performer that is intended to be heard by the audience but supposedly not by other characters.
ASSONANCE
The repetition of similar vowel sounds within non-rhyming words.
BALANCE
Constructing a sentence so that both halves are about the same length and importance.
BALLAD
A short poem that tells a simple story and has a repeated refrain.
BILDUNGSROMAN
Coming of Age Novel - A German word meaning "novel of development." A study of the maturation of a youthful character, typically brought about through a series of social or sexual encounters that lead to self-awareness.
BLANK VERSE
Loosely, any unrhymed poetry, but more generally, unrhymed iambic pentameter verse (composed of lines of five two-syllable feet with the first syllable accented, the second unaccented).
CATASTROPHE
The action at the end of a tragedy that initiates the denouement or falling action of a play.
CATHARSIS
The release or purging of unwanted emotions — specifically fear and pity — brought about by exposure to art.
CHARACTERIZATION
The process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character.
INDIRECT CHARACTERIZATION
The author reveals to the reader what the character is like by describing how the character looks and dresses, by letting the reader hear what the character says, by revealing the character's private thoughts and feelings, by revealing the characters effect on other people (showing how other characters feel or behave toward the character), or by showing the character in action. Common in modern literature.
DIRECT CHARACTERIZATION
The author tells us directly what the character is like: sneaky, generous, mean to pets and so on.
STATIC CHARACTER
A character who does not change much in the course of a story.
DYNAMIC CHARACTER
A character who changes in some important way as a result of the story's action.
FLAT CHARACTER
A character that has only one or two personality traits. They are one dimensional, like a piece of cardboard. They can be summed up in one phrase.
ROUND CHARACTER
A character that has more dimensions to their personalities---they are complex, just a real people are.
CHORUS
A group of actors in ancient Greek drama who commented on and interpreted the unfolding action on the stage.
CLICHE
A word or phrase, often a figure of speech that has become lifeless because of overuse.
COLLOQUIALISM
A word or phrase in everyday use in conversation and informal writing but is inappropriate for formal situations.
COMEDY
In general, a story that ends with a happy resolution of the conflicts faced by the main character or characters.
COMIC RELIEF
The use of humor to lighten the mood of a serious or tragic story, especially in plays.
CONCEIT
An elaborate metaphor that compares two things that are startlingly different. Often an extended metaphor.
CONFLICT
The struggle between opposing forces or characters in a story.
EXTERNAL CONFLICT
Conflicts can exist between two people, between a person and nature or a machine or between a person a whole society.
INTERNAL CONFLICT
A conflict involving opposing forces within a person's mind.
CONNOTATION
The associations and emotional overtones that have become attached to a word or phrase, in addition to its strict dictionary definition.
CONSONANCE
Consonance occurs in Poetry when words appearing at the ends of two or more verses have similar final consonant sounds but have final vowel sounds that differ, as with "stuff" and "off."
CONUNDRUM
A riddle whose answer is or involves a pun; it may also be a paradox or difficult problem.
COUPLET
Two lines of poetry with the same rhyme and Meter, often expressing a complete and self-contained thought.
CRITICISM
The systematic study and evaluation of literary works, usually based on a specific method or set of principles.
DENOTATION
The literal meaning or "dictionary definition" of a term, devoid of emotion, attitude, and color.
DEUS EX MACHINA
A Latin term meaning "god out of a machine." In Greek drama, a god was often lowered onto the stage by a mechanism of some kind to rescue the hero or untangle the plot. By extension, the term refers to any artificial device or coincidence used to bring about a convenient and simple solution to a plot.
DIALECT
A way of speaking that is characteristic of a certain social group or of the inhabitants of a certain geographical area.
DICTION
A speaker or writer's choice of words.
DIDACTIC
A form of fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking.
DISSONANCE
A combination of harsh or jarring sounds, especially in poetry.
DOCUMENTARY
A work that features a large amount of documentary material such as newspaper stories, trial transcripts, and legal reports.
DOPPELGANGER
A literary technique by which a character is duplicated (usually in the form of an alter ego, though sometimes as a ghostly counterpart) or divided into two distinct, usually opposite personalities.
DYSTOPIA
An imaginary place in a work of fiction where the characters lead dehumanized, fearful lives.
ELEGY
A lyric poem that laments the death of a person or the eventual death of all people.
EPIC
A long narrative poem, written in heightened language, which recounts the deeds of a heroic character who embodies the values of a particular society.
EPIGRAPH
A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work.
EPIPHANY
A sudden revelation of truth inspire by a seemingly trivial incident.
EPISTOLARY NOVEL
A novel in the form of letters.
ESSAY
A short piece of nonfiction prose in which the writer discusses some aspect of a subject.
ARGUMENTATION
One of the four forms of discourse which uses logic, ethics, and emotional appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) to develop an effective means to convince the reader to think or act in a certain way.
PERSUASION
A rom of writing that relies more on emotional appeals than facts.
CASUAL RELATIONSHIP
Form of argumentation in which the writer claims that one thing results from another, often used as part of a logical argument.
DESCRIPTION
A form of discourse that uses language to create a mood or emotion.
EXPOSITION
One of the four major forms of discourse in which something is explained or "set forth."
NARRATIVE
The form of discourse that tells about a series of events.
ETHOS
When a writer tries to persuade the audience to respect and believe him or her based on a presentation of image of self through the text. Reputation is sometimes a factor in ethical appeal, but in all cases the aim is to gain the audience's confidence. The writer tries to appeal to a sense of right and wrong/sense of justice to persuade the audience his or her argument is correct.
EUPHAMISM
A more acceptable and usually more pleasant way of saying something that might be inappropriate or uncomfortable.
EXPLICATION
An act of interpreting or discovering the meaning of a text, usually involves close reading and special attention to figurative language.
FABLE
A very short story told in prose or poetry that teaches a practical lesson about how to succeed in life.
FAIRY TALE
Short narratives featuring mythological beings such as fairies, elves, and sprites.
FANTASY
A literary form related to mythology and folklore.
FARCE
A type of comedy in which ridiculous and often stereotyped characters are involved in silly, far-fetched situations.
FIGURES of SPEECH
Writing that differs from customary conventions for construction, meaning, order, or significance for the purpose of a special meaning or effect.
FOLKLORE
Traditions and myths preserved in a culture or group of people. Typically, these are passed on by word of mouth in various forms — such as legends, songs, and proverbs — or preserved in customs and ceremonies.
FOLKTALE
A story originating in oral tradition. These stories fall into a variety of categories, including legends, ghost stories, fairy tales, Fables, and anecdotes based on historical figures and events.
FOOT
The smallest unit of rhythm in a line of poetry, typically consisting of one accented syllable combined with one or two unaccented syllables.
FORM
The pattern or construction of a work which identifies its genre and distinguishes it from other genres.
FREE VERSE
Poetry that does not conform to a regular meter or rhyme scheme.
GENRE
A category of literary work. In critical theory, genre may refer to both the content of a given work — tragedy, comedy, pastoral — and to its form, such as poetry, novel, or drama.
HAIKU
The shortest form of Japanese poetry, constructed in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables respectively.
HARMATIA
In tragedy, the event or act that leads to the hero's or heroine's downfall. This term is often incorrectly used as a synonym for tragic flaw.
HERO
The principal sympathetic character (male or female) in a literary work.
IAMBIC PENTAMETER
A metrical line of five feet, or units, each of which is made up of two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed.
INFERENCE
A conclusion one can draw from the presented details.
IN MEDIAS RES
A Latin term meaning "in the middle of things." It refers to the technique of beginning a story at its midpoint and then using various flashback devices to reveal previous action.
INTERIOR MONOLOGUE
A narrative technique in which characters' thoughts are revealed in a way that appears to be uncontrolled by the author.
INTERNAL RHYME
Rhyme that occurs within a single line of verse.
INVERSION
The reversal of the normal word order in a sentence or phrase.
JARGON
The special language of a profession or group.
JUXTAPOSITION
Poetic and rhetorical devices in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another, creating an effect of surprise and wit.
KENNING
A form of compounding in Old English, Old Norse, and Germanic poetry. In this poetic device, the poet creates a new compound word or phrase to describe an object or activity.
LOGOS
(also known as Logical Appeal) When a writer tries to persuade the audience based on statistics, facts, and reasons. The process of reasoning.
LOOSE SENTENCE
A sentence in which the main clause comes first, followed by further dependent grammatical units.
LYRIC POEM
A poem that does not tell a story but expresses the personal feelings or thoughts of the speaker.
MEMOIR
An autobiographical form of writing in which the author gives his or her personal impressions of significant figures or events. This form is different from the autobiography because it does not center around the author's own life and experiences.
METAPHOR
A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things without the use of such specific words of comparison as like, as, than, or resembles.
IMPLIED METAPHOR
An implied comparison that does not state explicitly the two terms of the comparison.
EXTENDED METAPHOR
A metaphor that is as far as the writer wants to take it. (Conceit if it is quite elaborate).
DEAD METAPHOR
A metaphor that has been used so often that the comparison is no longer vivid.
MIXED METAPHOR
A metaphor that has gotten out of control and mixes its terms so that they are visually or imaginatively incompatible.
METER
The regular pattern of accented and unaccented syllables in a line of poetry.
METONYMY
A figure of speech in which a person, place or thing is referred to by something closely associated with it.
MOOD
An atmosphere created by a writer's diction and the details selected.
MOTIF
A recurring image, word, phrase, action, idea, object, or situation used throughout a work (or in several works by one author), unifying the work by tying the current situation to previous ones, or new ideas to the theme.
MOTIVATION
The reasons for a character's behavior.
MYTH
An anonymous tale emerging from the traditional beliefs of a culture or social unit. They use supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. They may also explain cosmic issues like creation and death.
NARRATIVE POETRY
A non-dramatic poem in which the author tells a story. Such poems may be of any length or level of complexity.
OBJECTIVITY
A quality in writing characterized by the absence of the author's opinion or feeling about the subject matter.
ODE
Name given to an extended lyric poem characterized by exalted emotion and dignified style.
ORAL TRADITION
A process by which songs, ballads, folklore, and other material are transmitted by word of mouth.
OXYMORON
A figure of speech that combines opposite or contradictory terms in a brief phrase.
PARABLE
A relatively short story that teaches a moral, or lesson about how to lead a good life.
PARALLEL STRUCTURE (parallelism)
The repetition of words or phrases that have similar grammatical structures.
PARATACTIC SENTENCE
A sentences that simply juxtaposes clauses or sentences.
PARODY
This term refers to an imitation of a serious literary work or the signature style of a particular author in a ridiculous manner.
PASTORAL
A literary composition on a rural theme. The conventions of the were originated by the third-century Greek poet Theocritus, who wrote about the experiences, love affairs, and pastimes of Sicilian shepherds.
PATHOS
A quality of a play's action that stimulates the audience to feel pity for a character. This is always an aspect of tragedy, and may be present in comedy as well.
EMOTIONAL APPEAL
When a writer appeals to readers' emotions (often through pathos) to excite and involve them in the argument.
PATHETIC APPEAL
The aspects of a literary work that elicit sorrow or pity from the audience. Over-emotionalism can be the result of an excess of pathos.
PERIODIC
A sentence that places the main idea or central complete thought at the end of the sentence after all the introductory elements.
PERSONA
A Latin term meaning "mask." The characters in a fictional work of literature. They generally function as a mask through which the author tells a story in a voice other than his or her own.
PLAGIARISM
Claiming another person's written material as one's own. Plagiarism can take the form of direct, word-for-word copying or the theft of the substance or idea of the work.
POETIC JUSTICE
An outcome in a literary work, not necessarily a poem, in which the good are rewarded and the evil are punished, especially in ways that particularly fit their virtues or crimes.
POETIC LICENSE
Distortions of fact and literary convention made by a writer — not always a poet — for the sake of the effect gained.
PROLOGUE
An introductory section of a literary work. It often contains information establishing the situation of the characters or presents information about the setting, time period, or action.
PROSE
A literary medium that attempts to mirror the language of everyday speech. It is distinguished from poetry by its use of unmetered, unrhymed language consisting of logically related sentences.
PUN
A "play on words" based on the multiple meanings of a single word or on words that sound alike but mean different things.
QUATRAIN
A poem consisting of four lines, or four lines of a poem that can be considered as a unit.
REFRAIN
A word, phrase, line, or group of lines that is repeated, for effect, several times in a poem.
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.
RHETORIC
The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse.
RHETORICAL QUESTION
A question asked for an effect, and not actually requiring an answer.
RHYME
The occurrence of a similar or identical sound at the ends of two or more words.
END RHYME
Occurs at the ends of lines of poetry.
SLANT RHYME (also known as APPROXIMATE or NEAR RHYME)
Occurs when the sounds are not quite identical.
RHYME SCHEME
The pattern of end rhyme in a poem. The pattern is charted by assigning a letter of the alphabet, beginning with letter a, to each line.
SARCASM
Harsh, caustic personal remarks to or about someone; less subtle than irony.
SATIRE
A type of writing that ridicules the shortcomings of people or institutions in an attempt to bring about a change.
SCENE
A subdivision of an Act of a drama, consisting of continuous action taking place at a single time and in a single location.
SCIENCE FICTION
A type of narrative about or based upon real or imagined scientific theories and technology.
SCOP
An Anglo-Saxon poet, singer or musician who would perform in a mead hall. In Anglo-Saxon culture,this individual had the responsibility of passing along the accomplishment of his patron or people through oral tradition.
SLANG
A type of informal verbal communication that is generally unacceptable for formal writing.
SOLILOQUY
A long speech made by a character in a play while no other characters are on stage.
SONNET
A lyric poem of 14 lines, commonly written in iambic pentameter.
SPEAKER
In poetry the speaker in the poem is the voice that talks to the reader, similar to the narrator in fiction, but is not necessarily the poet.
STANZA
A grouping of two or more lines in a pattern that is repeated throughout a poem.
STEREOTYPE
A fixed idea or conception of a character or an idea which does not allow for any individuality, often based on religious, social, or racial prejudices.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
A style of writing that portrays the inner (often chaotic) workings of a character's mind.
STRUCTURE
The form taken by a piece of literature.
SUBJECTIVITY
Writing that expresses the author's personal feelings about his subject, and which may or may not include factual information about the subject.
SUBPLOT
A secondary story in a narrative.
SUSPENSE
A feeling of uncertainty and curiosity about what will happen next in a story.
SYNTACTIC FLUENCY
The ability to create a variety of sentence structures, appropriately complex and/or simple and varied in length.
SYNTACTIC PERMUTATION
Sentence structures that are extraordinarily complex and involved. Often difficult for a reader to follow.
SYNTAX
The grammatical structure of a sentence; the arrangement of words in a sentence, including length of sentence, kinds of sentences (questions, exclamations, declarative sentences, rhetorical questions, simple, complex, or compound).
TALL TALE
A humorous tale told in a straightforward, credible tone but relating absolutely impossible events or feats of the characters. Such tales were commonly told of frontier adventures during the settlement of the west in the United States.
TERZA RIMA
A three-line stanza form in Poetry in which the rhymes are made on the last word of each line in the following manner: the first and third lines of the first stanza, then the second line of the first stanza and the first and third lines of the second stanza, and so on with the middle line of any stanza rhyming with the first and third lines of the following stanza.
TONE
The attitude a writer takes toward the subject of a work, the characters in it, or the audience, revealed through diction, figurative language, and organization.
TRAGIC FLAW
In a tragedy, the quality within the hero or heroine which leads to his or her downfall.
TRAGIC HERO
A privileged character, typically of noble birth or of high repute, who, by virtue of a tragic flaw and fate, suffers a fall from glory or grace into suffering.
TRANSCENDENTALISM
A nineteenth century movement in the Romantic tradition , which held that every individual can reach ultimate truths through spiritual intuition, which transcends reasons and sensory experience.
UNDERSTATEMENT
A statement that says less than what is meant.
UNITY
Unified parts of the writing are related to one central idea or organizing principle.It is dependent upon coherence.
VERNACULAR
The language spoken by the people who live in a particular locality.
VERSE
A line of metered language, a line of a poem, or any work written in verse.
VOICE
A writer's unique use of language that allows the reader to "hear" a human personality in his or her writing. The elements include sentence structure, diction, and tone.
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE
Words which are inaccurate if interpreted literally, but are used to describe. Similes and metaphors are common forms.
IMAGERY
The use of language to evoke a picture or a concrete sensation of a person, a thing, a place, or an experience. It consists of descriptive words or phrases that re-create a sensory experience for the reader and usually appeals to one of the five senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch - to help the reader imagine exactly what is being described.
HYPERBOLE
A figure of speech that uses an incredible exaggeration or overstatement, for effect.
FOIL
A character who acts as contrast to another character. Often a funny side-kick to the dashing hero, or a villain contrasting the hero.
FORESHADOWING
The use of hints and clues to suggest what will happen later in a plot.
PARADOX
A statement that appears self-contradictory, but that reveals a kind of truth.
PETRARCHAN SONNET
*A.K.A. the Italian Sonnet - consists of two parts - the octave (the first eight lines) and the sestet (the last six lines).
*The usual rhyme scheme for the octave is abbaabba.
*The rhyme scheme for the sestet may be cdecde or cdccdc or a similar variation.
*The octave generally presents a problem or raises a question.
*The sestet resolves or comments on the problem.
SHAKESPEAREAN SONNET
*A.K.A. the English Sonnet or the Elizabethan Sonnet.
*Consists of three quatrains, or four-line units, and a final couplet.
*The typical rhyme scheme is:
abab cdcd efef gg.
*The rhymed couplet at the end of the sonnet provides a final commentary on the subject developed in the three quatrains.
SPENSERIAN SONNET
*A variation of the Shakespearean Sonnet.
*Has the same structure as a Shakespearean Sonnet - three quatrains and a rhyming couplet.
*Uses an interlocking rhyme scheme:
abab bcbc cdcd ee
COUPLET
Rhyming stanzas made up of two lines
VILLANELLE
A 19 line poem divided into five three-line stanzas (tercets) and a four line concluding quatrain.
END-STOPPED LINE
The end of a line of poetry which corresponds with a natural pause in speech.
RUN-ON LINE
A line of poetry in which the sense of the line moves on without pause into the next line.
TRUNCATION
The omission of an unaccented syllable at either end of a line of poetry.
METRICAL VARIATIONS
Sounds that depart from what is regular or uniform in a poem. (substitution, extrametrical syllables, and/or truncation)
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