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Literary and Rhetorical Terms
Understand these terms. The AP Lang exam does not forgive.
Terms in this set (29)
word choice; how the author decides to write/speak about something
small-scale content used by the author to convey meaning.
A comparison of a noun to another noun, using the words "like" or "as", ie. "He stood like a mountain," or "She was as terrible as Stalin."
A direct comparison of a noun to another noun, usually in poetry, ie. "I am a rock."
Description of a non-human entity as if it was human, usually in poetry or fiction, ie. "The tall pine trees spied on the ancient village."
Comparing two things by using a familiar comparison, saying that the comparison applies to both. For example: "A" is to "B" as "غ" is to "ظ", because both are consecutive letters in the an alphabet.
A seemingly contradictory statement in order to make a valid point. "Public opinion is a weak tyrant."
Two contradictory words consecutively. "Friendly devil" or "Wet Desert" would be examples.
An exaggeration. "He was so tall he could touch the stars"
A mild, inoffensive word/phrase substituted for a harsh, offensive word/phrase. Used to make an awkward topic less so, and still convey meaning. Usually, in casual conversation a "you know what I mean" is appended to the end. "The old man got a leg up, if you know what I mean"
An implied, double-meaning of a word. "You are a dog" literally means you are a 4-legged animal (denotation), but the connotation is that the individual is filthy and disgusting.
Comparison or contrast by location in the piece. "On one hand...on the other"
It is when a negative term "no" or "not" is used to diminish the subsequent adjective. "This is no small task" or "It isn't a big deal"
A grammatical device, when all verbs and modifiers in a series have the correct form. "She likes running, walking, and jogging" not "She likes walking, jogging, and to run"
Use of modifiers in order to give the reader a vivid view of setting, characters, or events. "It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude: on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea." - Moby Dick
Arrangement of words according to the laws of grammar. Authors like Herman Melville and James Joyce never obey logical syntax.
References to other sources, such as literature, history, current events, etc. Part of the reason why no one actually reads The Divine Comedy or Finnigan's Wake.
A literary work which attacks something, usually contemporary, by use of hyperbole. Usually satire is funny and allegorical, for example, Animal Farm is a more serious satire of communism, while the Colbert Report is a light-hearted satire of Republicans.
An informal phrase or word, not necessarily slang, but makes great usage of contractions and profanity, if you know what I mean. Colloquial language is a superset of slang, however.
A personal story that doesn't provide logical evidence to an argument, but may sway listeners to agree with you. President Barack Obama loves these:
"Number one, if you've got a preexisting condition, insurance companies will still have to insure you. [...] My mother, when she contracted cancer, the insurance companies started suggesting that, well, maybe this was a preexisting condition; maybe you could have diagnosed it before you actually purchased your insurance. Ultimately, they gave in, but she had to spend weeks fighting with insurance companies while she's in the hospital bed, writing letters back and forth just to get coverage for insurance that she had already paid premiums on."
An sentence which is ungrammatical until the final phrase.
"Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garment shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent and soft, and slow,
Descends the snow. "
A sentence in which one word is used in different context with a series of words or phrases. "You are free to execute your laws and your citizens as you see fit."
Use of a word or phrase multiple times to underscore its importance.
"And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
A question addressed to the crowd, but not expected to be answered. In theory, the question's answer should be obvious to the crowd, often the speaker answers it himself.
There are two kinds, dramatic irony, where the reader knows something before a (few) character(s) do. Also as a rhetorical device, it is used to denote a break between expectations and reality. Often irony and hypocrisy go together like bread and butter.
The literal meaning of a word. Calling someone a "dog" in this context would mean that they are literally a four-legged mammal.
An original phrase summing up a general truth. Confucius, Socrates, and Benjamin Franklin are known for these. "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." - Confucius
A speaker directs his/her attention away from the audience in order to address a third-party.
The exact opposite of an idea or individual. "Satan" is the antithesis of "God"
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