AP Literature Terminology
Terms in this set (151)
language that describes qualities that cannot be perceived with the five senses. for instance, calling something "pleasant" or "pleasing" is abstract, while calling something "yellow" or "sour" is concrete
the term loosely describes any writing in verse or prose that has a double meaning. This narrative acts as an extended metaphor in which persons, abstract ideas, or events represent not only themselves on the literal level, but they also stand for something else on the symbolic level. An ______ reading usually involves moral or spiritual concepts that may be more significant than the actual, literal events described in a narrative. Typically, an _____ involves the interaction of multiple symbols, which together create a moral, spiritual, or even political meaning. Probably the most famous _____ in English literature is John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678), in which the hero named Christian flees the City of Destruction and travels through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, Doubting Castle, and finally arrives at the Celestial City. The entire narrative is a representation of the human soul's pilgrimage through temptation and doubt to reach salvation in heaven. Medieval works were frequently ______, such as the plays Mankind and Everyman.
: Repeating a consonant sound in close proximity to others, or beginning several words with the same vowel sound. For instance, the phrase "buckets of big blue berries" ______ with the consonant b
A figure of speech which references an historical or literary figure, event or object; often, a reference in one literary work to a character or theme found in another literary work. T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song for J. Alfred Prufrock," or instance alludes (refers) to the Biblical figure of John the Baptist when he writes, "though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter / I am no prophet - and here's no great matter."
Any wording, action, or symbol that can be read in divergent ways, often intentional by the author
Something out of place in time - think a high school production of Julius Caesar in which Brutus is wearing tennis shoes and a digital watch
When the letters or syllables in a name, word or phrase are shuffled together or jumbled to form a new word. Examples include ELVIS and LIVES, and, more disturbingly, SANTA and SATAN. Anagrams were particularly popular during the Reniassance
The relationship of similarity between two or more entities or a partial similarity on which a comparison is based. An example is the classic _____ between the heart and a pump or an English teacher and God. Simile and ____ do overlap, though simile is often more "artistic," done briefly for effect and emphasis.
The intentional repetition of beginning clauses in order to create an artistic effect. MLK used a totally awesome form of ______ in his "I Have a Dream" speech:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
A short narrative account of an amusing, unusual, revealing, or interesting event. A good anecdote has a single, definite point, and the setting, dialogue, and characters are usually subordinate to the point of the story.
A protagonist who is a non-hero or the antithesis of a traditional hero. While the traditional hero may be dashing, strong, brave, resourceful, or handsome, the ___ may be incompetent, unlucky, clumsy, dumb, ugly, or clownish. Examples can be as extreme as Lucifer in Paradise Lost or they can be less evil and simply anxious as is the case with Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye.
A balancing or contrasting of one term against another. An example would be: "Man proposes, God disposes." —Pope
A brief, cleverly worded statement that makes a wise observation about life. "The idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make a better soup." - H.L. Menken
The addressing of someone or something usually not present, as though present. An example would be the first lines of this famous Walt Whitman poem: "O Captain, My Captain! A fearful trip is done." (Often times, _____ feature the "O!" at the beginning).
An original model or pattern from which other later copies are made, especially a character, an action, or situation that seems to represent common patterns of human life. Ever think about how King Arthur and Lord of the Rings and The Lion King and Harry Potter all deal with young men reluctant to accept the role of leadership but who, in the end, all do and with great success even against the greatest of odds? Critics would call that an _____. Others would include the "hooker with a heart of gold," "the young, star-crossed lovers," "the guilt-ridden figure searching for redemption," etc. ______ and clichés overlap, though clichés grow tired while ______ tend to consistently work.
a dramatic device in which a character speaks to the audience directly. By convention, the audience recognizes that the character's speech is unheard by the other characters on stage. Like a soliloquy, an ___ is a true statement of a character's thought, although _____ are usually brief statements rather than speeches.
Repeating identical or similar vowels (especially in stressed syllables) in nearby words. ______ in final vowels of lines can often lead to half-rhyme. A fine example comes from Eminem's rap song "Kim" in which the artist declares, "I'm on a thousand downers now / I'm drowsy, and all I wanted was a lousy / Letter or a call."
A non-fictional account of a person's life - usually a celebrity, an important historical figure, or a writer - written by that actual person (as opposed to a biography which is written by someone other than the subject of the text).
19. Ballad: A form of verse meant to be sung or recited. Characterized by a dramatic or exciting episode in a fairly short narrative; a poem written in song-like stanza. Ballad's live on in songs like "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" or "Candle in the Wind."
An ancient Celtic poet, singer and harpist who recited heroic poems by memory. These bards were the oral historians, political critics, eulogizers, and entertainers of their ancient societies. The word in modern usage has become a synonym for any poet. Shakespeare in particular is often referred to as "the Bard"
A descent in literature in which a poet or writer - striving too hard to be passionate or elevated - falls into trivial or stupid imagery, phrasing, or ideas. Bathos can be used intentionally to create humor as in, "We here at Pace Academy strive for only the highest ideals: to flourish intellectually, to serve the community, and to beat Holy Innocence in sports whenever humanly possible."
A coming of age story that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood and in which, therefore, character change is extremely important. Usually in the beginning of the story there is an emotional loss which makes the protagonist leave on his journey. In a ______ the goal is maturity, and the protagonist achieves it gradually and with difficulty. The genre often features a main conflict between the main character and society. Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and he is ultimately accepted into society - the protagonist's mistakes and disappointments are over. In some works (though by no means all), the protagonist is able to reach out and help others after having achieved maturity. A great example of a ______ is, actually, Harry Potter
_________ consists of lines of iambic pentameter without end rhyme. An example from Shakespeare's Macbeth would be, "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time; / And all our yesterdays have lighted fools / To dusky death..."
The term in poetry refers to the use of words that combine sharp, harsh, hissing, or unmelodious sounds.
Basically, works you would find in anthologies - classroom and textbook standards. In this sense, "the ____" denotes the entire body of literature traditionally thought to be suitable for admiration and study. Coming out of American lit, think Huck Finn, Poe's short stories, etc.
A sub-division of an epic or narrative poem comparable to a chapter in a novel. Different from a stanza (see below)
: A pause in a line of poetry that is caused by the rhythms of natural speech rather than by the meter of the poem. That is to say, while the poem may have a consistent meter, the reader would nevertheless still take a natural "break" within given lines when reading aloud. These natural pauses are called _____.
An example can be seen in the little poem below (indicated with the )
There is little that is sweeter
Than a poem with perfect meter
Sometimes we pause amidst the furor
And when we do  that's _____!
: In literature, ______ using only an exaggeration of some characteristics or an oversimplification of others. It is often found in satire and parody.
A ______ line is a metrically incomplete line of verse, lacking a syllable somewhere in the line or ending with an incomplete foot of meter. ______ _____ throughout a poem can give a sense of lack or yearning. A singular line with ______ _____ found in a poem with otherwise perfect meter should draw the reader's attention to that line. See the Auden poem "Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love" for an example of trochaic trimester _______ (in this case, Auden drops the final trochaic foot of each line):
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral;
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creatures lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful
A literary scheme in which the author introduces words or concepts in a particular order, then later repeats those terms or similar ones in reversed or backwards order. A very famous example comes from President Kennedy when he declared, "ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!" Perhaps even more memorable is Peter de Vreis's advice to not "sweat the petty things - and don't pet the sweaty things."
In the plays of ancient Greece, the ____ was a homogenous, non-individualized group of performers who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action of the play. They commented on themes and often expressed to the audience what the main characters could not say, such as their hidden fears or secrets.
A phrase, often a figure of speech, that has become lifeless through overuse. Ex: "avoid ______ like the plague!"
: Informal, not always grammatically correct expression that find acceptance amongst certain groups of people in certain geographic area. Think "Y'all."
For Shakespeare, upbeat drama at the end of which most everyone gets married. For us, anything that promotes smiles and laughter.
comedy of errors
A dramatic work (often a play) that is light and often humorous or satirical in tone, in which the action usually features a series of comic instances of mistaken identity, and which typically culminates in a happy resolution of the thematic conflict. A modern example might be The Hangover.
A fairly elaborate figure of speech, especially an extended comparison involving unlikely metaphors, similes, imagery, hyperbole, and oxymora. One of the most famous conceits is John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," a poem in which Donne compares two souls in love to the points on a geometer's compass. Shakespeare also uses conceits regularly in his poetry. In Richard II, Shakespeare compares two kings competing for power to two buckets in a well, for instance. You will always know the conceit by its length - similes and metaphors are quick and to the point; conceits are long and drawn-out.
Language that describes qualities that can be perceived with the five senses as opposed to using abstract or generalized language. For instance, calling a fruit "pleasant" or "good" is abstract, while calling a fruit "cool" or "sweet" is concrete. Concrete language is, more than often, "touchable."
The opposition between two characters, or between the protagonist and a larger problem. _____ is the engine that drives the story. Without _____, there is no story.
The extra tinge or taint of meaning each word carries beyond the minimal, strict definition found in a dictionary. For instance, drawing from (small) personal experience, "mick" means the same thing as "Irish" though "mick" is a slur and derogatory while "Irish" is not.
A special type of alliteration in which the repeated pattern of consonants is marked by changes in the intervening vowels--i.e., the final consonants of the stressed syllables match each other but the vowels differ. Examples include linger, longer, and languor or rider, reader, raider, and ruder
Two lines, the second line immediately following the first, of the same metrical length that end in a rhyme to form a complete unit. Romantics loved _____.
A code of behavior that gave rise to modern ideas of chivalrous romance in the 12th-14th century in which brave knights protected and adored passive maidens from afar. Lancelot of the King Arthur tales is the end-all, be-all of _____________.
The turning point of uncertainty and tension resulting from earlier conflict in a plot
The minimal, strict definition of a word as found in a dictionary, disregarding any historical or emotional connotation
Deux Ex Machina
Literally "God from the machine," ________________ describes an unrealistic intervention to rescue the protagonists or resolve the story's conflict. The term literally refers to a moment in many Greek plays in which an actor, portraying one of the Greek gods in a play, would be lowered out of the sky onto the stage and then use his divine powers to solve all the mortals' problems. The term is a negative one, and it often implies a lack of skill on the part of the writer.
The language of a particular district, class, or group of persons. The term ____ encompasses the sounds, spelling, grammar, and diction employed by a specific people as distinguished from other persons either geographically or socially. _____ is a major technique of characterization that reveals the social or geographic status of a character. Again, think Huck Finn
The choice of a particular word as opposed to others. A writer could call a rock formation by many words - a stone, a boulder, an outcropping, a pile of rocks, a cairn, a mound, or even an "anomalous geological feature." It's our job to figure out why one word and not another, and what is the effect. The word choice a writer makes determines the reader's reaction to the object of description, and contributes to the author's style and tone
Writing that is "preachy" or seeks overtly to convince a reader of a particular point or lesson. Medieval homilies and Victorian moral essays are often held up as examples of didactic literature, though it is important to note that didactic literature does not always have to be religious in nature (for example, much of Romantic literature is didactic in that it hints at a critique of urbanized and mechanized life in 19th-century London.)
: Literally "double-goer" in German, is an individual's look-alike or double that is not his/her twin. Often found in gothic literature, a doppelgänger is a harbinger of bad luck, even death, and is understood as a physical manifestation of The Uncanny.
Literally "double meaning" in French, double entendre refers to the deliberate use of ambiguity in a phrase or image - especially involving sexual or humorous meanings. For an example, think about any time Steve Carrel's character on The Office shouts, "That what she said!"
A composition in prose or verse presenting, in pantomime and dialogue, a narrative involving conflict between a character or characters and some external or internal force (i.e. conflict). Playwrights usually design dramas for presentation on a stage in front of an audience, though not always. Plays are usually made up of 3-5 acts, with each act (possibly) broken up into scenes.
A poem in which a poetic speaker addresses either the reader or an internal listener at length. Basically, a poetic soliloquy that reveals the innermost thoughts and feelings of the speaker. The two most famous examples are Browning's "My Last Duchess" and "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister."
The common plot sequence for a 5-act play, _____________ can also be found in film and literature. _____________ follows the sequential pattern: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, Denouement,
The _____ provides the background information needed to properly understand the story, such as the protagonist, the antagonist, the basic conflict, and the setting
During rising action, the basic internal conflict is complicated by the introduction of related secondary conflicts, including various obstacles that frustrate the protagonist's attempt to reach his goal
The third act is that of the _____, or turning point, which marks a change in the protagonist's affairs
During the falling action, which is the moment of reversal after the climax, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravels, with the protagonist either clearly winning or losing (in the case of a tragedy) the battle.
A French word meaning "unknotting" or "unwinding," _______ refers to the outcome of a complex situation, a resolution (in fact, the two words are basically synonymous) that usually occurs near the final stages of the plot. It is the unraveling of the main dramatic complications in a play, novel or other work of literature, and usually takes places quickly in the final chapter or scene as it occurs only after all the conflicts have been resolved.
A complex literary character who changes over the course of the story as opposed to static or flat characters who are one-dimensional and remain the same throughout the story. Huck Finn is an example of a __________ while Tom Sawyer is an example of a static character.
In classical Greco-Roman literature, "____" refers to any poem written in _____ meter (alternating hexameter and pentameter lines). More broadly, ____ came to mean any poem dealing with the subject-matter common to the early Greco-Roman elegies--complaints about love, sustained formal lamentation, or somber meditations. Typically, _____ are marked by several conventions of genre:
• The _____, much like the classical epic, typically begins with an invocation of the muse, and then continues with allusions to classical mythology.
• The poem usually contains a poetic speaker who uses the first person.
• The speaker raises questions about justice, fate, or providence.
• The poet digresses about the conditions of his own time or his own situation.
• The digression allows the speaker to move beyond his original emotion or thinking to a higher level of understanding.
• The conclusion of the poem provides consolation or insight into the speaker's situation. In Christian _____, the lyric reversal often moves from despair and grief to joy when the speaker realizes that death or misfortune is but a temporary barrier separating one from the bliss of eternity.
• The poem tends to be longer than a lyric but not as long as an epic.
• The poem is not plot-driven.
In the case of pastoral ____ in the 1600s, 1700s, and early 1800s, there are several other common conventions:
• The speaker mourns the death of a close friend; the friend is eulogized in the highest possible terms, but represented as if he were a shepherd.
• The mourner charges with negligence the nymphs or guardians of the shepherd who failed to preserve him from death.
• Appropriate mourners appear to lament the shepherd's death.
• Post-Renaissance poets often include an elaborate passage in which flowers appear to deck the hearse or grave, with various flowers having symbolic meaning appropriate to the scene.
A punctuation mark indicated by three periods to indicate material missing from a quotation . . . like this. This mark is common in MLA format for indicating partial quotations. ____ in prose writing can be used to show hesitation. Ex: "An evil witch, a tap-dancing scarecrow, flying monkeys, an emotionally unstable lion, disturbing munchkins...Dorothy couldn't help but wonder if Oz sold guns." - Rich Lederer and Jon Shore, Comma Sense. Finally, ____ can also indicate a speaker trailing off from an idea or intentionally not finishing it. Ex: "Those kids at Pace are really smart and well-behaved. The kids at Lovett and Westminster, on the other hand..."
Rhyme in which the last word at the end of each verse is the word that rhymes. This contrasts with internal rhyme, in which a word in the middle of each line of verse rhymes
French for "straddling," ______ refers to a poetic technique in which a line having no pause or end punctuation continues uninterrupted grammatical meaning into the next line. Here is an example from George S. Viereck's "The Haunted House":
I lay beside you; on your lips the while
Hovered most strange the mirage of a smile
Such as a minstrel lover might have seen
Upon the visage of some antique queen. . . .
You will note there is no punctuation or pause at the end of lines one, two, and three. Instead, the meaning continues uninterrupted into the next line. Sometimes, enjambment can make the reader feel uncomfortable or the poem feel like "flow-of-thought" with a sensation of urgency or disorder. Enjambment may also be used to delay the intention of the line until the following line and thus play on the expectation of the reader and surprise them, like a poetic cliffhanger.
A traditionally classical poem that:
• Is a long narrative about a serious subject
• Is told in an elevated style of language
• Is focused on the exploits of a hero or demi-god who represents the cultural values of a race, nation, or religious group
• Details how the hero's success or failure will determine the fate of that people or nation.
• Has a vast setting, and covers a wide geographic area,
• Contains superhuman feats of strength or military prowess, and gods or supernatural beings frequently take part in the action.
• Begins the invocation of a muse to inspire the poet
• Starts "in medias res" (in the middle of things)
• Contains long catalogs of heroes or important characters, focusing on highborn kings and great warriors rather than peasants and commoners.
The greatest examples of epics are, of course, Homer's Illiad and Odyssey.
Like a regular simile, an epic simile makes a comparison between one object and another using "like" or "as." However, unlike a regular simile, which often appears in a single sentence, the epic simile appears in the genre of the epic and it may be developed at great length, often up to fifty or a hundred lines. They are, as you might expect, all over The Odyssey.
A brief quotation which appears at the beginning of a literary work. The following is the ______ from T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Quoted from Dante's epic poem "The Inferno," the speaker, Guido di Montefeltrano, believing Dante to be another soul condemned to Hell, replies thus to a question:
If I believed my answer were being given
to someone who could ever return to the world,
this flame (his voice is represented by a moving flame) would shake
But since no one has ever returned
alive from this depth, if what I hear is true,
I will answer you without fear of infamy.
The ______ here reveals one of the themes of the poem: Prufrock's urgent desire not to be revealed. The epigraph may serve as a preface, as a summary, as a counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon, either to invite comparison or to enlist a conventional context.
A conclusion added to a literary work such as a novel, play, or long poem. It is the opposite of a prologue. Often, the epilogue refers to the moral of a fable. Sometimes, it is a speech made by one of the actors at the end of a play asking for the indulgence of the critics and the audience (the best example is Puck's final speech in A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Taking the form of a letter, or actually consisting of a letter written to another. Novels such as Frankenstein and The Color Purple have taken on an "______" style. The form allows an author to dispense with an omniscient point of view, but still switch between the viewpoints of several characters during the narrative.
the repetition of the same words or words at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences. It is a counterpart of anaphora. Examples include "...government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" from the Gettysburg Address and "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child." From Paul's letter in Corinthians.
We know it as an inscription on a gravestone (Ex: "Here lies Bill Smith / Pardon me for not rising"). In a more general sense, an ____ is the final statement spoken by a character before his death. In many of Shakespeare's plays, it is common for the last words a character speaks to come true, especially if he utters a curse.
1. A short, poetic nickname - often in the form of an adjective or adjectival phrase - attached to the normal name. The Homeric ____ is the most famous. It often includes compounds of two words such as, "fleet-footed Achilles," "Grey-eyed Athena," or "the wine-dark sea."
The origin of a word or the study of word origins and the history of words - especially how words can be traced back to a root, i.e., an earlier source word. For example, the word "_____" comes from the late 14th century and is a combination of the Greek term etymos meaning "true" and logos meaning "word." ______ then hopes to uncover the "true sense" of words.
Using a mild or gentle phrase instead of a blunt, embarrassing, or painful one. For instance, saying "Grandfather has passed away" is a _______ for "Grandpa? He dead." Frequently, words referring directly to death, unpopular politics, blasphemy, crime, and sexual or excremental activities are replaced by _____. Important to realize is the _______ do not refer to those phrases which emphasize the bluntness, vulgarity or repugnance of an event. Phrases like "kicking the bucket" or "worm food" would be dysphemisms, not _______.
The use of authorial discussion to explain or summarize background material rather than revealing this information through gradual narrative detail. Often, this technique is considered unartful, especially when creative writers contrast showing (revelation through details) and telling (______).
A brief tale designed to illustrate a moral lesson. Often the characters are animals as in the fables of Aesop.
A farce is a form of low comedy designed to provoke laughter through highly exaggerated caricatures of people in improbable or silly situations. Much of Monty Python's best stuff is farcical. Traits of farce include:
• physical bustle such as slapstick
• sexual misunderstandings and mix-ups
• broad verbal humor such as puns
A deviation from what speakers of a language understand as the ordinary or standard use of words in order to achieve some special meaning or effect. Perhaps the two most common figurative devices are the simile and metaphor.
A method of narration in which present action is temporarily interrupted so that the reader can witness past events - usually in the form of a character's memories, dreams, narration, or even authorial commentary (such as saying, "But back when King Arthur had been a child. . . ."). ____ allows an author to fill in the reader about a place or a character, or it can be used to delay important details until just before a dramatic moment.
A character that serves by contrast to highlight or emphasize opposing traits in another character. You might think about how Tom Sawyer is a ___ for Huck in Huck Finn or, if you rather, how the Joker is a ___ for Batman in Dark Knight
A basic unit of meter consisting of a set number of strong stresses and light stresses. Basically, a "___" is the "lowest common denominator" of poetry. (For more, see "meter").
Suggesting, hinting, indicating, or showing what will occur later in a narrative. For instance, a movie director might show a clip in which two parents discuss their son's leukemia. The camera briefly changes shots to do an extended close-up of a dying plant in the garden outside, or one of the parents might mention that another relative died on the same date. The perceptive audience sees the dying plant, or hears the reference to the date of death, and realizes this detail foreshadows the child's death later in the movie. The key thing to notice is that it is, as usual, the perceptive audience that is in on the technique.
the fourth wall
In theatre productions, an imaginary wall that separates the events on stage from the audience. The idea is that the stage is constructed with a cutaway view of the house, so that the people sitting on the audience can look through this invisible "fourth wall" and look directly into the events inside. In the twentieth-century, playwrights and directors began asking actors to speak directly to the audience, or even to enter from the back of the theatre rather than from off-stage, thus "breaking the forth wall." (For another example of breaking the forth wall, you could consider television shows or movies that have characters speak directly to the camera.)
The result of inserting one or more small stories within the body of a larger story that encompasses the smaller ones. The most famous example is Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in which the overarching frame narrative is the story of a band of pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. The band passes the time in a storytelling contest. The framed narratives are the individual stories told by the pilgrims who participate.
Poetry based on the natural rhythms of phrases and normal pauses rather than the artificial constraints of metrical feet. This poetry often involves the counterpoint of stressed and unstressed syllables in unpredictable but clever ways. Consider this excerpt from Amy Lowell's "Patterns":
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By every button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?
Here, we find examples of rhythmical regularity such as the near-anapestic meter in one line ("and the softness of my body, will be guarded from brace"). However, the poet deviates from this regularity in other lines, which often vary wildly in length, in some passages approaching a prose-like quality.
Exaggeration or overstatement. Ex: I'm so hungry I could eat a horse
in the face of or about very unpleasant, serious, or painful circumstances. Any humor that treats serious matters, such death, war, disease, etc., in a light, silly or satirical fashion is considered gallows humor. Sometimes also called "dark humor" or "dark comedy." For example, in Stephen King's The Tommyknockers, when one character is about to be executed, the firing squad leader offers the man a cigarette. He replies, "No thanks. Trying to quit."
a French term for a type, species, or class of composition such as novel, poem, short story, and such sub-categories as sonnet, science fiction or mystery.
A work in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terror pervades the action. The setting is often a dark, mysterious castle, where ghosts and sinister humans roam menacingly. Characters often encounter a literal and/or figurative "return of the repressed." Think Edgar Allen Poe.
: Literally "tragic flaw," hamartia is a description of the element (vice, virtue, misfortune, etc.) in a tragedy or tragic character that makes it tragic. The most common example of hamartia is hubris or excessive self-confidence or pride (often in the face of the gods).
sometimes called a closed couplet) a stanza composed of two rhymed couplets in iambic pentameter. The following stanza from John Denham's poem "Cooper's Hill" in which the speaker describes the Thames illustrates the heroic couplet:
O I could flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.
In medieval physiology, four liquids in the human body affecting behavior. Each humour was associated with one of the four elements of nature. In a balanced personality, no humour predominated. When a humour did predominate, it caused a particular personality. Here is a chart of the humours, the corresponding elements and personality characteristics:
• Blood: air; hot and moist; sanguine, kind, happy, romantic
• Phlegm: water; cold and moist; phlegmatic, sedentary, sickly, fearful
• Yellow Bile: fire; hot and dry; choleric, ill-tempered, impatient, stubborn
• Black Bile: earth; cold and dry; melancholy, gluttonous, lazy, contemplative
The Renaissance took the doctrine of humours quite seriously - it was their model of psychology - knowing that can help us understand the characters in the literature. Falstaff, for example, has a dominance of blood, while Hamlet seems to have an excess of black bile.
A commonly used phrase that works only on figurative level and is not meant to be taken literally. Examples include: "feeling blue," "raining cats and dogs," and (for you actors) "Break a leg!"
an indirect remark about somebody or something, usually suggesting something bad, mean or rude. Anytime someone could add "if you know what I mean..." at the end of a statement, they are using innuendo. Similar to euphemism, innuendo is almost always vulgar or disparaging.
Rhyming within a line of poetry. Ex: I swear it seemed like all things dreamed.
A mode of expression, through words (verbal irony) or events (irony of situation), conveying a reality different from and usually opposite to appearance or expectation. A writer may say the opposite of what he means, create a reversal between expectation and its fulfillment, or give the audience knowledge that a character lacks, making the character's words have meaning to the audience not perceived by the character. In verbal irony, the writer's meaning or even his attitude may be different from what he says: "Why, no one would dare argue that there could be anything more important in choosing a college than its proximity to the beach." An example of situational irony would occur if a professional pickpocket had his own pocket picked just as he was in the act of picking someone else's pocket. The irony is generated by the surprise recognition by the audience of a reality in contrast with expectation or appearance, while another audience, victim, or character puts confidence in the appearance as reality (in this case, the pickpocket doesn't expect his own pocket to be picked). The surprise recognition by the audience often produces a comic effect, making irony often funny. An example of dramatic irony (where the audience has knowledge that gives additional meaning to a character's words) would be when King Oedipus, who has unknowingly killed his father, says that he will banish his father's killer when he finds him.
The arrangement of two or more ideas, characters, actions, settings, phrases, or words side-by-side or in similar narrative moments for the purpose of comparison, contrast, rhetorical effect, suspense, or character development
In ancient Greece, the laurel was sacred to Apollo and as such sprigs of it were fashioned into a crown for poets and heroes (think of our own Arts Laureates here at Pace). A Poet Laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, who is often expected to compose poems for special events and occasions. Famous poet laureates that you may have heard of include Ben Johnson and Alfred Lord Tennyson for the U.K. and Robert Frost for the U.S.
A form of understatement in which a positive fact is stated by denying a negative one (you may have even used litotes today if you described something as "not bad"). Writing about his birthday in "Anniversary," poet John Wain writes:
As a little scarlet mammal,
Crumpled and unformed, I depended entirely on someone
Not very different from what I am today.
In the third line, the speaker makes the point that someone - presumably his mother - was much the same as he is today, but the sentiment, more emphatically expressed via litotes, is stated as a denial of its opposite
Unintentional use of an inappropriate word similar in sound to the appropriate word, often with humorous effect. The word derives from the name Mrs. Malaprop, a character in the play The Rivals. Sheridan invented her name from the French words mal à propos, loosely translated as badly chosen, not right for the occasion, or not appropriate. Mrs. Malaprop has the habit of using near-miss words. For example, she observes that she does not have much affluence over her niece and refers to contiguous countries as contagious countries. In literature, malapropism is often used to provide humor and reveal that a character is not as smart as perhaps s/he thinks s/he is. For example, in Act V of Shakeseare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the foolish character Bottom hilariously confuses "deflowered" for "devoured" when he says, "O wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame? / Since lion vile here hath deflower my dear."
: A dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions, often with strongly stereotyped characters. Language, behaviour, or events which resemble melodramas are also called melodramatic. Popularlirized in the sentimental novels of the 19th-century, melodrama is most easily seen nowadays on soap operas
Taken from the French word meaning "memory", it is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private that took place in the author's life. The assertions made in the work are understood to be factual. While memoir has historically been defined as a subcategory of autobiography since the late 20th century, the genre is differentiated in form, presenting a narrowed focus.
A comparison between to unlike things that does not use "like" or "as." Ex: That guy is a pig. By not using "like" or "as" in the comparison, the association becomes a bit more direct or powerful. Sometimes a metaphor can be implied metaphor if the comparison is not explicitly stated or obvious, but the author uses adjectives or verbs that commonly describe one thing and uses them to describe another comparing the two. Ex: Shut your trap! The metaphor "your mouth is a trap, and you should shut it" is not specifically stated, but we get the picture nonetheless. Ineffective metaphors are usually mixed metaphors where the speaker has gotten out of control and mixed up the terms so that they are no longer visually or imaginatively compatible. Ex: "Top Bush hands are starting to get sweaty about where they left their fingerprints. Scapegoating the rotten apples at the bottom of the military barrel may not be a slam-dunk escape route from accountability anymore." -- Frank Rich, The New York Times, July 18, 2008
A recognizable rhythm through varying pattern of stressed syllables alternating with syllables of less stress. Compositions written in meter are said to be in verse. There are many possible patterns of verse. Each unit of stress and unstressed syllables is called a "foot." There are five main types of meter:
• Iambic (the noun is "iamb" or "iambus"): a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable. Ex: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Iambic is the most common poetic meter, probably because it follows the natural rhythm of a heartbeat.
• Trochaic (the noun is "trochee"): a stressed followed by a light syllable. Ex: "Once upon a midnight dreary / While I pondered weak and weary." Because trochaic inverts the more "natural" sounding rhythm of iambic, trochaic is often used to create an unsettling feeling or tense cadence.
• Anapestic (the noun is "anapest"): two light syllables followed by a stressed syllable: Ex: "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house / Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse." Anapestic meter is, obviously, longer than iambic or trochaic meter and because of its length and the fact that it ends with a stressed syllable and so allows for strong rhymes, anapests can produce a very rolling, galloping feeling verse, allowing for long lines with a great deal of internal complexity. BTW, "anapest" is, itself, an anapest.
• Dactylic (the noun is "dactyl"): a stressed syllable followed by two light syllables: Ex: "Picture yourself on a boat on a river with / Tangerine tree¬-ees and marmalade skies." Written in dactylic tetrameter, the verses of the song have the rhythm of a waltz. Dactyls are the metrical foot of Greek elegiac poetry, which followed a line of dactylic hexameter with dactylic pentameter. A good mnemonic device is to remember that the first three syllables of "pterodactyl" are dactylic.
• Spondaic (the noun is "spondee"): two or more stressed syllables concurrently. Ex: Break, break, break / O thy cold grey stones..." Sponaic meter, for perhaps obviously reasons, is basically an impossible meter in which to write an entire poem (you are going to have an unstressed syllable eventually). Instead, spondees in an otherwise metered poem can draw attention to a particular line and/or create a sense of urgency.
Iambs and anapests, since the strong stress is at the end, are called "rising meter"; trochees and dactyls, with the strong stress at the beginning with lower stress at the end, are called "falling meter." Each line of a poem contains a certain number of feet of iambs, trochees, spondees, dactyls or anapests. A line of one foot is a monometer, 2 feet is a dimeter, and so on - trimeter (3), tetrameter (4), pentameter (5), hexameter (6), heptameter (7), and octameter (8). The number of syllables in a line varies therefore according to the meter. So then the first example, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day," would be five feet of iambs, or iambic pentameter which is the most widely employed rhythmic pattern.
Sometimes a poet will intentionally drop a syllable from the beginning of ending of a line or lines, thus creating metrically incomplete lines of verse, which is called cataletic line or cataletic meter. For instance, William Blake begins his poem "The Tyger" with "Tyger, Tyger, burning bright / In the shadows of the night." The lines are trocaic (Tyger, Tyger, burning bright / In the shadows of the night") but both lines are missing the final syllable, making them cataletic (this could have easily been fixed if Blake had written "brightly" instead of just "bright"). Cataletic meter is often used to instill the line or poem with a sense of tension, loss, or incompleteness.
Substitution of one word or phrase to stand for a word or phrase similar in meaning. For example, stating that "the pen is mightier than the sword" to suggest that the power of education and writing is more potent for changing the world than military force
A recurrent thematic element in an artistic or literary work. For example, escaping to nature to get away from the corruptions of society is a common motif in Romantic literature
In Greek mythology, they are the 9 goddesses responsible for the inspiration of literature, science, and the arts. The artist must then invoke his medium's muse before beginning a work to receive inspiration. The muse for poetry is Calliope
The term has several possible meanings: (1) the principle of retributive justice (sometimes referred to as "poetic justice") by which good characters are rewarded and bad characters are appropriately punished; (2) the agent or deliverer of such justice, who exacts vengeance and meets out rewards. In classical mythology, Nemesis was the patron goddess of vengeance; the expression often denotes a character in a drama who brings about another's downfall, so that Odysseus may be said to be the suitors' collective nemesis in The Odyssey.
In its broadest sense, a novel is any extended fictional prose narrative focusing on a few primary characters but often involving scores of secondary characters. The fact that it is in prose helps distinguish it from other lengthy works like epics. We might arbitrarily set the length at 50,000 words or more as a dividing point with the novella and the short story. It is important to note that, although novels are the most prolific of serious modern writing, the "modern novel" was not conceived until the mid-18th century
An ancient form of poetic song, usually a celebratory poem. Highly lyrical or profoundly philosophical, odes pay homage to whatever the poet may hold dear - another person, a place, an object, an abstract idea. For instance, "Ode to the West Wind" is about the winds that bring change of season in England
The use of sounds that are similar to the noise they represent for a rhetorical or artistic effect. For instance, buzz, click, rattle, and grunt make sounds akin to the noise they represent. A higher level of onomatopoeia is the use of imitative sounds throughout a sentence to create an auditory effect. For instance, Tennyson writes in The Princess about "The moan of doves in immemorial elms, / And murmuring of innumerable bees." All the /m/ and /z/ sounds ultimately create that whispering, murmuring effect Tennyson describes. In similar ways, poets delight in choosing sounds that match their subject-matter, such as using many clicking k's and c's when describing a sword fight (to imitate the clack of metal on metal), or using many /s/ sounds when describing a serpent, and so on.
Using contradiction in a manner that oddly makes sense on a deeper level. Simple or joking examples include such oxymora as jumbo shrimp, pretty ugly, or Microsoft Works. The richest literary oxymora seem to reveal a deeper truth through their contradictions. These oxymora are sometimes called paradoxes. For instance, "without laws, we can have no freedom
A work that makes fun of another by imitating some aspect of the writer's style. Basically, a literary caricature
Giving humanlike qualities or human form to objects and abstractions. Personification is a form of metaphor. Ex: "Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me" (Emily Dickinson), or "that car is begging to be washed." This technique is also called anthropomorphism.
point of view
A piece of literature contains a speaker who is speaking either in the first person, telling things from his or her own perspective, or in the third person, telling things from the perspective of an onlooker. If the speaker knows everything including the actions, motives, and thoughts of all the characters, the speaker is referred to as omniscient (all-knowing). If the speaker is unable to know what is in any character's mind but his or her own, this is called limited omniscience.
Any material that is not written in a regular meter like poetry. Many modern genres such as short stories, novels, letters, essays, and treatises are typically written in prose.
The mechanics of verse poetry--its sounds, rhythms, meter, form, alliteration, assonance, euphony, onomatopoeia, and rhyme, or the study or analysis of the previously listed material
The hero or central character of a literary work. In accomplishing his or her objective, the protagonist is hindered by some opposing force; either human (one of Batman's antagonists is The Joker), animal (the whale Moby Dick is Captain Ahab's antagonist in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick"), or natural (the cold of night is the antagonist in Jack London's "To Build a Fire").
Play on words; using a word that sounds like another word but has a different meaning: for example, marriage is a wife sentence. Note that puns are not puns unless they work both literally and humorously. Also, in spite of the pun's current low reputation, some of the best writers in English have been notoriously addicted to puns: noticeably Shakespeare, Chaucer, and James Joyce
Stanza or poem of four lines. A quatrain usually has a rhyme scheme, such as abab, abba, or abcb
In literature, a red herring is a false clue that leads readers or characters towards a false conclusion. A red herring is a common device used in mystery and thriller stories to distract the reader from identifying the real culprit. The red herring in a story can take the form of characters that the reader suspect, but who turn out be innocent when the real murderer is identified. It aims at keeping the readers guessing at the possibilities until the end and therefore keeps them interested in the story.
The repetition of one or more phrases or lines at intervals in a poem, usually at the end of a stanza. The refrain often takes the form of a chorus. An example would be "I like it" from the poem below by G.L. Hemminger:
Tobacco is a dirty weed:
I like it.
It satisfied no normal need:
I like it.
It makes you thin. It makes you lean.
It takes the hair right off your bean.
It's the worst darn stuff I've ever seen.
I like it.
A matching similarity of sounds in two or more words, especially when their accented vowels and all succeeding consonants are identical. Rhyming is frequently more than mere decoration in poetry. It helps to establish stanzaic form by marking the ends of lines, it is an aid in memorization when performing oral formulaic literature, and it contributes to the sense of unity in a poem. Types of rhymes include:
• End Rhyme: Rhyme in which the final syllable (or syllables) of one line mimic the sound of the final syllable (or syllables) of another line.
• Internal Rhyme: Rhyme that occurs inside a line. Example: The knell of the bell saddened me.
• Masculine rhyme: Rhyme in which the final syllable of one line mimics the sound of the final syllable of another line. Examples: black, back; hell, well; crude, dude.
• Feminine rhyme: Rhyme in which the final two syllables of one line mimic the sound of the final two syllables of another line. Examples: repeat, deplete; farrow, narrow; companion, canyon.
• Slant Rhyme: Rhymes created out of words with similar but not identical sounds. Examples: saunter, daughter; topic, knocked it. While slant rhymes can at times be evidence of lazy poetic composition, slant rhymes are sometimes employed to provide more interesting, sometimes even surprising, sound combinations. It should be noted though that slant rhymes were not utilized by serious, respected poets until the 19th century.
Rhyme in which the final syllable of one line mimics the sound of the final syllable of another line. Examples: black, back; hell, well; crude, dude.
Rhyme in which the final two syllables of one line mimic the sound of the final two syllables of another line. Examples: repeat, deplete; farrow, narrow; companion, canyon.
Rhymes created out of words with similar but not identical sounds. Examples: saunter, daughter; topic, knocked it. While slant rhymes can at times be evidence of lazy poetic composition, slant rhymes are sometimes employed to provide more interesting, sometimes even surprising, sound combinations. It should be noted though that slant rhymes were not utilized by serious, respected poets until the 19th century.
The pattern of rhymed words in a stanza or generalized throughout a poem, expressed in alphabetic terms. Consider the following lines from Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening:
Whose woods these are I think I know. - A
His house is in the village, though; - A
He will not see me stopping here - B
To watch his woods fill up with snow. - A
My little horse must think it queer - B
To stop without a farmhouse near - B
Between the woods and frozen lake - C
The darkest evening of the year. - B
He gives his harness bells a shake - C
To ask if there is some mistake. - C
The only other sound's the sweep - D
Of easy wind and downy flake. - C
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. - D
But I have promises to keep, - D
And miles to go before I sleep, - D
And miles to go before I sleep. - D
In an analysis of the poem, the rhyme scheme above would be expressed as AABA BBCB CCDC DDDD.
Roman à Clef
French for novel with a key, is a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the "key" is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction. Common reasons an author might choose the roman à clef format include satire, writing about controversial topics and/or reporting inside information on scandals without giving rise to charges of libel, or the opportunity to portray personal, autobiographical experiences without having to expose the author as the subject. A famous example would be The Devil Wears Prada which is based on the author's experience working at Vogue.
An attack on or criticism of any stupidity or vice in the form of scathing humor, or a critique of what the author sees as dangerous religious, political, moral, or social standards. Satire became an especially popular technique used during the Enlightenment, in which it was believed that an artist could correct folly by using art as a mirror to reflect society. When people viewed the satire and saw their faults magnified in a distorted reflection, they could see how ridiculous their behavior was and then correct that tendency in themselves. Fortunately, the tradition of satire continues today. Shows such as The Simpsons, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report make use of it in modern media.
Setting is the environment in which a story unfolds. It includes
• The time and period of history
• The place
• The atmosphere
• The clothing
• The living conditions
• The social climate.
Sometimes the setting is extremely important and can even in some cases be considered a kind of character (an example of this might be the river in Huck Finn).
A short, fictional, prose tale that is meant to be read at one sitting. According to Edgar Allen Poe, the best short stories seek to achieve a single, unified, emotional impact on the reader.
An analogy or comparison implied by using an adverb such as like or as, in contrast with a metaphor which figuratively makes the comparison by stating outright that one thing is another thing. Ex: "In the morning, the dust hung like fog, and the sun was as red as ripe new blood" (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath).
A monologue spoken by an actor at a point in the play when the character believes himself to be alone. The technique frequently reveals a character's innermost thoughts, including his feelings, state of mind, motives or intentions. The soliloquy often provides necessary but otherwise inaccessible information to the audience. The dramatic convention is that whatever a character says in a soliloquy to the audience must be true, or at least true in the eyes of the character speaking (i.e., the character may tell lies to mislead other characters in the play, but whatever he states in a soliloquy is a true reflection of what the speaker believes or feels).
A lyric poem of fourteen lines, usually in iambic pentameter, with rhymes arranged according to certain definite patterns. It usually expresses a single, complete idea or thought with a reversal, twist, or change of direction in the concluding lines. There are two common forms:
• Petrarchan or Italian Sonnet: Petrarchan sonnet has an eight line stanza (called an octave) followed by a six line stanza (called a sestet). The octave has two quatrains rhyming abba, abba, the first of which presents the theme, the second further develops it. In the sestet, the first three lines reflect on or exemplify the theme, while the last three bring the poem to a unified end. The sestet may be arranged cdecde, cdcdcd, or cdedce. Ex:
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
(Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Sonnet XLIII")
• Shakespearean or English Sonnet: Shakespearean sonnet has three quatrains; each rhymed differently, with a final, independently rhymed couplet that makes an effective, unifying climax to the whole. Its rhyme scheme is abab, cdcd, efef, gg. Typically, the final two lines follow a "turn" or a "volta" (from "volte-face," or "about-face") because they reverse, undercut, or turn from the original line of thought to take the idea in a new direction. Ex:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
(William Shakespeare, "Sonnet XVIII")
A major subdivision in a poem. A stanza of two lines is called a couplet; a stanza of three lines is called a tercet; a stanza of four lines is called a quatrain. Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night," consists of four rhymed tercets followed by a rhymed couplet. The following illustrates the look of a stanza:
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain-and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
stream of conciousness
Writing in which a character's perceptions, thoughts, and memories are presented in an apparently random form, without regard for logical sequence, chronology, or syntax. Often such writing makes no distinction between various levels of reality - such as dreams, memories, imaginative thoughts or real sensory perception. One famous example of a novel written in stream of consciousness style is Catcher in the Rye.
Style is the way an author writes a literary work. It manifests itself in the author's choice of words and phrases, the structure of sentences, the length of paragraphs, the tone of the work, and so on. Just as painters, singers, and dancers have different styles, so too do authors. One author may use a great deal of dialogue while another author uses little. Some authors use difficult vocabulary; others use simple vocabulary. Ernest Hemingway, for example, used simple words and short, declarative sentences (though the stories these words and sentences told were complex) while Nathaniel Hawthorne was quite flowery with his vocabulary and wrote in long, winding sentences.
In a literary work or film, a person, place, thing or idea that represents something else. Writers often use a snake, for example, as a symbol for evil, as in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown." Other commonly used symbols include the eagle (strength), a flag (patriotism), and the sea (life). There are three main types of symbols:
• Universal symbol: A (usually natural) symbol whose meaning could be understood and agreed upon by almost anyone, regardless of cultural background. A "river" as a symbol for "time," for example, would be a universal symbol.
• Conventional symbol: A symbol whose meaning has been established by and for a specific culture. The American flag or a stop sign are examples of conventional symbols.
• Literary Symbol: A symbol that can only be understood within a certain literary context. The green light at the end of Daisy's dock, for example, is a literary symbol.
Based on a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory pathway (for example: sight) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory pathway (for example: hearing), synesthetes then report being able to "hear colors" or "taste music". In literature, synesthesia can be employed to provide out-of-the-box descriptions as in "I drink the pale drug of silence" from George Meredith's "Modern Love." More clichéd examples would be a "loud shirt" or a "blue note."
A rhetorical trope involving a part of an object representing the whole, or the whole of an object representing a part. For instance, a writer might state, "Twenty eyes watched our every move." Rather than implying that twenty disembodied eyes are swiveling to follow him as he walks by, she means that ten people watched the group's every move. When a captain calls out, "All hands on deck," he wants the whole sailors, not just their hands. In the demonic play Faust, Marlowe writes of Helen of Troy, "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships, / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?" The thousand ships is a synecdoche for the entire Greek army: i.e., men, horses, weapons, and all. Likewise, the towers are a synecdoche; they are one part of the doomed city's architecture that represents the entire city and its way of life. Helen's face is a decorous synecdoche for Helen's entire sexy body, since her suitors were presumably interested in more than her visage alone. Synecdoche is often similar to and overlaps with metonymy (see above).
The standard word order and sentence structure of a language, as opposed to diction (the actual choice of words) or content (the meaning of individual words).
a three-line stanza form with an interlaced or interwoven rhyme scheme: a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c, d-e-d, etc. Usually iambic pentameter, it was most famously used in Dante's Inferno. As a result of the latter, modern poets often employ Terza Rima to invoke a sense of doom or wickedness (Dante's Inferno chronicles Dante's descent into the nine circles of hell).
A central idea or statement that unifies and controls an entire literary work. The theme can take the form of a brief and meaningful insight or a comprehensive vision of life; it may be a single idea such as "progress" (in many Victorian works), "order and duty" (in many early Roman works), "seize-the-day" (in many late Roman works), or "jealousy" (in Shakespeare's Othello). The theme may also be a more complicated doctrine, such as Milton's theme in Paradise Lost, "to justify the ways of God to men," or "Socialism is the only sane reaction to the labor abuses in Chicago meat-packing plants" (Upton Sinclair's The Jungle).
Prevailing mood or atmosphere in a literary work. One may compare the tone of a poem, a novel, a play, or an essay to the tone of the human voice as it projects the emotions of the speaker or to the appearance of the sky as it dispenses rain or sunlight. Thus, the tone of a literary work may be joyful, sad, brooding, angry, playful, and so on. The tone of Catcher in the Rye, for example is anxious and cynical, while the tone of Huck Finn is humorous and mocking.
A serious play in which the chief character, by some peculiarity of psychology, passes through a series of misfortunes leading to a final, devastating catastrophe. The suffering and calamity in a tragedy are exceptional, since they befall a conspicuous person, e. g., Macbeth is a noble at first, then a king; Hamlet is a prince; Oedipus is a king. Moreover, the suffering and calamity spread far and wide until the whole scene becomes a scene of woe. The story leads up to and includes the death (in Shakespearean tragedy) or moral destruction (in Sophoclean tragedy) of the protagonist. Easy way to tell a Shakespearean tragedy and a Shakespearean comedy: if everyone dies at the end, it's a tragedy; if everyone attends a wedding/gets married, it's a comedy.
A concept proposed by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the uncanny is a concept often used to discuss elements of horror found in the gothic. The uncanny is an instance where something can be both familiar yet alien at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange. Examples include a haunted house, doppelgängers, and sweet, little girls possessed by the devil singing a really bizarre version of a nursery rhyme.
Also called meiosis, understatement lessens or minimizes the importance of what is meant. For instance, if I were to say, "I got a bit nervous when the chainsaw-wielding serial killer started heading my way," that would be an understatement.
In ancient Greece, all plays were bound by the rule of the Three Classical Unities. They were:
• Unity of Place: A play could not take in more than one location.
• Unity of Action: The play could not deal with more than one major plot.
• Unity of Time: The play must not take place over the course of more than 24 hours.
It was not until the Renaissance when playwrights began defying these conventions by introducing multiple locations, subplots, and events that take place over the course of days, weeks, months, or even years.
Appealing to readers and audiences of any age or any culture. For example, the central conflict of Sophocles's Antigone, the individual vs. the state (or moral law vs. man-made law), has remained relevant since its first performance more than 2,400 years ago.
An imaginary storyteller or character (often the first-person narrator) who describes what he witnesses accurately, but misinterprets those events because of faulty perception, personal bias, or limited understanding. Often the writer or poet creating such an unreliable narrator leaves clues so that readers will perceive the unreliablity and question the interpretations offered. Holden Caulfield would be an example of an unreliable narrator.
Having the appearance of truth; realism. In a fictional work, a writer creates unreal characters and situations and asks the reader to pretend that they are real. To help the reader in this task, the writer tells his tale in such a way that he makes it seem credible - that is, he gives it "verisimilitude."
A genre of poetry consisting of nineteen lines - five tercets and a concluding quatrain. The form requires that whole lines be repeated in a specific order, and that only two rhyming sounds occur in the course of the poem. The most famous villanelle is Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night":
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Willing Suspension of Disbelief
Temporarily and willingly setting aside our beliefs about reality in order to enjoy the make-believe of a play, a poem, film, or a story. Perfectly intelligent readers can enjoy, for instance, the magical wizarding world of Harry Potter without being "gullible" or "childish." To do so, however, the audience members must set aside their sense of "what's real" for the duration of the play, or the movie, or the book.
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