American Lit Final Literary Terms
American Literature Final Literary Terms
Terms in this set (41)
A central idea or abstract concept that is made concrete through representation in person, action, and image. No proper theme is simply a subject or an activity. Like a thesis, theme implies a subject and predicate of some kind—not just vice for instance, but some such proposition as, "Vice seems more interesting than virtue but turns out to be destructive." Sometimes the theme is directly stated in the work, and sometimes it is given indirectly. There may be more than one theme in a given work. ( A theme is a general message or lesson that can stand alone as a complete sentence!)
The feeling or atmosphere that a writer creates for the reader. The use of connotation, details, dialogue, imagery, figurative language, foreshadowing, setting, and rhythm can help establish mood.
An expression of a writer's attitude toward a subject. Unlike mood, which is intended to shape the reader's emotional response, tone reflects the feelings of the writer. Tone can be serious, humorous, sarcastic, playful, ironic, bitter, or objective.
Conversation between two or more people that advances the action, is consistent with the character of the speakers, and serves to give relief from passages essentially descriptive or expository.
A particular variety of language spoken in one place by a distinct group of people. A dialect reflects the colloquialisms, grammatical constructions, distinctive vocabulary, and pronunciations that are typical of a region. At times writers use dialect to establish or emphasize settings as well as to develop characters.
In narration, the struggle between the opposing forces that moves the plot forward. Conflict can be internal, occurring within a character, or external, between characters or between a character and an abstraction such as nature or fate.
The time and place of the action in a story, play, or poem.
A person, place, or object that represents something beyond itself. Symbols can succinctly communicate complicated, emotionally rich ideas.
The events in a story that move the plot forward. Rising action involves conflicts and complications, and builds toward the climax of the story.
In the plot of a story, the action that occurs after the climax. During the falling action conflicts are resolved and mysteries are solved.
Writing that is intended to make clear or to explain something using one or more of the following methods: identification, definition, classification, illustration, comparison, and analysis. In a play or a novel, exposition is that portion that helps the reader to understand the background or situation in which the work is set
A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two things that are basically different but have something in common. Unlike a simile, a metaphor does not contain the words like or as. For example, in the evening of life.
a narrative within which one or more other narratives unfold
A story in which people, things, and actions represent an idea or generalization about life; allegories often have a strong moral or lesson.
The high point, or turning point, in a story—usually the most intense point near the end of a story
in a work with an external conflict, the person or force that the protagonist must face
The main character or hero of a story
A poem consisting of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter (A metrical line of five feet or units, each made up of an unstressed then a stressed syllable. For example, 'I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.')
An intentional exaggeration for emphasis or comic effect.
Words and phrases that create vivid sensory experiences for the reader. Most images are visual, but imagery may also appeal to the senses of smell, hearing, taste, or touch.
in the plot of a narrative or a drama, an interruption in chronological order that jumps back to an earlier time
A literary technique in which ideas, customs, behaviors, or institutions are ridiculed for the purpose of improving society. Satire may be gently witty, mildly abrasive, or bitterly critical and often uses exaggeration for effect
In media res
In the middle of the action—a work is said to open in media res when it opens with action instead of exposition and reveals background information later, often gradually instead of in one section
A writer's use of hints or clues to indicate events that will occur in a story. Foreshadowing creates suspense and at the same time prepares the reader for what is to come.
a two-line stanza, poem, or poetic saying...the two lines almost always rhyme
A speech in a dramatic work in which a character speaks his or her thoughts aloud. Usually the character is on the stage alone, not speaking to other characters and perhaps not even consciously addressing the audience. (If there are other characters on the stage, they are ignored temporarily.) The purpose of a soliloquy is to reveal a character's inner thoughts, feelings, and plans to the audience.
a sudden realization, by the reader as well as the character, of the true nature of a person, an object, or a situation
A dramatic device in which a character speaks his or her thoughts aloud, in words meant to be heard by the audience but not by the other characters
The repetition of initial consonant sounds in words. For example, rough and ready.
what appears true to the character is not what the audience/reader knows to be true
words appear to mean one thing but really mean the opposite
The contrast between expectation and reality. This incongruity has the effect of surprising the reader or viewer. Techniques of irony include hyperbole, understatement, and sarcasm.
The unconventional, brooding, Romantic character popularized by Lord Byron in some of his verse
Direct and indirect characterization
The method a writer uses to develop characters. There are four basic methods: (a) a writer may describe a character's physical appearance; (b) a character's nature may be revealed through his/her own speech, thoughts, feelings, or actions; (c) the speech, thoughts, feelings, or actions of other characters can be used to develop a character;and (d) the narrator can make direct comments about a character.
A reference in literature, or in visual or performing arts, to a familiar person, place, thing, or event. Allusions to biblical figures and figures from classical mythology are common in Western literature.
The action or sequence of events in a story. Plot is usually a series of related incidents that builds and grows as the story develops. There are five basic elements in a plot line: (a) exposition; (b) rising action; (c) climax; (d) falling action; and (e) resolution or denouement.
A comparison of two unlike things in which a word of comparison (often like or as) is used. For example, 'She stood in front of the alter, shaking like a freshly caught trout.' (Maya Angelou)
The particular way a piece of literature is written. Not only what is said but how it is said, style is the writer's unique way of communicating ideas. Elements contributing to style include word choice, sentence length, tone, figurative language, and use of dialogue
Point of view
The vantage point from which a story is told. In the first-person or narrative point of view, the story is told by one of the characters. In the third-person or omniscient point of view, the story is told by someone outside the story
In medieval Europe, the languages of the people, as opposed to Latin, the language of the Church
A character who is in most ways opposite to the main character (protagonist) or one who is nearly the same as the protagonist. The purpose of the foil character is to emphasize the traits of the main character by contrast only