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Arts and Humanities
Key Literary Terms
Terms in this set (32)
a story that is used to represent a more general message about real-life (historical) issues and/or events. It is typically an entire book, novel, play, etc.
a series of words or phrases that all (or almost all) start with the same sound. These sounds are typically consonants to give more stress to that syllable.
when an author makes an indirect reference to a figure, place, event, or idea originating from outside the text. The reference is often to a work of literature, art, person, or event.
when there is an (intentional) error in the chronology or timeline of a text. This could be a character who appears in a different time period than when he actually lived, or a technology that appears before it was invented.
when a word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of multiple sentences throughout a piece of writing. It's used to emphasize the repeated phrase and evoke strong feelings in the audience.
An anthropomorphism occurs when something nonhuman, such as an animal, place, or inanimate object, behaves in a human-like way.
when the writer leaves out conjunctions (such as "and," "or," "but," and "for") in a group of words or phrases so that the meaning of the phrase or sentence is emphasized.
the use of informal language and slang. It's often used by authors to lend a sense of realism to their characters and dialogue.
when an author inserts a famous quotation, poem, song, or other short passage or text at the beginning of a larger text (e.g., a book, chapter, etc.).
similar to anaphora, but in this case, the repeated word or phrase appears at the end of successive statements. Like anaphora, it is used to evoke an emotional response from the audience.
when a more mild or indirect word or expression is used in place of another word or phrase that is considered harsh, blunt, vulgar, or unpleasant.
an interruption in a narrative that depicts events that have already occurred, either before the present time or before the time at which the narration takes place. This device is often used to give the reader more background information and details about specific characters, events, plot points, and so on.
when an author indirectly hints at—through things such as dialogue, description, or characters' actions—what's to come later on in the story. This device is often used to introduce tension to a narrative.
an exaggerated statement that's not meant to be taken literally by the reader. It is often used for comedic effect and/or emphasis.
when an author describes a scene, thing, or idea so that it appeals to our senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, or hearing). This device is often used to help the reader clearly visualize parts of the story by creating a strong mental picture.
when a statement is used to express an opposite meaning than the one literally expressed by it.
the comparing and contrasting of two or more different (usually opposite) ideas, characters, objects, etc. This literary device is often used to help create a clearer picture of the characteristics of one object or idea by comparing it with those of another.
when an incorrect word is used in place of a word that has a similar sound. This misuse of the word typically results in a statement that is both nonsensical and humorous; as a result, this device is commonly used in comedic writing.
when ideas, actions, or objects are described in non-literal terms. In short, it's when an author compares one thing to another. The two things being described usually share something in common but are unalike in all other respects.
when a related word or phrase is substituted for the actual thing to which it's referring. This device is usually used for poetic or rhetorical effect.
the general feeling the writer wants the audience to have. The writer can achieve this through description, setting, dialogue, and word choice.
a word (or group of words) that represents a sound and actually resembles or imitates the sound it stands for. It is often used for dramatic, realistic, or poetic effect.
a combination of two words that, together, express a contradictory meaning. This device is often used for emphasis, for humor, to create tension, or to illustrate a paradox (see next entry for more information on paradoxes).
a statement that appears illogical or self-contradictory but, upon investigation, might actually be true or plausible.
when a nonhuman figure or other abstract concept or element is described as having human-like qualities or characteristics.
when a word or phrase is written multiple times, usually for the purpose of emphasis. It is often used in poetry (for purposes of rhythm as well).
genre of writing that criticizes something, such as a person, behavior, belief, government, or society.
when a character speaks aloud to himself (and to the audience), thereby revealing his inner thoughts and feelings. Only present in plays.
refers to the use of an object, figure, event, situation, or other idea in a written work to represent something else—typically a broader message or deeper meaning that differs from its literal meaning.
a literary device in which part of something is used to represent the whole, or vice versa. It's similar to a metonym (see above); however, a metonym doesn't have to represent the whole—just something associated with the word used.
the writer or narrator's attitude towards a subject.
similarity of structure or meaning in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses
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How might your impression of Achilles be different if he refused to give Hector's body to Priam?
If Aunt Georgiana had stayed in Boston, how might she be different?
Comment on Brady’s use of phrases such as of course (2, 3, and 7), needless to say (3), after all (7), by chance (8), and naturally (8). What do these expressions contribute to the sentences where they appear? To the essay as a whole?
What insights about Cisneros did you gain from reading this essay?