90 Lit. Terms

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  1. Alliteration
    The repetition of initial consonant sounds
  2. Allusion
    A brief reference to a commonly known historical or literary figure, event, or object. This indirect device works on the knowledge and memory of the reader, tapping associations and emotional resonance.
  3. Ambiguity
    In literature, the intentional creation of multiple meanings. In a given context, a word may convey not only a denotation but connotative overtones of great richness and complexity.
  4. Analogy
    A device explaining or describing something unfamiliar through a comparison with something more familiar. A simile is an expressed analogy; a metaphor is an implied one.
  5. Antagonist
    The character in conflict with the protagonist: rival, opponent, or enemy.
  6. Apostrophe
    A rhetorical device in which and absent of imaginary person or an abstraction is directly addressed as though present.
  7. Aside
    A convention in drama by which an actor directly addresses the audience, revealing his or her observations or emotions. The aside is not meant to be heard by the other characters in the drama.
  8. Assonance
    Repetition of vowel sounds. When it occurs at the end of lines, assonance rhyme does not have the same consonant sounds, so it is not full rhyme.
  9. Atmosphere
    The prevailing mood of a literary work, often established by setting or landscape, lending an emotion aura and influencing the reader's expectations and attitudes.
  10. Blank Verse
    Unrhymed iambic pentameter. This meter is well-adapted to dramatic verse in English, such as Shakespeare's plays, as well as to any long poem. In the nineteenth century and modern times it has been used extensively in lyric poetry. Blank verse is marked by freedom from rhyme, a shifting caesura (pause), and frequent enjambment, producing verse paragraphs more often than stanzas.
  11. Cacophony
    A combination of harsh, unpleasant sounds, used consciously for effect; the opposity of Euphony.
  12. Caesura
    A pause in a line of poetry created not by the meter, but by the natural speaking rhythm, sometimes coinciding with punctuation.
  13. Character
    Dynamic characters, also called round, are three-dimensional and fully realized. These complex people are modified by their actions and experiences. Static characters are called flat or stock, having only two, often predictable, dimensions; they can even be caricatures. They change little if at all, and things happen to them, rather than within them. The action reveals a flat character, but does not change him. A foil functions only as a contrast to a more important character.
  14. Characterization
    Characters can be presented in several ways. Direct characterization employs explicit exposition, illustrated by the action of the story; we are told what the character is like. Indirect characterization requires the reader to infer a character's attributes based only on dialogue and action; we are shown what the character is like. Inner representation reveals only the impact of actions and emotions on the character's inner self, with no authorial comment.
  15. Cliché
    An expression used so often that it loses its freshness and clarity. What begins as a striking and colorful metaphor becomes an abstraction, no longer a living image. This quick transition is universally true, as can be seen in how rapidly slang expressions go stale and are discarded by those in the know. In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson claims that "language is fossil poetry".
  16. Climax
    The point of highest interest in a story, which elicits the greatest emotional response from the reader, also called the crisis or turning point; a reversal of action from rising to falling.
  17. Conceit
    A metaphor of great ingenuity in which a fanciful notion, an elaborate analogy, or a striking parallel between seemingly dissimilar things is spun out at length. A conceit is paradoxical, witty, and startling.
  18. Conflict
    The struggle of two opposing forces providing interest, suspense, and tension in a plot. Conflict may be internal or external. The protagonist may be in conflict with nature, a human antagonist, society, or him/herself.
  19. Connotation
    Beyond denotation (the literal, basic meaning of a word), connotation is the emotional implications and associations that a word carries. The reader must understand how the word is used in context in order to interpret the emotion coloring.
  20. Consonance
    Through the final consonants in several stressed syllables agree the vowel sounds the precede them are different. At the end of a line of poetry, consonance is not full rhyme.
  21. Couplet
    A unit of two consecutive lines of verse with the same rhyme. In an open couplet, the second line depends on the next for completion, and the rhyme is subtle. A closed couplet is a grammatically complete, closed box often characterized by the symmetry created by caesura, parallelism, and antithesis. Couplets are often pentameter lines, sometimes tetrameter; a closed couplet neatly ends an Elizabethan sonnet.
  22. Denotation
    The literal, basic meaning of a word, independent of emotional associations.
  23. Denouement
    From the French for "unknotting", this is the final unraveling of the plot, providing the solution, explanation, or outcome. Also known as "falling action."
  24. Dialect
    Speech within the same language with marked social or regional differences.
  25. Dialogue
    The conversation of two or more people that presents an interplay of ideas and personalities. In fiction, it provides relief from description and exposition and advances the action. Dialogue should sound natural and be consistent with the character of the speaker.
  26. Diction
    The choice of individual words and patterns of words. Diction can help to establish the distinction between the narrative voice and the dialogue or help differentiate between characters. It can indicate social class, educational level, even emotional state. patterns of diction can be predominantly formal, informal, or neutral; positive or negative in connotation; euphonious or cacophonous in sound; concrete or abstract; specific or general; mono- or polysyllabic.
  27. Diegesis
    A method of fictional storytelling in which the narrator tells the story as something that has already occurred as opposed to something being enacted currently. The narrator is truly omniscient in this style as he already knows everything that is going to occur in the story.
  28. Direct Characterizations
    A form of characterization in which the reader or audience is told about the character directly. See characterization for more.
  29. Dramatic Irony
    The term comes from ancient Greek drama. The reader or audience understands something that the character does not.
  30. Dramatic Monologue
    The speaker is addressing a silent, identifiable listener in a single, sustained utterance. This form is similar to interior monologue.
  31. Elegy
    A formal poem meditating on death or another solemn theme, often a lamentation for a particular person.
  32. Emphasis
    The weighting and development of particular elements by means of climactic order, placement, repetition, accumulation of detail, or contrast, emphasis indicates the relative importance of such elements to the text.
  33. End-Stopped Line
    A line of poetry that ends when the grammatical unit ends. Its opposite is enjambment.
  34. Enjambment
    From the French meaning "a striding over", this term describes a line of poetry in which the sense and grammatical construction continue on to the next line. In an enjambed line, the lack of completion creates pressure to move rapidly to the closure promised in the next line.
  35. Epic
    A long narrative poem retelling episodes of importance to a nation's history or legend. The epic is characterized by a vast setting, a hero of great valor and superhuman courage, the interest and intervention of supernatural forces, and a sustained, elevated style.
  36. Epigram
    A pithy saying, which, in its classical model, is compressed, balanced, and polished. It is often used for satire, and is both witty and memorable.
  37. Epiphany
    A realization by a fictional character about the essential nature of being or an event; a sudden perception, an intuitive flash of recognition. James Joyce first used the term in this manner to describe an element of his fiction.
  38. Euphony
    Euphonious sounds are pleasant. Unlike the cacophonous, such sounds are easy to articulate. Though sound cannot be separated from meaning, in general, voiced consonants (b, d, g, v, z) are softer than the abrupt sounds of the unvoiced (p, t, k, f, and s) and simple vowels more pleasant than diphthongs.
  39. Exposition
    Material that introduces a story or drama by establishing the mood and setting, the characters and their relationship to each other, and antecedent action. The term is also used for a type of essay whose purpose is to explain (for example, analysis).
  40. Figurative Language
    Figures of speech are any intentional departures from the normal order, construction, or meaning of words. They call attention to themselves, either because the are rhetorical figures producing special effects of because they are tropes, loosely called metaphors, involving basic changes in meaning.
  41. Flashback
    Material presented that occurred prior to the opening scene or chapter. It may take the form of the interior recollection of characters, narration by characters, or dream sequences.
  42. Foil
    In literature, a character who, through contrast, underscores the distinctive characteristics of another and more important character.
  43. Foreshadowing
    Preparation for later events in the plot, achieved by establishing mood or atmosphere or revealing a fundamental and decisive character trait. Physical objects or facts may also intimate or suggest later action.
  44. Free Verse
    Poetry without a regular pattern of meter and rhyme, relying on other elements for its structure.
  45. Hyperbole
    A figure of speech in which one says more than one means, overstating and exaggerating. It may be used for humor or to height another effect.
  46. Iamb/Iambic
    The Greek name for a meter in poetry of a rising duple (two syllables in a foot) in pattern.
  47. Imagery
    A literal and concrete representation of a sensory experience or an object that can be known by the senses. Imagery may be visual, of course, but may also be auditory, gustatory, olfactory, or tactile. Imagery may be presented in patterns (e.g., all pleasnt or all unpleasant, or all relying on a particular sense). Imagery appeals to sensuous experience or to memory.
  48. Indirect Characterization
    A form of characterization that requires the reader to infer the qualities of a character from dialogue or from his/her actions. See Characterization.
  49. Inference
    A guess or surmise; in the absence of explicit statement, a reader makes inferences to derive conclusions from the evidence in a text.
  50. Interior Monologue
    A recording of internal emotional experience on a non-verbalized level, with images representing sensations or emotions. This common form of stream of consciousness is illogical, moving by association. Interior monologue may be presented directly or indirectly with authorial comments.
  51. Irony
    A recognition of incongruities in event, situation, or structure in which reality differs from appearance. The operative word is "opposite". Verbal irony uses words that express the opposite of what is meant-praise implies blame and lame, praise. Irony is not to be confused with sarcasm, which is much more harsh. Situational irony is a predicament or bit of luck, which is the opposite of what one would expect, given the circumstances. Dramatic irony comes into play when a character's utterance reveals that he or she is unaware of something important that the reader or audience knows.
  52. Irony of Situation
    A predicament or bit of luck, which is the opposite of what one would expect, given the circumstances. See Irony.
  53. Line Length
    The terms for different lines lengths use a numerical prefix (one to eight) and "meter", or measure: monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter, heptameter, and octameter.
  54. Literal Language
    The factual sort of discourse that is without embellishment, though not necessarily flat; the opposite of figurative.
  55. Metaphor
    An implied comparison in which two unlike things are linked by a surprising similarity. Either thing or both may be unstated. The actual subject may be called the tenor, and the thing with which it is identified may be called the vehicle. The grounds are the aspects of the vehicle that apply to the tenor.
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90 Lit. Terms
For 90 Lit Terms Test; from 2013, Lyman High School, AP Literature and Composition, Mrs. Pitman's class
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