Literary Terms

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  1. Allegory
    The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.
  2. Alliteration
    The repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of several words in a line of poetry.
  3. Allusion
    A reference to a statement, person, place, event, or thing that is knwon from literature, history, religion, mythology, politics, sports, science, or popular culture.
  4. Ambiguity
    When an author leaves out details/information or is unclear about an event so the reader will use his or her imagination to fill in the blanks.
  5. Analogy
    A comparison of two things that are alike in some respects.
  6. Anaphora
    Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive lines in a poem.
  7. Anecdote
    A short sotry or joke told at the beginning of a speech to gain the audience's attention.
  8. Antagonist
    The protagonist's adversry.
  9. Anti-climatic
    When the ending of the plot in poetry or prose is unfulfilling or lackluster.
  10. Apostrophe
    When a character speaks to a character or object that is not present or is unable to respond.
  11. Archetype
    A pattern that appers in literature across culltures and is repeated through the ages.
  12. Assonance
    The repetition of the same vowel sound in a phrase or line of poetry.
  13. Blank Verse
    Name for unrhymed iambic pentameter. An iamb is merical foot in which an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable. In ianbic pentameter there are five iambs per line making ten syllables.
  14. Caesura
    A natural pause in the middle of a line of poetry.
  15. Climax
    The turning point in the plot or the high point of action.
  16. Colloquial Language
    Informal, converstional language. Colloquialisms are phrases or sayings that are indicative of a specific region.
  17. Conceit
    A Fanciful and elaborate figure of speech that makes a surprising connection between two seemingly dissimilar things.
  18. Connotation
    An idea or meaning suggested by or associated with a word or thing.
  19. Convention
    An understanding between a reader and a writer about certain details of a story that does not need to be explained.
  20. Consonance
    The repetition of consonant sounds in a phrase or line of poetry. The consonant sound may be at the beginning, middle, or end of the word.
  21. Couplet
    Two rhyming lines of poetry.
  22. Deus Ex Machine
    Term that refers to a character or force that apperars at the end ofa story or play to help resolve conflict.
  23. Dialogue
    A converstion between characters.
  24. Diction
    Word choice or the use of words in speech or writing.
  25. Denouement
    The final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot.
  26. Doppelganger
    The alter ego of a character - the suppressed side of one's personality that is usually unaccepted by society.
  27. Double Entendere
    A word or phrase having a double meaning, especially when the second meaning is risque.
  28. Elegy
    A poem or song composed especially as a lament for a deceased person.
  29. Emotive Language
    Diliberate use of language bby a writer to instill a feeling or visual.
  30. Enjambment
    The continuation of readin one line of a poem to the next with no pause, a run-on line.
  31. Epic
    An extended narrative poem in elvated or dignified language, celebrating the feats of legendary or traditional hero.
  32. Epilogue
    A short poem or speech spoken directly to the audience following the conclusion of a play, or in a novel the epilogue is a short explanation at the end of the book which indicates what happens after the plot ends.
  33. Epiphany
    Sudden enlightenment or realization, a profound new outlook or understanding about the world usually attained while doing everyday mundane activities.
  34. Epistolary
    Used to describe a novel that tells its story through letters written from one character to another.
  35. Euphemism
    The act of substituting a harsh, blunt, or offensive comment for a more politically accepted or positive one.
  36. Euphony
    A succession of words which are pleasing to the ear. These words may be alliterative, utilize consonance, or assonance and are often used in poetry but also seen in prose.
  37. Expansion
    Adds an unstressed syllable and a contraction or elision removes an unstressed syllable in arder to maintin the rhythmic metter of aline. This practice explains some words frequently used in poetry.
  38. Fable
    A usually short narrative making and edifying or cautionary point and often employing as characters animals that speak and act like humans.
  39. Feminine Ending
    Term that refers to an unstressed extra syllable at the end of a line of iambic pentameter.
  40. Figurative Language
    Speech or writing that departs from literal meaning in order to achieve a special effect of meaning.
  41. Flashback
    When a character remembers a past event that is relevant to the current action of a story.
  42. Flat Character
    A literary character whose personality can be defined by one or two traits and does not change over the course of the story.
  43. Foil
    A character tha t by contrast underscores or enhances the distinctive characteristics of another.
  44. Folklore
    The traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, trasmitted orally.
  45. Foot
    The metrical length of a line is determined by the numberr of feet it ccontains. (Monometer, Dimeter, Trimeter, Tetrameter, Pentameter, Hexameter, Heptameter)
  46. Iamb
    A foot that has two syllables. The first is unstressed and the second is stressed. It is most common in English poetry.
  47. Trochee
    A foot has two syllables. The first is stressed and the last two are unstressed.
  48. Dactyl
    A foot has three syllables. The first one is stressed and the last two are unstressed.
  49. Anapest
    A foot that has three syllables. The first two are unstressed with the third stressed.
  50. Foreshadowing
    Clues in the text about incidents that will occur later in the plot, creates anticipation in the novel.
  51. Free Verse
    Type of verse that vontains a variety of line lengths, is unrhymed, and lacks traditional meter.
  52. Genre
    A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content.
  53. Gothic Novel
    A genre of fiction characterized by mystery and supernatural horror, often set in a dark castle or other medieval setting.
  54. Heroine
    A woman noted for courage and daring action or the female protagonist.
  55. Hubris
    Used in Greek tragedies, refers to excessive pride that usally leads to a hero's downfall.
  56. Hyperbole
    A figure of speech in which exaggeration is uds for emphasis or comic/dramatic effect.
  57. Illocution
    Language that avoids the meaning of the words.
  58. Imagery
    The use of vivid or figurative language to represent objects, actions, or ideas.
  59. In Medias Res
    A story that begins in the middle of things.
  60. Innuendo
    A hint of something improper: an indirect remark or gesture that usually carries a suggestion of impropriety.
  61. Inversion
    In poetry, an intentional digression from ordinary word order which is used to maintian regualr meters.
  62. Irony
    When one thing should occur, is apparent, or in logical sequence but the opposite actually occurs.
  63. Dramatic Irony
    When the audience or reader knows something characters do not know.
  64. Verbal Ironay
    When one thing is said, but something else, usually the pposite is ment.
  65. Cosmic Irony
    When a higher power toys with human expectations.
  66. Lyric Poem
    A poem expressing the observations and feelings of a single speaker. It presents and experience or a single effect, but it does not tell a full story.
  67. Malapropism
    Absurd or humorous misuse of a word, especially by confusion of one with a similar sound.
  68. Masculine Ending
    Stressed extra syllable at the end of a line of poetry.
  69. Memoir
    An account of the personal experiences of an author.
  70. Metaphysical Poetry
    Poetry of seventeenth-century English poets that includes feautes such as intellectual palyfulness, argument, paradoxes, irony, elaborate and unsual conceits, incongruity, and the rhythms of ordinaryy speech.
  71. Meter
    The measured arrangement of words in poetry, as by accentual rhythm, syllabic quantity, or the number of syllables in a line.
  72. Metaphor
    A figure of speech in which words or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implict comparison; this comparison does not use like or as.
  73. Metonymy
    The use of word or phrase to stand in for something else which is often associated.
  74. Modernism
    An international mevement in the arts during the early twentieth century in which artists rejected old forms and experimented with new ones.
  75. Monologue
    A long, formal speech made by a character in a plya.
  76. Mood
    The feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage.
  77. Motif
    A dominant theme or central idea.
  78. Narrative Poetry
    A poem that tells a story in verse.
  79. Narrator
    Someone who tells a story.
  80. First Person Narrator
    The narrator is acharacter in the story.
  81. Third Person Objective Narrator
    The narrator does not tell what anyone is thinking; the "fly on the wall".
  82. Third Person Limited Narrator
    The narrator is able to tell the thoughts of one character.
  83. Third Person Omniscient Narrator
    The narrator is able to tell the thoughts of any character.
  84. Neoclassicism
    A literary movement of the late seventeenth century in which writers turned to classical Greek and Roman literary models nad standards, stressin order, hormony, restrints, and the ideal.
  85. Neutral Language
    Language opposite from emotive language as it is literal or even objective in nature.
  86. Novella
    A short novel, usually aunder 100 pages.
  87. Oblique Rhyme
    Imperfect rhyme shceme.
  88. Ode
    A lyric poem of some length, usually of a serious or meditative nature and haiving an elevated style and formal stanzaic structure. Celebrates something.
  89. Onamatiopoeia
    The formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.
  90. Oxymoron
    A figure of speech that combines two apprently contradictory elements, as in "jumbo shrimp" or "deafening silence."
  91. Paradox
    Statement which seems to conradict itself. His old face was youtful whe he heard the news.
  92. Parody
    A literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or work for comic effect or ridicule.
  93. Pastoral
    Refers to literary works that deal with the pleasures of a simple rural life or with escape to a simpler place and time.
  94. Personification
    A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represendted as possessing human form.
  95. Point Of View
    The vantage point from which the writer tells a story.
  96. Poetic Justice
    The rewarding of virtue and the punishment of vice in the resolution of a plot. The character, as they say, gets what he/she deserves.
  97. Prequel
    An inrroduction or preface, especially a poem recited to introduce a play.
  98. Prologue
    An introduction or preface, espcially a poem recited to introduce a play.
  99. Prose
    Ordinary speech or writhing without metrical structure, written in prargraph from. Novels and short stories are reffered.
  100. Protagonist
    The main character in adrama or literary work.
  101. Pun
    Play on words, when two words have multiple manings and spelling and are used in a humorous manner.
  102. Rhyme
    The repetition of sounds in words.
  103. Rhyme Scheme
    The act of aassigning leters in the alphabet to demonstrate the patern of rhyming lines in a poem.
  104. Rising Action
    The events of a dramatic or narrative plot preceding the climax.
  105. Rites Of Passage
    An incident which creates tremendous growth signifying a transition from adolescence to adulthood.
  106. Realism
    The literary practice of attempting to describe life and nature without idealization and with attention to detail. The presentation of details from actual life.
  107. Resolution
    Solution to the conflict in literature.
  108. Romanticism
    A literary and artistic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It emphasized imgination, fancy, freedom, emotion, wildness, and the beauty of the untamed natural world, the rights of the individual, the nobility of the common man, and the attractiveness of postroal life.
  109. Round Character
    A character who is develped over the course of a book, usually major characters in a novel.
  110. Satire
    A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit; the goal is to change the behavior/issue.
  111. Setting
    The time and place of a story or a play.
  112. Simile
    A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in aphrase introduced by like or as.
  113. Slang
    A kind of language occuring chiefly in casual and playful speech, made up typically of short-lived coinages and figures of speech that are deliberately used in place of standard terms for added raciness, humor irreverence, or other effect.
  114. Soliloquy
    A dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character talks to himself or herself or reveals his or her thoughts without addressing a listener. Typical in plays.
  115. Sonnet
    A poem with fourteen lines.
  116. Italian Sonnet
    A sonnet that subdivides into two quatrins and two tercets.
  117. English Sonnet
    A sonnet that subdivides into three quatrains and one couplet.
  118. Volta or Turn
    Is a sudden change of thought which is common in sonnets.
  119. Speaker
    The imaginary voice or persona assumed by the author of a poem.
  120. Stanza
    A group of lines in apoem, which is seen as a unit.
  121. Style
    The combination of distinctive features of literary or artistc expression, execution, or performance characterizing a particular person, group, shcool, or era.
  122. Synecdoche
    A figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole, such as "herd of cattle" or "hands on deck"
  123. Syntax
    The way words are put together to form phrases, clauses, and sentences strucutre nad how it influences the wya reader perceives a piece of writing.
  124. Symbolism
    Something that reperesents something else by associating, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to repesent something invisible.
  125. Tone
    Reflects how the author feels about hte subject matter or the feeling the author wants to instill in the reader.
  126. Theme
    The central idea or insight about human experience revealed in a work of literature.
  127. Tragedy
    A dram or literay work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic glaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstance.
  128. Understatment
    Deliverate expression of an idea or event as less important that it acutally is or was.
  129. Voice
    The acknowledged or unacknowledged source of words of the story; the speaker, a "person" telling the story or poem.
  130. Wit
    In modern usage, intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights.
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Literary Terms
Literary TermsFa
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