Lit. Terms 1

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Lit. Terms 1
2011-08-01 16:50:54
literary terms

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  1. Allegory
    a prose or poetic narrative in which the characters, behavior, and even the setting demonstrates multilevels of meaning and significance. Often allegory is a universal symbol or personified abstraction.

    ex) Death is portrayed as a block clocked "grim reaper" with a scythe and hourglass.
  2. Alliteration
    the sequential intial repetition of a similar sound, usually applied to consonants, usually heard in closely proximate stressed syllables.

    ex) a common American children's alliteration is "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."
  3. Allusion
    a reference to a literary or historical event, person, or place.

    ex) in Jane Smiley's novel, 1,000 Acres, the father figure in Larry who attempts to divide his land among three daughters a la Shakespeare's King Lear.
  4. Anaphora
    the regular repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases or clauses.

    ex) John F. Kenedy's inaugural speech gives us good eamples of anaphora.

    • Another example:
    • This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
    • This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
    • This other Eden, demi-paradise,
    • This fortress built by nature of herself
    • Against infection and the hand of war,
    • This happy breed of men, this little world,
    • This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    • Which serves it in the office of a wall,
    • Or as a moat defensive to a house
    • Against the envy of less happier lands;
    • This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England... by John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's Richard II
  5. Anecdote
    a brief story or tale told by a character in a piece of literature.

    ex) Chaucer's entire Canterbury Tales is a collection of anecdotes related by the Pilgrims on their journey.
  6. Antagonist
    any force that is in opposition to the main character, or protagonist.

    ex) Pap is antagonist to Huck in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the environment is an antagonist in Jack London's "To Build a Fire."
  7. Antithesis
    the juxtaposition of sharply contrasting ideas in balanced or parallel words, phrases, grammatical structure, or ideas.

    ex) Alexander Pope reminds us that "To err is human, to forgive divine."
  8. Apostrophe
    an address or invocation to something that is inanimate.

    ex) an angry lover who might scream at the ocean in his or her despair. Also, many are familiar with the title line of a famous Christmas carol, which exemplifies apostrophe: "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie..."
  9. Archetype
    recurrent designs, patterns of action, character types, themes or images which are identifiable in a wide range of literature.

    ex) the femme fatale, that female character who is found throughout literature as the one responsible for the downfall of a significant male character.
  10. Assonance
    a repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, usually those found in stressed syllables of close proximity.

    ex) Samuel T. Coleridge used assonance when he wrote, "In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn..."
  11. Asyndeton
    a style in which conjunction are omitted, usually producing a fast-paced, more rapid prose.

    ex) Caesar's famous lines, "I came, I saw, I conquered," are asyndeton.
  12. Attitude
    the sense expressed by the tone of voice and/or the mood of a piece of writing; the feelings the author holds towards his subject, the people in his narrative, the events, the setting, or even the theme. It might even be the feeling he holds for the reader.

    ** In AP English exams, students are often asked to respond to the attitude of the writer, speaker, or narrator towards some aspect within the piece of writing that is being presented.
  13. Ballad
    a narrative poem that is, or originally was, meant to be sung. Repetition and refrain (recurring phrase or phrases) characterize the ballad.

    ex) Scarborough Fair is a traditional ballad updated for a modern audience.
  14. Ballad stanza
    a common stanza form, consisting of a quatrin (a stanza of four lines) that alternates four-beat and three-beat lines: one and three are unrhymed iambic tetrameter (four beats), and two and four are rhymed iambic trimeter (three beats):

    • In Scarlet Town, where I was born
    • There lived a fair maid dwellin';
    • Made many a youth cry well-a-day,
    • And her name was Barbara Allen.
  15. Blank verse
    the verse form that most resembles common speech, blank verse consists of unrhymed lines in iambic pentameter. Many of Shakespeare's plays are in blank verse, as is Milton's Paradise Lost.
  16. Caesura
    a pause in a line of verse, indicated by natural speech patterns rather than due to specific metrical patterns.

    • ex) Pope was able to keep his heroic couplets interesting by varying the position of the caesurae, as here:
    • Alas how changed! // What sudden horrors rise!
    • A naked lover // bound and bleeding lies!
    • Where, where was Eloise? // her voice, her hand,
    • Her poniard, // had opposed the dire command.
  17. Caricature
    a depiction in which a character's characteristics or features are so deliberately exaggerated as to render them absurd.

    ex) political cartoons are visual caricature; writers, such as Charles Dickens, create verbal caricature-this can be found both in drawing and in print in The Pickwick Papers.
  18. Chiasmus
    a figure of speech by which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. This may involve a repetition of the same words.

    ex) "Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure" -Byron.
  19. Colloquial
    ordinary language, the vernacular.

    ex) depending upon where in the US you live, a sandwich might be a hero, a sub, or a hoagie.
  20. Conceit
    a comparison of two unlikely things that is drawn out within a piece of literature, in particular an extended mataphor within a poem.

    ex) conceits might be the idea of tracing a love affair as a flower growing, budding, coming to fruition, and dying. Also, hair might be spun gold; teeth like stars or pearls, etc.
  21. Connotation
    what is suggested by a word, apart from what it explicitly describes, often referred to as the implied meaning of a word.

    ex) the words awesome or sweet or gay have undergone a series of connotative alterations in the last couple of decades.
  22. Consonance
    the repetition of a sequence of two or more consonants, but with a change in the intervening vowels, such as pitter-patter, pish-posh, clinging and clanging.

    ex) Shakespeare's Midsummer's Night's Dream includes the lines: "Or if there were a sympathy in choice/ War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it."
  23. Couplet
    two rhyming lies of iambic pentameter that together present a single idea or connection.

    ex) the last two lines of all of Shakespeare's sonnets, such as XVIII, "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see/So long lives this and this gives life to three," are couplet.
  24. Dactylic
    the metrical pattern, as used in poetry, in which each foot consists of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones.

    ex) words such as can' a da, hol' i day, cel' e brate are examples of a dactylic foot.
  25. Denotation
    a direct and specific meaning, often referred to as the dictionary meaning of a word.