Random Literary Terms

Random Literary Terms

Literary and Rhetorical Terms Collected from past AP Multiple-choice and Essay Tests Abstract Diction Language that denotes ideas, emotions, conditions, or concepts that are intangible-impenetrable,

incredible, inscrutable, inconceivable, unfathomable ad hominem Latin for against the man.

Attacking the person instead of the argument proposed by that individual. An argument directed to the personality, prejudices, previous words and actions of an opponent rather than an appeal to pure reason. Example: Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot, writes left-wing comedian Al Franken. adverbial phrases First,

lets define an adverb: word that modifies a verb, verb form, adjective or another adverb. Thus, an adverbial phrases is a group of words that modifies, as a single unit, a verb, verb form, adjective or another adverb. Example: He lost the first game due to carelessness.

allegory A fiction or nonfiction narrative, in which characters, things, and events represent qualities, moral values, or concepts. Playing out of the narrative is designed to reveal

an abstraction or truth. Characters and other elements may be symbolic of the ideas referred to in the allegory. Example: The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan or A Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Alliteration The repetition of the same consonant sound, especially at the beginning of

words. For example, Five miles meandering with a mazy motion Kubla Khan by S.T. Coleridge allusion

A reference, explicit or indirect, to a person, place, or event, or to another literary work or passage. Generally speaking, the writer assumes the educated reader will recognize the reference. Often humorous, but not always. Establishes a connection between writer and reader, or to make a subtle point.

Example: In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings. Ambiguity Use of language where the meaning is unclear or has two or more possible interpretations or meanings. It could be created through a weakness in the way the writer has

expressed himself or herself, but often it is used by writers quite deliberately to create layers of meaning in the mind of the reader. Ambivalence This indicates more than one possible attitude is being displayed by the writer towards a character,

theme, or idea, etc. Anachronism Something that is historically inaccurate, for example the reference to a clock chiming in Shakespeares Julius Caesar. Anadiplosis

Last word of one line is the first word of the next line analogy

A comparison to a directly parallel case, arguing that a claim reasonable for one case is reasonable for the analogous case. A comparison made between two things that may initially seem to have little in common but can offer fresh insights when compared. Used for illustration and/or argument. Example: We advance in years somewhat in the manner of an invading army in a barren land;

the age that we have reached, as the phrase goes, we but hold with an outpost, and still keep open our communications with the extreme rear and first beginnings of the march. Robert Louis Stevenson, On Marriage. anaphora Repetition of a word, phrase or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row. Deliberate form of repetition to reinforce point or to make it more coherent. Example: In the Declaration of

Independence, Thomas Jefferson places the subject, He, at the beginning of twenty accusations in a row, each as a single paragraph, to put the weight of responsibility for the problems with King George III, whom Jefferson refers to in the third person. Anastrophe (Inversion) Inversion

of the normal syntactical structure of a sentence. Ex. Ready are you? Antecedent The word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun Anthropomorphism

The endowment of something that is not human with human characteristics. anticlimax In writing, denotes a writers intentional drop from the serious and elevated to

the trivial and lowly, in order to achieve a comic or satiric effect. An event (as at the end of a series) that is strikingly less important than what has preceded it. The transition towards this ending. Antimetabole A sentence strategy in which the

arrangement of ideas in the second clause is a reversal o the first; it adds power to the sentence. antithesis

A balancing of two opposite or contrasting words, phrases or clauses. Example: . . .one seeing more where the other sees less, one seeing black where the other sees white, one seeing big where the other sees small. . . . Example: Shakespeares Macbeth, Act I, Scene I, Line 11: Fair is foul and foul is fair. Oxymoron: rhetorical antithesis,

juxtaposing two contradictory terms like wise fool or eloquent silent. anecdote A brief recounting of a relevant episode. Used in fiction and nonfiction. Develops point or injects humor. Commonly used as an illustration for an abstract point being made.

Example: Mark Twain is famous for his short anecdotes about growing up in Missouri intertwined with humor and an abstract truth about human nature. Aphorism A terse statement of known authorship that expresses a general truth or moral principle

Apostrophe An interruption in a poem or narrative so that the speaker or writer can address a dead or absent person or particular audience or notion directly. Oh Time thou must untangle this not I Viola in Twelfth Night


Nonessential word groups (phrases and clauses) that follow nouns and identify or explain them. Example: My aunt, who lives in Montana, is taking surfing lessons in Hawaii. The sentence above is a nonrestrictive clause, because it is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence and it can easily be put in another sentence and still make sense. Thus, it is set off by commas. A restrictive clause also follows a noun but is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. It is not an appositive. Thus, no commas. That always

signals restrictive. Example: People who can speak more than one language are multilingual. Example: Please repair all the windows that are broken. Archaic Language that is old-fashioned not completely obsolete but no longer in

current use. archetype Meaning: model, example, standard, original, classic. Elemental patterns of ritual, mythology and folklore

that recur in the legends, ceremonies and stories of the most diverse cultures. In literature, applies to narrative designs, character types, or images which are said to be identifiable in a wide variety of works of literature, as well as myths, and even ritualized modes of social behavior. Example: Over 300 different versions of the Cinderella tale exist from around the world, and all of them have certain archetypal characteristics: wicked step-mother, mean sisters, handsome prince who rescues the girl. These common characteristics are

qualities that strike a strong emotional reaction in all who own the story. assonance Repetition of a vowel sound within two or

more words, usually with different consonant sounds either before or after the same vowel sounds. Example: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Edgar Allan Poes The Raven. Example: Thou foster child of silence and slow time, John Keats Ode on a Grecian Urn. asyndeton

Sentence where commas are used with no conjunctions to separate a series of words. Gives equal weight to each part. Speeds up the flow of the sentence. Formula: X, Y, Z. As opposed to X, Y, and Z. See polysyndeton for variation.

Atmosphere The prevailing mood created by a piece of writing. Balanced Sentence The phrases or clauses balance each other by virtue of their likeness or

structure, meaning, or length. Ex. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. Ballad A narrative poem that tells a story (traditional ballads were songs) usually in a straightforward way. The

theme is often tragic or contains a whimsical, supernatural, or fantastical element. bathos

Noun. Etymology: Greek. A sudden drop from the sublime or elevated to the ludicrous. An anticlimax. Example: Within the last decade, the Catholic community in North America has faced its greatest bathos as they wrestle with the dozens of arrests and convictions of priests for child molestation.

Blank Verse Unrhymed poetry that adheres to a strict pattern in that each line is an iambic pentameter (a ten-syllable line with five stresses). It is close to the natural rhythm of English speech or prose, and is used a great deal by many writers including Shakespeare and Milton.

bombast Originally meant cotton stuffing. Adopted to signify verbose and inflated diction that is disproportionate to the

matter it expresses. Popular with the heroic drama of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Although a century after the height of this style, James Fenimore Coopers Leatherstocking Sagas (Last of the Mohicans for example) are typical of bombastic speeches. bowdlerize Named

after Thomas Bowdler, who tidied up his Family Shakespeare in 1815 by omitting whatever is unfit to be read by a gentleman in the presence of a lady. Means to expurgate from a work any passages considered indecent or indelicate. High school and some college texts are guilty of this censuring.

Cacaphony Harsh clashing, or dissonant sounds, often produced by combinations of words that require a clipped, explosive delivery or words that contain a number of plosive consonants. Opposite of Euphony. Caesura

A conscious break in a line of poetry. Caricature A character described through the exaggeration of a small number of features that he or she possesses.

Catharsis A purging of the emotions which takes place at the end of a tragedy. Chiasmus/Antimetabole Arrangement of repeated thoughts in the pattern of X Y Y X.

Usually short and summarizes the main idea. Example: From Yeats An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, the poet writes: The years to come seemed waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind. Clich A phrase, idea, or image that has

been used so much that it has lost much of its original meaning, impact, and freshness. Clause A grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb coin a verb

This is not a literary term, but it confused more than one student. So, I am including it here. coin (intransitive verb) means to invent. Thus, to coin a verb is to invent a verb.

Shakespeare coined more than 1,700 words by changing nouns to verbs, making verbs adjectives, making new combination of words paired together, etc. Example: Olivia: There lies your way, due west. Viola: Then westward ho! From Shakespeares Twelfth Night, Act III, Scene I, Line 135. Some words Shakespeare coined: advertising,

alligator, anchovy, countless, gust, investment, obscene, puke, puppy dog, tranquil, zany. Colloquial Ordinary, everyday speech and language Colloquial expressions are nonstandard, often regional, ways of using language appropriate to

informal or conversational speech and writing. Ex. yall Comedy Originally simply a play or other work which ended happily. Now we use this term to describe something that is funny and which makes us laugh. In literature the comedy is not necessarily

a lightweight form. A play like Shakespeares Measure for Measure, for example, is, for the most part a serious and dark play but as it ends happily, it is often described as a comedy. common knowledge Shared beliefs or assumptions between the reader and the audience. Used to argue that if something is widely believed, readers should accept

it. A self-evident, obvious truth, especially one too obvious to mention is a truism. Complex Sentence Contains an independent clause and one or more subordinate clause

Because the singer was tired, she went straight to bed after the concert Compound Sentence Contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon

Compound-Complex Sentence Contains two or more independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses. Ex. The singer bowed while the audience applauded, but she sang no encores.

Conceit An elaborate, extended, and sometimes surprising comparison between things that, at first sight, do not have much in common. Concrete Diction Specific words that describe physical

qualities or conditions Connotation An implication or association attached to a word or phrase. A connotation is suggested or felt rather than being explicit. Contrast

A traditional rhetorical strategy based on the assumption that a subject may be shown more clearly by pointing out ways in which it is unlike another subject. consonance

Repetition of a consonant sound within two or more words in close proximity. Sometimes refers to repetition of consonant sounds in the middle or at the end of words. Example: And all the air a solemn stillness

holds. from Thomas Grays Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Sometimes refers to slant rhyme or partial rhyme: Initial and final consonants are the same but the vowels are different. Example: litter and letter, or green and groan. conventional Following

certain conventions, or traditional techniques of writing. Over-reliance on conventions may result in a lack of originality. Example: Five-paragraph theme is a conventional format of argument. Couplet Two consecutive lines of verse that

rhyme Declarative Sentence Makes a statement deconstruction A critical approach that debunks

single definitions of meaning based upon the instability of language. Deconstructionist: reexamines literary conventions in light of the belief that because of the instability of language, the text has already dismantled itself. Denotation Exact,

literal definition of a word independent of any emotional association or secondary meaning Denouement The ending of a play, novel, or drama where all is revealed and the plot is unraveled

Dialect Nonstandard subgroup of a language with its own vocabulary and grammatical features; writers often use regional dialects or dialects that reveal a persons economic or social class diatribe

From Latin diatriba meaning to spend time, or to wear away. Archaic meaning: a prolonged discourse. A bitter and abusive speech or writing. Ironical or satirical criticism.

Example: The challenging candidate shouted his diatribe against the incumbent platform to several thousand supporters in attendance. diction Means word choice. Refers to word choice as a reflection of style. Different types and arrangements of words have significant effects on meaning.

Purpose, tone, point of view, persona, verve, color, all are affected by diction. didactic Fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking. Designed to expound a branch of theoretical, moral, or practical knowledge, or else to instantiate, in an impressive and persuasive

imaginative or fictional form, a moral, religious, or philosophical theme or doctrine. Example: On the Nature of Things by Lucretius; Essay on Man by Pope; Faerie Queene by Spencer; The Pilgrims Progress by Bunyan. Dramatic Monologue A poem or prose piece in which a

character addresses an audience. Often the monologue is complete in itself, as in Alan Bennetts Talking Heads. double entendre A corruption of a French phrase meaning "double meaning." The term is used to indicate a word

or phrase that is deliberately ambiguous, especially when one of the meanings is risqu or improper. Example: The Elizabethan usage of the verb "die," which refers both to death and to orgasm. either-or reasoning Reducing an argument or issue to

two polar opposites and ignoring any alternatives. Elegy A meditative poem, usually sad and reflective in nature. Sometimes, though not always, it is concerned with the theme of death.

Ellipsis The deliberate omission of a word or words that are readily implied by the context; it creates and elegant or daring economy of words. Empathy A

feeling on the part of the reader of sharing the particular experience being described by the character or writer. emotional appeal Appealing to the emotions of the reader in order to excite and involve them in the argument.

Makes use of pathos: the quality in an experience, narrative, literary work, etc., which arouses profound feelings of compassion or sorrow. Pathos is Greek for suffering. End stopping A verse line with a pause or a stop at the end of it.

Enjambment A line of verse that flows on into the next line without a pause. Epanalepsis The repetition at the end of a clause

of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause; it tends to make the sentence or clause in which it occurs stand apart from its surroundings. Epic A long narrative poem, written in an elevated style and usually dealing

with a heroic theme or story. Homers The Iliad and Miltons Paradise Lost are examples of this. epic simile

Formal and sustained similes that are developed far beyond its specific points of parallel to the primary subject. Primary subject is called tenor. Secondary subject (the simile) is called vehicle. Homer (Iliad and Odyssey) invented the technique; Virgil, Milton and other epic writers copied the style. Example: Milton in Paradise Lost I, lines 768-76

describes the fallen angels (tenor) thronging towards their newly built palace of Pandemonium by an elaborate comparison to swarming of bees (vehicle) that lasts an entire stanza. epigraph A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work suggestive of the theme of the fiction

or nonfiction text. An aphorism is a short clever saying parting truth. Example: waste not, want not. epigram

Originally in Greek meant an inscription. Extended to encompass a very short poem whether amorous (sexual love), elegiac (longing for the past), meditative (contemplative), anecdotal (description, story, episode), or satiric (witty, sarcasm). Poem is polished, condensed, and pointed, often with a witty end. In his epigram On a Volunteer Singer Coleridge explains: Swans sing before they dietwere no bad thing

Should certain people die before they sing! epiphany Literally means a manifestation.

Traditionally, Christianity used the word to signify a manifestation of Gods presence in the world. Irishman James Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, first adapted the word to a secular meaning: a sudden radiance and revelation while observing a commonplace object. Joyce replaced what earlier writers had called the moment, an instance or moment of revelation.

Epistrophe The repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses; it sets up a pronounced rhythm and gains a special emphasis both by repeating the word and by putting the words in the final position.

Epithet An adjective or adjective phrase applied to a person or thing to emphasize a characteristic quality or attribute, such as lily-livered coward equivoque

Special type of pun that makes use of a single word or phrase which has two disparate meanings, in a context which makes both meanings equally relevant. The art of writing this pun is equivocation. As an example, an epitaph for a bank teller might read: He checked his cash, cashed in his checks, And left his window. Who is next?

ethical appeal When a writer tries to persuade the audience to respect him or her based upon a presentation of self through the text. Reputation of the author is often a factor in ethical appeals. Regardless of the topic or over-all

purpose of the essay, the ethical appeal is always done to gain the audiences confidence. ethos

Etymology: Greek. A persons character or disposition. The characteristic spirit or prevalent tone of a people or a community. The essential identity of an institution or system. Ideal excellence; nobler than reality. Example: The real is preferred to the ideal, transient emotions to permanent lineaments, pathos to ethos.

euphemism Originally in Greek meant to speak well. Has come to mean: to speak well in the place of the blunt, disagreeable, terrifying or offensive term. Example: death becomes to pass away. Example: Damn it becomes Darn it! Example: Victorians first used limb for

leg or privates for sexual organs. Euphony Use of pleasant or melodious sounds. Exclamatory Sentence Provides emphasis or expresses

strong emotion often indicated by punctuation Exemplum A story that contains or illustrates a moral point put forward as an example. exposition

Background information provided by author to enhance the audiences understanding of the context of a fiction or nonfiction story. Example: Robert Louis Stevenson gives the reader plenty of cultural background on the small seaside village of his youth in hopes the audience will better appreciate the

context of The Lantern-Bearers. Extendend Metaphor A metaphor developed at great length, occurring frequently in or throughout a work. Fable A

short story that presents a clear moral lesson. Fabliau A short comic tale with a bawdy element, akin to the dirty story. Chaucers The Millers Tale contains elements of the fabliau.

Farce A play that aims to entertain the audience through absurd and ridiculous characters and actions. Feminine Ending An extra unstressed syllable at the

end of a line of poetry. (Contrast with a stressed syllable, a masculine ending). Figurative Language Language that is symbolic or metaphorical and not meant to be taken literally.

Figure of Speech A device used to produce figurative language Flat Character Foresters term for a character with a single quality

Foil Usually a character who by contrast points up the qualities or characteristics of another character. Foot A

group of syllables forming a unit of verse The basic unit of metre Frame Device Overall unifying story within which one or more tales are related. Ex. Frankenstein.

Free Verse Verse written without any fixed structure (either in metre or rhyme) freight-train Sentence consisting three or more very short independent clauses

joined by conjunctions. Generic Conventions Refers to traditions for each genre Genre A particular type of writing

e.g. prose, poetry, drama Heptameter A verse line containing seven feet Hexameter A verse line containing six feet

High/Formal Diction Contains language that creates an elevated tone; free of slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and contractions; contains polysyllabic words, sophisticated syntax, and elegant word choice

Homily Literally sermon. A usually short sermon. A lecture or discourse on a moral theme hyperbole

Originally in Greek meant overshooting. A bold overstatement or extravagant expression of fact, used for serious or comic effect. Easily recognized as exaggeration for effect. Example: There must have been ten million people at our Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving.

Or, Shakespeares, Othello, Act III, Scene III, Lines 330-33 reads: Not poppy nor mandragora, Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world, Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep Which thou ow dst yesterday. Iamb The most common metrical foot in English poetry, consisting of an

unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable Idyll A story, often written in verse, usually concerning innocent and rustic characters in rural, idealized surrounds This form can also deal with more

heroic subjects Tennysons Idylls of the King Similar to Pastoral imagery Use of images, especially in a pattern of related images, often figurative, to

create a strong, unified sensory impression. Use of sensory details to create images that support the theme of the essay. Imperative Sentence Gives a Command

Infer (inference) To draw a reasonable conclusion from the information presented Informal/low diction The language of everyday use; relaxed and conversational; common

and simple words, idioms, slang, jargon Internal Rhyme Rhyming words within a line rather than at the end of lines Interrogative Sentence Asks

a question Inter-textual Having clear links with other texts through the themes, ideas, or issues which are explored irony

Originated in Greek comedy with the character eiron, who was a dissembler. Appeared less intelligent than he was, spoke in understatement, and triumphed over the alazonthe self-deceiving and stupid

braggart. Greek dramatist Sophocles developed the tragic or dramatic irony in his 100-plus tragedies, including Antigone and Oedipus Rex. Four kinds of irony: verbal, structural, dramatic, and situational. Invective An

emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language. Inversion/ Inverted order of a sentence Variation of the normal word order (subject, verb, complement) which puts the verb or complement at the

head of the sentence. The sentence element appearing first is emphasized more than the subject that is buried in the sentence. irony (verbal)

Verbal irony: demands the most audience sophistication. This requires reading between the lines. Also, this irony takes the greatest risks with the audience who might misinterpret what is irony and what is literal. Might be simple reversal of literal meanings of words spoken or more complex, subtle, indirect and unobtrusive messages

that require the collection of hints from within the text. Compliments the intelligence of the reader, who, by perceiving the irony, is in partnership with the author and the minority of characters who understand, too. Example: It is truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife (Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice). The subtle irony is that a single woman is in want of a rich husband as manifested by the evidence in the novel that follows this opening line. Sarcasm: a type of verbal irony that is crude and blatant

praise or dispraise. Example: Oh, youre Gods great gift to women, you are! irony (structural) Structural irony: some works show sustained irony throughout the text.

Instead of using occasional verbal irony, the author introduces a structural feature which serves to sustain duplicity of meaning. Common device: nave hero or nave narrator. Example: Jonathan Swifts well-meaning but insanely rational economist who is the nave narrator in A Modest Proposal. The reader perceives the irony of one who, though well meaning, proposes the conversion of the excess children of the oppressed and poverty-stricken Irish into financial and gastronomical assets.

irony (dramatic) Involves a situation in a play or narrative in which the audience shares with the author knowledge of which the character is ignorant. The character expects the opposite of what is destined, or says something that anticipates the outcome, but not in a way that is meant when said. Example: In Macbeth, by Act I, Scene I, the

audience knows that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have already planned out Duncans murderyet King Duncan never suspects that he is walking into a trap. irony (situational)

When the writer shows a discrepancy between the expected results of some action or situation and it actual results. The work has a surprise ending, that, although a surprise, still fits the purpose, point of view, evidence and tone of the text. Example: In Thomas Hardys The Three Strangers, it is a surprise to the characters and the audience when the two strangers at

the chimney corner turn out to be the hangman and his intended victim. Jargon A characteristic language of a particular group (as among thieves); "they don't speak our lingo Juxtaposition

A poetic and rhetorical device in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another, often creating an effect of surprise and wit. Ex. The apparition of these faces in the crowd:/ Petals on a wet, black bough. (In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound).

Lament A poem expressing intense grief litotes

Noun. From Greek ltts for plain or simple. Assertion of an affirmative by negating its contrary. Example: Hes not the brightest man in the world, meaning he is stupid. It is a simple form of understatement, often in Anglo-Saxon poetry, like Beowulf, it is a statement

of grim irony. Example, in describing the dwelling place of the monster Grendel, Hrothgar states, That is not a pleasant place. General example: He is two bricks shy of a full load, meaning his reasoning powers are not all there. Long and Involved sentence About 30 words in length.

Loose or Cumulative Sentence Makes complete sense if brought to a close before the actual ending. Ex. We reached Edmonton that morning after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, tired but exhilarated, full of stories to tell our

friends and neighbors. The sentence could end before the modifying phrases without losing its coherence. Lyric Originally a song performed to the accompaniment of a lyre (an early harp-like instrument) but now it can mean a song-like poem or a short

poem expressing personal feeling Medium Sentence Approximately 18 words in length melodramatic redundancy This AP exam phrase incorporates two terms: melodramatic and redundancy. Melodramatic: exaggerated,

sensational, overly dramatic. Redundancy: the state of being unnecessarily repetitive or superfluous Thus, melodramatic redundancy means, unnecessary repetition that is exaggerated, sensational and overly dramatic. metaphor

A figure of speech that compares two things which are basically dissimilar. (Example: The ship plowed the sea.) Unlike a simile, metaphors do not have a connective word (like, as, or than).

Many metaphors are implied or suggested. (Example: Anne Bradstreet in Upon the Burning of Our House calls heaven the beautiful house built by the mightiest architect.) An extended or controlling metaphor is used throughout the essay. A dead metaphor is one that is overly used and is no longer considered figurative, but rather literal. (Example: the leg of a chair.) A mixed metaphor is the use of two or more inconsistent metaphors in one expression. Mixed metaphors make no sense upon examination and are often used as humorous.

(Example: To hold the fort, hed have to shake a leg.) metonymy

Noun. From Greek metnyma for change of name. A figure of speech where the term for one thing is applied for another with which it has become closely associated in experience, or where a part represents the whole. Example: the crown is figuratively the king. Example: the word petticoat represents femininity; whereas the word pants represents being in control.

Reminder: This is not a synecdoche; the tools are different. For one, a metonymy is used so much that it has become a figure of speech. Metre The regular use of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry Mock heroic

A poem that treats trivial subject matter in the grand and elevated style of epic poetry The effort produced is often satirical, as in Popes The Rape of the Lock monologue From

Greek monologos meaning to speak alone. A long speech by one person; a dramatic speech by one actor. Also known as a soliloquy if the character speaks inner thoughts to the audience and no other character hears. An aside is a short soliloquy. Monometer A

verse line consisting of only one metrical foot mood The atmosphere in the text created by the authors tone towards the subject.

Sometimes called atmosphere or ambience. Tools used: -Style (how sentences are combined) -syntax (strength, length and complexity of each sentence) -diction (individual word choice) Motif A

dominant theme, subject or idea which runs through a piece of literature Often a motif can assume a symbolic importance Narrative A piece of writing that tells a story

Natural Order of a Sentence Involves constructing a sentence so the subject comes before the predicate. Ex, Oranges grow in California. naturalistic novel

This AP exam phrase incorporates two literary terms: naturalism and novel. Naturalism: centering upon nature and excluding supernatural or spiritual elements, with special attention to effects of environment and heredity on human nature and action.

Novel: extended fictional narrative that allows greater complication of plot and more subtle examinations of character. Example: Jack Londons Call of the Wind and White Fang are naturalistic novels, where premise of survival of the fittest is examined. Neutral Diction Uses standard language and vocabulary without elaborate words

and may include contractions new journalism

Noun. Became popular during the Modernism movement in American culture following WWII, but is an earlier phenomenon. No longer objective; doesnt make any pretense to being objective. Features authors subjective responses to people and events covered in essay. Sometimes includes fictional elements meant to illuminate and dramatize those responses of the author. Example: The Execution of Tropmann by Ivan

Turgenev in which the author reacts subjectively to the sights and sounds of attending his first public execution. His opinion about such government events is clear by the last paragraph of the essay. Persuasion is the key. Non Sequitur A fallacy of argument in which claims, reasons or warrants fail to

connect logically; one point doesnt follow from another. novel and forms thereof Novel: extended fictional narrative that allows greater complication of plot and more subtle examinations of character. Novelette or Novella: fictional

narrative of middle length. Examples: Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway or Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Octameter A verse line consisting of eight feet Octave

The first eight lines of a sonnet Ode A verse form similar to a lyric but often more lengthy and containing more serious and elevated thoughts

Omission Onomatopoeia The use of words whose sound copies the sound of the thing or process that they describe On a simple level, words like bang, hiss, and splash are onomatopoeic, but it also has more

subtle uses oxymoron

Noun. From Greek: oxi means sharp, keen, acute, pungent, acid; moron means dull, stupid, foolish. A figure of speech in which two contradictory words are placed side-by-side for effect. Words are obviously opposed or markedly contradictory terms. Casually reference: contradiction of terms.

Examples: civil war, alone together, deafening silence, or jumbo shrimp. paean From Greek paian meaning hymn to Apollo (Paian or Paion, being a name for Apollo).

Pronounced pie-un. Any song of joy, praise or triumph. Shakespeares Hamlet, the protagonist offers a paean to man: What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite his faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension, how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals . . . . (II, ii, 292-95) paradox

A statement that reveals a kind of truth, although it seems at first to be selfcontradictory and untrue. Rhymes with in your socks Examples: Books are a poor mans wealth.

Or, as Emily Dickinson writes, Much madness is Divinest Sense. In John Donnes sonnet, Death, Be Not Proud, he declares: One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. Parallelism/parallel structure

Sentence construction which places in close proximity two or more equal grammatical constructions. Might be as simple as listing two or three modifiers in a row to describe the same noun or verb. Might be two or more of the same type of phrases

(prepositional, participial, gerund, appositive). Might be two or more subordinate clauses that modify the same noun or verb. Might be a complex blend of single-word, phrase, and clause parallelism all in the same sentence. Simple Example: He lived well, and he died well. parody

Imitates the serious materials and manner of a particular work, or the characteristic style of a particular author, and applies it to a lowly or grossly discordant subject. An exaggerated imitation of a serious work for humorous purposes.

Sometimes called burlesque and travesty. An English essayist of the early twentieth century, Max Beerbohm is known for his parody. James Thurber of The New Yorker magazine was an American writer also known for parody. The cartoon series The Simpsons often does a parody of a famous poem or novel. Pastoral Generally,

literature concerning rural life with idealized settings and rustic characters Often pastorals are concerned with the lives of shepherds and shepherdesses presented in idyllic and unrealistic ways Similar to Idyll pathos

Noun. Etymology: Greek. A quality in an experience, narrative, literary work, etc., which arouses profound feelings of compassion or sorrow.

Pathetic expression or emotion; transient or emotional. Example: For many audience members, the first time viewing Braveheart in a darkened theatre produced a profound pathos while watching William Wallace scream out Freedom! in his last dying moments after suffering a barbaric torture at the hands of the civilized English. Pedantic An

adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly, academic, or bookish Pentameter A line of verse containing five feet

Periodic sentence Sentence that places the main idea or central complete thought at the end of the sentence, after all introductory elements. Periphrasis A

round-about or long-winded way of expressing something Personification The attribution of human feelings, emotions, or sensations to an inanimate object Personification is a kind of metaphor where human qualities are given to

things or abstract ideas, and they are described as if they were a person Plot The sequence of events in a poem, play, novel, or short story that make up the main storyline Point of View

The perspective from which a narrative is told. 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The perspective from which a story is told (first person, third person omniscient, or third person limited omniscient) polysyndeton

Sentence that uses and or other conjunctions multiple times with no commas to separate items in a series. Stresses equally each member of the series. Slows the flow of the sentence for effect,

making items more emphatic than in the asyndeton. Formula: X and Y and Z. See asyndeton for variation. post hoc, egro propter hoc Latin for after this, therefore because of this. When a writer implies that because

one thing follows another, the first caused the second. Predicate adjective One type of subject compliment, an adjective, group of adjectives, or adjective clause that follows a linking verb

Predicate nominative Another type of subject complement, a noun, group of nouns, or noun clause that renames the subject Prose Any kind of writing which is not verse

usually divided into fiction and nonfiction Protagonist The main character or speaker in a poem, monologue, play, or story pun

A play on words that are either identical in sound (homonyms) or similar in sound, but are sharply diverse in meaning. Example: Thou art Peter (Petros) and upon this rock (petra) I will build my church.

Early puns had roots in serious literature, that like Shakespeare, can also have a comical effect in a very serious situation. Example: In Romeo and Juliet, while bleeding to death, Mercutio says Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man. By the eighteenth century and after, the literary use of puns has been almost exclusively comic. Equivoque: the use of a single word or phrase which has two disparate meanings, in a context which makes both meanings equally relevant. Example: An epitaph suggested for a bank teller, which states, He checked his cash, cashed in his checks. And left his window.

Who is next? purple patch

Translation of purpureus . . . Pannus from Horaces Ars Poetica. Signifies a sudden heightening of rhythm, diction, and figurative language that makes a section of verse or prose especially a descriptive passagestand out from its context. Sometimes applied to a set piece, separable and quotable, in which an author rises to an occasion. Example: From the 1999 film Cider House Rules, in which Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) salutes the boy orphans crowded in the attic bedroom with, Goodnight, you princes of Maine. You kings of New England, thereby heightening just how

precious these orphaned lads and the struggling orphanage are to the doctor. Example: Shakespeares eulogy of England by the dying John of Gaunt in Shakespeares Richard II (Act II, Scene I, lines 4043). The dying John says: This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise . . . . Quatrain A

stanza of four lines which can have various rhyme schemes red herring When a writer raises an irrelevant issue to draw attention away from the real issue. refrain

A line, or part of a line, or a group of lines which is repeated in the course of a poem or an essay. There might be slight variations within the repeated refrain.

The repetition is done for effect. Example: If an essay incorporated repeated phrases like I believe or This is love each refrain focuses the audience on a particular subject. Perhaps the most famous refrain in American writing is from Edgar Allan Poes The Raven which is simply Nevermore. The audience is focused on the concept of never will the narrator be able to forget his lost love, find relief from the pain, or be able to hold her again.

refutation The art of mustering relevant opposing arguments. The author refutes through evidence logical opposition. Repetition A device in which words, sounds, and

ideas are used more than once to enhance rhythm and to create emphasis. Ex. government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. (Address at Gettysburg by Abraham Lincoln) rhetoric

The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse. Focuses on the interrelationship of invention, arrangement, and style in order to create fitting and appropriate discourse. Might also be used as an adjective to describe the elements of effective communication (rhetorical situation,

rhetorical question, rhetorical example, etc.). Rhetorical Fragment A sentence fragment used deliberately for a persuasive purpose or to create a desired effect. Ex. Something to consider.

Rhetorical Modes The variety, conventions, and purposes of the major kinds of writing (exposition explains and analyzes information; argumentation proves validity of an idea; description re-creates, invents, or presents a person, place, event or action; narration tells a story recount an

event) Rhetorical Question A question that requires no answer. It is used to draw attention to a point and is generally stronger than a direct statement. Ex. If Mr. Ferchoff is always fair, as you have said, why did he refuse to listen to Mrs.

Baldwins arguments? Rhyme Corresponding sounds in words, usually at the end of each line but not always Similar to Internal Rhyme Rhyme Scheme

The pattern of the rhymes in a poem Rhythm The movement of the poem as created through the metre and the way that language is stressed within the poem

Sarcasm From the Greek for to tear flesh, involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule someone or something satire

Text that reveals a critical attitude toward some element of human behavior by portraying it in an extreme way. Satire is meant to improve society through humor,

not to tear it down through vicious ridicule. Doesnt simply abuse (as in invective) or get personal (as in sarcasm). Targets groups or large concepts rather than individuals. As opposed to sarcasm, which is meant to abuse and ridicule an individual. Very creative and takes audience knowledge and perception to appreciate. Scansion

The analysis of metrical patterns in poetry Semantics The branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological development

(etymology), their connotations, and their relation to one another. sentimentalism What is perceived as an excess of emotion to an occasion. In a more limited sense, refers to an overindulgence in the tender emotions of pathos and sympathy.

Relative to audience and cultural perceptions. Septet A seven-line stanza Sestet The last si lines of a sonnet

Short Sentence Approximately 5 words signal words Words in an essay that alert the reader to a change in tone, direction,

section, or category. Examples: however, on the other hand, contrary to, and now, next, following, etc. Time Examples: At one in the morning, by sunset, at noon, etc. simile A figure of speech, comparing two

essentially unlike things through the use of a specific word of comparison (like, as, or than, for example). Example: This is the Arsenal. From the floor to ceiling, like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms. Simple Sentence Contains one independent clause

The singer bowed to her adoring audience. Slang Recently coined words often used in informal situations; often come and go quickly, passing in and out of usage within months and years

Soliloquy A speech in which a character, alone of stage, expresses his or her thoughts and feelings aloud for the benefit of the audience, often in a revealing way Sonnet A

fourteen-line poem, usually with ten syllables in each line There are several ways in which lines can be organized, but often they consist of an octave and a sestet Stanza The blocks of lines into which a poem

is divided Sometimes these are, less precisely, reffered to as verses, which can lead to confusion as a poetry is sometimes called verse Stichomythia A dialogue in which the endings and beginnings of each line echo each

other, taking on a new meaning with each new line. straw man Argues against a claim that nobody actually holds or is universally considered weak. Diverts attention away from the real issues.

Stream of Consciousness A technique in which the writer records thoughts and emotions in a stream as they come to mind, without giving order or structure Structure The

way that a poem or play or other piece of writing has been put together This can include the metre pattern, stanza arrangement, and the eway the ideas are developed, etc style

The choices in diction, tone, syntax that a writer makes. Together, these choices create the manner of expression in a text, which is style. Evolves over time as writing habits are developed naturally. Considered both conscious and unconscious and thus may be altered to fit

the purpose of the text. Subject complement The word or clause that follows a linking verb and complements, or completes the subject or the sentence by either renaming it or describing it

Subordinate clause Contains a subject and verb (like all clauses) but cannot stand alone; does not express complete thought Sub-plot A secondary storyline in a story or play

Often, as in some Shakespeare plays, the sub-plot can provide some comic relief from the main action, but supplots can also relate in quite complex ways to the main plot of a text Sub-text Ideas, themes, or issues that are not dealt with overtly by a text but which exist below the surface meaning of it

syllogism Noun. From the Greek word syllogismos, meaning inference or conclusion. A form of argument or reasoning, consisting of two premises and a conclusion.

symbol An object, place, setting, prop, event or person that represents or stands for some idea or event. Never hidden, but interwoven throughout the text. It may also retain its own literal meaning while taking on the symbolic qualities.


Greek, for taking together. A part of something is used to signify the whole. Or, more rarely, a whole to signify a part. Examples: Milton in Lycidas calls the corrupt clergy of the Church of England blind mouths, meaning their misguided sermons represent their total corruption. Example: Give me your hand, does not mean literally just your hand, but your entire physical help.

Reminder: do not mix this term with metonymy. They are different tools. syntactic fluency Ability to create a variety of sentence structures, appropriately complex and/or simple and varied in length. syntactic permutation

Sentence structures that are extraordinarily complex and involved. Often difficult for the reader to follow. Wordiness beyond effectiveness. Syntax The

way in which sentences are structured Sentences can be structured in different ways to achieve different effects tautology

Noun. From Late Latin tautologia. A repetition of the same statement. The repetition, within the immediate context, of

the same word or phrase or the same meaning in different words; usually as a fault of style. Example: essential necessaries. A repetition of something already said. A mere repetition of acts, incidents or experiences. Modern Logic: A self-evident truth, a truism; a compound proposition which is unconditionally true for all possibilities. Telegraphic sentence

A sentence shorter than 5 words Tetrameter A verse line of four feet theme

Central idea of a work of fiction or nonfiction. Revealed and developed in the course of a story or explored through argument. An abstract claim, or doctrine, whether implicit or asserted,

which the text is designed to incorporate and makes persuasive to the reader. Often discussed as a main idea when confined to the parameters of the text. Often discussed as a theme when presented in abstract terms that go beyond the boundaries of the text. Example: The main idea of Great Expectations is that Pip has to learn to judge others by evidence and not by appearance, through which Dickens presents the theme that humans create most of their own problems by being prejudice, pompous and placing importance on social status rather than on personal character.

Thesis In expository writing, the thesis statement is the sentence or group of sentences that directly express the authors opinion, purpose, meaning, or proportion tone

Authors attitude toward subject matter as revealed through style, syntax, diction, figurative language, and organization. Authors tone creates mood in the text by use of the above tools. Transition A

word or phrase that links different ideas tricolon Sentence consisting of three parts of equal importance and length. Usually three independent clauses.

Trimeter A verse line consisting of three feet verisimilitude

The achievement of an illusion of reality in the audience. This is one of the three unities of Italian and French drama: unity of place, unity of time, and unity of truth (the drama must have a sense of reality and believability in the audience). The appearance of being true. Having a resemblance to truth, reality or fact. A statement which has the mere show of

being true or in accordance with fact; an apparent truth. Understatement The ironic minimalizing of fact, presents something as less significant than it is Wit

Intellectual and verbal deftness. Emphaisis on imagination. Intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights. Zeugma A device that joins together two

apparently incongruous things by applying a verb or adjective to both which only really applies to one of them Kill the boys and the luggage (Shakespeares Henry V )s

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