AP English Literature Terms

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Abstract (style)

(in writing) this is typically complex, discusses intangible qualities like good and evil, and seldom uses examples to support its points.

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Academic (style)

Dry and theoretical writing. When a piece of writing seems to be sucking all the life out of its subject with analysis.

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Accent

In poetry, refers to the stressed portion of a word.

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Aesthetic

Used as an adjective meaning "appealing to the senses."

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Allegory

a literary work in which the characters represent abstract ideas; a symbolic representation

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Alliteration

repetition of initial consonant sounds

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Allusion

a reference to another work of literature, person, or event

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Anachronism

something located at a time when it could not have existed or occurred

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Analogy

a comparison of two different things that are similar in some way

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Anecdote

a short narrative

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Antecedent

the word, phrase, or clause to which a pronoun refers.

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Anthropomorphism

the attribution of human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects

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Anticlimax

A disappointing end to an exciting or impressive series of events

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Antihero

a protagonist who lacks the characteristics that would make him a hero (or her a heroine)

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Aphorism

A brief, cleverly worded statement that makes a wise observation about life.

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Apostrophe

address to an absent or imaginary person

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Archaism

The use of deliberately old-fashioned language.

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Aside

a line spoken by an actor to the audience but not intended for others on the stage

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Assonance

the repetition of vowel sounds

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Atmosphere

The emotional tone or background that surrounds a scene.

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Ballad

Any popular narrative poem, often with epic subject and usually in lyric form.

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Black humor

The use of disturbing themes in comedy.

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Bombast

speech or writing that sounds grand or important but has little meaning

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Burlesque

a theatrical entertainment of broad and earthy humor

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Cacophony

harsh, jarring, discordant sound; dissonance

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Cadence

rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words

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Caesura

A pause within a line of poetry

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Canto

a major division of a long poem

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Caricature

drawing, imitation, or description that ridiculously exaggerates peculiarities or defects

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Catharsis

an emotional or psychological cleansing that brings relief or renewal

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Chorus

In Greek drama, the group of citizens who stand outside the main action on stage and comment on it.

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Colloquialism

informal words or expressions not usually acceptable in formal writing

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Conceit

a fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between seemingly dissimilar objects

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Connotation

the implied or associative meaning of a word

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Consonance

Repetition of consonant sounds

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Couplet

two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme

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Decorum

conformity to accepted standards of conduct; proper behavior

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Denotation

The dictionary definition of a word

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Diction

a writer's or speaker's choice of words

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Dirge

a song or hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person

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Dissonance

harsh or grating sounds that do not go together

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Doggerel

badly written or trivial verse, often with a singsong rhythm

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Dramatic Irony

(theater) irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play

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Dramatic monologue

When a single speaker in literature says something to a silent audience.

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Elegy

a formal poem presenting a meditation on death or another solemn theme

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Enjambment

the continuation of a syntactic unit from one line of verse into the next line without a pause

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Epic

a long narrative poem written in elevated style which present the adventures of characters of high position and episodes that are important to the history of a race or nation

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Epitaph

a brief statement written on a tomb or gravestone

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Euphemism

a mild, indirect, or vague term substituting for a harsh, blunt, or offensive term

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Euphony

any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds

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Farce

a comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose

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Feminine Rhyme

latter two syllables of first word rhyme with latter two syllables of second word (ceiling appealing)

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Foil

a character whose personality and attitude contrast sharply with those of another

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Foot

the basic unit of rhythmic measurement in a line of poetry

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Foreshadowing

the use of hints and clues to suggest what will happen later in a plot

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Free Verse

unrhymed verse without a consistent metrical pattern

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Gothic Novel

a novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terrors pervades the action

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Hubris

Excessive pride or arrogance that results in the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy

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Hyperbole

a figure of speech that uses exaggeration to express strong emotion, make a point, or evoke humor

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Interior Monologue

a narrative technique that records a character's internal flow of thoughts, memories, and ideas; a longish passage of uninterrupted thought

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Inversion

the reversal of the normal order of words

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Irony

a contrast between what is expected and what actually exists or happens

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Lampoon

ridicule with satire

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Lyric

of or relating to a category of poetry that expresses emotion (often in a songlike way)

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Masculine Rhyme

final syllable of first word rhymes with final syllable of second word (scald recalled)

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Melodrama

A form of cheesy theater in which the hero is very, very good, the villain mean and rotten, and the heroine oh-so-pure.

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Metaphor

a figure of speech comparing two unlike things without using like or as

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Metonym

a word that is used to stand for something else that it has attributes of or is associated with

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Nemesis

The protagonist's arch enemy or supreme and persistent difficulty.

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Objectivity

an impersonal presentation of events and characters

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Onomatopoeia

The use of words that imitate sounds

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Oxymoron

a figure of speech consisting of two apparently contradictory terms

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Parable

a simple story that illustrates a moral or religious lesson

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Paradox

a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

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Parallelism

the use of a series of words, phrases, or sentences that have similar grammatical form

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Parody

a work which imitates another in a ridiculous manner

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Pastoral

a literary work idealizing the rural life (especially the life of shepherds)

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Pathos

a quality that arouses emotions (especially pity or sorrow)

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Persona

the speaker, voice, or character assumed by the author of a piece of writing

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Personification

the act of attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas etc.

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Plaint

A poem or speech expressing sorrow

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Protagonist

the main character in a literary work

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Pun

a play on words, often achieved through the use of words with similar sounds but different meanings

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Refrain

the repetition of one or more phrases or lines at definite intervals in a poem, usually at the end of a stanza

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