Literary Terms

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Allegory

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124 Terms

1

Allegory

A literary work that portrays abstract ideas concretely.

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2

Alliteration

Repetition of the same initial consonant sounds in a sequence.

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3

Anachronism

An error of chronology or timeline in a literary piece.

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4

Anagnorisis

The startling discovery that produces a change from ignorance to knowledge.

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5

Anapestic

A metrical foot consisting of two unaccented syllables followed by an accented syllable.

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6

Antithesis

A person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else.

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7

Aphorism

A pithy observation that contains a general truth.

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8

Adage

A short, memorable saying based on facts and considered a veritable truth.

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9

Allusion

A reference to another work of literature, art, history, or current events.

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10

Anaphora

Repetition of an initial word or words to add emphasis.

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11

Antagonist

Character who opposes the protagonist and creates or intensifies a conflict.

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12

Apostrophe

A direct address to an abstraction, thing, animal, or absent person.

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13

Archetypal hero

A hero in literature who possesses great qualities and overcomes obstacles.

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14

Archetype

A very typical example of a certain person or thing; universal recurrent symbol or motif.

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15

Aside

A dramatic device in which a character speaks to the audience.

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16

Assonance

Repetition of vowel sounds in a sequence of words.

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17

Ballad

A sung poem that recounts a dramatic story.

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18

Bathos

An effect of anticlimax created by a shift from the sublime to the trivial or ridiculous.

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19

Biblical Free Verse

Biblical poetry without a rhyme scheme or consistent metrical pattern.

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20

Blank Verse

Unrhymed iambic pentameter, closest to natural patterns of speaking in English.

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21

Bombastic

Pretentious, exaggeratedly learned language.

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22

Cacophony

A combination of words or phrases that sound harsh and unpleasant.

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23

Cadence

Quality of spoken text formed from combining rhythm and inflection.

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24

Caesura

A pause within a line of poetry, often mirroring natural speech.

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25

Carpe Diem

A theme meaning 'seize the day' and enjoy the present.

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26

Catastrophe

The action at the end of a tragedy that initiates the falling action.

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27

Catharsis

The emotional release felt by the audience at the end of a tragic drama.

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28

Climax

The point in a story when the conflict reaches its highest intensity.

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29

Comedy

A dramatic work with a light, amusing plot and a happy ending.

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30

Comedy of Manners

A satiric dramatic form that lampoons social conventions.

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31

Conceit

A metaphor that compares two very unlike things in a surprising and clever way.

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32

Conflict

The tension, opposition, or struggle that drives a plot.

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33

Connotation

Meanings or associations readers have with a word beyond its dictionary definition.

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34

Consonance

Identical final consonant sounds in nearby words with different vowel sounds.

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35

Couplet

A two-line, rhyming stanza.

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36

Dactylic Foot

A stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones.

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37

Denotation

The literal definition of a word.

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38

Denouement

The phase of a story's plot where the conflict has been resolved.

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39

Deus ex Machina

A god who resolves the entanglements of a play by supernatural intervention.

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40

Dirge

A brief hymn or song of lamentation and grief, typically performed at a funeral.

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41

Doggerel

A low, loosely constructed form of verse often used for comedy and satire.

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42

Double Entendre

A phrase or figure of speech with multiple senses or interpretations.

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43

Dramatic monologue

A poem in which the speaker addresses an audience that is present in the poem.

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44

Euphony

Pleasing harmony of sounds achieved through the use of serene imagery.

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45

Elegy

A contemplative poem on death and mortality, often written for someone who has died.

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46

End stopped lines

Lines of poetry that conclude with punctuation, marking a pause.

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47

English sonnet

A fourteen-line poem with three quatrains and a couplet, rhyme scheme abab, cdcd, efef, gg.

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48

Enjambment

A poetic technique in which one line continues to the next without a pause.

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49

Epigram/epigraph

A brief witty poem, often satirical.

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50

Epiphany

A character's transformative moment of realization.

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51

Exposition

Contextual and background information about characters, plot, setting, and situation.

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52

Fable

A brief story with an explicit moral provided by the author.

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53

Falling action

The phase of a plot that follows the climax and resolves the conflict.

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54

Farce

A dramatic form marked by absurd situations, slapstick, and raucous wordplay.

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55

Foil

A character who contrasts and parallels the main character.

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56

Foreshadowing

Hints of what is to come in the action of a play or story.

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57

Free Verse

Poetry without a regular rhythm or rhyme scheme.

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58

Hamartia

A concept used to describe tragedy.

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59

Heroic Couplet

Rhyming pairs of verse in iambic pentameter.

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60

Homily

A sermon or speech that offers a moral change in direction.

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61

Hubris

An extreme expression of pride or self-confidence in a character.

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62

Hyperbole

Deliberate exaggeration used for emphasis or to produce a comic or ironic effect.

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63

Iambic

A metrical foot made up of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.

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64

Imagery

A description of how something looks, feels, tastes, smells, or sounds.

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65

Implied Author

The source of a work's design and meaning inferred by readers from the text.

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66

Implied Reader

The author's image of the recipient fixed and objectified in the text.

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67

In Media Res

A technique in which a narrative begins in the middle of the action.

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68

Irony - Verbal

A figure of speech where what is said is the opposite of what is meant.

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69

Irony - situational

A discrepancy between what is expected and what actually happens.

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70

Irony - Dramatic

Tension created by the contrast between what a character says or thinks and what the audience knows to be true.

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71

Irony - cosmic

Irony involving fate and destiny controlling human hopes and desires.

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72

Italian Sonnet

A fourteen-line poem with an octave and a sestet, rhyme scheme abba, abba, cdecde.

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73

Juxtapose (Juxtaposition)

Placing two things side by side for comparison or contrast.

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74

Litote

A form of understatement in which a sentiment is expressed ironically by negating its contrary.

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75

Lyric poetry

Poetry with a musical rhythm that explores romantic feelings or strong emotions.

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76

Malapropism

The mistaken use of an incorrect word resulting in a nonsensical or humorous utterance.

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77

Meiosis

A figure of speech that intentionally understates something or implies it is lesser in significance or size.

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78

Melodrama

Plays with stereotyped villains and heroes representing extremes of good and evil.

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79

Metaphor

A figure of speech that compares or equates two things without using like or as.

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80

Metaphysical conceit

A striking analogy between two entities that would not usually invite comparison.

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81

Metonymy

A figure of speech in which something is represented by another thing related to it.

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82

Metrics

The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line.

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83

Miracle and morality plays

Allegorical dramas that personify moral values and abstract ideas to teach lessons.

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84

Mock Heroic

Poems that use a grand and formal style to describe a common or trivial subject.

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85

Motif

A recurring pattern of images, words, or symbols that reveals a theme.

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86

Octave

An eight-line unit or section of a poem.

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87

Ode

A form of poetry used to meditate on or address a single object or condition.

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88

Omniscient point of view

A narrator who is privy to the thoughts and actions of all characters.

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89

Onomatopoeia

Use of words that refer to sound and mimic those sounds.

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90

Parable

A tale told explicitly to illustrate a moral lesson or conclusion.

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91

Pastoral

Literature that romanticizes farm or rural life.

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92

Pathos

A quality of a play's action that stimulates pity for a character.

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93

Personification

A figure of speech in which an animal or object is imbued with human qualities.

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94

Picaresque Novel

A novel that relates the adventures of a rogue or adventurer as they drift from place to place.

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95

Plot vs. story

The arrangement of events in a narrative and the events themselves.

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96

Point of view

The perspective from which a work is told.

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97

Pun

A play on words that derives its humor from the replacement of one word with another.

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98

Quatrain

A four-line stanza.

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99

Resolution

The working out of a plot's conflicts following the climax.

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100

Reversal

When the protagonist's fortunes take an unforeseen turn.

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