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Donna Oja Smith's English Class at Trenton High School

Literary Terms

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(A quick reference sheet with short definitions)

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The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them. (Twain)

Literary Terms

Act

A major unit of action in a play

Allegory

Story in which characters stand for qualities/multiple levels of meaning

Alliteration

Initial consonant repeats

Allusion

Indirect reference to a well known person, place, thing, or character

Ambiguity

More than one meaning

Analogy

Relationship comparison

Anecdote

Brief story based on single incident, usually humorous

Animation

Giving animal characteristics to non-living things

Antagonist

Person or force that opposes the main character

Antihero

Protagonist with negative qualities

Aphorism

A brief statement of truth about life

Arabesque

Psychology horror created by situation

Aside

In a play, a statement other characters do not hear/directed at audience

Assonance

Repetition of vowel sounds

Audience

Those for whom a work is intended: different audiences = different approaches

Author’s Purpose

Inform, entertain, persuade, express—may not be same as reader’s understanding

Autobiography

Person’s own account of their life

Ballad

Narrative poem meant to be sung or recited in cadence

Biography

Account of someone else’s life

Blank Verse

Unrhymed iambic pentameter (5 feet/ di-dah)

Cast of Characters

List of characters in a play

Character

Physical, emotional, intellectual elements-dynamic characters grow, static don’t

Characterization

Description or demonstration to develop character

Cliché

An overused saying

Climax

Point where forces in conflict meet; turning point

Comedy

A literary work that is intended to amuse; happy ending. Opposite of tragedy

Comic Relief

Humor juxtaposed within a serious work

Conceit

The author’s idea behind a metaphor, especially if highly individual

Conflict

Struggle between two or more forces

Connotation

Meaning of a word beyond exact definition—shades of meaning or idiom

Consonance

Repetition of consonant sound not first letter of word

Contrast

Difference between items

Creation Myth

A story of how the world was formed

Demonstration

To show

Denotation

Exact meaning of a word

Denouement

Unwinding/falling action

Description

To tell/explain

Dialect

Dialogue or monologue with an accent

Dialogue

Conversation

Diary

Day to day account of personal feelings, actions

Diction

Choice of words

Drama

Dialogue and action are staged/presented

Echoing

Repetition of words or phrases

Elegy

Poem of tribute usually after a recent death

Epic

Long, narrative poem on serious subject or legend

Epitaph

Written tribute upon a death

Essay

Short non-fiction on a single subject

Eulogy

Tribute at death

Exposition

Background of a story usually presented at the beginning

Extended metaphor

A metaphor that continues through/overall a work with numerous references to it

External conflict

Individual against outside force

Fable

Brief imaginary tale that ends with lesson or moral

Falling action

Unwinding; that which tumbles down from climax / Denouement

Farce

Exaggerated comedy with absurd elements

Fiction

Hasn’t happened in real life but could

Figurative language

Meaning beyond the literal-appeals to senses-figures of speech-metaphor, etc.

First person

Where story is told by one character form their Point of View

Flashback

Describes an earlier event within current ones

Foil

A character that contrasts with another, major one

Folk Tale

Short, simple story transmitted orally at first

Foreshadowing

Hints or clues of future

Freitag’s Pyramid

Classical story structure where Rising Action and falling action are equal

Free verse

No set rhyme or structure

Genre

Sub-type of literature-science-fiction-horror-mystery etc.

Gothic literature

Grotesque and arabesque elements

Grotesque

Physical grossness/horror

Haiku

Japanese poetry, aims at response, 5,7,5

Humor

Literature with main purpose of creating laughter

Hyperbole

Exaggeration

Idiom

Word or word group with a meaning different than simple definition

Imagery

Appeals to the senses

Impressionism

To captures sense impressions in writing or art

Internal Conflict

Opposing forces within character

Irony

Unexpected idea

Irony, dramatic

Readers know more about character or situation than the characters

Irony, situational

Contrast between appearance/actuality regarding events

Irony, verbal

States one thing, means another

Legend

Mythic story with historical bias

Light verse

Humorous, or simple idea expressed in poetry

Literary letter

Correspondence regarded as being important for it’s art, language, or device

Local color

Regional details that come alive

Magical Realism

Combines fantasy with reality and matter of fact tone

Memoir

A personal reminiscence/autobiographical

Metaphor

Milk-white snow- a direct  comparison

Microcosm

A small world that is like a bigger one

Monologue

One person speaking

Mood

Emotional atmosphere

Moral

A stated lesson

Motivation

Stated or implied reason behind a behavior

Myth

A traditional story that is not real but is true

Narrative

Relates an event- to tell- has plot, character; usually conflict & climax

Narrator

Voice that relates the events, sometimes removed form action

Naturalism

Accurate picture of life’s details with attention to environment, instinct

Nature writing

Person experience nature written down-relates humanity to nature

Non-fiction

Has happened

Novel

Fiction; a series of small climaxes (usually chapters) leading to one major climax

Onomatopoeia

Woof, woof, attempt to duplicate a sound with a word or expression

Oxymoron

Two related, seemingly opposite words

Parable

A simple lesson story where every aspect corresponds to part of a bigger issue

Paradox

A “true” statement that seems to contradict itself

Parallelism

Repeated grammatical form for related ideas

Parody

Imitation as criticism or humor

Personification

Human traits to non-human objects/animals

Persuasive Writing

Arguments to convince, educate, or inform

Plot

Sequence of events

Poetry

1+1>2

Point of View

Narrative perspective-who tells 1st ="I"; 2nd = "you", 3rd =he, she, they

Primary sources

Direct, firsthand accounts

Prose

Writing without regular rhythmic pattern

Protagonist

Usually the hero, but always main character of story, doer of action

Protest writing

Aimed at expressing discontent with events, organizations, etc.

Realism

Accurate account, unsentimental

Refrain

A repeated portion of a poem, usually at the end of a stanza

Repetition

Repeating sounds or words

Resolution

Falling action unwinds to conclusion—all ends are tied

Rhetorical Question

Has an expected answer

Rhyme

Similarity or match of sound

Rhyme scheme

Analysis of end rhyme using ABCD, etc.

Rhyme, end

Rhyme at the end of a line

Rhyme feminine

Multiple matching syllables

Rhyme, internal

Rhyme within a line

Rhyme, masculine

Last syllable rhyme

Rhyme, slant

Inexact or off-rhymes; half rhyme

Rhythm

The metric structure of a line of poetry-beats and feet

Rising action

Events in conflict that lead to a climax

Romanticism

Emotional. Larger than life, heroic characters mixed in great events

Sarcasm

Verbal irony-mocks with the opposite of literal meaning

Satire

Ridicule to bring about improvement-can be witty to abrasive

Science fiction

Scientific basis of fictional story

Setting

Time, place, mood

Short Story

One major conflict, limited characters, limited setting

Soliloquy

One person speaking only for audience

Simile

Comparison using like/as

Sonnet

14 line poem/ 8 and 6 with specific rhyme scheme

Sound devices

Assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, etc. –can be heard

Speaker

Voice that talks to the reader

Stanza

Group of lines in a poem

Stereotype

Untrue generalization of a group or person

Stream of consciousness

Written as a series of thoughts tumbled together

Structure

Arrangement of parts-verses, stanzas, paragraphs, chapters, order of thoughts, etc.

Style

How words, sentences are organized, how plain or rich with devices

Suspense

Nervous uncertainty; tension

Surprise ending

Unexpected twist at the end

Surrealism

The imagination described as in dreams

Symbol

It represents something else

Syntax

Word order

Syntax, inverted

Reversal of expected word order

Theme

Meaning behind story

Tone

Attitude of the writer conveyed through writing

Tragedy

Downfall of a character in a significant situation

Tragic Flaw

A fault that brings down a character

Tragic Character/Hero

One flaw that causes a reversal of fortune/downfall

Transcendentalism

Greater truths exist

Understatement

Play down for emphasis-opposite of hyperbole--

Voice

Unique human personality conveyed by writing-comes from diction, syntax, fig. lang.

"He who learns but does not think is lost! 
He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger!" 
Confucius 551-479 B.C. (Chinese philosopher)

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"YOU make choices, but  CHOICES make you." (DOS)
 
“Men are not prisoners of fate, but prisoners of their own minds.” (FDR)

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DID YOU KNOW THAT NO PIECE OF PAPER CAN BE FOLDED IN HALF MORE THAN SEVEN TIMES?  TRY IT.  THEN GET BACK TO WORK.

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