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Last updated: December 16, 2019
An abstract term that is a general term, referring to a broad concept, as opposed to a term that refers to a specific, particular thing.Example: Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. -John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

The major subunit into which the action of a play is divided. The number of acts in a play typically ranges between one and five, and are usually further divided into scenes.

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A literary work that portrays abstract ideas concretely. Characters in an allegory are frequently personifications of abstract ideas and are given names that refer to these ideas.

The repetition of the same initial consonant sounds in a sequence or words or syllables.

Example: Methinks ’tis pretty sport to hear a child, Rocking a word in mouth yet undefiled; The tender racquet rudely plays the sound Which, weakly bandied, cannot back rebound. -Thomas Bastard, “De Puero Balbutiente”

A reference to another work of literature, or to art, history, or current events.Example: In “Sound and Sense”, Alexander Pope alludes to characters from classical Greek literature:When Ajax strives, some rock’s vast weight to throwThe line too labors, and the words move slow;Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain,Flies o’er th’ unbending corn, and skims along the main.

In literature, a comparison between two things that helps explain or illustrate one or both of them.Example: There is Mr.

Marblehall’s ancestral home. It’s not so wonderfully large—it has only four columns—but you always look toward it, the way you always glance into tunnels and see nothing. -Eudora Welty, “Old Mr. Marblehall”

One of the typical feet in English verse composed of two short syllables followed by one long one (as in the word seventeen). For better clarification, see the definition for the word meter in the book.

Repetition of an initial word or words to add emphasis.Example: Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire; Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter, fire. -Alexander Pope, “The Quiet Life”

The act of nothing observations directly on a text, especially anything striking or confusing, in order to record ideas and impressions for later analysis.

Character in a story or play who opposes the protagonist; while not necessarily an enemy, the antagonist creates or intensifies a conflict for the protagonist. An evil antagonist is a villain.Example: In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Claudius is the antagonist.

A direct address to an abstraction (such as Time), a thing (the Wind), and animal, or an imaginary or absent person.Example: Leave me, O Love which reachest but to dust; And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things. -Sir Philip Sidney, “Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust”

Archaic language
Words that were once common but that are no longer used.Examples: Horatio: What art thou that usurp’st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form In which the majesty of buried Denmark Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak! -William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Ars poetica
Literally, “the art of poetry”; a form of poetry written about poetry.Example: “On the Sonnet” by John Keats

The repetition of vowel sounds in a sequence of words.

Example: That such so lone, the log-built one, That echoed to many a parting groan And natural prayer Of dying foemen mingled there. -Herman Melville, “Shiloh: A Requiem”

The feeling created for the reader by a work of literature. Atmosphere can be generated by many things, but especially style, tone, and setting. Synonymous with mood.

First taking shape in the later Middle Ages, the ballad was a sung poem that recounted a dramatic story. Ballads were passed down orally from generation to generation.

Arising in the Romantic period, the literary ballad—a poem intentionally imitative of the ballad’s style and structure—attempted to capture the sentiments of the common people in the same way the traditional ballad had. See also stanza.Example: “We Are Seven” by William Wadsworth

Beat movement
A movement of American writers in the 1950s who saw American society as oppresively conformist.

These writers rejected mainstream values, seeking ways to escape through drugs, various forms of spirituality, and sexual experimentation. The writers of the Beat generation, among them Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, celebrated freedom of expression and held generally antiestablishment views about politics. Their writing, likewise, rejected conventional norms of structure and diction, and their books prompted several notorious obscenity trials, which helped reshape censorship laws in the United States.Example: “Is About” by Allen Ginsburg

A novel that explores that maturation of the protagonist, with the narrative usually moving the main character from childhood into adulthood. Also called a coming-of-age story.

Example: Daisy Miller by Henry James

Blank verse
Unrhymed iambic pentameter, blank verse is the most commonly used verse form in English because it is the verse form that comes closest to natural patterns of speaking in English. See also iambic pentameter.Example: This is my son, mine own Telemachus, To whom I leave the secptre and the isle— Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil This labour, by slow prudence to make mild A rugged people, and through soft degrees Subdue them to the useful and the good. Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere Of common duties, decent not to fail In offices of tenderness, and pay Meet adornation to my household gods, When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”

Quality of spoken text formed from combining the text’s rhythm with the rise and fall in the inflection of the speaker’s voice.Example: In Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” the poet creates a cadence that imitates a changing wave pattern by using caesura (with commas)Listen! you hear the grating roarOf pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,At their return, up the high strand,Begin, and cease, and then again begin,With tremulous cadence slow, and bringThe eternal note of sadness in.

A pause within a line of poetry, sometimes punctuated, sometimes not, often mirroring natural speech.Example: O could I lose all father now! for why Will man lament the state he should envy. -Ben Johnson, “On My First Son”

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