Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP

allegory
The device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an abstraction in addition to the literal meaning.

allusion
passing or casual reference referring to something

anagnorisis
recognition or discovery on the part of the hero; change from ignorance to knowledge

anagram
a word or phrase spelled by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase

analogy
a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based:

anapest
A metrical foot consisting of two unaccented syllables followed by one accented syllable

anaphora
repetition of a word or words at the beginning of two or more successive verses, clauses, or sentences.

anecdote
a short account of a particular incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature, often biographical.

anthropomorphism
the representation of objects (especially a god) as having human form or traits

anticlimax
an event, conclusion, statement, etc., that is far less important, powerful, or striking than expected.

antithesis
the placing of a sentence or one of its parts against another to which it is opposed to form a balanced contrast of ideas, as in “Give me liberty or give me death.”

aphorism
a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton).

aposiopesis
a sudden breaking off in the midst of a sentence, as if from inability or unwillingness to proceed.

apostrophe
a digression in the form of an address to someone not present, or to a personified object or idea, as “O Death, where is thy sting?”

archetype
the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

assonance
rhyme in which the same vowel sounds are used with different consonants in the stressed syllables of the rhyming words, as in penitent and reticence.

bilungsroman
a type of novel concerned with the education, development, and maturing of a young protagonist.

blank verse
unrhymed verse, esp. the unrhymed iambic pentameter most frequently used in English dramatic, epic, and reflective verse.

burlesque
an artistic composition, esp. literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.

caesura
a break, esp. a sense pause, usually near the middle of a verse, and marked in scansion by a double vertical line, as in know then thyself â€- presume not God to scan.

chiasmus
a reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases, as in “He went to the country, to the town went she.”

circumlocution
a roundabout or indirect way of speaking; the use of more words than necessary to express an idea.

conceit
an elaborate, fanciful metaphor, esp. of a strained or far-fetched nature.

consonance
the correspondence of consonants, esp. those at the end of a word, in a passage of prose or verse.

couplet
a pair of successive lines of verse, esp. a pair that rhyme and are of the same length.

dactyl
a foot of three syllables, one long followed by two short in quantitative meter, or one stressed followed by two unstressed in accentual meter, as in gently and humanly.

denotation
the most direct or specific meaning of a word or expression

denouement
the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot, as of a drama or novel.

diction
style of speaking or writing as dependent upon choice of words:

dramatic monologue
a poetic form in which a single character, addressing a silent auditor at a critical moment, reveals himself or herself and the dramatic situation.

eclogue
a pastoral poem, often in dialogue form.

elegy
a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem, esp. a funeral song or a lament for the dead.

epic
noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style:

epigram
any witty, ingenious, or pointed saying tersely expressed.

epithet
any word or phrase applied to a person or thing to describe an actual or attributed quality:

euphemism
the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.

euphony
agreeableness of sound; pleasing effect to the ear, esp. a pleasant sounding or harmonious combination or succession of words:

exposition
(in a play, novel, etc.) dialogue, description, etc., that gives the audience or reader the background of the characters and the present situation.

fable
a short tale to teach a moral lesson, often with animals or inanimate objects as characters; apologue:

falling action
the part of a literary plot that occurs after the climax has been reached and the conflict has been resolved

farce
a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than upon the development of character.

feminine rhyme
a rhyme either of two syllables of which the second is unstressed

free verse
Poetry that does not have a regular meter or rhyme scheme

farce
a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than upon the development of character.

foil
a person or thing that makes another seem better by contrast:

heroic couplet
a stanza consisting of two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter, esp. one forming a rhetorical unit and written in an elevated style, as, Know then thyself, presume not God to scan / The proper study of Mankind is Man.

heptameter
Verse composed in lines of seven metrical feet

hexameter
a verse line having six metrical feet

hubris
excessive pride or self-confidence

iamb
a metrical foot in poetry that has an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, as in the word protect

internal rhyme
Rhyme that occurs within a line, rather than at the end

italian sonnet
a sonnet consisting of an octave with the rhyme pattern abbaabba, followed by a sestet with the rhyme pattern cdecde or cdcdcd

inversion
reversal of the usual or natural order of words; anastrophe.

juxtaposition
placing two elements side by side to present a comparison or contrast

limerick
a kind of humorous verse of five lines, in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines, which are shorter, form a rhymed couplet

litotes
understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary)

malapropism
the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one that sounds similar

masculine rhyme
a rhyme of but a single stressed syllable, as in disdain, complain.

melosis
understatement, minimizing for effect (Perhaps I could eat a bite) ironic

melodrama
a literary form in which events are exaggerated in order to create an extreme emotional response

meta fiction
fiction that discusses, describes, or analyzes a work of fiction or the conventions of fiction.

metonymy
substituting the name of an attribute or feature for the name of the thing itself (as in ‘they counted heads’)

miracle play
a medieval play representing episodes from the life of a saint or martyr

mimesis
immitation

monometer
a line or verse of one measure or foot

morality play
an allegorical form of the drama current from the 14th to 16th centuries and employing such personified abstractions as Virtue, Vice, Greed, Gluttony, etc.

motif
a unifying idea that is a recurrent element in a literary or artistic work

mystery play
a type of religious drama in the MIddle Ages based on stories from the Bible

noh
classic drama of Japan, developed chiefly in the 14th century, employing verse, prose, choral song, and dance in highly conventionalized formal and thematic patterns derived from religious sources and folk myths.

octameter
consisting of eight measures or feet.

ode
a lyric poem typically of elaborate or irregular metrical form and expressive of exalted or enthusiastic emotion.

ottava rima
an Italian stanza of eight lines, each of eleven syllables (or, in the English adaptation, of ten or eleven syllables), the first six lines rhyming alternately and the last two forming a couplet with a different rhyme: used in Keats’ Isabella and Byron’s

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

pastiche
a literary, musical, or artistic piece consisting wholly or chiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources.

patho
a combining form meaning “suffering,” “disease,” “feeling,” used in the formation of compound words:

pentameter
a line of verse consisting of five metrical feet.

perfect rhyme
rhyme in which the stressed vowels and all following consonants and vowels are identical, but the consonants preceding the rhyming vowels are different, as in chain, brain; soul, pole.

peripeteia
a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, esp. in a literary work.

periphrasis
the use of an unnecessarily long or roundabout form of expression; circumlocution.

picaresque
pertaining to, characteristic of, or characterized by a form of prose fiction, originally developed in Spain, in which the adventures of an engagingly roguish hero are described in a series of usually humorous or satiric episodes that often depict, in rea

plot
the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story.

primitivist
a recurrent theory or belief, as in philosophy or art, that the qualities of primitive or chronologically early cultures are superior to those of contemporary civilization.

prologue
a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.

pyrrhic
consisting of two short or unaccented syllables.

quatrain
a stanza or poem of four lines, usually with alternate rhymes.

resolution
a solution, accommodation, or settling of a problem, controversy, etc.

rising action
a related series of incidents in a literary plot that build toward the point of greatest interest.

satire
the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.

sestina
a poem of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy, originally without rhyme, in which each stanza repeats the end words of the lines of the first stanza, but in different order, the envoy using the six words again, three in the middle of the lines and

shakesperean sonnet
also called an English sonnet: a sonnet form that divides the poem into three units of four lines each and a final unit of two lines, usually abab cdcd efef gg

slant rhyme
rhyme in which the vowel sounds are nearly, but not exactly the same (i.e. the words “stress” and “kiss”); sometimes called half-rhyme, near rhyme, or partial rhyme

soliloquoy
an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present (often used as a device in drama to disclose a character’s innermost thoughts):

sonnet
a verse form consisting of 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme

speculative
pertaining to, of the nature of, or characterized by speculation, contemplation, conjecture, or abstract reasoning:

spenserian sonnet
a sonnet employing the rhyme scheme abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee.

spondee
a foot of two syllables, both of which are long in quantitative meter or stressed in accentual meter.

spoonerism
the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident, as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow.

static
pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition.

stock character
a character in literature, theater, or film of a type quickly recognized and accepted by the reader or viewer and requiring no development by the writer.

stream of consciousness
of, pertaining to, or characterized by a manner of writing in which a character’s thoughts or perceptions are presented as occurring in random form, without regard for logical sequences, syntactic structure, distinctions between various levels of reality,

syllepsis
the use of a word or expression to perform two syntactic functions, esp. to modify two or more words of which at least one does not agree in number, case, or gender, as the use of are in Neither he nor we are willing.

synaesthesia
a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color.

synecdoche
a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sail for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man.

tercet
three line stanza

tetrameter
a verse line having four metrical feet

tragedy
a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction.

trimeter
a verse of three measures or feet.

trochee
a foot of two syllables, a long followed by a short in quantitative meter, or a stressed followed by an unstressed in accentual meter.

trope
any literary or rhetorical device, as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, that consists in the use of words in other than their literal sense.

villanelle
a short poem of fixed form, written in tercets, usually five in number, followed by a final quatrain, all being based on two rhymes.

zeugma
the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is appropriate to only one of them or is appropriate to each but in a different way, as in to wage war and peace or On his fishing trip, he caught three trout and a cold.

anastrophe
inversion or reversal of the usual order of words

hyperbole
obvious and intentional exaggeration; an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally

connotation
the associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning

cacophony
harsh discordance of sound; a meaningless mixture of sounds without pattern

expository
serving to expound, set forth, or explain something in writing or speech

ballad
a light, simple song of sentimental or romantic character, having two or more stanzas all sung to the same melody

narrative essay
short piece of nonfiction that tells a story about a real person or event

speculative essay
An essay which looks at ideas; explores them rather than explains them. Can be meditative.

expository essay
an essay that explains, informs, or presents information

argumentative essay
an essay that tries to prove a point by supporting it with evidence

voice
The fluency, rhythm and liveliness in writing that makes it unique to the writer

style
a way of expressing something (in language or art or music etc.) that is characteristic of a particular person or group of people or period

structure
the arrangement or framework of a sentence, paragraph, or entire work

thought
a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty

satire
form of literature in which irony, sarcasm, and ridicule are employed to attack human vice and folly

romanticism
a literary movement with an emphasis on the imagination and emotions

realism
This was the new style of literature that focused on the daily lives and adventures of a common person. This style was a response to Romanticism’s supernaturalism and over-emphasis on emotion

naturalism
The term naturalism describes a type of literature that attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human beings. Unlike realism which focuses on literary technique naturalism implies a philosophical position