AP English Literature and Composition Vocabulary

Antagonist
Any force aligned against the protagonist

Catharsis
Purification that brings emotional relief or renewal

Climax
Most exciting moment of the story; turning point

Conflict
Opposition in a work of drama or fiction between characters or forces (especially an opposition that motivates the development of the plot)

Denouement
The final resolution of the main complication of a literary or dramatic work

Deus ex Machina
In literature, the use of an artificial device or gimmick to solve a problem.
An unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, esp. as a contrived plot device in a play or novel

Genre
A major category or type of literature

Hubris
The possession of excessive pride, which often surfaces in a character’s defiance of authority or the gods

Narrator
The person telling the story

Protagonist
The main character embroiled in conflict

Setting
Where and when the story takes place

Structure
The arrangement or framework of a sentence, paragraph, or entire work;
For a poem, how it is organized with rhyming patterns, meter, grammar, and imagery.

Style
The choices a writer makes; the combination of distinctive features of a literary work

Theme
The main idea or meaning of a text

Allegory
A narrative or description having a second, deeper meaning beyond the surface layer. There is a literal meaning to the narrative or description, which also represents a higher meaning often relating to a system of principles or ideas

Alliteration
The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of a word
Examples: mirror, moon, money

Allusion
A reference to another work of literature, person, or event

Apostrophe
Addressing someone absent or dead or something inhuman as if it were alive and present and could reply

Assonance
Repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds in neighboring words

Blank Verse
Unrhymed verse (usually in iambic pentameter)

Cacophony
A harsh, unpleasant-sounding choice and arrangement of sounds

Cadence
Rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words

Conceit
Extended metaphor or simile, often yoking together two apparently unconnected, highly dissimilar ideas

Connotation
The implied emotional meaning of a word

Consonance
The repetition of consonant sounds at the end of a word
Examples: spook, plague, sticker

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

Dissonance
Unpleasant or inharmonious combination of sound

Elegy
A mournful poem

End-Stopped Line
A line that ends with a natural speech pause, usually marked by punctuation

Epic
A long narrative poem telling of a hero’s deeds

Euphony
Any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds

Foot
One accented syllable with one, two, three or zero unaccented syllables
Basic unit of rhythmic measurement in a line of poetry, formed by a combination of two or three syllables, either stressed or unstressed.

Free Verse
Unrhymed verse without a consistent metrical pattern or rhyme sceme

Heroic Couplet
Couplet consisting of two rhymed lines of iambic pentamenter and written in an elevated style

Iamb
Metrical unit made up of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable

Imagery
Language in a literary work which appeal to one or more of the senses (sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell)

Internal Rhyme
A rhyme between words in the same line

Irony
A contrast between what is expected and what actually exists or occurs

Lyric
A type of poem that explores the poet’s personal interpretation of and feelings about the world;
Poem that expresses the observations and feelings of a single speaker;
Different types include elegies, odes, and sonnets

Meaning
The idea that is intended

Measure
A particular metrical unit or group;
The rhythm of a piece of poetry

Metaphor
A figure of speech indirectly comparing two unlike things;
Does NOT use “like” or “as” to compare

Meter
Consistent rhythm
The organization of stressed and unstressed syllables

Ode
A lyric poem usually marked by serious, respectful, and exalted feelings toward the subject;
A lyrical poem of elaborate metrical form and expressing enthusiastic emotion

Onomatopoeia
Word that imitate sounds it describes

Pentameter
A verse line having five metrical feet

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

Quatrain
A stanza of four lines

Refrain
A repeated work, phrase, or line or group of lines, normally at some fixed position in a poem written in stanzas

Repetition
Repeating words or phrases for a stronger emphasis

Rhythm
The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry

Simile
A direct comparison of two unlike things, using the words “like” or “as.”

Sonnet
14-line lyric poem written in iambic pentameter that focuses on single theme

Soliloquy
A speech given by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is unaware of anyone present who may be listening
It is a way of letting the audience know the character’s true thoughts.

Stress
The relative prominence of a syllable

Symbol
Something that has literal meaning and meaning beyond literal

Tone
The attitude an author conveys about the subject he is writing about

Trochee
A metrical foot consisting of one accented (stressed) syllable followed by one unaccented (unstressed) syllable

Attitude
An author belief toward his or her subject, and/or his or her audience

Sound Devices
Elements such as rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, and onomatopoeia – gives poetry a musical quality

Diction
Choice of words an author uses to create an intended response and to reflect a particular style

Euphemism
A type of understatement replacing an offensive term with a milder one that is less likely to offend or be thought of as harsh

Hyperbole
An exaggeration used to emphasize

Litotes
A type of understatement in which an idea is expressed by negating its opposite

Syntax
The arrangement and grammatical relationship of words, phrases, and clauses in sentences; the ordering of words into phrases, clauses, and sentences.

Mood
The overall pervading feeling or emotion of the poem itself that is intended to influence the reader’s emotional response.
The feeling the reader receives when reading a work

Narrative Techniques
Methods of telling a story – point of view, argument, allegory, description, exposition, monologue, interior monologue, dialogue, stream of consciousness, manipulation of time

Point of View
Refers to a story’s type of narration; the perspective/angle from which a story is told

Rhetorical techniques
The devices used in effective or persuasive language

Satire
Humorous writing or speech that is meant to point out the errors, lies, foibles, or failings. Its purpose is to inform and reform human behavior or society and its social institutions;
The intention is to bring about reform

Ambiguity
The multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase, sentence, or passage.

Convention
A set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria (customs) of a particular world

Denotation
The literal definition of a word

Didactic
Any text whose main purpose is to teach or instruct

Enjambment
The employment of run-on lines, which carry the completion of a statement from one line to another without rhetorical pause

Epigram
A witty saying;
A pithy, sometimes satiric couplet or quatrain which was popular in
classic Latin literature and in European and English literature of the Renaissance
and the neo-Classical era

Literal
Without interpretation or embellishment; the denotative meaning of something

Lyrical
Songlike; characterized by emotions, subjectivity, and imagination.

Metonymy
A figure of speech characterized by substituting an aspect or detail from the experience, or closely related to the experience, to represent the whole experience;
Figure of speech in which a representative term is used for a larger idea

Oxymoron
A combination of contradictory terms

Parable
A short, simple story that illustrates a moral or religious lesson

Paradox
A contrasting statement or phrase which illuminates a truth or insight

Parody
Humorous or satirical mimicry

Personification
Giving human qualities to an inanimate object

Stereotype
A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image

Thesis
The primary position taken by a writer; serves as the author’s point of view on a topic

Verbal Irony
Saying one thing but meaning the opposite

Situational Irony
Where there is a disparity between appearance and reality;
When a disparity exists between an actual situation and what is appropriate;
When there is a situation with a recognizable oddity

Dramatic Irony
When the audience knows something the character does not

Frame Story
Story that Encloses series of frames/short stories

Round
A complex character with many qualities and traits

Flat
A simple character with only few traits

Static
A character that remains the same throughout a plot; doesn’t experience change or grow as an individual

Dynamic
A changing character; one who undergoes awakening of some kind of grains insight

Direct
Characterization that occurs when the author tells us information about the character

Indirect
Characterization that occurs when the author shows the reader the character, and some determination of inference about the character is made by the reader

Stichomythia
Line-for-line, verbal fencing match between two principal characters, used to retort sharply to each other in lines that echo the opponent’s words and figures of speech

Stream of Consciousness
A literary technique presenting the thoughts of a character as they occur

First Person
Point of View that utilizes character to personally tell us about characters & actions

Second Person
Point of View that uses a narrator who refers to you, the reader, as a character in the story

Third Person Limited
Point of View that describes a narrator guide who is on the outside of the story; tells readers what characters do and say and creates meaning by detailing the thoughts, opinions, motives, inner feelings, etc. of one character

Third Person Omniscient
The all-knowing point of view;
The author knows everything the characters are thinking and feeling, and can relate any piece of information desired to the reader;
Creates meaning by providing the reader with all the information available

Third Person Objective
Point of View in which reader observes action and hears dialogue but without the input of a narrator; like a self-guided tour

Tercet
A group of three lines of verse, often rhyming together or with another triplet

Foil
A minor character whose situation or actions parallel a major character’s

Villanelle
Fixed form poem consisting of 19 lines;
5 stanzas of 3 lines each and closing w/ stanza of 4 lines;
The form includes repeating refrain, and the rhyme scheme depends on only two rhyming sounds

Syllogism
Logical argument where the conclusion is inferred from 2 previous truths that this structure employs;
“If only x were reality, but y is reality; therefore, we have z.”

Iambic Pentameter
A rhythmical pattern of syllables consisting of poetic lines of five feet of unstressed and stressed syllables

Rhyme Scheme
The pattern of rhyming words in a stanza

Anachronism
Something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, especially a thing or person that belongs to an earlier time

Analogy
A comparison of similar things, often to explain something unfamiliar with something familiar

Anaphora
Repetition of an opening word or phrase in a series of lines

Aside
A combination of a monologue and a soliloquy in which a character reveals his or her thoughts as if there were no other characters on stage.
The character speaks to the audience, but the other characters are not meant to hear what is said.

Ballad
A form of narrative poetry that presents a single dramatic episode, which is often tragic or violent

Caesura
A pause within a line of poetry. Usually a dash or comma will indicate the reader should pause

Characterization
The creation and development of the people who take part in the story;
Includes appearance, personality, behavior, beliefs, relationships

Colloquial
Language that is conversational or informal. May contain slang or non-standard grammar usage.

Man Vs. Man
Where the conflict is between people

Man Vs. Himself
Where conflict is psychological;
Character grapples with his/her values/morals or some situation affect his/her life

Dialogue
Conversation between characters in a play or poem;
Helps to develop a character

Drama
Compositions in prose or verse to narrate a story involving conflict between one or more characters and internal or external forces, or both

Realistic Convention
In drama, it is a convention which preserves the illusion of actual, everyday life

Non-Realistic Convention
In drama, it is a convention which departs from preserving the illusion of actual, everyday life

Envoi
Part of a complex poem that ends with 3 lines which include repeated end words sprinkled in the middle of the lines and then concluding the lines using some of the same 6 end words

Figurative Language
Words that aren’t used in their ordinary meaning (such as similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, understatement, etc.)

Flashback
Action that shows better understanding by interrupting to show an event that happened in the past

Foreshadowing
Method used to build suspense by providing hints of what is to come

Auditory
Imagery of a sound

Olfactory
Imagery of a smell

Gustatory
Imagery of a taste

Tactile
Imagery of a touch

Organic
Imagery of an internal feeling

Kinesthetic
Imagery of movement or tension in the muscles

Italian Sonnet
A sonnet that has:
1 eight line octet and 1 6 line sestet
Typically, octet poses dilemma that is answered in sestet
Rhyme Scheme: ABBA CDDC CDECDE

Monologue
A speech given by one person often alone on the stage. The actor speaks directly to the audience and is conscious of having a listener.

Motif
A recurring image, word, phrase, action, idea, object or situation that appears in various works or throughout the same work

Overstatement
Exaggeration of language in order to reveal a truth

Plot
The sequencing of events in a piece of fiction

Realism
A method or technique in fiction which provides an accurate portrayal of life

Regionalism / Local Color
Stories refer to works recognizing the differences of specific areas of the country by focusing on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other particular features of the region

Scene
Minor division of a play

Shift
A change in perspective
OR
moving from one line of thought to another often signaled by words like: if, but, however or therefore.

Understatement
A figure of speech that consists of saying less than one means, or saying what one means with less force than the situation requires in order to reveal a truth

Universality
How the theme of a novel or play applies to individuals, transcending race, class, gender, and other systems which tend to segregate individuals

Verisimilitude
Creating an accurate and truthful portrayal of something

Voice
The relationship between a sentence’s subject and verb (active and passive);
OR
The total “sound” of a writer’s style based on diction, syntax, and figurative language

Commercial Fiction
Fiction meant to entertain and meet the demands of audiences whose pocketbooks drive the production of such works

Literary Fiction
Fiction created to express artistic intent and insight into important aspects of life

Reliable
Narrator who is considered trustworthy

Unreliable
Narrator who is NOT considered trustworthy; untrustworthy

Naive
Narrator who is uncomprehending (child, simple-minded adult); he or she narrates the story without realizing its true implications

Intrusive
Narrator who keeps interrupting the narrative to address the reader

Rising Action
The part of a plot that leads through a series of events of increasing interest and power to the climax or turning point

Malapropism
The comic substitution of one word for another similar in sound, but different in meaning.
Functions to make characters look ignorant or amusingly uneducated

Pseudonym
Fictitious name assumed by a writer who wished to remain anonymous or who chooses not to use her/his real name professionally

Romanticism
Literature depicting emotional matter in an imaginative form.
Characteristics:
individuality, subjectivity, spontaneity, freedom from rules, solitary life vs. life in society, the belief that imagination is superior to reason, devotion to beauty, worship of nature, fascination with the past, etc

Sarcasm
Harsh, cutting, personal remarks to or about someone, not necessarily ironic

Surrealism
Employs illogical, dreamlike images and events to suggest the unconscious

Reliability
The extent to which a narrator can be trusted or believed.
The closer the narrator is to the story, the more his judgment will be influenced by forces in the story.

Aphorism
A terse statement of a principal or truth which expresses an observation on life, usually intended as a wise observation

Kenning
A metaphoric compound word or phrase used as a synonym for a common noun

Proverb
A short saying that expresses some commonplace truth or bit of folk wisdom

Synaesthesia
The description of one kind of sensation in terms of another
“He is wearing a loud shirt.”

Synecdoche
Figure of speech that utilizes a part as representative of the whole

Couplet
Two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme and that are written to the same meter, or pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables

In medias res
Latin for “the middle of things.” The term describes the narrative practice of beginning a story in the middle of the action to involve the reader, and then using one or more flashbacks to fill in what led up to that point

Antecedent
The word, phrase, or clause to which a pronoun refers

Asyndenton
Conjunctions are omitted, producing a fast-paced and rapid prose

Parallelism
Expressing similar or related ideas in similar grammatical structure;
repetition of words, phrases, sentences that have the same
grammatical structure or that restate a similar idea

Man vs. Nature
Where the conflict is between a person and natural forces/elements outside of human creation/control

Comedy
Drama that is meant to amuse the audience through wit, humor, subtlety, character

Poetry
Literature that is written with regular rhythm and is usually expressive, imaginative, and relevant to the life and experience of the reader/listener

Prose
Literature that’s not written with a regular rhythm.
Includes novels, novellas, short stories, plays, essays

Tragedy
Drama that is meant to show the darker aspects of human existence that occur through nature of their own flaws

Stock Character
a fictional character that relies heavily on cultural types or stereotypes
for its personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics

Hamartia
Also known as tragic flaw
Character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall

Vernacular
Everyday speech of the people

Roman a clef
Novel in which actual persons & events are disguised as fictional characters

Pastoral
Of, relating to, or being a literary or other artistic work that portrays
or evokes rural life, usually in an idealized way

Polemic
A controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a
specific opinion or doctrine.

Naturalism
describes a type of literature that attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human beings.
implies a philosophical position

Minimalism
Works that use short descriptions and simple sentences

Inversion
Reversal of normal order of words for dramatic effect

Idiom
Specialized vocabulary used by group of people

Homily
Inspiration saying or platitude

Anecdote
A very short tale told by a character in a literary work

Anti-hero
protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero

Archetype
A term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and
sometimes unconscious responses in a reader

Epigraph
Brief quotation which appears at the beginning of a literary work

Epithet
a word of phrase preceding or following a name which serves to describe the character

Farce
type of comedy based on a humorous situation

Anapest
Unstressed/unstressed/stressed

Dactyl
Stressed/unstressed/unstressed

Spondee
Stressed/stressed

Juxaposition
Deliberately placing dissimilar things side by side for comparison

English Sonnet
Sonnet that has:
3 four line quatrains, and 1 two line couplet
Typically, a couplet that reverses, alters, or challenges the meaning of the preceding 12 lines in an ironic twist
Rhyme Scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

Spenserian Sonnet
A sonnet that is a variant on the Shakespearean sonnet, with 4 quatrains with interlocked rhyme scheme
Rhyme Scheme: ABAB BCBC CDCD EE

Prose Poem
Form of free verse that lacks the formal shape of poetry