AP English Literature Terms

Topic: Art › Frida Kahlo
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Last updated: April 26, 2019
an abbreviated synopsis of a longer work of scholarship or research

a saying/proverb containing a truth based on experience and often couched in metaphorical language

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a story in which the narrative/characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical or possibly an ethical meaning

the repetition of one or more initial consonant in a group of words or lines of poetry or prose.

writers use this for ornament or for emphasis

a reference to a person, place, or event meant to create an effect or enhance the meaning of an idea

a vagueness of meaning; a conscious lack of clarity meant to evoke multiple meanings and interpretation

a person, scene, event, or other element in literature that fails to correspond with the time/era in which the work is set

a comparison that points out similarities between two dissimilar things

a brief explanation,summary, or evaluation of a text or work of literature

a character or force in a work of literature that, by opposing the protagonist produces tension or conflict

a rhetorical opposition or contrast of ideas by means of a grammatical arrangement of words, clauses, or sentences

a short, pithy statement of a generally accepted truth or sentiment

in contrast to Dionysian, it refers to the most noble, godlike qualities of human nature and behavior

a locution that addresses a person/personified thing not present

an abstract or ideal conception of a type; a perfectly typical example; an original model/form

the repetition of two or more vowel sounds in a group of words or lines in poetry and prose

a simple narrative verse that tells a story that is sung or recited; a long narrative poem, usually in very regular meter and rhyme, typically has a naive folksy quality

a poet, in olden times, a performer who told heroic stories to musical accompaniment

the use of insincere or overdone sentimentality

the French term for the world of books, criticism, and literature in general

a list of works cited or otherwise relevant to a subject or other work

a German word referring to a novel structured as a series of events that take place as the hero travels in quest of a goal

blank verse
poetry written in iambic pentameter, the primary meter used in English poetry and the works of Shakespeare and Milton. its lines generally do not rhyme

inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects

a work of literature meant to ridicule a subject; a grotesque imitation; a broad parody and exaggerates it into ridiculousness

grating, inharmonious sounds

a pause somewhere in the middle of a verse, often (but not always marked by punctuation)

the works considered most important in national literature or period; works widely read and studied

a grotesque likeness of striking qualities in persons and things; a portrait that exaggerates a facet of personality

carpe diem
“seize the day”

a cleansing of the spirit brought about by the pity and terror of a dramatic tragedy

a highly regarded work of literature or other art form that has withstood the test of time, similar to canon

deriving from the orderly qualities of ancient Greek and Roman culture; implies formality, objectivity, simplicity and restraint

the high point, or turning point, of a story/play

a tale in which a young protagonist experiences an introduction to adulthood. the character may develop understanding via disillusionment, education, doses of reality, or any other experiences that alter his/her emotional/intellectual maturity. e.g.

Invisible Man

a witty or ingenious thought; a diverting or highly fanciful idea, often stated in figurative language; a startling or unusual metaphor, or a metaphor developed and expanded upon several lines

this occurs when an action produces far smaller results than one had been led to expect, it is frequently comic in effect

a protagonist who is markedly unheroic: morally weak, cowardly, dishonest, or any number of other unsavory qualities

a speech (usually just a short comment) made by an actor to the audience, as though momentarily stepping outside of the action on stage

a trait of characteristic, as in “an aspect of the dew drop”

the emotional tone or background that surrounds a scene

black humor
this is the use of disturbing themes in comedy. e.g. two tramps comically debating over which should commit suicide first, and whether the branches of a tree will support their weight

the beat or rhythm of poetry in a general sense

is a divider in long poems, much like chapters in a novel


a. neologism, inventing a word

this is a word or phrase used in everyday conversational English that isn’t a part of accepted “schoolbook” English

controlling image
when an image dominates and shapes the entire work

metaphysical conceit
a type of conceit that occurs only in metaphysical poetry

the suggest or implied meaning of a word/phrase

the repetition of two or more consonant sounds within a group of words or a line of poetry

a pair of lines that end in rhyme

heroic couplet
two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter are called this

the literal, dictionary definition of a word

the resolution that occurs at the end of a play or work or fiction

deus ex machina
in literature, the use of an artificial device or gimmick to solve a problem

as distinguished from Apollonian, the word refers to sensual, pleasure seeking impulses

the choice of words in oral and written discourse

the ordering and structuring of the words in a sentence

a song for the dead, its tone is typically slow, heavy, and melancholy

the grating of incompatible sounds

crude, simplistic verse, often in sing-song rhyme

dramatic irony
when the audience knows something that the characters in the drama do not

dramatic monologue
when a single speaker in literature says something to a silent audience

a poem or prose selection that laments or meditates on the passing/death of something/someone of value

the basic techniques of each genre of literature. IN SHORT STORY: characters, irony, theme, symbol, plot, setting. IN POETRY: figurative language, symbol, imagery, rhythm, rhyme. IN DRAMA: conflict, characters, climax, conclusion, exposition, rising action, falling action, props. IN NONFICTION: argument, evidence, reason, appeals, fallacies, thesis.

three periods (..

.) indicating the omission of words in a thought or quotation

a feeling of association or identification with an object/person

end stopped
a term that describes a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause often indicated by a mark of punctuation

the continuation of a syntactic unit from one line or couplet of a poem to the next with no pause

an extended narrative poem that tells of the adventures and exploits of a hero that is generally larger than life and is often considered a legendary figure

mock epic
a parody form that deals with mundane events and ironically treats them as worthy of epic poetry

lines that commemorate the dead at their burial place. usually a line or handful of lines, often serious or religious, but sometimes witty and even irreverent

a concise but ingenious, witty and thoughtful statement

when sounds blend harmoniously; pleasing, harmonious sounds

an adjective or phrase that expresses a striking quality of a person or thing

a term for the title character of a work of literature

a mild or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term

a detailed analysis or interpretation of a work of literature

a piece of writing that reveals weaknesses, faults, frailties, or other short comings

to say or write something directly and clearly

the interpretation/analysis of a text

extended metaphor
a series of comparisons between two unlike objects that occur over a number of lines

a short tale often featuring nonhuman character that act as people whose actions enable the author to make observations or draw useful lessons about human behavior. i.e Orwell’s “Animal Farm”

falling action
the action in a play or story that occurs after the climax and that leads to the conclusion and often to the resolution of the conflict

a story containing unreal, imaginary features

a comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose

figurative language
in contrast to literal language, this implies meanings. It includes devices such as metaphors, similes, and personification, etc.

a secondary character whose purpose is to highlight the characteristics of a main character, usually by contrast

first person narrative
a narrative told by a character involved in the story, using first-person pronouns such as “I” and “we”

a return to an earlier time in a story or play in order to clarify present actions or circumstances i.e.

Invisible Man

an event or statement in a narrative that suggests, in miniature, a larger event that comes later

the basic rhythmic unit of a line in poetry. it is formed by a combination of two or three syllables, either stressed or unstressed

a structure that provides premise or setting for a narrative

free verse
a kind of poetry without rhymed lines, rhythm or fixed metrical feet

a term used to describe literary forms, such as novel, play, and essay

Gothic novel
a novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terror pervades the action. i.e.


a forceful sermon, lecture, or tirade

the excessive pride/ambition that leads to the main character’s downfall

exaggeration/deliberate overstatement

a belief that emphasizes faith and optimism in human potential and creativity

to say or write something that suggests and implies but never says it directly or clearly

in medias res
Latin for “in the midst of things”; a narrative that starts not at the beginning of events but at some other critical point

a lyric poem or passage that describes a kind of ideal life or place

a word or phrase representing that which can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled or felt

switching customary order of elements in a sentence or phrase. when done badly it can give a stilted, artificial look-at-me-I’m-poetry feel to the verse. type of syntax

a mode of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated, often implying ridicule or light sarcasm

a direct verbal assault; a denunciation. i.e. Candide

a device employed in Anglo-Saxon poetry in which the name of a thing is replaced by one of its functions/qualities, as in “ring-giver” for king and “wale-road” for ocean

a poem of sadness or grief over the death of a loved one or over some other intense loss

a satire

light verse
a variety of poetry meant to entertain or amuse, butt sometimes with a satirical thrust

loose sentence
a sentence that is complete before its end. follows customary word order of English sentences i.e.


periodic sentence
a sentence not grammatically complete until it has reached its final phrase; sentence that departs from the usual word order of English sentences by expressing its main thought only at the end

personal, reflective poetry that reveals the speaker’s thoughts and feelings about the subject; the word is used to describe tone, it refers to a sweet, emotional melodiousness

a form of cheesy theater in which the hero is very, very good, the villain mean and rotten, and the heroine oh-so-pure.

a form of understatement in which the negative of the contrary is used to achieve emphasis or intensity

a saying or proverb expressing common wisdom or truth

a figure of speech that compares unlike objects

metaphysical poetry
the work of poets, particularly those of 17th c., that uses elaborate conceits, is highly intellectual, and expresses the complexities of love and life

the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in poetry

a figure of speech that uses the name of one thing to represent something else with which it is associated. e.g. “The White House says.


the general form, pattern, and manner of expression of a work of literature

a quick succession of images/impressions used to express an idea

the emotional tone in a work of literature

the protagonist’s archenemy or supreme and persistent difficulty

this treatment of a subject matter is an impersonal/outside view of events

this treatment of a subject matter uses the interior/personal view of a single observer and is typically colored with that observer’s emotional responses

words that sound like what they mean

a brief and often simplistic lesson that a reader may infer from a work of literature

a phrase, idea, event that through repetition serves to unify or convey a theme in a work of literature.

one of the ancient Greek goddesses presiding over the arts. the imaginary source of inspiration for an artist or writer

an imaginary story that has become accepted part of the cultural or religious tradition of a group/society. often used to explain natural phenomena.

a form of verse or prose that tells a story

a term often used as a synonym for “realism”; also a view of experiences that is generally characterized as bleak and pessimistic

non sequitur
a statement or idea that fails to follow logically from the one before

novel of manners
a novel focusing on and describing the social customs and habits of a particular social group

a lyric poem usually marked by serious, respectful and exalted feelings toward the subject.

omniscient narrator
a narrator with unlimited awareness, understanding, and insight of characters, setting, background, and all other elements of the story

a phrase composed of opposites; a contradiction. juxtaposition of contradictory element to create a paradoxical effect

one of the most useful concepts in analyzing literature. it means that you have a pair of elements that contrast sharply.

ottava rima
an eight-line rhyming stanza of a poem

like a fable or an allegory, it’s a story that instructs; a story consisting of events from which a moral or spiritual truth may be derived

a statement that seems self-contradictory yet true

repeated syntactical similarities used for effect

an imitation of a work meant to ridicule its style and subject

a version of a text put into simpler, everyday, words

a work of literature dealing with rural life

pathetic fallacy
faulty reasoning that inappropriately ascribes human feelings to nature or nonhuman objects

that element in literature that stimulates pity or sorrow

a verse with five poetic feet per line

the role/facade that a character assumes or depicts to a reader, viewer, or the world at large; the narrator in a non-first-person novel

giving an inanimate object human like qualities or form

the interrelationship among the events in a story, including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution

picaresque novel
an episodic novel about a roguelike wanderer who lives off his wits.

e.g. “Don Quixote”, “Moll Flanders”

a poem or speech expressing sorrow

point of view
the perspective from which the action of a novel in presented.

omniscient narrator
3rd person narrator who sees like God into each character’s mind and understands all the action going on.

limited omniscient narrator
3rd person narrator who generally reports only what one character (usually the main) sees, and who only reports the thoughts of that one privileged character.

objective narrator
3rd person narr.

who only reports on what would be visible to a camera, doesn’t know what the character is thinking unless the character speaks of it.

first person narrator
this is a narrator who is a character in the story and tells the tale from his/her POV. when the narrator is crazy, a liar, very young, or for some reason not entirely credible, the narrator is “unreliable”

the grammar of meter and rhythm in poetry

the main character in a work of literature

an introductory poem to a longer work of verse

the usually humorous use of a word in such a way to suggest two or more meanings

also called “pen name”, a false name or alias used by writers. i.e Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) George Orwell (Eric Blair)

a four-line poem or a four-line unit of a longer poem

a line or set of lines repeated several times over the course of a poem

a song of prayer for the dead

the depiction of people, things, and events as they really are without idealization or exaggeration for effect

the language of a work and its style; words, often highly emotional, used to convince or sway an audience

rhetorical question
a question that suggests an answer. in theory, the effect is that it causes the listener to feel they have come up with the answer themselves

an intensely passionate verse or section of verse, usually of love or praise

the repetition of similar sounds at regular intervals, used mostly in poetry

rhyme scheme
the patterns of rhymes within a given poem i.

e. abba

the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that make up a line of poetry. similar to meter

an extended narrative about improbable events and extraordinary people in exotic places

a sharp, caustic expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt

a literary style used to poke fun at, attack or ridicule an idea, vice, or foible, often for the purpose of inducing change. great subjects for this include hypocrisy, vanity and greed, especially if those characteristics have become institutionalized in society

figurative comparison using the words “like” or “as”

the total environment for the action in a novel/play. it includes time, place, historical milieu, and social, political and even spiritual circumstances

a term that describes characters’ excessive emotional response to experience; also nauseatingly nostalgic and mawkish

a synonym for “view” or “feeling”; also refined and tender emotion in literature

the act of determining the meter of a poetic line.

a popular form of verse consisting of fourteen lines and a prescribed rhyme scheme. two types: Shakespearean and Petrarchan

a speech spoken by a character alone on stage.

meant to convey the impression that the audience is listening to the character’s THOUGHTS. unlike an aside, it is not meant to imply that the actor acknowledges the audience’s presence

a group of lines in verse, roughly analogous in function to the paragraph in prose; a group of two or more lines in poetry combined according to subject matter, rhyme, or some other plan

stream of consciousness
a style of writing in which the author tries to reproduce the random flow of thoughts in the human mind, e.g. Ernest Hemingway

stock characters
standard or cliched character types: the drunk, the miser, the foolish girl, etc.

to imply, infer indicate. goes along with the concept of implicit

the manner in which an author uses and arranges words, shapes ideas, forms sentences and creates a structure to convey ideas

a subordinate or minor collection of events in a novel or play, usually connected to the main plot

the implied meaning that underlies the main meaning of a work of literature

a simple retelling of what you’ve just read. what you DON’T want to do in the Open Essay section 🙂

a device in literature where an object represents an idea

a figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole or the whole signifies the part

the main idea or meaning, often an abstract idea upon which a work of literature is built

the main position of an argument.

the central contention that will be supported

the author’s attitude toward the subject being written about. it’s the characteristic emotion that pervades a work or part of a work

tragic flaw
in a tragedy, this is the weakness of a character in an otherwise good individual that ultimately leads to his demise

a form of literature in which the hero is destroyed by some character flaw and a set of forces that cause the hero considerable anguish, or even death

a grotesque parody

a way-too-obvious truth

an idealized place. imaginary communities in which people are able to live in happiness, prosperity and peace. Sir Thomas More came up with this idea.

verbal irony
a discrepancy between the true meaning of a situation and the literal meaning of the written or spoken words

a synonym for poetry.

also a group of lines in a song or poem; also a single line of poetry

similar to the truth; the quality of realism in a work that persuades readers that they are getting a vision of life as it is

the structural form of a line of verse as revealed by the number of feet it contains. i.e. monometer = 1 foot; tetrameter = 4 feet; pentameter = 5 feet, etc.

a French verse form calculated to appear simple and spontaneous but consisting of 19 lines and a prescribed pattern of rhymes

the real or assumed personality used by a writer or speaker. a verb is in the active voice when it expresses an action performed by its subject. a verb is in the passive voice when it expresses an action performed upon its subject or when the subject is the result of the action.

Active: The crew raked the leaves. Passive: The leaves were raked by the crew.

the quickness of intellect and the power and talent for saying brilliant things that surprise and delight by their unexpectedness; the power to comment subtly and pointedly on the foibles of the passing scene

the use of a word to modify two or more words, but used for different meanings. “He close the door and his heart on his lost love.”

inversion of the natural or usual word order

insertion of some verbal unit in a position that interrupts the normal syntactical flow of the sentence

placing side by side two coordinate elements, the second of which serves as an explanation or modification of the first. “The mountain was the earth, her home.

deliberate omission of a word or words which are readily implied by context

deliberate omission of conjunctions between a series of related clauses. used to produce a hurried rhythm in the sentence.

the deliberate use of many conjunctions. its effect is to slow down the rhythm of the sentence

repetition of the same words or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses. e.g. “I have a dream.


repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses “When we first came we were very many and you were very few.

Now you are many and we are getting very few.”

repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause. “Blood hat bought blood, and blows have answer’d blows”

repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause. “The crime was common, common be the pain.

the arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of importance

repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse grammatical order. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses.

“Exalts his enemies, his friends destroys.”

repetition of words derived from the same root. “But in this desert country they may see the land being rendered USELESS by OVERUSE.”

repetition of a word in two different senses. “Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.

use of words alike in sound but different in meaning. “ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a GRAVE man.”

the use of a word understood differently in relation to two or more other words, which it modifies/governs. “The ink, like our pig, keeps running out of the pen.”

the substitution of one part of speech for another “I’ll UNHAIR they head.”

substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name or of a proper name for a quality associated with the name.

“They do not escape JIM CROW; they merely encounter another, not less deadly variety.”

an account of a person’s own life

a way of speaking that is characteristic of a particular region/group of people

in a literary work, a moment of sudden insight/revelation that a character experiences

a short piece of non-fiction prose that examines a single subject from a limited POV

the uncertainty/anxiety we feel about what is going to happen next in a story

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