AP English Literature Terms

Topic: ArtFrida Kahlo
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Last updated: April 26, 2019
abstract
an abbreviated synopsis of a longer work of scholarship or research

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

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

alliteration
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

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

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

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

analogy
a comparison that points out similarities between two dissimilar things

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

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

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

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

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

apostrophe
a locution that addresses a person/personified thing not present

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

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

ballad
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

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

bathos
the use of insincere or overdone sentimentality

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

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

Bildungsroman
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

bombast
inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects

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

cacophony
grating, inharmonious sounds

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

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

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

carpe diem
“seize the day”

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

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

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

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

novel
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

conceit
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

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

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

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

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

atmosphere
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

cadence
the beat or rhythm of poetry in a general sense

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

coinage
a.k.

a. neologism, inventing a word

colloquialism
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

connotation
the suggest or implied meaning of a word/phrase

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

couplet
a pair of lines that end in rhyme

heroic couplet
two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter are called this

denotation
the literal, dictionary definition of a word

denouement
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

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

diction
the choice of words in oral and written discourse

syntax
the ordering and structuring of the words in a sentence

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

dissonance
the grating of incompatible sounds

doggerel
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

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

elements
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.

ellipsis
three periods (..

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

empathy
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

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

epic
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

epitaph
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

epigram
a concise but ingenious, witty and thoughtful statement

euphony
when sounds blend harmoniously; pleasing, harmonious sounds

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

eponymous
a term for the title character of a work of literature

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

exegesis
a detailed analysis or interpretation of a work of literature

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

explicit
to say or write something directly and clearly

explication
the interpretation/analysis of a text

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

fable
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

fantasy
a story containing unreal, imaginary features

farce
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.

foil
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”

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

Invisible Man

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

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

frame
a structure that provides premise or setting for a narrative

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

genre
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.

“Frankenstein”

harangue
a forceful sermon, lecture, or tirade

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

hyperbole
exaggeration/deliberate overstatement

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

implicit
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

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

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

inversion
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

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

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

kenning
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

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

lampoon
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.

subject-verb-object

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

lyric
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

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

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

maxim
a saying or proverb expressing common wisdom or truth

metaphor
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

meter
the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in poetry

metonymy
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.

..”

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

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

mood
the emotional tone in a work of literature

nemesis
the protagonist’s archenemy or supreme and persistent difficulty

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

subjectivity
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

onomatopoeia
words that sound like what they mean

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

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

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

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

narrative
a form of verse or prose that tells a story

naturalism
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

ode
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

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

opposition
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

parable
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

paradox
a statement that seems self-contradictory yet true

parallelism
repeated syntactical similarities used for effect

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

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

pastoral
a work of literature dealing with rural life

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

pathos
that element in literature that stimulates pity or sorrow

pentameter
a verse with five poetic feet per line

persona
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

personification
giving an inanimate object human like qualities or form

plot
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”

plaint
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”

prosody
the grammar of meter and rhythm in poetry

protagonist
the main character in a work of literature

prelude
an introductory poem to a longer work of verse

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

pseudonym
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)

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

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

requiem
a song of prayer for the dead

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

rhetoric
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

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

rhyme
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

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

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

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

satire
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

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

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

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

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

scansion
the act of determining the meter of a poetic line.

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

soliloquy
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

stanza
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.

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

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

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

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

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

symbolism
a device in literature where an object represents an idea

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

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

thesis
the main position of an argument.

the central contention that will be supported

tone
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

tragedy
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

travesty
a grotesque parody

truism
a way-too-obvious truth

utopia
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

verse
a synonym for poetry.

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

verisimilitude
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

versification
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.

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

voice
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.

wit
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

zeugma
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.”

anastrophe
inversion of the natural or usual word order

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

apposition
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.

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

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

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

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

..”

epistrophe
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.”

epanalepsis
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”

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

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

antimetabole
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.”

chiasmus
reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses.

“Exalts his enemies, his friends destroys.”

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

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

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

syllepsis
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.”

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

periphrasis
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.”

autobiography
an account of a person’s own life

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

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

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

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

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