AP Literature and Composition Vocabulary

Topics: ArtSymbolism

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Last updated: April 23, 2019

abstract
a style in writing that is typically complex, discusses intangible qualities like good and evil, and seldom uses examples to support its points

academic
an adjective describing style; dry and theoretical writing; piece of writing seems to be sucking all the life out of its subject with analysis

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accent
in poetry, the stressed portion of a word; sometimes set, often a matter of opinion

aesthetic
adj.: “appealing to the senses”; noun: coherent (logically connected) sense of taste

aesthetics
the study of beauty; “What is beauty?” “Is the beautiful always good?”

allegory
a story in which each aspect of the story has a symbolic meaning outside the tale itself; many fables have this quality; true ones are even more hard and fast; example: Orwell’s Animal Farm

alliteration
the repetition of INITIAL consonant sounds; consonant clusters coming closely cramped and compressed

allusion
a reference to another work or famous figures; can be classical (refers to Greek and Roman mythology or literature), topical (refers to current event), or popular (refers to something from pop culture–TV show or hit movie)

anachronism
Greek for “misplaced in time”; something or someone that isn’t in its correct historical or chronological time–i.e., Brutus wearing a watch

analogy
a comparison usually involving two or more symbolic parts; employed to clarify an action or relationship

anecdote
a short narrative

antecedent
the word, phrase, or clause that determines what a pronoun refers to

anthropomorphism
when inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena are given human characteristics, behaviour, or motivation–“In the forest, the darkness waited for me, I could hear its patient breathing.”

anticlimax
occurs when an action produces far smaller results than one had been led to expect; frequently comic

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

aphorism
a short and usually witty saying; astute observation–“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Lord Acton)

apostrophe
a figure of speech wherein the speaker talks directly to something that is nonhuman, absent, or dead

archaism
the use of deliberately old-fashioned language, used to create a feeling of antiquity

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 or characteristic

assonance
the repeated use of vowel sounds–“Old king Cole was a merry old soul.”

atmosphere
the emotional tone or background that surrounds a scene

ballad
a long, narrative poem, usually in regular meter and rhyme; typically has a naive folksy quality that sets it apart from epic poetry

bathos
when the writing of a scene strains for grandeur it can’t support and tries to jerk tears from every little hiccup; intends to be dramatic but goes to the extreme of becoming ridiculous

pathos
when the writing of a scene evokes feelings of dignified pity and sympathy

black humor
the use of disturbing themes in comedy; morbid humor used to express the absurdity, insensitivity, paradox, and cruelty of the modern world, ordinary characters or situations exaggerated beyond normal limits of satire or irony

bombast
pretentious, exaggeratedly learned language; one tries to be eloquent by using the largest, most uncommon words

burlesque
broad parody, one that takes a style or form, such as tragic drama, and exaggerates it into ridiculousness; achieves its effects through caricature, ridicule, and distortion, devoid of any ethical element; interchangeable with parody

cacophony
using deliberately harsh, awkward sounds–the sound of midday traffic

cadence
the beat or rhythm of poetry in a general sense e.

g., iambic pentameter; can be gentle and pulsing, conversational, and even vigorous, marching

canto
the name for a section division in a long work of poetry; divides a long poem into parts the way chapters divide a novel–like in Dante’s Inferno

caricature
a portrait (verbal or otherwise) that exaggerates a facet of personality

catharsis
drawn from Aristotle’s writings on tragedy; refers to the “cleansing” of emotion an audience member experiences, having lived (vicariously) through the experiences presented on stage; purging of emotions through a form of art, in this case, literature

chorus
the group of citizens who stand outside the main action on stage and comment on it

classic
typical; an accepted masterpiece

classical
refers to the arts of ancient Greece and Rome and the qualities of those arts

coinage (tech. term: neologism)
a new word, usually one invented on the spot

colloquialism
a word or phrase used in everyday conversational English that isn’t a part of accepted “schoolbook” English; slang words, informal English

complex, dense
two terms carrying the similar meaning of suggesting that there is more than one posibilty in the meaning of words (image, idea, opposition); there are subtleties and variations; there are multiple layers of interpretation; the meaning is both explicit and implicit

conceit
refers to a startling or unusual metaphor, or to a metaphor developed and expanded upon over several lines

controlling image
when the image of conceit dominates and shapes the entire work

connotation
what a word suggests or implies, not its literal meaning–i.e.

, dark meaning dangerous instead lacking of light

denotation
the literal meaning of a word

consonance
the repetition of consonant sounds WITHIN words–“A flock of sick, black-checkered ducks.”

couplet
a pair of lines that end in rhyme

decorum
in order to observe, a character’s speech must be styled according to his or her social station, and in accordance with the occasion–bum speaks like a bum about bumly things

diction
author’s choice of words, choice of specific words

syntax
author’s choice of words; refers to the ordering and structuring of the words

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

dissonance
the grating of incompatible sounds

doggerel
crude, simplistic verse, often in sing-song rhyme–i.e., limericks

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 type of poem that meditates on death or mortality in a serious, thoughtful manner; often use the recent death of a noted or loved person as a starting point; also memorialize specific dead people

elements
the basic techniques of each genre of literature

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

,

epic
a very long narrative poem on a serious theme in a dignified style; typically deal with glorious or profound subject matter–i.e., great war, heroic journey, battle with supernatural, etc.

mock-epic
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 a handful of lines, often serious or religious, but sometimes witty and even irreverent

euphemism
a word or phrase that takes the place of a harsh, unpleasant, or impolite reality–i.e., passed away for died, let go for fired

euphony
when sounds blend harmoniously

explicit
to say or write something directly and clearly

farce
today it’s used to refer to extremely broad humor; in earlier times, it was used to mean a simply funny play; a comedy (generic term for play then, btw, no implication of humor)

feminine rhyme
lines rhymed by their final two syllables–running, gunning; properly, the penultimate syllables are stressed and the final syllables are unstressed

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

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

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

free verse
poetry written without a regular rhyme scheme or metrical pattern

genre
a subcategory of literature–i.e., scientific fiction, detective stories->types of fiction

Gothic, Gothic novel
form first showed up in the middle of the 1700s, heyday of popularity for sixty years; sensibility: mysterious, gloomy, sinister

hubris
the excessive pride or ambition that leads to the main character’s downfall–like Caesar

hyperbole
exaggeration or deliberate overstatement: He has a watermelon head.

implicit
to say or write something that suggests and implies but never says it directly or clearly; reading between the lines

in medias res
Latin for “in the midst of things;” one of the conventions of epic poetry

interior monologue
a term for novels and poetry, not dramatic literature; refers to writing that records the mental talking that goes on inside a character’s head; related, but not identical to the stream of consciousness; tends to be coherent, as though the character is actually talking

inversion
switching the customary order of elements in a sentence or phrase–Yoda speech!

*irony
comes in a variety of forms; a statement that means the opposite of what it seems to mean, deeper than sarcasm though; an undertow of meaning

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

lampoon
a satire

loose sentence
sentence is clear in the beginning, begins with main clause, followed by subordinates and modifiers

periodic sentence
leaves the completion of its main clause to the end, often produces effect of suspense

lyric
a type of poetry that explores the poet’s personal interpretation of and feelings about the world; when used to describe a tone, refers to a sweet, emotional melodiousness

masculine rhyme
a rhyme ending on the final stressed syllable–spent, went

means, meaning
literal meaning-concrete and explicit; emotional meaning

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

metaphor
a comparison, or analogy that states one thing IS another–His eyes were burning coals.

metonym
a word that is used to stand for something else that it has attributes of or is associated with—“the crown” referring to the king, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” (pen reps writers and ideas, sword reps war)

nemesis
the protagonist’s archenemy or supreme and persistent difficulty

objectivity
treatment of a matter as impersonal or as an outside view of events

subjectivity
treatment of a matter using the interior personal view of a single observer and is typically coloured with that observer’s emotional responses

onomatopoeia
words that sound how they’re spelled–boom, splat

opposition
a pair of elements that contrast sharply, not necessarily “conflict,” rather a pairing of images, each becomes more striking and informative because it’s placed in contrast to the other one; creates mystery and tension, can be obvious or lead to irony, not always though

oxymoron
a phrase composed of opposites; a contradiction

parable
a story that instructs like a fable or an allegory

paradox
a situation or statement that seems to contradict itself, but on closer inspection, it does not—“It’s raining, but I don’t believe that it is.

parallelism
repeated syntactical similarities used for effect–He likes playing the piano, eating cookies, and reading lengthy novels.

paraphrase
to restate phrases and sentences in your own words, to rephrase; not an analysis or interpretation

parenthetical phrase
a phrase set off by commas that interrupts the flow of a sentence with some commentary or added detail

parody
when a specific work is exaggerated to ridiculousness

pastoral
a poem set in a tranquil nature or even more specifically, one about shepherds

persona
the narrator in a non-first-person novel. in third person, get an idea of author’s personality, but isn’t really the author’s personality; shadow-author

personification
giving an inanimate object human qualities or form–The darkness of the forest became the figure of a beautiful, pake-skinned woman in night-black clothes.

plaint
a poem or speech expressing sorrow

point of view
the perspective from which the action of a novel (or narrative poem) is presented

omniscient narrator
third-person narrator who sees into each character’s mind and understands all the action that’s going on

limited omniscient narrator
third-person narrator who generally reports only what one character (usually main character) sees, reports only thoughts of that one character

objective/camera-eye narrator
third-person narrator who only reports on what would be visible to a camera, doesn’t know what the character is thinking unless character speaks of it

first-person narrator
narrator who is a character in the story and tells the story from his or her point of view; when crazy, a liar, or very young, narrator is unreliable

stream of consciousness technique
method is like first-person, but instead of the character telling the story, the author puts the reader in the character’s head

prelude
an intro poem to a longer work or verse

protagonist
the main character of a novel or play

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

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

requiem
a song or prayer for the dead

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

rhetorical question
a question that suggests an answer

satire
exposes common character flaws to humor; attempts to improve things by pointing out people’s mistakes in the hope that once exposed, such behaviours will become less common–hypocrisy, vanity, greed

simile
like a metaphor but softens the full-out equation of things, often, but not always, by using like or as

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; not meant to imply that the actor acknowledges the audience is listening

stanza
a group of lines roughly analogues in function in verse to the paragraph’s function in prose

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

subjunctive mood
a mood that represents an act or state (not as a fact but) as contingent or possible; wishful thinking–if I were you, if he were honest

suggest
to imply, infer, indicate; you have to pull out the meaning yourself

summary
a simple retelling of what you’ve just read; covers more material than paraphrase, more general, includes all the facts

suspension of disbelief
demand made of a theater audience to accept the limitations of staging and supply the details with imagination

symbolism
a device in literature where an object reps an idea

technique
the methods, the tools, “how-you-do-it” ways of the author

theme
the main idea of the overall work; the central idea; topic of discourse or discussion

thesis
the main position of an argument; the central contention that will be supported

tragic flaw
in tragedy, weakness of character in an other wise good/great individual that leads to his demise

travesty
a grotesque parody

truism
a way-too-obvious truth

utopia
an idealized place; paradise

zeugma
the use of a word to modify two or more words, but used for different meanings–On the fishing trip, he caught three trout and a cold.

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