Barron’s AP Literature Vocabulary

Topics: ArtSymbolism

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Last updated: April 22, 2019

abstract
An abbreviated synopsis of a longer work of scholarship or research.

adage
A saying or proverb containing a truth based on experience and often couched in metaphorical language.

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allegory
A story in which the narrative or characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical, or possibly an ethical meaning. The story and characters represent values beyond themselves.

alliteration
The repetition of one or more initial consonants in a group of words or lines of poetry or prose. Used for ornament or for emphasis. Also used in epithets, phrases, and slogans. Enhances the aesthetic quality of a prose passage or poem.

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 or 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 rhetorical device in which a speaker addresses a person or personified thing not present.

archetype
An abstract or ideal conception of a type; a perfectly typical example; an original model or 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.

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

bathos
The use of insincere or overdone sentimentality.

belle-lettres
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 words of Shakespeare and Milton. The 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.

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 a national literature or period; works widely read and studied.

caricature
A grotesque likeness of striking qualities in persons and things.

carpe diem
Literally, “seize the day”; enjoy life while you can, a common theme in literature.

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

classic
A highly regarded work of literature or other art form that has withstood the test of time.

classical, 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, or a story or play.

coming-of-age-story/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 or her emotional or intellectual maturity.

conceit
A witty or ingenious thought a diverting or highly fanciful idea, often stated in figurative language.

connotation
The suggested or implied meaning of a word or phrase.

Contrast with denotation.

consonance
The repetition of two or more consonant sounds in a group of words or a line of poetry.

couplet
A pair of rhyming lines in a poem.

Two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter is sometimes called a heroic ________.

denotation
The dictionary definition of a word. Contrast with connotation.

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

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

diction
The choice of words in oral and written discourse.

Dionysian
As distinguished from Apollonian, the word refers to sensual, pleasure-seeking impulses.

dramatic irony
A circumstance in which the audience or reader knows more about a situation than a character.

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

ellipsis
Three periods (.

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

elliptical construction
A sentence containing a deliberate omission of words.

empathy
A feeling of association or identification with an object or 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
In poetry, the use of the successive lines with no punctuation or pause between them.

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

epigram
A concise but ingenious, witty, and thoughtful statement.

euphony
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.

exposé
A piece or writing that reveals weakness, faults, frailties, or other shortcomings.

exposition
The background and events that lead to the presentation of the main idea or purpose of a work of literature.

explication
The interpretation or analysis of a text.

extended metaphor
A series of comparisons between two unlike objects.

fable
A short tale often featuring nonhuman characters that act as people whose actions enable the author to make observations or draw useful lessons about human behavior.

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.

figure of speech, figurative language
In contrast to literal language, _____________ implies meanings. It includes metaphors, similes, and personification, among many others.

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

flashback
A return to an earlier time in a story or play in order to clarify present action or circumstances.

It might also be a character’s account of the past, a dream, or a sudden association with past events.

foil
A minor character whose personality or attitude contrasts with that of the main character. Juxtaposing one character against another intensifies the qualities of both, to advantage or sometimes to disadvantage.

foot
A unit of stressed and unstressed syllables used to determine the meter of a poetic line.

foreshadowing
Providing hints of things to come in a story or play.

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 a novel, play, and essay.

Gothic novel
A novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terrors pervades the action.

harangue
A forceful sermon, lecture, or tirade.

hegemony
a dominant cultural trend

heroic couplet
Two rhymed lines written in iambic pentameter and used widely in eighteenth-century verse.

hubris
The excessive pride that often leads tragic heroes to their death.

humanism
A belief that emphasizes faith and optimism in human potential and creativity.

hyperbole
Overstatement; gross exaggeration for rhetorical effect.

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.

in medias res
A narrative that starts not at the beginning of events but at some other critical point.

indirect quotation
Actual words are not stated but only approximated or paraphrased.

invective
A direct verbal assault; a denunciation.

irony
A mode of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated, often implying ridicule or light sarcasm; a state of affairs or events that is the reverse of what might have been expected.

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

lampoon
A mocking, satirical assault on a person or situation.

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

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

loose sentence
A sentence that follows the customary word order of English sentences, i.e., subject-verb-object. The main idea of the sentence is presented first and is then followed by one or more subordinate clauses.

lyric poetry
Personal, reflective poetry that reveals the speaker’s thoughts and feelings about the subject.

maxim
A saying or proverb expressing common wisdom or truth.

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

metaphor
A figure of speech that compares unlike objects.

metaphysical poetry
The work of poets, particularly those of the seventeenth century, 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.

Middle English
The language spoken in England roughly between 1150 and 1500 A.D.

mock epic
A parody of traditional epic form. It usually treats a frivolous topic with extreme seriousness, using conventions such as invocations to the Muse, action-packed battle scenes, and accounts of heroic exploits.

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

montage
A quick succession of images or impressions used to express an idea.

mood
The emotional tone in a work of literature.

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

motif
A phrase, idea, or 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 an accepted part of the cultural or religious tradition of a group or society. They are often used to explain natural phenomena.

Almost every culture has one of these to account for the creation of the world and its inhabitants.

narrative
A form of verse of prose that tells a story.

naturalism
A term often used as a synonym for realism; also a view of experience that is generally characterized as bleak and pessimistic.

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

novella
A work of fiction of roughly 20,000 to 50,000 words-longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel.

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.

Old English
The Anglo-Saxon language spoken in what is now England from approximately 450 to 1150 A.D.

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

onomatopoeia
The use of words whose sounds suggest their meaning.

ottava rima
An eight-line rhyming stanza of a poem.

oxymoron
A term consisting of contradictory elements juxtaposed to create a

parable
A story consisting of events from which a moral or spiritual truth may be derived

paradox
A statement that seems self-contradictory but is nevertheless true

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

periodic sentence
A sentence that departs from the usual word order of English sentences by expressing its main though only at the end. In other words, the particulars in the sentence are presented before the idea they support.

persona
The role or facade that a character assumes or depicts to a reader, a viewer, or the world at large

personification
A figure of speech in which objects and animals are given human characteristics

plot
The interrelationship among the events in a story; the plot line is the pattern of events, including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

picaresque novel
An episodic novel about a roguelike wanderer who lives off his wits. Ex: Don Quixote, Moll Flanders

point of view
The relation in which a narrator or speaker stands to the story or subject matter of a poem.

prosody
The grammar of meter and rhythm in poetry

protagonist
The main character in a work of literature

pseudonym
Also called “pen name” or “nom de plume”; a false name or alias used by writers. Ex: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

pulp fiction
Novels written for mass consumption, often emphasizing exciting and titillating plots

pun
A humorous play on words, using similar-sounding or identical words to suggest different meanings

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

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 stance
Language that conveys a speaker’s attitude or opinion with regard to a particular subject

rhyme
The repetition of similar sounds at regular intervals, used mostly in poetry.

rhyme scheme
The pattern of rhymes within a given poem

rhythm
The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that make up a line of poetry

roman a clef
French for a novel in which hisotrical events and actual people appear under the guise of fiction

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; different from irony, which is more subtle

satire
A literary style used to poke fun at, attack, or ridicule an idea, vice, or foible, often for the purpose of inducing change

scan
The act of determining the meter of a poetic line.

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

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

setting
The total environment for the action in a novel or play.

It includes time, place, historical milieu, and social, political, and even spiritual circumstances

simile
A figurative comparison using the words like or as

sonnet
A popular form of verse consisting of fourteen lines and a prescribed rhyme scheme.

stanza
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

style
The manner in which an author uses and arranges words,

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

symbolism
The use of one object to evoke ideas and associations not literally part of the original object

synecdoche
A figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole (“fifty masts” for fifty ships) or the whole signifies the part (“days” for life, as in “He lived his days in Canada”). Also when the name of the material stands for the thing itself (“pigskin” for football)

syntax
The organization of language into meaningful structure; every sentence has a particular pattern of words

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

title character
A character whose name appears in the title of the novel or play; also known as the eponymous character

tone
The author’s attitude toward the subject being written about. The spirit or quality that is the work’s emotional essence

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

trope
The generic name for a figure of speech such as image, symbol, simile, and metaphor

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. For example: monometer = 1foot; tetrameter = 4 feet; pentameter = 5 feet, and so forth

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

voice
The real or assumed personality used by a writer or speaker

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

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