Literary Terms: Prentice Hall, the British Tradition

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Last updated: May 6, 2019

ALLITERATION
repetition of initial consonant sound in accented syllables; used to emphasize/link words, as well as to create musical sounds

ALLUSION
reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art

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AMBIGUITY
effect created when words suggest and support two or more divergent interpretation; may be used in literature to express experiences or truths that are complex or even contradictory

ANALOGY
extended comparison of relationships, involving an explicit comparison, often using the word like or as

ARCHETYPAL LITERARY ELEMENTS
Patterns in literature found around the world; express in symbolic form truths about the human mind

ASSONANCE
the repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words

CHARACTERIZATION
act of creating and developing a character;direct: describes character’s traits explicitly // indirect: revealed by what he or she says, thinks, or does

CONCEIT
an unusual and surprising comparison between two very different things; this special kind of metaphor or complicated analogy is often the basis for a whole poem;

PETRARCHAN CONCEIT
Petrarchan: make extravagant claims about the beloved’s beauty or the speaker’s suffering, with comparisons to divine beings, powerful natural forces, and objects that contain a given quality in the highest degree

METAPHYSICAL CONCEIT
The use of elaborate, unusual, and highly intellectual conceits

CONFLICT
A struggle between [internal or external] opposing forces

CONNOTATION
The associations that a word calls to mind in addition to its dictionary meaning

DENOTATION
the objective meaning of a word (listed in dictionaries)–that to which the word refers, independent of other associations that the word calls to mind

DICTION
a writer’s word choice; can be a major determinant of the writer’s style; can be described as formal or informal, abstract or concrete, plain or ornate, ordinary or technical

FOIL CHARACTER
A character who contrast with the protagonist in ways that bring out certain of his or her moral, emotional or intellectual qualities; are nearly always flat characters

HYPERBOLE
a deliberate exaggeration or overstatement

IMAGERY
the descriptive language used in literature to re-create sensory experiences. Imagery enriches writing by making it more vivid, setting a tone, suggesting emotions, and guiding readers’ reactions

IRONY
the general name given to literary techniques that involve surprising, interesting or amusing contradictions. Verbal: words are used to suggest the opposite of their usual meaning; Dramatic: a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader or audience knows to be true; Irony of Situation: event occurs that directly contradicts expectations

JUXTAPOSITION
is a literary technique in which two or more ideas, places, characters and their actions are placed side by side in a narrative or a poem for the purpose of developing comparisons and contrasts. Is used to create suspense and achieve a rhetorical effect.

METAPHOR
Is a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of as though it were something else, as in “death, that long sleep.” Through this identification of dissimilar things, a comparison is suggested or implied.

METER
Is the rhythmical pattern of a poem.

This pattern is determined by the number and types of stresses, or beats, in each line. You must scan the lines of a poem to describe this.

MOOD
Is the feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage.

It may be suggested by the writer’s choice of words, by events in the work, or by the physical setting

OXYMORON
Is a figure of speech that fuses two contradictory ideas, such as “freezing fire” or “happy grief,” thus suggesting a paradox in just a few words.

PARADOX
Is a statement that seems to be contradictory but that actually presents a truth. Ex: Methinks I lied all winter, when I sworeMy love was infinite, if spring make it more.B.

Because this device is surprising or even shocking, it draws the reader’s attention to what is being said.

PARALLELISM
Is the use of components in a sentence that are grammatically the same; or similar in their construction, sound, meaning or meter.Ex: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

PERSONIFICATION
Is a figure of speech in which a nonhuman subject is given human characteristics.

POINT OF VIEW
The perspective, or vantage point, from which a story is told.

PROSE
Is the ordinary form of written language and one of the three major types of literature. Most writing that is not poetry, drama, or song is considered this. It occurs in two major forms: fiction and nonfiction.

REFRAIN
Is a regularly repeated line or group of lines in a poem or song.

SCANSION
Is the process of analyzing the metrical pattern of a poem.

SETTING
Is the time and place of the action of a literary work.

It can provide a backdrop for the action. It can be the force that the protagonist struggles against and thus the source of the central conflict. It can also be used to create an atmosphere. In many works, it symbolizes a point that the author wishes to emphasize.

SIMILE
Is a figure of speech that compares two dissimilar things using like or as.

By comparing apparently dissimilar things, the writer of a simile surprises the reader into an appreciation of the hidden similarities of the things being compared.

SOCIAL COMMENTARY
Is writing that offers insight into society, its values, and its customs.

SPEAKER
Is the imaginary voice assumed by the writer of a poem; the character who “says” the poem. This character is often not identified by name but may be identified otherwise.

STANZA
Is a group of lines in a poem, which is seen as a unit. Each states and develops one main idea.

SYMBOL
Is a sign, word, phrase, image, or other object that stands for or represents something else.

SYNTAX
Is the way words are organized – for example, their order in a sentence or phrase.

THEME
Is the central idea, concern, or purpose in a literary work. Known as a thesis statement in an essay.

In a literary work, it is usually expressed indirectly rather than directly. A light work, one written strictly for entertainment, may not have this.

TONE
Is the writer’s attitude toward the readers and towards the subject.

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