Literary Terms & Rhetorical Strategies

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Last updated: December 4, 2019
story or poem in which characters, settings, and events stand for people or events or abstract ideas or qualities.

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repetition of the same or similar consonant sounds in words that are close together

reference to someone or something that is known from history, literature, religion, politics, sports, science, or another branch of culture. An indirect reference to something, usually literature.

Deliberately suggesting two or more different, and sometimes conflicting, meanings in a work.

Comparison made between two things to show how they are alike

Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row. This is a deliberate form of repetition and helps the writer’s point more conherent.

Inversion of the usual, normal, or logical order of the parts of a sentence.

Purpose is rhythm or emphasis or euphony.

Opponent who struggles against or blocks the hero, or protagonist in a story.

Repetition of words in successive clauses in reverse grammatical order.

Balancing words, phrases, or ideas that are strongly contrasted, often by means of grammatical structure.

Central character who lacks all the qualities traditionally associated with heroes.

May lack courage, grace, intelligence, or moral scruples.

Attributing human characteristics to an animals or inantimate object.

Brief, cleverly worded statement that makes a wise observation about life, or of a a principle or accepted general truth. Also called maxim, epigram

Calling out to an imagery, dead, or absent person, or to a place or thing, or to a personified abstract idea.

Placing in immediately succeeding order of two or more coordinate elements, the latter of which is an explanation, qualification, modification of the first (often set off by a colon)

The repetition of similar vowel sounds followed by different consonant sounds especially in words that are together.

Commas used without conjunction to separate a series of a words, thus emphasizing the parts equally: instead of X, Y, and Z the writer uses X, Y, Z

Constructing a sentence so that both halves are about the same length and importance.

the process by which the author reveals the personality of a character.

In poetry, a type of rhetorical balance in which the second part is syntatctically balanced against the first, but with the parts reversed.

A word or phrase, often a figure of speech, that has become lifeless because of overuse.

A word or phrase in everyday used in conversation and informal writing but is inappropriate for formal situations.

In general, a story that ends with a happy resolution of the conflicts faced by the main character or characters

an elaborate metaphor that compares two things that are startingly different.

Often an extended metaphor

Confessional Poetry
a twentieth century term used to describe poetry that uses intimate material from the poet’s life.

The struggle between opposing forces or characters in a story

The associations and emotional overtones that have become attached to a word or phrase, in addition to its strict dictionary definition.

Two consecutive rhyming lines of poetry

A way of speaking that is characteristic of a certain social group or of the inhabitants of a certain geographical area.

A speaker or writer’s choice of words

Form of fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking

A poem of mourning, usually about someone who has died.

device of repetition in which the same expression (single word or phrase) is repeated both at the beginning and at the end of the line, clause, or sentence.

A long narrative poem, written in heightened language, which resounds the deeds of a heroic character who embodies the values of a particular society.

A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work suggestive of a theme

Device of repetition in which the same expression (single word or phrase) is repeated at the end of two or more lines, clauses, or sentences; is the opposite of anaphora

an adjective or adjective phrase applied to a person or thing that is frequently used to emphasize a characteristic quality.

A very short story told in prose or poetry that teaches a practical lesson about how to succeed in life

a type of comedy in which ridiculous and often sterotyped characters are involved in silly, far-fetched situations

Figurative Language
Words which are innaccurate if interpreted literally, but are used to describe.

A scene that interrupts the normal chronological sequence of events in a sory to depict something that happened earlier in time

A character who acts as contrast to another character. often a funny side kick to the dashing hero, or a villain contrasting the hero

the use of hints and clues to suggest what will happen lated in a plot

Free Verse
Poetry that does not conform to a regular meter or rhyme scheme

a figure of speech that uses an incredible exaggertaion or overstatement, for effect

Sentence marked by the used of connecting words between clauses or sentences, explicitly showing the logical or other relationships between them

The use of language to evoke a picture or concrete sensation of a person, a thing, a place, or an experience

the reversal of the normal word order in a sentence or phrase

a discrepancy between appearances and reality

normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another, creating an effect of surprise and wit

Understatement in which the positive form is emphasized by the negation of the negative form

Local Color
applied to fiction or poetry which tends to place special emphasis on a particular setting, including its customs, clothing, dialect, and language

a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things without the use of such specific words of comparison as like or as

a figure of speech in which a person, place, or thing is referred to by something closely associated with it.

an atmosphere created by a writer’s diction and the details selected

a recurring image, word, phrase, action, idea, object, or situation used throughout a work (or in several works by one author) unifying the work by tying the current situations to previous ones, or new ideas to the theme

the reason for a character’s behavior

The use of words whose sound echo their sense

A relatively short story that teaches a moral, or lesson about how to lead a good life

A statement that appears self-contradictory, but that reveals a kind of truth

the repetition of words or phrases that have similar grammatical structures

Paratactic Structure
Simply juxtaposes clauses or sentences

a work that makes fun of another work by imitating some aspect of the writer’s style

a figure of speech in which an object or animal is given human feelings, thoughts, or attitudes

Point of View
the vantage point from which the writer tells the story

sentence which uses a conjunction with NO commas to separate the items in a series.

the central character in a story, the one who initiates or drives the action

Play on words, based on the multiple meanings of a single word or on words that sound alike but means different things

A poem consisting of four lines, or four lines of a poem that can be considered a unit

a word, phrase, line, or group of lines that is repeated for effect, several times in a poem

a rise and fall of the voice produced by the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables in language

art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse

Rhetorical Question
a question asked for an effect, adn not actually requiring an answer

in general, a story in which an idealized hero or heroine undertakes a quest and is successful

A type of writing that ridicules the shortcomings of people or institutions in an attempt to bring about a change

a figure that makes an explicit comparison between two unlike things using words such as like, than, or resembles

a long speech made by a character in a play while no other characters are on stage

a person, place, thing or event that has meaning in itself and that also stands for something more than itseld

a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole

Syntactic Fluency
ability to create a variety of sentence structures, appropriately complex and/or simple and varied in length

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