Literary Terms, Set 1

Topic: EntertainmentActors
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Last updated: May 10, 2019
Abstract
An abstract style (in writing) is typically complex, discusses intangible qualities like good and evil, and seldom uses examples to support its points.

Academic
As an adjective describing style, this word means dry and theoretical writing.

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When a piece of writing seems to be sucking all the life out of its subject with analysis, the writing is academic.

Accent
In poetry, accent refers to the stressed portion of a word. In “To be or not to be,” accents fall on the first “be” and “not.

” It sounds silly any other way. But accent in poetry is often a matter of opinion. Consider the rest of the first line of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “That is the question.” The stresses in that portion of the line are open to a variety of interpretations.

Aesthetic, Aesthetics
Aesthetic can be used as an adjective meaning “appealing to the senses.

” Aesthetic judgment is a phrase synonymous with artistic judgment. As a noun, an aesthetic is a coherent sense of taste. The kid whose room is painted black, who sleeps in a coffin, and listens only to funeral music has an aesthetic. The kid whose room is filled with pictures of kittens and daisies but who sleeps in a coffin and listens to polka music has a confused aesthetic. The plural noun, aesthetics, is the study of beauty. Questions like, What is beauty? or, Is the beautiful always good? fall into the category of aesthetics.

Allegory
An allegory is a story in which each aspect of the story has a symbolic meaning outside the tale itself. Many fables have an allegorical quality. For example, Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper” isn’t merely the story of a hardworking ant and a carefree grasshopper, but is also a story about the seasons of summer and winter, which represent a time of prosperity and a time of hardship, or even as representing youth and age.

True allegories are even more hard and fast. Bunyan’s epic poem, Pilgrim’s Progress, is an allegory of the soul, in which each and every part of the tale represents some feature of the spiritual world and the struggles of an individual to lead a Christian life.

Alliteration
The repetition of initial consonant sounds is called alliteration. In other words, consonant clusters coming closely cramped and compressed – no coincidence.

Allusion
A reference to another work or famous figure is an allusion. A classical allusion is a reference to Greek and Roman mythology or literature such as The Iliad. Allusions can be topical or popular as well. A topical allusion refers to a current event.

A popular allusion refers to something from popular culture, such as a reference to a television show or a hit movie.

Anachronism
The word anachronism is derived from Greek. It means “misplaced in time.” If the actor playing Brutus in a production of Julius Caesar forgets to take off his wristwatch, the effect will be anachronistic (and probably comic).

Analogy
An analogy is a comparison.

Usually analogies involve two or more symbolic parts, and are employed to clarify an action or a relationship. Just as the mother eagle shelters her young from the storm by spreading her great wing above their heads, so does Acme Insurers of America spread an umbrella of coverage to protect its policyholders from the storms of life.

Anecdote
An anecdote is a short narrative.

Antecedent
The word, phrase, or clause that a pronoun refers to or replaces. In, “The principal asked the children where they were going”; “they” is the pronoun and “children” is the antecedent.

Anthropomorphism
In literature, when inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena are given human characteristics, behavior, or motivation, anthropomorphism is at work. For example, “In the forest, the darkness waited for me, I could hear its patient breathing…

.” Anthropomorphism is often confused with personification. But personification requires that the nonhuman quality or thing take on a human shape.

Anticlimax
An anticlimax occurs when an action produces far smaller results than one had been led to expect. Anticlimax is frequently comic. “Sir, your snide manner and despicable arrogance have long been a source of disgust to me, but I’ve overlooked it until now. However, it has come to my attention that you have fallen so disgracefully deep into that mire of filth which is your mind to attempt to besmirch my wife’s honor and my good name.

Sir, I challenge you to a game of checkers!”

Antihero
A protagonist (main character) who is markedly unheroic: morally weak, cowardly, dishonest or any number of other unsavory qualities.

Aphorism
A short and usually witty saying, such as “‘Classic’? A book which people praise and don’t read.” -Mark Twain

Apostrophe
An address to someone not present, or to a personified object or idea. *key term*

Archaism
The use of deliberately old-fashioned language. Authors sometimes use archaisms to create a feeling of antiquity. Tourist traps use archaisms with a vengeance, as in “Ye Olde Candle Shoppe.

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. (See soliloquy.)

Aspect
A trait or characteristic, as in “an aspect of the dew drop.”

Assonance
The repeated use of vowel sounds, as in, “Old king Cole was a merry old soul.”

Atmosphere
The emotional tone or background that surrounds a scene.

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