Glossary of AP Literature and Composition Vocabulary

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A work that functions on a symbolic level.
The repetition of initial consonant sounds, such as "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."
A reference to a more famous literary work (such as the Bible or mythology).
A metrical pattern of two unaccented syllables followed by an accented syllable.
The force or character that opposes the main character, the protagonist.
Direct address in poetry. Yeats's line "Be with me Beauty, for the fire is dying" is a good example.
Words spoken by an actor intended to be heard by the audience by not by other characters on stage.
A love poem set at dawn which bids farewell to the beloved.
A simple narrative poem, often incorporating dialogue that is written in quatrains, generally with a rhyme scheme of ABCD.
Unrhymed iambic pentameter. Most of Shakespeare's plays are in this form.
blank verse
Harsh and discordant sounds in a line or passage of a literary work.
A break or pause within a line of poetry indicated by punctuation and used to emphasize meaning.
According to Aristotle, the release of emotion that the audience of a tragedy experiences.
One who carries out the action of the plot in literature. Major, minor, static, and dynamic are types.
The turning point of action or character in a literary work, usually the highest moment of tension.
The inclusion of a humorous character or scene to contrast with the tragic elements of a work, thereby intensifying the next tragic event.
comic relief
A clash between opposing forces in a lierary work, such as man vs. man; man vs. nature; man vs. God; man vs. self.
The interpretive level of a word based on its associated images rather than its literal meaning.
A traditional aspect of a literary work such as a soliloquy in a Shakepearean play or a tragic hero in a Greek tragedy.
Two lines of rhyming poetry; often used by Shakespeare to conclude a scene or an important passage.
A foot of poetry consisting of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllabels,
The literal or dictionary meaning of a word
The conclusion or tying up of loose ends in a literary work; the resolution of the conflict and plot
A Greek invention, literally "the god from the machine" who appears at the last moment and resolves the loose ends of a play. Today, the term refers to anyone, usually of some stature, who untangles, resolves, or reveals, the key to the plot of
deus ex machina
The author's choice of words.
A type of poem that presents a conversation between a speaker and an implied listener. Browning's "My Last Duchess" is a general example.
A technique in poetry that involves the running on of a line or stanza. It enables the poem to move and to develop coherence as well as directing the reader with regard to form and meaning. Walt Whitman uses this continually.
A lengthy, elevated poem that celebrates the exploits of a hero. Beowulf is a prime example
A brief witty poem. Pope often utilizes this form for satiric commentary.
The pleasant, mellifluous presentation of sounds in a literary work
Background information presented in a literary work.
A simple symbolic story usually employing animals as characters. Aesop and LaFontaine are authors who excel at this form.
The body of devices that enables the writer to operate on levels other than the literal one. It includes metaphor, simile, symbol, motif, hyperbole, and others.
figurative language
A device that enables a writer to refer to past thoughts, events, episodes.
A metrical unit in poetry; a syllabic measure of a line: iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl, and spondee.
Hints of future events in a literary work.
The shape or structure of a literary work.
Poetry without a defined form, meter, or rhyme scheme.
free verse
Extreme exaggeration. In "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose," Burns speaks of loving "until all the seas run dry."
A metrical foot consisting of an unaccented syllable followed by an accented one; the most common poetic foot in the English language
A type of lyric poem which extols the virtues of an ideal place or time.
A verbal approximation of a sensory impression, concept, or emotion.
The total effect of related sensory images in a work of literature.
Writing that reflects a personal image of a character, event, or concept. The Secret Sharer is a fine example
An unexpected twist or contrast between what happens and what was intended or expected to happen. It involves dialogueand situation, and it can be intentional or unplanned. Dramatic___________centers around the ignorance of those involoved while the audi
A type of poetry characterized by emotion, personal feelings, and brevity; a large and inclusive category of poetry that exhibits rhyme, meter, and reflective thought.
lyric poetry
A type of literature that explores narratives by and about characters who inhabit and experience their reality differently from what we term the objective world.
magical realism
A direct comparison between dissimilar things.
EX. "Your eyes are stars."
Refers to the work of poets like John Donne who explore highly complex, philosophical ideas through extended petaphors and paradox.
metaphysical poetry
A pattern of beats in poetry.
A figure of speech in which a representative term is used for a larger idea.
Ex. "The pen is mightier than the sword."
A speech given by one character.
EX. Hamlet's "To be or not to be..."
The repetition or variations of an image or idea in a work which is used to develop theme or characters.
A poem that tells a story.
narrative poem
The speaker of a literary work.
An eight-line stanza, usually combined with a sestet in a Petrarchan sonnet.
A formal, lengthy poem that celebrates a particular subject.
Words that sound like the sound they represent. (hiss, gurgle, bang)
An image of contradictory terms. (bittersweet, pretty ugly, giant economy size)
A story that operates on more than one level and usually teaches a moral lesson. (The Pearl by John Steinbeck, See Allegory)
A secondary story line that mimics and reiforces the main plot. (Hamlet loses his father as does Ophelia.)
parallel plot
A comic imitation of a work that ridicules the original.
The aspects of a literary work that elicit pity from the audience.
The assigning of human qualities to inanimate objects or concepts. (Wordsworth does this with "the sea that bares her bosom to the moon" in the poem "London 1802.")
A sequence of events in a literary work.
The method of narration in a literary work. (who talks)
point of view
The hero or main character of a literary work, the character the audience sympatizes with.
A four-line stanza.
The denouement of a literary work. (when all the loose ends are tied up)
A question that does not expect an explicit answer. It is used to pose an idea to be considered by the speaker or audience. (Ernest Dowson asks, "Where are they now the days of wine and roses?")
rhetorical question
The duplication of final syllable sounds in two or more lines.
The repetitive pattern of beats in poetry. (the beat)
A style or movement of literature tha has as its foundation an interest in freedom, adventure, idealism, and escape.
A mode of writing based on ridicule, which criticizes the foibles and follies of society without necessarily offering a solution. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is an example)
A six-line stanza, usually paired with an octave to form a Petrarchan sonnet.
A highly structured poetic form of 39 lines, written in iambic pentameter. It depends upon the repetition of six words from the first stanza in each of six stanzas.
The time and place of a literary work.
A speech in a play which is used to reveal the character's inner thoughts to the audience. (Hamlet's "To be or not to be..." speech is an example.)
A 14-line poem with a prescribed rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter.
A poetic foot consisting of two accented syllables.
The specific instructions a playwright includes concerning set, charactetization, delivery, etc.
stage directions
A unit of a poem, similar in rhyme, meter, and length to other units in the poem.
The unique way an author presents his ideas. (Diction, syntax, imagery, structure, and content all contribute to this.)
A secondary plot that explores ideas different from the main storyline. In Hamlet the main storyline has Hamlet avenging the death of his father, while this has Hamlet dealing with his love for Ophelia.)
Something in a literary work that stands for something else. (PLato has the light of the sun stand for truth in "The Allegory of the Cave.")
A figure of speech that utilizes a part as a representative of the whole. ("All hands on deck" is an example.)
The grammatical structure of prose and poetry.
A three-line stanza.
The underlying ideas that the author illustrates through characterization, motifs, language, plot, etc.
The author's attitude toward his subject.
According to Aristotle, a basically good person of noble birth or exalted position who has a fatal flaw or commits an error in judgment which leads to his downfall.
tragic hero
The opposite of exaggeration. It is a technique for developing irony and/or humor where one writes or says less than intended.
A highly structured poetic form that comprises six stanzas: five tercets, and a quatrain. The poem repeats the first and third lines throughout.
A word free from limitations or qualifications. (best, all, unique, perfect, worst)
A familiar provberb or wise saying.
An argument attacking an individual's character rather thatn his or her person on an issue.
ad hominem argument
A comparison of two different things that are similar in some way.
The repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of consecutive lines or sentences.
A brief narrative tale that focuses on a particular event or incident.
The word, phrase or clause to which a pronoun refers.
A statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced.
A concise statement that expresses succinctly a general truth or idea, often using rhyme or balance.
A detail, image, or character type that occurs frquently in literature and myth and is thought to appeal in a universal way to the unconscious and to evoke a response.
A statement of the meaning or main point of a literary work.
A sentence construction in which elements are presented in a series without conjunctions.
A sentence in which words, phrases, or clauses are set off against each other to emphasize a contrast.
balanced sentence
Insincere or overly sentimental quality of writing/speech intended to invoke pity.
A statement consisting of two parallel parts in which the second part is structurally reversed. ("Susan walked in, and out rushed Mary."
An expression that has been overused to the extent that its freshness or meaning has worn off.
Informal words or expressions not usually acceptable in formal writing.
A sentence with two or more coordinate independent clauses, often joined by one or more conjunctions.
compound sentence
A fanciful, particularly clever extended metaphor.
Details that relate to or describe actual, specific things or events.
concrete details
A sentence in which the main independent clause is elaborated by the successive addition of modifying clauses or phrases.
cumulative sentence
A sentence that makes a statement or declaration.
declarative statement
Reasoning in which a conclusion is reached by stating a general principle and then applying that principle to a specific case. (The sun rises every morning; therefore, the sun will rise on Tuesday morning.)
deductive reasoning
A variety of speech characterized by its own particular grammar or pronunciation, often associated with a particular geographical region.
Conversation between two or more people.
Having the primary purpose of teaching or instructing.
A situation that requires a person to decide between two equally attractive or equally unattractive alternatives.
Harsh, inharmonious, or dicordant sounds.
The omission of a word or phrase which is grammatically necessary but can be deduced from the context. ("Some people prefer cats; others, dogs".)
A saying or statement on the title page of a work, or used as a heading for a chapter or other section of a work.
A moment of sudden revelation or insight.
A term used to point out a characteristic of a person. (Swift-footed Achilles) Can be abusive, or offensive, but are not so by definition. (The Rock, Jake "the Snake")
A formal speech praising a person who has died.
An indirect, less offensive way of saying something that is considered unpleasant.
A sentence expressing strong feeling, usually punctuated with an exclamation mark.
exclamatory sentence
An interjection to lend emphasis; sometimes a profanity.
A story that concerns an unreal world or contains unreal characters; it may be merely whimsical, or it may present a serious point.
A character who embodies a single quality and who does not develop in the course of the story.
flat character
A story within a story. (Chaucer's Canterbury Tales)
frame device
A major category or type of literature.
A sermon or moralistic lecture.
Excessive pride or arrogance that results in a downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy.
A question that rasis a hypothesis, conjecture or supposition. (See rhetorical question)
hypotheical question
An expression in a given language that cannot be understood from the literal meaning of the words in the expression; or, a regional speech or dialect.
A suggesion an author or speaker makes (implies) without stating it directly. (Note: the author/sender implies; the reader/audience infers.)
Deriving general principles from particular facts or instances. ("Every cat I have ever seen has four legs; cats are four-legged animals.)
inductive reasoning
A conclusion one draws based on premises or evidence
An intensely vehement, highly emotional verbal attack.
Specialized language or vocabulary of a particular group or profession.
Placing two elements side by side to present a comparison or contrast.
A narrative handed down from the past, containing historical elements and usualy supernatural elements.
Light verse consisting of five lines of regualr rhythm in which the firs, second, and fifth lines (each consisting of three feet) rhyme, and the second and third lines (each consisting of two feet) rhyme.
A narrator who presents the story as it is seen and understood by a single character and restricts information to what is seen, heard, thought or felt by that one character.
limited narrator
Deviating from normal rules or methods in order to achieve a certain effect. (intentional sentence fragments, for example)
literary license
A type of understatement in which an idea is expressed by negating its opposite. (describing a particularly horrific scene by saying "It was not a pretty picture.)
The mistaken substitution of one word for another word that sounds similar. ("The doctor wrote a subscription.")
A concise statement, often offering advice; an adage.
The emotional atmosphere of a work.
A character's incentive or reason for behaving in a certain manner; that which impels a character to act.
A traditional story presenting supernatural characters and episodes that help explain natural events.
A story or narrated account.
An inference that does not follow logically from the premises. (literally, does not follow)
non sequitur
A narrator who is able to know, see, and tell all, including the inner thoughts and feeling of the characters.
omniscient narrator
The use of corresponding grammatical or syntactical forms.
A restatement of a text in a different form of in different words, often for the purpose of clarity.
A comment that interupts the immediate subject, often to qualify or explain.
Characterized by an excessive display of learning or scholarship.
A strong verbal denunciation.
The use, for rhetorical effect, of more conjunctions than is necessary or natural.
A play on words, often achieved through the use of words with similar sounds but different meanings.
The art of presenting ideas in a clear, effective, and persuasive manner.
A question requiring thought to answer or understand; a puzzle or conundrum.
A term describing a character or literary work that reflects the characteristics of Romanticism, the literary movement beginning in the 18th century that stressed emotion, imagination, and individualism.
A character who demonstrates some complexity and who develops or changes in the course of a work.
round character
Harsh, cutting language or tone intended to ridicule.
A person or group that bears the blame for another.
A real or fictional episode; a division of an act in a play.
A sentence consisting of one independent clause and no dependent clause.
simple sentence
Nonstandard grammatical usage; a viaolation of grammatical rules.
An artistic movement emphasizing the imagination and characterized by incongruous juxtapositions and lack of conscious control.
A construction in which one word is used in two different senses. ("After he threw the ball, he threw a fit.")
A three-part deductive argument in which a conclusion is based on a major premise and a minor premise. ("All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal.")
Describing one kind of sensation in terms of another. ("A loud color," "a sweet sound")
synesthesia or synaesthesia
Needless repetition which adds no meaning or understanding. ("widow woman," "free gift")
The primary position taken by a writer or speaker.
A work in which the protagonist, a person of high degree, is engaged in a significant struggle and which ends in ruin or destruction.
A work in three parts, each of which is a complete work in itself.
Overused and hackneyed.
The point in a work in which a very significant change occurs.
turning point
The customary way language or its elements are used.
The everyday speech of a particular country or region, often involving nonstandard usage.

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