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Glossary of LA Literary Terms

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abridgment
a shortened version of a literary work
abstract
a brief statement or summary of the essential thoughts of a book, article, etc.

an adjective which denotes qualities that exist only as attributes of particular persons
or things
allegory
a symbolic narrative created to parallel and illuminate a separate set of moral,
philosophical, political, religious, or social situations
alliteration
the repetition of consonant sounds in a sequence of nearby words (BEGINNING of words)
allusion
a reference, explicit or indirect, to a well-known person, place, event, literary work,
or work of art
ambiguity
the use of a single word or expression to signify two or more distinct references, or to
express two or more diverse attitudes or feelings (poetic term); ordinarily, the term is
applied to a fault in style
anachronism
action, scene, object or character placed where it does not belong in time
anapest
in poetry, a foot with two weak stresses followed by one strong stress, as in the word
anecdote
a very brief account of an incident, usually personal or biographical
antagonist
character or force in conflict with the main character, or protagonist, in a literary
work
antecedent
the word a pronoun stands for, usually used before or in close proximity to that
pronoun
anti-hero
a protagonist who is petty, ineffectual, passive or dishonest; displaying few or none
of the characteristics of the traditional hero
aphorism ------
the pithy and pointed statement of a serious maxim, opinion, or general truth
apostrophe
direct and explicit address to an absent person or non-human entity
archetype
UNIVERSAL SYMBOL recurrent narrative designs, patterns of action, character types, or images identifiable
in a wide variety of works of literature; archetypes are often to reflect a set of
universal, primitive, and elemental mental forms or patterns in the human psyche; if
used effectively, archetypes evoke a profound response from the reader;
aside
a statement delivered by an actor to an audience in such a way that other characters
on stage are presumed not to hear what is said
assonance
the repetition of vowel sounds in stressed syllables containing dissimilar consonant
sounds
attitude
a mental position or feeling with regard to a fact or statement; attitude is usually
discussed in terms of author, character, objects, ideas, etc.
audience .
the person or persons who are intended to read a piece of writing. The intended
audience determines the form, tone, style, and details included in a piece
autobiography
a narrative of one’s own life
ballad
a poem or song that tells a story, a narrative species of folk songs which originate,
and are communicated orally, among illiterate or only partly literate people; a literary
ballad is composed in imitation of an old folk ballad
bildungsroman
novel dealing with the development of the protagonist’s mind and character, in the
passage from childhood to adulthood, the character’s identity formation
biography
a narrative of the life of an historical figure
blank verse
poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter lines
cacophony (dissonance)
language which seems harsh, rough, and unmusical; the discordance is
the combined effect of meaning and difficulty of pronunciation, as well as sound
caesura
a pause in the middle of a line of poetry dictated by sense or natural rhythm
candid
free from bias, very honest and frank in one’s writing
canon
the academically “accepted” body of great literature and art; one’s collected work
caricature
in verbal description, the distortion or exaggeration, for comic effect of a person’s
physical features or other characteristics
catharsis (purgation or purification)
emotional purging of yourself after an emotional event
cause and effect
analysis of a subject by examining the reasons for specific actions or events or the consequences or the results of certain causes
character
a person or animal who takes part in the action of a literary work
round/dynamic
a multidimensional character changes/develops in the
course of the story
flat/static
character does not change much or at all
misfit
character whose values are at odds with the other characters
stock
character type that occurs repeatedly in a literary genre
stereotype
fixed character with little individuality, often based on racial, social,
sexist, or ethnic prejudices
clause
a group of words containing a subject and complete verb and forming part of a
compound or complex sentence
climax
the high point of interest or suspense in a literary work
classicism
the principles or styles of literature or art of ancient Greece and Rome
colloquial/
colloquialism
informal speech, characteristic of spoken language or writing that seeks the effect of
everyday speech
comedy
a work in which the materials are selected and managed primarily in order to interest,
involve, and amuse us
conceit
a figure of speech which establishes a striking parallel, usually elaborate, sometimes
far-fetched, between two very dissimilar things or situation
concrete
(1) able to be perceived by the five senses; (2) a pattern poem in which the visual
form or shape of the poem reflects the poem’s theme or content
conflict
a struggle between opposing forces
external conflict
a struggle between the character and some outside force
internal conflict
a struggle within a character
connotation
an association that a word calls to mind in addition to its dictionary meaning;
the emotional, psychological or social overtones or implications that words carry
consonance
(1)repetition of consonant sounds within a line of verse, similar to alliteration but not
limited to the beginning letter of a word (DOESNT HAVE TO BE AT THE BEGINNING)
(2)the repetition of a sequence of two or more consonants, but with a change in the
intervening vowel
context
the part of discourse surrounding a passage which gives it more meaning; context can
be social, historical, racial, etc.
convention
(1) necessary, or at least convenient, devices accepted by tacit agreement between
author and audience, for solving the problems in the representation of reality that are
posed by a particular artistic medium; (2) conspicuous features of subject matter,
form, or technique which occur repeatedly in works of literature; (3) “codes” of
genre, plot, etc. constituting all literary works
couplet
a pair of rhyming lines written in the same meter
crisis
the point of uncertainty and tension, the turning point, that results from the conflicts
and difficulties brought about through the complications of the plot
dactyl
a three-syllable metrical foot consisting of a heavy stress followed by two lights
denotation
a word’s exact, specific meaning, independent of other associations the word calls to
mind
denouement
“untying” or resolution--the final stage of plot development in which mysteries are
explained, characters find their destinies, and the work is completed
dialect
regional speech, vocabulary and pronunciation particular to a certain geographic area
dialogue
a conversation between characters
diction
word choice--the kinds of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative
language that constitute any work of literature
didactic
work of literature which has a moral or teaches a lesson
digression
the turning aside from the main subject in writing or speaking
i.e., a tangent in a discussion
dilemma
situation where a person must choose between two equal alternatives
dimeter
a line of verse consisting of two metrical feet
dramatic monologue
a type of lyric poem or dramatic speech where a single person, who is patently not
the poet, utters the entire poem in a specific situation at a critical moment
dramatic
technique
the way in which the author uses dramatic elements or drama
dramatis personae
the cast of characters in a play
elegy
a formal and sustained poetic lament (and usually consolation) for the death of
a particular person
ellipsis
omission from an expression of a word or phrase clearly implied; marks (... or ***)
used to indicate omission
end-stop line
poetic line in which the pause in the reading, naturally occurring, coincides with the
end of the line
enjambment
run-on lines-- the continuation of a sentence or phrase from one verse line to the next
without end-stopped punctuation
epic
long narrative poem on a great or serious subject told in an elevated style and
centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a
tribe or nation
epigram
any short poem which is polished, terse, and pointed, which often ends with a
surprising or witty turn of thought
epigraph
an inscription on a statue, stone or building; a quotation on the title
page of a book
epilogue
a short addition or concluding section at the end of a literary work, often dealing with
the future of its characters
epiphany
a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something
a comprehension or perception by means of a sudden intuitive realization
epistolary novel
a novel which is conveyed entirely by an exchange of letters
esoteric
understood only by a select few, intended for an inner circle of
disciples or scholars
euphemism
an inoffensive expression used in place of a blunt one felt to be disagreeable or harsh
euphony
language which is smooth, pleasant, and musical to the ear
exclamatory
a type of sentence that makes a statement or exclaims something
exposition
in plot structure, background or explanatory information that furthers
the reader’s understanding of the characters and conflicts; often it
occurs before the main plot begins, but can occur elsewhere in the
novel
expository
writing that explains or shows and tells by giving information about a
specific topic; term papers, textbooks and reports are typical examples of expository
writing
fable
a brief story, usually with animal characters, that teaches a lesson or moral
fairy tale
a simple children’s story about fairies; a magical tale
falling action
an element of the plot which follows the climax or crisis and leads into resolution
fantasy
highly imaginative writing that contains elements not found in real life
farce
a play full of ridiculous happenings, absurd actions, and unreal
situations; meant to be very funny
figurative language
writing or speech not meant to be interpreted literally
figures of speech
literary devices that communicate ideas beyond the literal meaning of the words;
common types
flashback
interruption of the sequence of events to relate an event of an earlier time
foil
a character in a work who, by sharp contrast, serves to stress and highlight the
distinctive temperament of the protagonist
folk tale
a story composed orally and then passed from person to person by word of mouth
foot/feet
a measured combination of heavy and light stresses
foreshadowing
the use, in a literary work, of clues that suggest events that have yet to occur
form
(1) genre or literary type; (2) patterns of meters, lines, and rhymes; (3) central critical
concept; (4) the principle that determines a work’s organization; (5) structure
frame mood, an arrangement of structural (literal) parts that gives form to the work
free verse
poetry not written a regular, rhythmical pattern, or meter
genre
“literary form”--a recurring type of literature
gothic
a story of horror or suspense set in the medieval period or in a gloomy old castle or
monastery –hence the name ‘gothic’ which is an architectural term-- gothic has been
extended to a type of fiction developing a brooding atmosphere, representing events
which are uncanny or macabre or melodramatically violent, and often dealing with
aberrant psychological states
grotesque
fanciful, bizarre, eccentric, or absurdly incongruous
hamartia
”error of judgement” tragic flaw of a tragic hero which leads him to a mistaken act
heptameter
verse composed in lines of seven metrical feet
hero
a character whose actions are inspiring or noble; the protagonist
heroic couplet
lines of iambic pentameter which rhyme in pairs (aa, bb, cc, etc.)
hubris
pride or overwhelming self-confidence which leads a protagonist to
disregard a divine warning or to violate an important moral law;
hubris is a common form of hamartia in Greek tragedies
humor
a comic utterance; a comic appearance or mode of behavior
hyperbole
a deliberate exaggeration or overstatement as a means of emphasis, Figurative language not meant literally
analogy
a point by point comparison made between two things for the purpose of clarifying
the less familiar of the two subjects

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