Glossary of Words from Literature Basic guide

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unreliable narrator
one with faulty information
where a story takes place
the main character
opposes protagonist in some way
dynamic character
a character that changes in some way
What is a flat character?
A character that has a single distinguishing trait and is not developed into a whole personality.
What is a stereotype?
A character based on a fixed or generalized idea about people or a group of people.
What are foils?
Characters (usually stereotypes) used to contrast with and thereby highlight some aspect of the protagonist.
What is an accent? (AKA Stress)
When a syllable is given a greater amount of force in speaking than is to given to another
What is Alexandrine?
In English verse, a line of iambic hexameter, usually having a caesura after the third foot.
What is an Allegory?
A narrative in either verse or prose in which characters, events, and in some cases setting, represent abstract concepts apart from the literal meaning of the story.
What is an Alliteration?
The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words or within them, especially in accented syllables.
What is an Allusion?
An indirect reference to a person, place, or thing - fictitious, historical, or actual.
What is an Analogy?
A comparison made between two objects, situations, or ideas that share something in common but are otherwise totally different.
What is an Anapest?
A metrical foot consisting of three syllables, two unaccented followed by one accented.
What is an Anaphora?
The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of several successive clauses, verses, or paragraphs.
What is an Apostrophe? (no, not in grammar.)
A figure of speech in which a character or narrator directly addresses an abstract concept, an inanimate object, or a person who is not present.
What is an Assonance?
The repetition of similar vowel sounds in stressed syllables or words; like alliteration, assonance may occure either initially or internally.
What is a Ballad?
A narrative song or poem passed on orally.
What is Blank Verse?
Verse written in unrhymed iambic pentameter.
What is a Caesura?
A light but definite paus within a line of poetry.
What is catharsis?
The purification of emotions by vicarious experience, especially through drama.
What is Characterization?
The methods used by an author to develop the personality of a character in a literary work.
What is Chiasmus?
A rhetorical device in which words or phrases initially presented are restated in reverse order; for example, "Do not live to eat, but eat to live."
What is a Chorus?
In ancient Greek drama, a group of actors who sang and danced in unison and provided commentary on the actions of the main characters.
What is a Cliché?
A trite or hackneyed expression, idea, plot, character development, etc.
What is a Climax?
A decisive moment that is of maximum intensity or is a major turning point in a plot; a point when the action changes course and begins to resolve itself in some manner.
What is a Comedy?
A play written primarily to amuse the audience, usually featuring a protagonist whose fortunes take a turn for the better.
What is a Comic relief?
An amusing scene, incident, character, or speech introduced into a serious or tragic work to relieve tension.
What is a Conceit?
An elaborate, extended, and often surprising comparison made between two very dissimilar things that exhibits the author's ingenuity and cleverness; (from the Italian "concetto" meaning concept, bright idea)
What is a Concrete poem?
A poem in which the visual arrangement of the letters and words suggests its meaning.
What is a Conflict?
A struggle between two opposing forces or characters in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem; a conflict can be external or internal; there are four common types of conflicts: a person against another person, a person against nature , a person against society, and a person against him or herself.
What is a Connotation?
The emotional associations that surround a word as opposed to its denotation.
What is the Consonance?
The repetition of consonant sounds that are preceded by a different vowel.
What is a couplet?
Two successive lines of verse that have the same meter and in many cases rhyme.
What is a Dactyl?
A three syllable metrical foot consisting of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.
What is a Denotation?
The literal meaning of a word - its "dictionary definition" that does not take into account any other emotions or ideas the reader may associate with it.
What is Denouement?
The resolution of the plot of a literary work; the final unravelling of the complications of a plot; the word "denouement" is French for "unknotting" or "untying"
What is Deus ex machina?
A Latin term meaning "the god from the machine" ; in ancient dramas, a god would often descend to the stage to rescue the protagonist from doom; thus this term is used to refer to any power, event, person, or thing that comes in the nick of time to solve a difficulty; also can refer to providential interposition, especially in a novel or a play.
What is a Dialect?
A variety of language spoken by a social group or spoken in a certain locality that differs from the standard speech in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammatical form.
What is Diction?
The author's choice of words and phrases; diction involves both connotation and denotation.
What is Didactic poetry?
Poetry whose purpose is to teach the reader some kind of lesson.
What is Dramatic irony?
A situation in which the author and the audience share knowledge by which they can recognize that the character's actions are inapporopriate or that the character's words have a significance but these things are unknown to the character - the audience or reader has knowledge that the character does not have.
What is Dramatic monologue?
A lyric poem in which the speaker addresses someone whose replies are not recorded; in a dramatic monologue, the poet adopts the voice of a fictive or historical voice or some other persona.
What is a Dramatic situation?
A situation that drives the plot of a drama that involves the dynamic relation between a character and a goal or objective and the obstables that intervene between the character and the objective.
What is a Dynamic Character?
A character that changes in some way - usually for the better - during the course of a story.
What is an Elegy?
A lament or a sadly meditative poem, sometimes written on the occasion of a death; usually formal in language and structure and solemn or melancholy in tone.
What is End rhyme?
Rhyming of words at the ends of lines of poetry.
What is End-stopped line?
A line of poetry that contains a complete thought, usually ending with a period, colon, or semicolon, and therefore ends in a full pause; the opposite of a run-on line.
What is an English or Shakespearean Sonnet ?
A fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter having a rhyme scheme of abab/cdcd/efef/gg; is usually presented in a four-part structure in which a theme or idea is developed in the first three guatrains and then is brought to a conclusion in the couplet.
What is an Enjambment?
The employment of run-on lines of poetry, whereby the meaning of the statement is carried from one line to the next without a pause.
What is an Epic?
A long narrative poem describing the deeds of a great hero, great adventures, and matters of national or global significance and sometimes featuring supernatural forces.
What is an Epigram?
A short poem that ends in a witty or ingenious turn of thought, to which the rest of the composition is intended to lead up.
What is an Epigraph?
A motto or quotation at the beginning of a book, poem, or chapter that usually indicates its theme.
What is an Epiphany?
A moment of enlightenment in which the underlying truth or essential nature of something is suddenly revealed or made clear to a character.
What is an Epistolary?
Associated with letter or the writing of letters; for example, and epistolary poem is a letter written in verse.
What is an Eye Rhyme?
Rhyme in which two or more words look the same and are spelled similarily but have different pronounciations, for example, "have" and "grave" ... also called sight rhyme.
What is an Exposition?
In fiction, the narrative passages that establish the basic details of the story, including setting, time, and characters; in drama, scenes that introduce the main characters and introduce the dramatic situation; in some cases, the exposition will provide the audience with information on events that occured prior to the point in time at which the work begins.
What is a Falling action?
In a narrative, action that occurs after the climax and firectly before the denouement or the resolution of the plot.
What is a Farce?
A highly comic, light-hearted drama, usually involving stock situations and characters and based on a far-fetched humerous situation.
What is a Feminine ending?
An unaccented syllable at the end of a line of poetry.
What is a Feminine Rhyme?
A rhyme in which the similarity of sound is in both of the last two syllables; for example, "weary" and "dreary"
What is a Figurative language?
Language used in a nonliteral way; figurative language uses figures of speech such as similies, metaphors, personification, hyperboly, synecdoche, etc.
What is a Figure of Speech?
An expression in which words are used in a nonliteral way to achieve an effect beyond the range of orginary language.
What is a Flashback?
An interruption in the continuity of a story by the portrayal of some earlier episode.
What is a Foot?
A division of verse consisting of a number of syllables, one of which has the principal stress; the basic unit of meter in poetry.
What is Forshadowing?
The use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem.
What is a Framed story?
A narrative device whereby a story or group of stories is presented (often told by one of the characters) within the framework of a larger narrative; Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is an example of a framed story.
What is Free Verse?
Poetry that does not have a fixed meter or rhyme scheme.
What is a Haiku?
A Japanese poetic form that is comprised of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables respectively.
What is a Hero/Heroin
The central character in a work of fiction.
What is a Heroic couplet?
Two rhymed lines of iambic pentameter.
What is a High Comedy?
A comedy that appeals to the intellect using verbal wit, a clever plot, and visual elegance, usually having upper-class characters.
What is a Hyperbole?
A figure of speech in which exaggeration or overstatement is used for special effect.
What is an Iamb?
A metrical foot consisting of two syllables, the first unaccented, the second accented.
What is Iambic pentameter?
Poetry consisting of a line of five iambs; the most common verse line in English poetry; a meter especially familiar because it occurs in all blank verse, heroic couplets, and sonnets.
What is Imagery?
The details in a work of literature that appeal to the senses of the reader, lend the work vividness, and tend to arouse an emotional response in the reader.
What is In medias res?
A Latin phrase meaning "in the middle of things"; used in reference to narratives that begin in the middle of the action.
What is Internal rhyme?
Rhyme that occurs within a line of poetry.
What is Irony?
The contrast between what appears to be and reality; see dramatic irony, situational irony, an verbal irony.
What is Italian or Petrarchan sonnet?
A fourteen-line poem in two parts, an initial octet (eight lines) followed by a sestet (six lines), usually having a rhyme scheme of abbaabba/cdecde; the octet and the sestet are usually played off of one another in the same way.
What is a Limerick?
A five-line comic verse form with a rhyme scheme of aabba, with the first, second, and fifth lines in trimeter and the third and fourth in diameter.
What are Litotes?
A type of understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negation of its opposite; for example, "This is no small problem."
What is a Low Comedy?
Comic actions based on broad physical humor, scatology, crude punning, and the argumentative behavior of ignorant and often lower-class characters.
What is a Lyric?
A poem that expresses an emotion or state of mine, creating a single, highly personal impression upon the reader.
What is a Masculine ending?
An accented syllable that ends a line of verse.
What is Masculine Rhyme?
A rhyme of one-syllable words (eg. "jail" and "bail") or of stressed final syllables, (eg. "Divorce" and "remorse")
What is a Melodrama?
A sensational ninteenth-century play that featured a suspenseful, plot-oriented drama with all-good heroes, all-bad villains, simplistic dialogue, and soaring moral conclusions.
What is a Metaphor?
A figure of speech that makes a direct comparison (without the use of a qualifier such as "like" or "as") between two things which are basically dissimilar but share something in common.
What is a Meter?
A regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry.
What is a Metonymy?
A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated; for example, the use of the word "Washington" to mean the U.S. government.
What is Microcosm?
In literature, refers to a model in which events on a miniature scale parallel those occuring on a larger scale; for example, conflict within a family might be a microcosm of a world at war; the word literally means "small world"
What is a Mood?
The overall atmosphere or prevailing emotional aura of a literary work.
What is a Narrative?
A story or an account of an event or series of events; narratives can be told in either prose or poetry and they may be either fiction or nonfiction.
What is a Narrative poem?
A poem that tells a story or provides an account of an event or events.
What is a Novel?
A lengthy work of prose fiction (Viv Note: with a lengthy definition) that depicts a nymber of characters in various settings and covers a relatively long period of time; the characters, settings, and situations of novels usually imitate those of real life.
What is a Novella?
A story that is longer than a short story, but is shorter than a novel; Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Sharer" is an example of a novella.
What is an Ode?
A formal, ceremonious, and complexly organized form of lyric poetry; odes are usually rather long and often commemorate an important event or celebration such as marriage or a public ceremony.
What is Onomatopoeia? -- Besides a cool word...
A word or words that imitate the sound of the thing spoken of; for example, "zoom," "whiz," and "crash".
What is an Oxymoron?
A phrase that combines two seemingly contradictory elements; for example, "living death," "dear enemy" and "wise fool."
What is a Paradox?
A statement that appears to be self-contradictory but nonetheless has valid meaning.
What is a Parody?
A humerous imitation of serious writing; parodies will often imitate the style of a writer for a humerous effect.
What is a Pastoral?
A conventional form of lyric poetry that presents an idealized view of rural life.
What is Pathos?
That quality in speech, writing, music, or artistic representation that excites feelings of pity or sadness; the power of stirring tender or melancholy emotion.
What is a Peripeteia?
A sudden change of events or a reversal of circumstances.
a mask or voice of the author or the author's creation in a literary work
a figure of speech in which abstractions, ideas, inanimate objects, or animals are endowed with human qualities
the action or events that occur in a literary work
point of view
first person=main character of the action
third person=not in story
omniscent=third person who knows inner thoughts of characters
limited=third person only knows thoughts of one person
objective/dramatic view= describes only what can be seen
a play on words with similar sounds or on a single word with different meanings
a metrical foot of two unaccented syllables
a stanze of four lines of verse
a quality in fiction and drama in which the events and people are depicted without idealization or senimentalization, emphasizes ordinary people in everyday situations
falling action
the exact repetition of sounds in at least the last accented syllable of two or more words
rhyme scheme
the ordered patterning of endrhymes in a metrical composition
the recurrence of stresses and pauses in the language of a literary work or a speech, when rhythm falls into a regular, identifiable patter, we refer to it as meter
rising action
action in a narrative that occurs after after the exposition including crisis and complication, but before the climax
a narrative form that originated in the middle ages that can be written in prose or poetry, romances generally feature elements such as adventure, magic, and love
run-on line
a line of verse that does not express a complete thought, but rather, the thought continues on to the next line and there is no pause at the end of the run-on line, a run-on line is the opposite of a stopped line
a literary work in which prevailing vices or follies of a character or characters are severly criticized or humorously held up to ridicule through the use of irony, wit, humor, or sarcasm
a process of demarking the metrical feet of a poem and marking the accented and unaccented symbols to indicate the meter of the poem
a six-line unit of verse that can stand alone as a stanza or as the concluding part of an Italian(petrarchan) sonnet
a complicated form comprised of six sestets and a concluding tercet, with the end words of each line of the first sestet being repeated in the subsequent stanzas
short story
a work of prose fiction that generally involves a small number of characters in a limit number of settings and is condensed into a much shorter time span than that of a novel
slant rhyme
two words or syllables that have approximately the same vowel sounds, but not exactly
a figure of speech that compares two essentially unlike things to highlight something they have in common, this comparison is indicated by a connective such as like as or than
situational irony
an occurance that is contrary to what is expected or intended
a dramatic convention whereby a character speaks his or her thoughts aloud, a speech to oneself
a fourteen line lyric poem written in an iambic pentameter sonnets vary in structure and rhyme scheme, two
a metrical foot consisting of two accented syllables
a group of lines that are set off and form a division in a poem, a sequence of lines that form a metrical, tonal, or topical unit
static character
a character that does not change during the course of a narrative
stock character
a character that is of little consequence to the dramatic situation and its ultimate resolution, but who nonetheless may serve to advance the plot provide humor or provide contrast with the main character
the distinctive use of language by an author
supporting character
a character in a drama who helps to forward the plot but is neither a major cause nor a major victim of the play's events
an object, person, place, or action that has a meaning in itself but also stands for something larger than itself such as a quality, an attitude,a belief or value
symbolistic drama
one product of a late nineteenth century school of french poets/playwrights who aimed to reveal ideas and emotions by indirect suggestion rather than by direct expression and attached a symbolic meaning to particular objects, words, sonnets, ect
a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole, the whole of something is used to represent a part, the specific is used for the general. "hired hands"
the mannr of speaking about one sense in terms of another, "she was a screaming red skirt"
the underlying meaning of a literary work
the author's attitude whether stated or implied, about his or her subject matter and towards the audience
dramatic or narrative writing in which the protagonist suffers disaster after a significant struggle, tragedies inspire fear and pity in the readers/audience
tragic flaw
in a tragedy, the flaw in the protagonist that leads to his or her downfall
a drama that combines elements of tragedy and comedy
a metrical foot sonsisting of a stressed followed by an unstressed
a figure of speech in which restraint or lack of emphasis is used purposely for effect
tragic irony
refers to instances in a tragedy when the protagonist experiences a misfortune which is contrary to what he or she expected to happen
verbal irony
when the intended meaning of a statement or a work is different that from what is literally said
an antagonist who is deliberately evil
a poetic form that usually is comprised of five tercets, each rhyming aba, and a concluding quatrain, rhyming abaa, with the first and third lines of the first tercet alternating as refrains throughout the poem

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