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Random Literary and Rhetorical Terms

The title explains it all.


undefined, object
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primary subject of an epic simile
A statement that reveals a kind of truth, although it seems at first to be self-contradictory and untrue.
Means to expurgate from a work any passages considered indecent or indelicate.
Text that reveals a critical attitude toward some element of human behavior by portraying it in an extreme way. meant to improve society through humor
Assertion of an affirmative by negating its contrary. Example: "He's not the brightest man in the world," meaning "he is stupid."
double entendre
The term is used to indicate a word or phrase that is deliberately ambiguous, especially when one of the meanings is risqué or improper.
a short clever saying parting truth.
Arrangement of repeated thoughts in the pattern of X Y Y X.
Following certain traditional techniques of writing.
Sentence where commas are used with no conjunctions to separate a series of words.
longing for the past
The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse.
purple patch
Signifies a sudden heightening of rhythm, diction, and figurative language that makes a section of verse or prose—especially a descriptive passage—stand out from its context.
A reference, explicit or indirect, to a person, place, or event, or to another literary work or passage.
naturalistic novel
extended fictional literature centering upon nature and excluding supernatural or spiritual elements, with special attention to effects of environment and heredity on human nature and action
straw man
Argues against a claim that nobody actually holds or is universally considered weak; diverts attention from the real issues
new journalism
Features author's subjective responses to people and events covered in essay.
signal words
Words in an essay that alert the reader to a change in tone, direction, section, or category.
ad hominem
Attacking the person instead of the argument proposed by that individual
aka monologue
post hoc ergo propter hoc
When a writer implies that because one thing follows another, the first caused the second.
emotional appeal
Appealing to the emotions of the reader in order to excite and involve them in the argument.
A bold overstatement or extravagant expression of fact, used for serious or comic effect.
An object, place, setting, prop, event or person that represents or stands for some idea or event; never hidden, but interwoven throughout text
Any song of joy, praise or triumph.
Repetition of a vowel sound within two or more words, usually with different consonant sounds either before or after the same vowel sounds.
Central idea of a work of fiction or nonfiction; an opinion developed; Revealed and developed in the course of a story or explored through argument.
Sentence that uses and or other conjunctions multiple times with no commas to separate items in a series.
Poem is polished, condensed, and pointed, often with a witty end.
secondary subject (simile) of an epic simile
A quality in an experience, narrative, literary work, etc., which arouses profound feelings of compassion or sorrow.
structural irony
serves to sustain duplicity of meaning throughout the text
Repetition of a word with one or more in-between, usually to express deep feeling.
witty, sarcasm
Nonessential word groups (phrases and clauses) that follow nouns and identify or explain them.
A form of argument or reasoning, consisting of two premises and a conclusion.
syntactic permutation
Sentence structures that are extraordinarily complex and involved; wordiness beyond effectiveness
Repetition of a word, phrase or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row.
description, story, episode
either-or reasoning
Reducing an argument or issue to two polar opposites and ignoring any alternatives.
Author's attitude toward subject matter as revealed through style, syntax, diction, figurative language, and organization.
The atmosphere in the text created by the author's tone towards the subject.
common knowledge
Shared beliefs or assumptions between the reader and the audience.
A sudden drop from the sublime or elevated to the ludicrous.
melodramatic redundancy
"unnecessary repetition that is exaggerated, sensational and overly dramatic."
Stresses equally each member of the series; slows the flow of a sentence for effect
epic simile
Formal and sustained similes that are developed far beyond its specific points of parallel to the primary subject.
The repetition, within the immediate context, of the same word or phrase or the same meaning in different words; usually as a fault of style.
dramatic irony
Involves a situation in a play or narrative in which the audience shares with the author knowledge of which the character is ignorant.
"Out of its wild disorder comes order; from its rank smell rises the good aroma of courage and daring; out of its preliminary shabbiness comes the modesty of most of its people."
situational irony
When the writer shows a discrepancy between the expected results of some action or situation and it actual results.
A bitter and abusive speech or writing. Ironical or satirical criticism.
A figure of speech where the term for one thing is applied for another with which it has become closely associated in experience, or where a part represents the whole.
A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work suggestive of the theme of the fiction or nonfiction text.
The choices in diction, tone, syntax that a writer makes.
A long speech by one person; a dramatic speech by one actor.
A balancing of two opposite or contrasting words, phrases or clauses.
A line, or part of a line, or a group of lines which is repeated in the course of a poem or an essay.
A figure of speech, comparing two essentially unlike things through the use of a specific word of comparison (like, as, or than, for example).
Sentence consisting of three parts of equal importance and length.
ethical appeal
When a writer tries to persuade the audience to respect him or her based upon a presentation of self through the text.
Refers to word choice as a reflection of style.
short soliloquy
"manifestation" of God's presence in the world
verbal irony
demands the most audience sophistication. This requires "reading between the lines."
What is perceived as an excess of emotion to an occasion.
A figure of speech that compares two things which are basically dissimilar. (Example: The ship plowed the sea.)
A comparison made between two things that may initially seem to have little in common but can offer fresh insights when compared.
A figure of speech in which two contradictory words are placed side-by-side for effect.
red herring
When a writer raises an irrelevant issue to draw attention away from the real issue.
The achievement of an illusion of reality in the audience. This is one of the "three unities" of Italian and French drama: unity of place, unity of time, and unity of truth (the drama must have a sense of reality and believability in the audience). appearance of truth
fictional narrative of middle length
Sentence that places the main idea or central complete thought at the end of the sentence, after all introductory elements.
sexual love
Adopted to signify verbose and inflated diction that is disproportionate to the matter it expresses.
A brief recounting of a relevant episode.
A part of something is used to signify the whole, or more rarely, a whole signifies a part
Imitates the serious materials and manner of a particular work, or the characteristic style of a particular author, and applies it to a lowly or grossly discordant subject.
An event (as at the end of a series) that is strikingly less important than what has preceded it.
character types, or images which are said to be identifiable in a wide variety of works of literature, as well as myths, and even ritualized modes of social behavior.
Sentence consisting three or more very short independent clauses joined by conjunctions.
Special type of pun that makes use of a single word or phrase which has two disparate meanings, in a context which makes both meanings equally relevant.
Sentence construction which places in close proximity two or more equal grammatical constructions.
verbal irony
Might be simple reversal of literal meanings of words spoken or more complex, subtle, indirect and unobtrusive messages that require the collection of hints from within the text.
Originated in Greek comedy with the character eiron, who was a "dissembler." Greek dramatist Sophocles developed it
coin a verb
changing nouns to verbs, making verbs adjectives, making new combination of words paired together
adverbial phrase
a group of words that modifies, as a single unit, a verb, verb form, adjective or another adverb.
A critical approach that debunks single definitions of meaning based upon the instability of language.
Repetition of a consonant sound within two or more words in close proximity.
Background information provided by author to enhance the audience's understanding of the context of a fiction or nonfiction story.
A fiction or nonfiction narrative, in which characters, things, and events represent qualities, moral values, or concepts.
The art of mustering relevant opposing arguments.
The essential identity of an institution or system or a written work.
syntactic fluency
Ability to create a variety of sentence structures, appropriately complex and/or simple and varied in length.
A play on words that are either identical in sound (homonyms) or similar in sound, but are sharply diverse in meaning.
Use of images, especially in a pattern of related images, often figurative, to create a strong, unified sensory impression.
to speak well in the place of the blunt, disagreeable, terrifying or offensive term.
Fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking.
Variation of the normal word order (subject, verb, complement) which puts the verb or complement at the head of the sentence.
The characteristic spirit or prevalent tone of a people or a community or that of the author in an essay.
person's character or disposition

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