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Literature Terms


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The person, idea, force, or general set of circumstances opposing the protagonist. An essential element of plot.
A moment of realization.
A method of narration in which past events are introduced into a present action.
A secondary line of action in a literary work that often comments directly or obliquely on the main plot.
The arrangement and placement of materials in a work.
An extended verbal representation of a human being, the inner self that determines thought, speech, and behavior.
A character who undergoes no change.
Static Character
A character who undergoes adaptation, change, or growth.
Dynamic Character
A character who profits from experience and undergoes a change or development.
Round Character
A narrator whose comments or knowledge of events cannot be trusted.
Unreliable Narrator
A character, usually minor, designed to highlight qualities of a major character.
Foil Character
A character, usually minor, who is not individual but rather useful and structural, static, and unchanging.
Flat Character
The central character and focus of interest in a narrative or drama.
The final stage of plot development in which mysteries are explained, characters find their destinies, and the work is competed. Usually done as speedily as possible for it occurs after all conflicts are ended.
Denouncement/ Resolution
The hight point of conflict and tension preceding the resolution or denouncement of a drama or story; the point of decision, of inevitability and no return. It is sometimes merged with the consideration of dramatic and narrative structure.
The natural, manufactured, and cultural environment in which characters live and move, including all the artifacts they use in their lives.
The opposition between two characters, between large groups of people, or between protagonists and larger forces such as natural objects, ideas, modes and the like. Can be internal and psychological, involving choices facing a protagonist. The essence of
The speaker, narrator, voice, or persona of a work; the position from which details are perceived and related; a centralizing mind or intelligence.
Point of View
The stage of dramatic or narrative structure that introduces all things necessary for the development of the plot.
The plan or ground work for a story with the actions resulting from believable and authentic human response to a conflict.
Something used in reference to a main idea or theme in a single work or in many works.
A specific word, idea, or object that may stand for ideas, values, persons, or ways of life.
A symbol that is developed within the context of an individual work.
Contextual Symbol
A means of indirection.
Language stressing the importance of an idea by stating the opposite of what is meant.
Verbal Irony
A type of irony emphasizing that human beings are enmeshed in forces beyond their comprehension and control.
Situational Irony
The narrator or speaker of a story or poem.
The standard dictionary meaning of a word.
The repetition of identical consonant sounds (most often the sounds beginning words) in close proximity.
The repetition of identical vowel sounds in different words in close proximity.
A blending of consonant and vowel sounds designed to imitate or suggest the activity being described.
The varying speed, intensity, elevation, pitch, loudness, and expressiveness of speech, especially poetry.
Words combining sharp or harsh sounds.
The various shapes and organizational modes of poetry.
1. A four line stanza or poetic unit.
2. In an English or Shakespearean sonnet, a group of four lines united by rhyme.
The pattern of rhyme, usually indicated by assigning a letter of the alphabet to each rhyming sound.
Rhyme Scheme
Organized patterns that deepen, broaden, extend, illuminate, and emphasize meaning.
Figures of Speech
The addressing of a discourse to a real or imagined person who is not present.
Figurative language in which emphasis is achieved through exaggeration.
Figurative language that describes something as though it actually were something else, thereby enhancing understanding and insight.
A figure of speech embodying a contradiction that is nevertheless true.
A figure of speech in which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things or abstractions.
A poem of fourteen lines in iambic pentameter.
The number of feet within a line of traditional verse.
A two-syllable foot consisting of a light stress followed by a heavy stress.
Measured combinations of heavy and light stresses.
A line consisting of four metric feet.
An iambic pentameter poem of fourteen lines, divided between the octave and the sestet.
Italian/ Petrarchan Sonnet
1. A six-line stanza or unit of poetry.
2. The last six lines of an Italian sonnet.
A line consisting of five iambic feet.
Iambic Pentameter
A figure of comparison using "like" with nouns and as with clauses.
A group of words containing consonants that permit an easy and pleasant flow of spoken sound.
A line of five metrical feet.
A sonnet form in iambic pentameter composed of three quatrains and a couplet.
English/ Shakespearean Sonnet
A special kind of irony in which a character perceives his or her plight in a limited way while the audience and one or more of the other characters understand it entirely.
Dramatic Irony
A symbol recognized and shared as a result of a common social and cultural heritage.
Universal/ Archetypal Symbol
The first eight lines of an Italian sonnet, unified by topic, rhythm, and rhyme.
The meaning that words suggest beyond their bare dictionary definitions.
Unacknowledged references and quotations. Authors assume hat readers will recognize the original sources, and relate their meaning to the new context.
A reference that triggers the mind to fuse together memories of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, motion, and sensations of touch.
The techniques and modes of presentation that reveal or create attitudes.
Two successive rhyming lines.
1. The main or central idea of a work.
2. An essay, a short composition developing an interpretation or advancing an argument.
3. The main point or idea that a writer of an essay asserts and illustrates.

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