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English 12 Literary Terms


undefined, object
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Objects and characters in the story represent a second level of meaning besides the surface story
the repetition of sounds in nearby words, usually involving the first consonant sounds.
the reference to a famous figure, place or event from history, literature, mythology or the bible, which is
assumed to be familiar to the reader
the presence of multiple meanings in a word or phrase. Often deliberately used in poetry to create greater depth of meaning
something placed in an inappropriate period of time
showing a resemblance or comparison between two different things
the force opposing the main character in a story (could be a person, thing, nature etc.)
a protagonist who is just a regular, ordinary person and who encounters one problem after another as best she/he can without any superior qualities or abilities
a short statement of truth, usually clever and concise
a figure of speech consisting of words addressing an inanimate object, abstract idea, or deceased individual as though that object, idea, or person were alive.
in drama, lines spoken by a character in a lower voice, or directly to the audience. An aside is meant to be heard only by the audience, and is supposedly not heard by the other characters on stage (soliloquy)
repetition of internal vowel sounds. Has the effect of slowing the pace of a poem.
a person's account of his or her own life
a long narrative poem which tells a story. Meant to be sung and usually have strong rhythm and rhyme. They were one of the earlier forms of literature and a means of passing the stories on.
a detailed account of a person's life written by another person.
where humorous effects are achieved by associating grotesque or horrifying situations with humorous ones
black humour
the use of harsh, discordant sounds for poetic effect. [see euphony].
a natural pause in a line of poetry
a person in a story (an animal or thing may also be thought of as a character)
the familiar, stereotyped character/ one whose continuing actions conform to what the author has already revealed about him/her/ he/she is affected by the events in a st
character: stock/ consistent/ dynamic/ round/ flat/ static
an over-used, tired expression
the point of greatest intensity, interest, or suspense in a story. It usually marks the turning point in the protagonist's fortunes and the major crisis of the story.
a funny part inserted into a serious or tragic work, especially a play, to relieve the tension
comic relief
a poem written in a special shape that usually suggests the poem's subject
concrete poem
the struggle between two opposing forces or characters. It may be external or internal. It may take the form of: person vs nature/society/self/person/supernatural
the feelings or meanings suggested by a word Ex: "That bastard croaked" vs "He passed away peacefully."
the repetition of the same consonant sound within words close together. ex: I offered Ophelia an off-white afghan.
two consecutive lines of poetry that connect together, usually by rhyme
the final unraveling of the plot following the major climax, in which mysteries are cleared up, misunderstandings are set straight, etc.
the use of an improbable happening to rescue a hero or untangle a plot.
deus ex machina
the speech of a particular region or area
spoken words exchanged between two or more characters in a story
A choice between two equally undeisrable courses of action eg; miss watching your favorite t.v. program to study for a test or fail the test.
A poem in which the speaker addresses his/her words to someone who is present but silent eg; "Dover Beach"
Dramatic Monologue
A long narrative poem telling about the deeds of a great hero and reflecting the values of the society from which it originated. eg; Beowulf: "Paradise Lost":The Illiad and Odyssey
A short addition or conclusion at the end of a literary work.
Short, witty poem or statement. eg: I don't mind eels, except as meals - by Ogden Nash
"I can't resist everything except temptation" - by Oscar Wilde
A serious or humourous poem on a gravestone. eg. "Here lies dear old Uncle Bill. We loved him then and always will.
Work written purely for entertainment to help us pass the time pleasurably. eg. most magazines, comic books, and many novels.
Escape Literature
A short composition that deals witha subject in a limited way and expresses a particular point of view. eg. George Onwell's "Shooting an Elephant."
The substitution of a mild word or phrase for another felt to be too blunt or painful. eg. "passed away" for "died."
The pleasant, musical quality produced by agreeable sounds in a line of poetry [see cacophony]. eg. "And the words hung hushed in their long white dream. By the ghostly glimmering, ice-blue stream."
A brief story that is told to present a moral or a practical lesson. eg. Aesop's story about the hare and the turtle
The special use of language where a word or expression is not meant to be taken in the literary sense. Often to show comparison between unlike things. Using figurative rather than literal language. eg. similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, etc.
Figure of Speech
An understood meaning of a phrase. eg. "Let's hit the road," is understood figuratively to mean "let's get going."
Figurative Meaning
A scene in a piece of literature that interrupts the action to show an event that happened earlier.
A character whose behaviour, attitudes, or opinions contrast with those of the protagonist. The foil helps us to better understand the main character. eg. Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Jack as a foil for Ralph in Lord of the Flies.
An indication of something that may happen in the later story. eg. In Lord of the Flies, Piggy tells Ralph not to worry because adults will come to rescue them.
Poetry which has no regular patterns of rhme, meter or line length. eg. Thin as death/the dark brown weasel slides like smoke through Knight's hard silence...
Free Verse
A particular kind or category of literature. eg. The murder mystery or the teen romance; or, more generally, poetry, short story, essay, novel, play, etc.
An exaggeration not intended to decieve. eg. "If I don't do any homework my mother will have a cow." or "He must have weighed a ton."
Choosing words to create a strong picture or image in the reader's mind. Although most often a visual picture, it can also relate to any of the other four senses (taste, touch, hear, smell). Usually in the form of a simile or metaphor. eg. a blanket of s
to suggest something without saying it directly
Written to broaden or sharpen our awareness of life (it may entertain us well, of course). eg. William goldings' Lord of the Flies.
Interpretive Literature
Essentially a difference or a contrast
a difference between what is said and what is meant eg: "Oh goody, it's time to do my math hw!" or "Do not weep maiden for war is kind (Stephen Craine)...etc
Verbal Irony
A difference between what happens and what would be expected to happen. eg. student studies for days for an english test, but sleeps in the morning of the test, shows up late for class and fails the test. (With all his studying, the expectation is that h
Situational Irony
The difference between what the audience knows and what a character knows to be true. eg. man is eager to go home to see his wife, but the audience knows she is involved there with another man. etc.
Dramatic Irony
To place together side by side. eg. a writer may place an image of beauty next to a horrible or grotesque event to achieve a powerful contrast.
Not figurative: restricted to the exact stated meaning. eg. "Let's hit the road," literally means to strike the pavement.
Literal Meaning
A poem, usually a short one, that expresses a speaker's personal thoughts or feelings. Most poems fall in this category. eg. The road not taken by Robert Frost
The comparison of two unlike things w/o using "like" or "as." eg. "My brother is a dead duck."
A comparison that is used throughout a poem or story to continue to show added similarities between two things. eg. "Dad is a bear!" Now try to write where you continue to compose your dad to a bear in several different ways.
Metaphor (extended)
Where the comparison changes partway through the example. eg. "My hockey stick was singing a beautiful tune until the third period, and then it went off the road into the ditch."
Metaphor (Mixed)
Substituting the name for something w/another word or idea which is closely related. The replacement is often a symbol. eg. "The pen is mightier than the sword. Pen=words/sword=violence. Or by referring to the author when you mean his or her writing
The dominant attitude or tone which runs through an entire piece of literature. eg: In Poe's "The Raven", there is a negative dark mood throughout.
A lesson contained in or implied by a fable, poem etc. Often it teaches us something about how to live life more successfully. eg. In the fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, the moral might be that if you play all the time while others are working, you mi
The conscious or unconscious need, drive, or incentive that causes a character to behave in a certain way. eg. Lady Macbeth is motivated to talk Macbeth into killing King Duncan so she may become queen.
Usually a story about a god or gods, that is intended to explain something unknowable. eg. The greek myth about Zeus.
A poem that tells a story (ballads and epics are types of narrative poetry). eg. Alfred, Lord Tennysons', "The Charge of the Light Brigade."
Narrative Poem
The person who tells the story. It may be a major or a minor character in the story, or someone who is not in the story at all. eg. Pony boy from "The Outsiders." There is Limited P.o.v and ominiscient.
A word whose sound suggests it's meaning. eg. Ouch, buzz, snarl, groan.
A phrase consisting of contradictory terms. eg. glorious pain, safe sex, jumbo shrimp, tough love, a definite possibility.
A statement that at first appears contradictory, but which, on closer examination, proves to contain truth. eg. The silence was deafening/"I must be cruel only to be kind"-Hamlet/"Parting is such sweet sorrow"-Romeo
To restate the meaning of a passage.
A poem making fun of a serious poem while copying it's style. eg. most of Mad magazine.
The quality of a work of literature that arouses our feelings of pity, sorrow, or compassionfor a character. eg. In Macbeth, the scene where lady Macduff and her son are murdered by Macbeth's men.
Giving non-human things human characteristics. eg. The wind whispered through the night.
A few words not forming a complete sentence. eg. In the yard... or several little boys...
The events as they happen in the story
The freedom for a poet to break rules of punctuation, spelling, language for truth in the interests of forceful writing.
Poetic License
The vantage point from which a story is seen or told
a). the protagonist tells his/her own story directly to the reader (I...)
b). Someone outside the story tells it, referring to the main characters as "he" or "she".
Point of view: First person/Third person/Omniscient/Limited p.o.v.
An opening section of a longer work, usually intended to introduce some significant background information to the audience. eg. see Romeo & Juliet.
Writing in normal sentences and paragraphs. eg. most novels, stories, articles etc.
The main character of a story. eg. Pony boy in "The Outsiders/ Brutus in Julius Caeser
"Playing" with the sound or meaning of words for humourous effect. Humor can be found in: a). A word for which two meanings can be suggested. eg. This coffee will perk me up/ In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio, knowing he is about to die says "
The placing of words with similar end sounds reasonably close together to emphasize the similarity of their sounds. It usually occurs at the end of lines (called "end rhymes") but may occur within a line of poetry (called "internal rhyme&q
The pattern of rhyme within a stanza as poem, usually shown by marking each similar sound with the same letter of the alphabet. eg steeple-a/ town-b/ people-a/ down-b
Rhyme Scheme
A pattern of stressed and unstressed sounds in a poem. Like the beat in music.
A scornful taunting manner of speech that uses verbal irony to achieve it's purpose (which is to hurt). eg. "Nice haircut, Charlie."
Sarcasm, irony, wit used to ridicule or expose the silliness of human behaviour (usually with the hope of improving human conduct). eg. The movie "Dr. Strangelove"/Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift and A Modest Proposal
The marking of stressed (/) and unstressed (u)syllables within a poem to try to determine a pattern.
The time and place in which the events of a story occur. eg. The Outsiders take place in the South-Western part of the United States in Modern Times.
The comparison fo two unlike object using "like" or "as" or "than" (although one could also use such comparative terms as "than", "resembles," etc). eg. He runs like a gazelle.
In drama, a speech delivered by a character alone on the stage. eg. Macbeth's "Tomorrow, and tomorrow..." speech.
A lyrical poem consisting of 14 lines in iambic pentameter. There are two different kinds: a. the English (or Shakespearian) sonnet has three four-lined stanzas (abab, cdcd, efef). b. The Italian sonnet has two parts, an eight line section(abba abba) and
Sonnet: English/Italian
A grouping of several lines of a poem (like a paragraph in prose) usually separated from the next stanza by a space.
A conventional mental image, especially a biased image of the characteristics of an ethnic or social group. eg. Teenagers are lazy and use illegal drugs/Black Americans are good athletes.
The presentation of the natural flow of thoughts and feelings as they pass throught the mind of a character; w/o apparent logic or order. eg. James Joyce's Ulysses.
Stream of Consciousness
Emphasis on a particular syllable, as in o-pen, where the stress falls on the first syllable or t-day, where the stress is on the second syllable. eg. re-duce/gar-bage/ vid-e-o/van-cou-ver/hos-pi-tal.
A manner of expression in writing or speaking, which when analyzed, often distinguishes one writer's work from another. eg. Robert Services' poetic style is much different from Edgar Allen Poes.'
When just a part is used to represent the whole object or idea. eg. The comment "nice wheels" refers to the whole vehicle, not just the tires.
A form of writing which expresses the subconscious rather than the conscious mind. It often appears more like dreams than reality. eg. "Teh Roller Rink" by Andreas Schroeder/ "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," John Lennon
The quality of a story that makes the reader uncertain about the outcome. eg. All detective and mystery stories; most novels, stories, and plays have same degree of suspense.
something chosen to stand for ro represent something else. eg. The dove can represent peace, black can represent death, evil, etc.
The main idea of a story, often expressed as an insight about life in general or about human behaviour. It may be expressed directly, but often is implied. Not that not all literary works have a theme -- the purpose of a ghost story, for example, may be
The attitude a writer takes toward his or her subject. It is created through the choice of words and detail. eg. serious and admiring, envious and angry. etc.
Presenting something as less important than it really is. eg. Upon winning a million dollar lottery, you say, "that's nice." eg. In Romeo and Juliet, as Mercutio is dying, he says "a scratch, a scratch...."
Another name for poetry (also sometimes used to mean a stanza in a poem).
A brilliance a nd quickness of understanding combined w/a cleverness of expression. eg. Mercution in Romeo and Juliet.
Not physical. Ideas and emotions are abstract, as are love, justice and honour. Both abstract and concrete things are real.
A brief story of an interesting incident
Action that takes place before the story line opens.
Antecedent Action
A contrast or opposition of ideas, usually by the balancing of phrases (Juxtapose).
A lack of interest
Distorted representation to produce a ridiculous effect.
In order of time.
The measurement of time or the ordering of events.
Informal, suitable for everyday speech but not for formal writing
Solid, physical not theoretical or abstract. Trees, copper, and kangaroos are all concrete things. Both concrete and abstract things are equally real.
A conclusion reached by logic or reasoning, or by examining all the available information. eg. "Sherlock deducted that...."
The explicit or direct meaning or set of meanings of a word or expression. These are the meanings listed in dictionaries.
distinct difference between two things that should not be different, or that should correspond.
Harsh sound or discordance. Dissonance can be emotional or intellectual. ex: Minor chord/2 ideas clashing in a poem.
A literary genre. As a rule, fantasy contains events, characters, or settings that would not be possible or that would not be found in real life.
Words that seem to imitate the sounds to which they refer. Buzz, and whisper are examples. Also called onomatopoeia
Imitative Harmony
Special vocabulary of a particular group or activity. Sometimes used for confusing or unintelligible language.
A poem set in idyllic nature. Usually involves shepherds & their sheep.
Intended to convey instruction and information
The giving of reasons or support; for example, giving an argument or reason that shows that an action or belief is reasonable or true.
An alteration in appearance or character.
A literary form: an oral or written composition in which only one person speaks. A kind of soliloquy: a speech or narrative presented by one person.
A recurring theme, situation, incident, idea, image or character-type that is found in literature.
A poem expressing lofty emotion. Odes often celebrate an event, or are addressed to nature or to some admired person, place or thing.
A short, often simple story that teaches or explains a lesson, often a moral or religious lesson.
The arrangement of similarly constructed clauses, verses or sentences, suggesting some correspondence between them.
A word, phrase, or passage (sometimes within parentheses) that explains or midifies a thought.
The story is told by one of the characters in the story ("I"). The narrator is in the story and knows only what they themselves think, feel, do, see and hear.
Point of View: First Person
Something that serves as an example or justification for subsequent situations.
The art of speaking or writing.
A question for which a reply is not required or even wanted. The question is asked for effect often it is a way of making a statement: "Is there anyone who does not believe in freedom? really means "Everyone believes in freedom."
Rhetorical Question
Contemptuous laughter or derision (contempt and mockery). Ridicule may be an element of satire.
A form of logical argument that derives a conclusion from two premises. For example "All men must die, Socrates was a man. Therefore Socrates will die.
A statement that is made as the first step of an argument or a demonstration.
blank verse
unrhymed iambic pentameter (5 beats per line, emphasis on 2nd syllable). Found n much of Shakespeare's work.

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