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literary terms

12th grade English AP literary terms


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the use of sentimentality, a gushing emotion, or sensational action or plot twists to provoke audience or reader response.
from the Greek word for "feeling", the quality in a work of literature that evoked high emotion, most commonly sorrow, pity, or compassion.
a form of understatement in which a statement is affirmed by negating its opposite.-EX.- He is not unfriendly.
also known as praeteritio, the technique of drawing attention to something by claiming not to mention it.-EX.-"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."
the comparison of one thing to another that does not use the terms "like" or "as".-EX.- "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage."
Romantic Irony
an author's persistent reminding of hir/her presence in the work. By drawing attention to the artifice of the work, the author ensures that the reader or audience will maintain critcal development and not simply accept the writing at face value. EX: Laurence Stern employs this technique in "Tristram Shandy" by discussing the writing of the novel in the novel itself/
a form of metonymy in which a part of an entity is used to represent the whole.-EX-"my wheels" for "my car"
a breaking off of speech, usually because of rising emotion.-EX.-"touch me one more time, and I swear...".
intentional understatement; meiosis is a form of hyperbole and often implores litotes to ironic effect.-EX.- In Romeo and Juliet, when Mercutio is mortally wounded, he says it is only "a scratch".
the use of words that sound like the thing they refer to.-EX.-"pop""hiss"
an objective or phrase that describes a prominent feature of a person or thing.-EX.-"Richard the Lionheart""Shoeless Joe Jackson"
Poetic diction
the use of specific types of words, phrases, or literary structures that are not common in contemporary speech or prose
a statement that seems absurd or even contradictory on its face but often expresses a deeper truth.-EX.-
a description or characterization that exaggerates or distorts a character's prominent features usually to elict mockery
an informal expression or slang, especially in the context of formal writing.-EX.-"All the other lads there/ Were itching to have a bash."
an implicit reference within a work to a historical, literary, biblical, or mythological person, place, or event. Authors use allusion to add symbolic weight because it makes subtle or implicit connections with other works.-EX.- In "Moby Dick", Captain Ahab's name alludes to the wicked and adulterous biblical King Ahab.
a direct address to an absent or dead person, or to an object, quality, or idea.-EX.- Walt Whitman's poem "O Captain, My Captain" was written upon the death of Abraham Lincoln.
the clash of discordant or harsh sounds within a sentence or phrase. Cacophony is a familiar feature of tongue twisters but can also be used to poetic effect.-EX.-"anfractious rocks"
language that brings to mind sense impressions especially via figures of speech.
a moment of recognition or discovery, primarily used in reference to Greek Tragedy
a form of wordplay that displays cleverness or ingenuity with language; it often, but not always, displays humor.
Mixed Metaphor
a combination of metaphors that produce a confused or contradictory image.-EX.-"The company's collapse left mountains of debt in its wake."
theme, motif, symbol, or stock character that holds a familiar and fixed place in a cultures consciousness EX: In western culture, the Fisher King, Jesus Christ, and Persephone are archetypes of the resurrected god to herald the coming of Spring
an elaborate and roundabout manner of speech that uses more words than necessary.-EX.-"I appear to be entirely without financial resources" instead of "im broke"
Situational Irony
a technique in which one understanding of a situation stands in sharp contrast to another, usually more prevalent, understanding of the same situation.
Interior Monologue
a record of a character's thoughts, unmediated by a narrator, interior monologue sometimes takes the form of stream of consciousness, but is often more structured and logical than stream of consciousness.
Rhetorical Question
a question thats asked not to elicit a response, but to make an impact or call attention to something.-EX.-"Isn't she great?"
Poetic license
the liberty that authors sometimes take with ordinary rules of syntax and grammar, employing unusual vocabulary, metrical devices, or figures of speech, or committing factual errors in order to strengthen a passage of writing EX: E.E. Cummings uses poetic in violating rules of capitalization
the repetition of similar sounds (usually consonants) at the beginning of words.-EX.- "sweet, scented stuff".
an excessive overstatement or conscious exaggeration of fact.-EX.-"I've told you about it a million times already."
the use of decorous language to express vulgar or unpleasant ideas, events, or actions.-EX.-"passed away" instead or "died" or "ethnic cleansing" instead of "genocide"
a category of figures of speech that extend the literal meanings of words by inviting a comparison to other words, things or ideas.-EX-metaphor, metonymy, and simile
a brief saying, embodying a moral, a concise statement of principle or precept given in pointed words.-EX.-"Life is short, art is long, opportunity is fleeting, experimenting dangerous, reasoning difficult"; that which does not destroy us makes us stronger
an expression that has been used so frequently it has lost its expressive power.-EX.-"Turn over a new leaf."
Deus Ex Machina
Greek for "god from a machine",the phrase originally referred to a technique in ancient tragedy in which a mechanical god was lowered onto the stage to intervene and solve the play's problems or bring the play to a satisfactory conclusion, now the term describes more generally "a sudden or improbable plot twist that brings about the play's resolution."
the association of 2 contradictory terms.-EX.-"same difference" and "wise full"
a wide ranging technique of detachment that draws awareness to the discrepancy between words and their meanings, between expectation and fulfillment, or, most generally, between what is and what seems to be.
the use of human characteristics to describe animals, things or ideas.-EX.-"Stormy, husky, brawling/ City of the big shoulders."
the use of one word in a sentence to modify two other words in the sentence, typically in different ways.-EX-"Mr.Pickwick took his hat and his leave."
a play on words that exploits the similarity between two words with distinctly different meanings.-EX.-the title "The Importance of Being Ernest"
a comparison of two things through the use of "like" or "as".-EX.-"My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose."
the use of similar grammatical structures or word order in two sentences or phrases to suggest a comparison or contrast between them.-Ex.-"Before a joy proposed, behind a dream."
In Media Res
Latin for "in the middle of things", the term refers to the technique of starting a narrative in the middle of the action.-EX.-John Milton's "Paradise Lost" concerns the war among the angel in heaven, however, it opens after the fallen angels already are in Hell.
Pathetic Fallacy
the attribution of human feelings or motivation to a non-human object.-EX.-"Weeping cloud"
Cosmic Irony
the perception of fate or the universe as malicious or indifferent to human suffering, which creates a painful contrast between our purposeful activity and its ultimate meaninglessness.
a prayer for inspiration to a god or muse, usually placed at the beginning of an epic.-EX.-"Sing o' goddess the anger of Achilles"
a sudden, powerful, and often spiritual or life changing realization that a character reaches in an otherwise ordinary or everyday moment.
and elaborate parallel between two seemingly dissimilar objects or ideas. It is similar to an extended metaphor.-EX.- John Donne's poem "The Flea"
Stream of Consciousness
the narrator conveys a character's thoughts, impressions, and perceptions exactly as they occur, often in a disjointed fashion and without the logic and grammar of typical speech and writing.
a concrete object that represents something abstract; unlike a symbol, usually fixed
Verbal Irony
the use of a statement that, by its context, implies the opposite. Sarcasm is a particularly blunt form of verbal irony. EX: In Julius Caesar, Anthony repeats, "Brutus is an honorable man," while clearly implying that Brutus is dishonorable
a simple form of verbal irony in which it's obvious from context and tone that the speaker means the opposite of what he/she says. Sarcasm usually, but not always, expresses scorn-EX.-"That was graceful" when somebody trips and falls.
the substitution of one term for another that generally is associated with it.-EX.- "Suits" instead of "Businessmen"
a common expression that has acquired a meaning that differs from its literal meaning.-EX.- It's raining cats and dogs.
the repetition of similar vowel sounds in a sequence of nearby words.-EX.- "All day the winds breathes low with mellower tone."
a sudden and unexpected drop from the lofty to the trivial or excessively sentimental. It's sometimes used intentionally to create humor.-Ex.-"Ye Gods! Annihilate but Space and Time/ And make two lovers happy."
Dramatic Irony
a technique in which the author lets the audience or reader in on a character's situation while the character himself remains in the dark. EX: In "Oedipus Rex" Oedipus vows to discover his father's murderer, not knowing, as the audience does, that he himself is the murderer.
two phrases in which the syntax is the same but the placement of words is reversed.-EX.-"To be beloved is all I need/And whom I love, I love indeed."Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure."
an author's deliberate use of hints or suggestions to give a preview of events or themes that do not develop until later in the narrative.
the use of one kind of sensory experience to describe another.-EX.-"Heard melodies are sweet."
similarities between elements in a narrative (such as two characters or two plot lines) EX: In "King Lear", both Lear and Gloucester suffer at the hands of their own children because of their blindness to whether their children are goodhearted or evil.

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