This site is 100% ad supported. Please add an exception to adblock for this site.

Literary Terms Part 1


undefined, object
copy deck
language that tells information or tells what is happening. (who, what, where, when, why)
the author’s selection of a particular word because its connotation conveys the attitude of the speaker. Example: fat-plump, obese, rotund, full-figured
language that actively involves the reader’s senses. Imagery shows, it does not just tell. The kinds of imagery include: auditory, tactile, visual, olfactory, kinetic, and taste
Figurative language
language that is used to express more than the literal meaning of the words
figurative language; an implied comparison between two unlike things. Example: “My love is a red, red rose.”
a comparison between two unlike things indicated by the use of “like” or “as” example: her cheeks are like roses
the structure of a whole literary work, the pattern or sequence that unifies the events or ideas in the work. This includes plot structure, logical argument, association, chronological order, flashback, or stream of consciousness
two or more balancing statements with phrases, classes or paragraphs of similar length and grammatical structure
the voice through which the author of the story speaks. (pay particular attention to diction and syntax)
manner of expression; how a speaker or writer says what he says. Notice the difference in style of the opening paragraphs of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn:
in general terms, anything that stands for something else. Obvious examples are flags, which symbolize a nation; the cross is a symbol for Christianity; Uncle Sam is a symbol for the United States. In literature, a symbol is expected to have significance. Keats starts his ode with a real nightingale, but quickly it becomes a symbol, standing ofr a life of prue, unmixed joy; then before the end of the poem it becomes only a bird again
sentence structure. It is the organization of words in a sentence to form phrases or clauses that make up the complete sentences. Examples include: length or brevity of sentences, the category (declarative, interrogative, exclamatory) whether they are simple or complex (have dependent clauses)
the attitude that the speaker (persona) takes towards his or her subject. Examples: Tolkien’s condescending tone towards his audience in The Hobbit
a symbolic representation in art of a deeply felt pattern of human experience. Archetypes exist in our minds as symbolic ways of organizing our experiences. Examples: The Hero’s Journey, The Great Mother, The Tricster, The Shaman, The Seasons
references to a person, place event, literary work, work of art with which the reader is presumed to be familiar. (In Confederacy of Dunces, the reference to Kurtz from Heart of Darkness)
associated or implied meanings that cluster around the literal meaning of the word
the dictionary definition of a word
is a secondary character who contrasts with a major character; in Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras, whose fathers have been killed, are foils for Hamlet
a statement that is greatly exaggerated for the purposes of implying emphasis or humor. Example: “I could eat a horse.”
the effect of implying a meaning quite different from the apparent or surface meaning; the discrepancy between what is said and what is meant, what is said and what is done, what is expected or intended and what happens, what is meant or said and what others understand
verbal irony
to say one thing but it means the opposite
dramatic irony
(stems from Greek tragedy) occurs when audience and author share a contextual knowledge of which a character is ignorant, giving his/her words or actions meaning he/she cannot appreciate, e.g. when Ulysses wish him good luck and success. The reader, unlike his enemies, know’s that Ulysses is in disguise
the opposite of hyperbole, e.g. If you were to hold your hand over a flame over half an hour and then say your hand was feeling “A bit warm”.
a statement that contradicts itself, e.g. “Much madness is divinest sense” Emily Dickinson
cosmic irony
misfortune is a result of fate, chance, or God
irony of fate
misfortune is a result of fate, chance, or God
socratic irony
is named after Socrates’ teaching method, whereby he assumes ignorance and openness to opposing points of view which turn out to be (he shows them to be) foolish.
point of view
the persepctive, the mind, or emotions of the persona through which the story is felt
first person POV
the use of “I” in the narration of a story, personal point of view.
second person
(the narrator addresses the reader as you); there is no second person narrative
Third Person, Limited Narration
“He” or “She” - removed
Third Person, Omniscient Narration
persona sees all
verse or prose that makes fun of a popular institution, custom, or belief. Generally, a satire is humorous; its tone can be gentle, scornful, or bitter
the effect of truthfulness in a work of fiction
a hint of what is to come in the story. This is often used to keep the audience in a state of expectancy.
1. a statement which has two or more possible meanings
2. a statement whose meaning is unclear.
Depending on the circumstances, ambiguity can be negative, leading to confusion or even disaster (the ambiguous wording of a general’s note led to the deadly charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War). On the other hand, writers often use it to achieve special effects, for instance, to reflect the complexity of an issue or to indicate the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of determining the truth
The title of the country song “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away” is deliberately ambiguous; at a religious level, it means that committing a sin keeps us out of heaven, but at a physical level, it means that committing a sin (sex) will bring heaven (pleasure).
the way an author presents characters. In direct presentation a character is described by the author, the narrator or the other characters. In indirect presentation, a character’s traits are revealed by action and speech
main character, who is not necessarily a hero or a heroine. The antagonist is the opponent; the antagonist may be society, nature, a person, or an aspect of the protagonist. The antihero, a recent type, lacks or seems to lack heroic traits
1. rule or practice based upon general consent and upheld by society at large
2. an arbitrary rule or practice recognized as valid in any particular art or discipline, such as literature or art (NED). For example, when we read a comic book, we accept that a light bulb appearing above the head of a comic book character means the character suddenly got an idea
literary convention
a practice or device that is accepted as a necessary, useful or given feature of a genre, e.g., the proscenium stage (the “picture-frame” stage of most theaters), a soliloquy, the epithet or boast in the epic
stock character
character types of a genre, e.g., the heroine disguised as a man in Elizabethan drama, the confidant, the hardboiled detective, the tightlipped sheriff, the girl next door, the evil hunters in a Tarzan movie, ethnic or racial stereotypes, the cruel stepmother and Prince Charming in fairy tales
Stock situation
frequently recurring sequence of action in a genre, e.g. rags-to-riches, boy-meets-girl, the eternal triangle, the innocent proves himself or herself
Stock response
a habitual or automatic response based on the reader’s beliefs or feelings, rather than on the work itself. A moralistic person might be shocked by any sexual scene and condemn a book or movie as dirty; a sentimentalist is automatically moved by any love story, regardless of the quality of the writing or action; someone requiring excitement may enjoy any violent story or movie, regardless of how mindless, unmotivated or brutal the violence is
prose narrative based on imagination, usually the novel or the short story
1. the abstract concept explored in a literary work
2. frequently recurring ideas, such as enjoy-life while-you-can
3. repetition of a meaningful element in a work, such as references to sight, vision, and blindness in Oedipus Rex. Sometimes the theme is also called the motif. Themes in Hamlet include the nature of filial duty and the dilemma of the idealist in a non-ideal situation. A theme in Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” is the difficulty of correlating the ideal and the real

Deck Info