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 English II Literary Devices

Page history last edited by mschadt 11 years, 9 months ago
  • Alliteration: Repetition of the same beginning sound several words in a sequence
  • Allusion: An indirect or passing reference to some event, person, place, or artistic work, the nature of which is not explained by the writer but relies on the reader's familiarity with what is thus mentioned.
  • Antagonist: The character, force, or collection of forces in fiction or drama that opposes the protagonist and gives rise to the conflict in the story.
  • Apostrophe: A figure of speech where the speaker speaks directly to something nonhuman. This term gives the character the opportunity to think aloud.
  • Archetype: A term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader.
  • Aside: A device in which a character in a drama makes a short speech which is heard by the audience but not by the other characters in the play.
  • Blank Verse- Unrhymed iambic pentameter. Blank verse is the English verse form closest to the natural rhythms of English speech and therefore is the most common pattern found in traditional English narrative and dramatic poetry from Shakespeare to the early twentieth century. Shakespeare’s plays use blank verse extensively.
  • Catharsis: Meaning "purgation," this term describes the release of the emotions of pity and fear by the audience at the end of a tragedy.
  • Climax: The decisive moment in a drama -- the turning point to which the rising action leads.
  • Comedy: A literary work which is amusing and ends happily.
  • Comic Relief: The inclusion of humorous scenes or characters in a serious drama.Writers use it to ease the building emotional intensity.
  • Couplet: A pair of rhyming lines, usually of the same length and meter. It generally expresses a single idea.
  • Enjambment: "to straddle or bestride" -- a linguistic unit moves into or "straddles" the next line before its meaning is completed.
  • Epic Simile: An elaborate comparison of unlike objects using like or as
  • Epithet: In literature a word of phrase preceding or following a name which serves to describe the character. "Horse-taming Hector"
  • Figurative Language: Writing or speech not meant to be interpreted literally. It is often used to create vivid impressions by setting up comparisons between dissimilar things.
  • Free Verse- Also called open form poetry, free verse refers to poems characterized by their nonconformity to established patterns of meter, rhyme, and stanza. Free verse uses elements such as speech patterns, grammar, emphasis, and breath pauses to decide line breaks, and usually does not rhyme. 
  • Foreshadowing: The use in a literary work of clues that suggest events that have yet to occur. Use of this technique helps to create suspense.
  • Genre: A recognizable and established category of written work employing such common conventions as will prevent readers or audiences from mistaking it [with] another kind.
  • Hubris: A common theme in Greek tragedies and mythology -- excessive pride or arrogance.
  • Hyperbole: A figure of speech in which an overstatement or exaggeration is used for deliberate effect.
  • Idiom: A specialized vocabulary used by a group of people, jargon.
  • Imagery: The collection of images within a literary work used to evoke atmosphere, mood, tension.
  • In media res: In or into the middle of a sequence of events.
  • Irony: A device that depends on the existence of at least two separate and contrasting levels of meaning embedded in one message. Verbal irony occurs when someone says one thing and means another. It is similar to sacasm. Situational irony occurs when a character or reader expects one thing to happen and something entirely different occurs. Dramatic irony refers to the contrast between what the reader or the audience and what the character knows.
  • Malapropism: An incorrect usage of a word, usually with comic effect.
  • Metaphor: A type of figurative language in which, for the purposes of exploring a common, shared quality, a statement is made that says that one thing is something else, but literally, it is not.
  • Meter: In English poetry -- rhythms of stressed and unstressed syllables-- iambic, trochaic, spondaic, anapestic, dactylic --
    • Iamb:  A metrical foot consisting of an unaccented syllable (noted by "x") and an accented or stressed one (noted by "/").  Example: verbose or that time of year
    • Trochee:  A metrical foot consisting of an accented syllable (noted by "/") and an unaccented  (noted by "x").  Example: mournful numbers
  • Monologue: Thoughts of a single person, directed outward.
  • Onomatopoeia- A term referring to the use of a word that resembles the sound it denotes. Buzz, rattle, bang, and sizzle all reflect onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia can also consist of more than one word; writers sometimes create lines or whole passages in which the sound of the words helps to convey their meanings.
  • Oxymoron: A phrase consisting of words that seem the opposite in meaning, such as "sweet sorrow".
  • Personification: A figure of speech where animals, ideas, or inorganic objects are given human characteristics.
  • Point of view: The way the events of a story are conveyed to a reader -- the vantage point from which the narrative is passed from author to reader.
  • Protagonist: The central character in a literary work.
  • Pun: A play on words based on different meanings of words that sound alike.
  • Rhyme:  The repetition of the same or similar sounds at the end of two or more words most often at the ends of lines.
    • End Rhyme:  A rhyme of the last word or the last syllable of two or more lines of verse
    • Internal Rhyme:  Rhyme that occurs within a line or passage, whether randomly or in some kind of pattern
    • Approximate Rhyme: Rhymes that are close but not exact: lap/shape, glorious/nefarious
    • Slant Rhyme: The words are similar but lack perfect correspondence. Example: found and kind, grime and game.
  • Scansion: The analysis of a poem's meter - usually done by marking stressed and unstressed syllables in each line and then, based on the pattern of the stresses, dividing the line into feet.
  • Simile: A figure of speech in which like or as is used to make a comparison between two basically unlike ideas. "Claire is as flighty as a sparrow"
  • Soliloquy: a dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character talks to himself or herself or reveals his/her thoughts without addressing a listener.
  • Speaker-The voice used by an author to tell a story or speak a poem.  The speaker is often a created identity, and should not automatically be equated with the author's self.  (See also narrator, persona, point of view)
  • Stanza: A group of lines within a poem (functions like a paragraph in prose).
  • Symbol: Roughly defined as something that means more than what it is. Something that stands in the place of another thing. A symbol can be as simple as the color red representing “stop” or as complex and culturally loaded as an eagle.
  • Theme: The abstract concept explored in a literary work, or frequently recurring ideas, or repetition of a meaningful element in a work.
  • Tone: The writer's attitude toward the material and/or the reader.
  • Tragedy: A serious play in which the chief figures, by some peculiarity of character, pass through a series of misfortunes leading to a final, devastating catastrophe
  • Tragic flaw: The character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall or error; also means any disproportion in the character's makeup that leads to downfall; also known as hamartia



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