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English I Literature Terms

Page history last edited by mschadt 11 years, 5 months ago



Page history last edited by Don Pogreba 1 mo 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.
  • 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.
  • Climax: The decisive moment in a drama -- the turning point to which the rising action leads..
  • 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.
  • 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"
  • Exposition: The background information needed to understand the story. Includes the setting, protagonist, antagonist, basic conflict, and so forth. The exposition ends with the inciting incident, the single moment in the story's action without which there would be no story.
  • Falling Action: During the falling action, the protagonist either wins or loses to the antagonist. The falling action may also contain a moment of final suspense.
  • 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.
  • 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 that leads to a hero's downfall..
  • Hyperbole: A figure of speech in which an overstatement or exaggeration is used for deliberate effect.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Iambic Pentameter: 

    Iambic pentameter is meter that Shakespeare nearly always used when writing in verse. Most of his plays were written in iambic pentameter, except for lower-class characters who speak in prose. Iambic pentameter has ten syllables in each line, five pairs of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables. Ex: "If mu-/-sic be/ the food/ of love,/play on"  

    "Shall I / compare/ thee to/ a sum-/-er's day?" 
  • 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.
  • Resolution: The tragedy ends with a catastrophe in which the protagonist worse off than at the play's beginning. The comedy ends with a denoument (a conclusion) in which the protagonist is better off than in the play's beginning.
  • 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
    • Slant Rhyme: The words are similar but lack perfect correspondence. Example: found and kind, grime and game.
  • Rising Action: The protagonist faces additional conflicts and obstacles during the rising action.
  • Setting: The time. place, physical details, and circumstances of a situation or story. The setting of a story or play ncludes the background, atmosphere,  and environment in which the characters live and move.
  • 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.
  • 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.



Additional Resources

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English I and English II Literary Devices



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