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Literary terms

English classes

TermDefinition
Allegory: a story has a second meaning beneath the obvious one. For example, George Orwell’s book Animal Farm is an allegory about the Russian revolution.
Alliteration the repetition of initial sounds in neighboring words. See Assonance and Consonance. In cliches: sweet smell of success, a dime a dozen, bigger and better, jump for joy Wordsworth: And sings a solitary song That whistles in the wind.
Allusion a brief reference to a person, event, or place, real or not, or to a work of art. Casual reference to a famous historical or literary figure or event. An allusion may be drawn from history, geography, literature, or religion.
Analogy the comparison of two things which have the same relationship. Hunting is to a lioness as working is for a businessman
Antagonist the force that opposes the main character in a story. This doesn't always have to be a person! It could be nature, bad weather, or an animal!
Anecdote a short, often amusing narrative, a quick, funny story.
Apostrophe addressing the absent as if present, or “talking” to a thing as if it were living. For example, “O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being”
Assonance the repetition of vowel sounds but not consonant sounds as in consonance. Example: fleet feet sweep by sleeping geeks. The "eeee" sound is repeated. That's assonance
Cacophony This is all about how language SOUNDS. It's harsh, discordant sounds when you speak the line. Opposite of euphony. Example: "finger of birth-strangled babe". This just SOUNDS really awkward and harsh to the ear.
Cliché an overused expression such as “hold your horses”, “off and running”. You do not want to use clichés in your writing in English 30-1 AT ALL!
Colloquial (Colloquialism) very informal speech usually found in a particular geographical area, such as “street talk”
Connotation emotional associations created by words. You will often be asked what does a word “connote”. What emotions does the word bring with it. For example both “woman” and “chick” refer to adult females, but “chick” has a slightly more disrespectful connotatio
Consonance the repetition of consonant sounds, but not vowels, as in assonance. Example: lady lounges lazily , dark deep dread crept in
Context You will often be asked to read a line “in context”. That means look at the line you are supposed to analyze but ALSO read what comes before it and what comes after it = context - what is AROUND it, what is happening surrounding that line?
Dramatic Irony irony that occurs when a character knows less about his/her situation than the audience does. For example the audience knows that Juliet is not dead but Romeo does not.
Euphony is all about how a line SOUNDS when read outloud. It is soothing pleasant sounds. Opposite of cacophony. Example: O star (the fairest one in sight). Pleasant to the ear, simple.
Foil is a character that contrasts a second character. Their OPPOSITE qualities emphasize the other. For example where one character seems small and helpless, it will emphasize with other character's power and dominance.
Foreshadow is the use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in literature
Hyperbole is exaggeration or overstatement. Opposite of Understatement Example: I'm so hungry I could eat a horse. He's as big as a house.
Imagery Imagery is language that evokes one or all of the five senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching. Imagery is used a great deal in POETRY.
Irony 1. verbal -when an author says one thing and means something else. 2. dramatic - an audience perceives something that a character in the literature does not know. 3. irony of situation - a difference between the expected result and actual results.
Juxtaposed or Juxtaposition Placing words side by side, on purpose for effect. You will often be asked “why is this idea juxtaposed with this idea”. Remember the root word is "position".
Metaphor comparison of two unlike things using the verb "to be" and not using like or as as in a simile. "Thou art sunshine" Example: He is a pig. Thou art sunshine.
Motif *A recurrent thematic element in an artistic or literary work. *A dominant theme or central idea ie. "washing away blood" is a motif in MacBeth
Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it represents. Used a lot in poetry Example: splash, wow, gush, kerplunk
Oxymoron Oxymoron is putting two contradictory/opposite meaning words together. Examples: hot ice, cold fire, wise fool, sad joy, eloquent silence,jumbo shrimp!
Paradox Paradox reveals a kind of truth which at first seems contradictory. Two opposing ideas. Example: Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage. Similar to Oxymoron but is a "bigger" idea, not just two opposing words.
Personification is giving human qualities to animals or objects. Example: a smiling moon, a jovial sun
Objective point of view (story telling) the writer tells what happens without stating more than can be inferred from the story's action and dialogue. The narrator never discloses anything about what the characters think or feel, remaining a detached observer
Third Person point of view (story telling) Here the narrator does not participate in the action of the story as one of the characters, but lets us know exactly how the characters feel. We learn about the characters through this outside voice.
First Person point of view (story telling) the narrator does participate in the action of the story. You will hear "I".
Omniscient Point of View (story telling) A narrator who knows everything about all the characters is all knowing. A narrator whose knowledge is limited to one character, either major or minor, has a limited omniscient point of view.
Limited Omniscient Point of View (story telling) A narrator whose knowledge is limited to one character, either major or minor, has a limited omniscient point of view. There is no use of of "I" like first person even though we are limited to the thoughts of one character.
Protagonist the main character in a literary work determined by WHO HAS THE MAIN CONFLICT or PROBLEM?
Rhetorical Question a question that does not require an answer since it is obvious. For example: “If winter comes can spring be far behind?”
satire a literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack.
Setting is determining Time and Place in fiction.
Simile Simile is the comparison of two unlike things using like or as. Related to metaphor Example: He eats like a pig. Vines like golden prisons.
Soliloquy a speech made to the audience when an actor is alone on stage. . think of root word as "solo"
Stanza a unified group of lines in poetry.
Symbol is using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning.the bird of night (owl is a symbol of death)
Synecdoche is when one uses a part to represent the whole. Example: lend me your ears (give me your attention)
Theme the general idea or insight about life that a writer wishes to express. A simple theme can often be stated in a single sentence. Example: "After reading (this book, poem, essay), I think the author wants me to understand......."
Thesis a position taken and supported by a writer. Every essay has a thesis statement
Tone is the attitude a writer takes towards a subject or character: serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, objective. Similar to Mood "The tone set by the mayor, made the city a very tense and angry place to live and work."
Understatement This device is used to understate the obvious. On a day of extreme weather, like it is really really hot, one might say, "Is it warm enough for you?" or on a very very cold day one might say, "Balmy out isn't it?"
Verse is a single line of poetry.
Created by: madsenclass