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Literary Terms

These are the terms Honors English 10 students should learn

TermDefinitionExample of available
allegory a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. The entire novel The Alchemist could be considered allegory because even though the protagonist experiences a certain quest, the quest itself and the elements within it represent bigger morals and ideas than simply a shepherd seeking his treasure.
alliteration repetition of a consonant sound Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
allusion a reference to another work of literature, history, archetype, or work In Fahrenheit 451, Montag (which is an allusion to the day "Monday" in German and to its roots--Moon-en-tag--Day of the Moon) attempts to read the Bible and is unable to understand the quote "Consider the lilies of the field…" which is also an allusion.
anaphora in rhetoric, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times…(A Tale of Two Cities)
anecdote a short story meant to illustrate or serve as evidence to prove a point Antony's speech to the plebeians includes anecdotes of things Caesar did when he was a general with the intent of proving that Caesar was not "ambitious."
antagonist a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary. After Brutus and the conspirators killed Julius Caesar, by Act IV Octavius becomes Brutus' antagonist because he must avenge the death of his uncle.
antithesis a figure of speech in which an opposition or contrast of ideas is expressed by parallelism of words that are the opposites of, or strongly contrasted with, each other “hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins”
apostrophe when a character in a literary work speaks to an object, an idea, or someone who doesn't exist as if it is a living person Is this a dagger before me?
archetype a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology. the epic hero, the tragic hero, flood stories, stories in which it is perilous to look back
assonance repetition of a vowel sound Down town we looked around…
caricature an imitation or comically exaggerated representation of someone or something Mad magazine is notoriously good at creating caricatures in their comics.
climax the most intense, exciting, or important point of something. The conflict is usually taken head-on at this point. If you don't know this, you are an idiot.
connotation the implied, connected, or symbolic meaning of something as opposed to its denotation or dictionary definition of something In the beginning of The Alchemist, the sycamore tree that is growing in the sacristy in the abandoned church connotes its importance and is an allusion to the Tree of Life in the book of Revelations.
consonance a specific form of alliteration in which the repetition of consonant sounds takes place near each other from word to word and can include sounds at the beginnings, middles, and ends of the words. Pitter patter
denotation literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests blue is an actual wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum (denotation) whereas it has symbolic meaning for the sea, water, or nobility.
dichotomy a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different. Iago in Othello is dichotomous in his interactions with characters as are the sisters Regan and Goneril when they are in the process of getting Lear's inheritance versus when they actually own it later.
diction the choice and use of words and phrases in speech or writing plenty of examples
direct characterization What a character actually says or does Cassius is perfidious because of his participation in the murder of Julius Caesar.
epiphany a sudden realization where a character achieves realization, awareness or a feeling of knowledge after which events are seen through the prism of this new light in the story In Act V of Julius Caesar, Brutus realizes he will not win the day but that he will have greater glory on this dying day. In Macbeth, Macbeth himself has an epiphany that he is so overstepped in blood that he cannot turn back.
exposition a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory. plenty of examples
falling action the events after the climax but before the final resolution of a story plenty of examples
foreshadowing events or images and other elements which are indicative of future events within the story the lion in the market place, the earth quakes, the meteor shower are all used to foreshadow future events in Julius Caesar
flashback a literary technique in which the author goes back in time to events prior than the present to tell the story many examples
hyperbole an overstatement that is so large that it is not believeable most "yo mama" jokes adhere to this
imagery words that appeal to any of the 5 senses many examples
in media res translated as "in the middle of the action," when a story begins in the middle of the events that are unfolding The Illiad begins in the middle of the action taking place.
indirect characterization what characters say about another character Cassius is also described by Julius Caesar as having "a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much and such men are dangerous."
irony the discrepancy between two things: (verbal) what is said versus what is meant; (situationa) what is expected versus what actually happens; (dramatic) what the reader or watcher of the story knows versus what the characters know. many examples
juxtaposition the strategic placement of elements near each other for artistic effect usually for contrasting effect Sheldon on Big Bang Theory is juxtaposed with just about every other character because he is so different. This is done for comedic effect.
metaphor a comparison of two unlike things without using "like" or "as" plenty of examples
1st person narrative point of view in which the narrator uses pronouns such as "I," "we," or "me" in which the narrator is a participant in the story itself plenty of examples
2nd person this is the command form of language in which the narrator tells the reader what to do. Most instructional manuals follow this format i.e. "first you open the box and then…" only in instructions
3rd person narrative point of view in which the narrator uses pronouns such as "they," "it," "he," or "she." plenty of examples
3rd person limited A specific narrative point of view in which the narrator uses pronouns such as "they," "it," "he," or "she" while the narrator can only explain details from their perspective and not the thoughts of participants in the story. plenty of examples
3rd person omniscient A specific narrative point of view in which the narrator uses pronouns such as "they," "it," "he," or "she" while the narrator can explain the thoughts of others and things that only an omniscient persona would be able to explain. plenty of examples
metonymy the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing
monologue one character alone speaking directly to the audience or reader stand-up comedy, soliloquy
mood the emotional setting of the story plenty of examples
motif a distinctive feature or dominant idea in an artistic or literary composition the imagery of fire and burning in the story "The Monkey's Paw."
narrator the person who narrates something, especially a character who recounts the events of a novel or narrative poem you should know this…
overstatement action of expressing or stating something too strongly; exaggeration plenty of examples
paradox statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory Sometimes you have to lose to win.
parallel structure the repetition of a chosen syntax form to express ideas. Sometimes done with phrasing or entire sentences. plenty of examples
persona the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others plenty of examples
personification to give human characteristics to nonhuman ideas and objects plenty of examples
plot the events within a story usually made up of setting, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution plenty of examples
protagonist the main character of a story plenty of examples
retrospect retro=backward spect=look at or see retrospect means to reflect backward in time or sequence plenty of examples
rising action when the conflict becomes more complicated plenty of examples
sentence structure describes the patterns of subjects, verbs, phrases within sentences plenty of examples
setting the time and place where a story takes place plenty of examples
simile a comparison of two unlike things using "like" or "as" plenty of examples
soliloquy sol= alone loq=words. When a character is on stage by themselves revealing their thoughts or intentions directly to the audience plenty of examples
speaker the persona delivering the message or speaking plenty of examples
stereotype a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. plenty of examples
style the way in which an author uses words to convey meaning, tell stories, or achieve rhetorical intentions usually influenced by the genre or design plenty of examples
suspense state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. plenty of examples
symbolism use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities common symbols include the use of white for purity, blue for nobility, roses to represent love, etc.
synechdoche a part of something represents the whole or it may use a whole to represent a part. referring to the executives as "the suits."
syntax the study of sentence structures for rhetorical effect and patterns. parallel structure, anaphora
theme the underlying moral, lesson, or statement about life that a story teaches plenty of examples
tone the attitude of the speaker in how something is stated or written caustic, vitriolic, comedic, sincere, authentic, patronizing, didactic
voice the unique style of a particular author in a given story. This can include elements of tone, diction, and syntactical structures among other things. plenty style examples
Created by: t9bailey



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