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AP Literature Terms

Important Terms to Know

allegory a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one
alliteration repetition of the same consonant at the beginning of several words in close proximity
allusion passing reference or indirect mention of a previously written text or historical event
analogy a comparison in which an idea or a thing is compared to another thing that is quite different from it. It aims at explaining that idea or thing by comparing it to something that is familiar. Metaphors and similes are tools used to draw an analogy.
anaphora the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect
aphorism a statement of truth or opinion expressed in a concise and witty manner
apostrophe a rhetorical device used by playwrights and authors whenever their characters address a character that isn’t present in the scene
assonance two or more words, close to one another repeat the same vowel sound, but start with different consonant sounds
blank verse unrhymed poetry, usually in iambic pentameter
caesura a break or pause in the middle of a verse line
connotation an idea that is implied or suggested by a word or phrase beyond its literal meaning
consonance repetitive sounds produced by consonants within a sentence or phrase. This repetition often takes place in quick succession
couplet a stanza consisting of two successive lines of verse
denotation the most direct or specific meaning of a word or expression
dialect language used by the people of a specific area, class, district, or any other group of people; involves the spelling, sounds, grammar and pronunciation used by a particular group of people and it distinguishes them from other people around them
diction as style of speaking or writing, determined by the choice of words by a speaker or a writer.
elegy a mournful poem; a lament for the dead
epistrophe a stylistic device that can be defined as the repetition of phrases or words at the ends of the clauses or sentences. It is also called “epiphora
euphemism polite, indirect expressions that replace words and phrases considered harsh and impolite, or which suggest something unpleasant
foil a person or thing that serves to contrast with another
foot a group of syllables forming the basic unit of poetic rhythm
free verse poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular meter
hyperbole an unreal exaggeration to emphasize the real situation
imagery writing that represents object, action, and idea which appeal our senses
irony incongruity between what is expected and what occurs
jargon the use of specific phrases and words in a particular situation, profession, or trade. These specialized terms are used to convey hidden meanings accepted and understood in that field.
juxtaposition a literary technique in which two or more ideas, places, characters, and their actions are placed side by side in a narrative or a poem, for the purpose of developing comparisons and contrasts.
lyric of or relating to poetry that expresses emotion
malapropism use of an incorrect word in place of a similar-sounding word, which results in a nonsensical and humorous expression.
metaphor a figure of speech that makes an implicit, implied, or hidden comparison between two things that are unrelated, but which share some common characteristics.
meter a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in verse
metonymy substituting the name of a feature for the name of the thing
ode a lyric poem with complex stanza forms
onomatopoeia using words that imitate the sound they denote
paradox a statement that contradicts itself
parallelism similarity by virtue of corresponding
panegyric a formal expression of praise
pastoral a literary work idealizing the rural life
personification attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas
anthropomorphism a technique in which a writer ascribes human traits, ambitions, emotions, or entire behaviors to animals, non-human beings, natural phenomena, or objects.
pathetic fallacy a literary device that attributes human qualities and emotions to inanimate objects of nature
polyptoton Repetition of words of the same root, with different endings.
point of view a mental position from which things are perceived
pun a humorous play on words
refrain part of a song or poem that recurs at regular intervals
rhyme correspondence in the final sounds of two or more lines
rhythm alternation of stressed and unstressed elements in speech
satire witty language used to convey insults or scorn
shift move from one setting or context to another
simile a figure of speech expressing a resemblance between things using like or as to make the comparison
soliloquy a dramatic speech giving the illusion of unspoken reflectiony
sonnet a verse form of 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme
stanza a fixed number of lines of verse forming a unit of a poem
symbol something visible that represents something invisible
synecdoche using part of something to refer to the whole thing
theme a unifying idea that is a recurrent element in literary work
enjambment moving over from one line to another without a terminating punctuation mark
cacophony loud confusing disagreeable sounds
litotes a figure of speech that employs an understatement by using double negatives or, in other words, a positive statement expressed by negating its opposite expressions.
didactic instructive, especially excessively
Created by: DebIrwin



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