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Literary Terms AmLit

Literary Terms - Woldendorp American Literature

TermDefinition
aesthetics "Philosophical investigation into the nature of beauty and the perception of beauty, especially in the arts; the theory of art or artistic taste." (CB)
allegory A story or visual image with a second distinct meaning partially hidden behind its literal or visible meaning. In written narrative, allegory involves a continuous parallel between two (or more) levels of meaning in a story
allusion An indirect or passing reference to some event, person, place, or artistic work, the nature and relevance of which is not explained by the writer but relies on the reader’s familiarity with what is thus mentioned.
ambiguity "Openness to different interpretations, or an instance in which some use of language may be understood in diverse ways." Defended by modern literary critics as "a source of poetic richness rather than a fault of imprecision." (CB)
canon A body of works considered authentic (as in the body of works actually written by a particular author) or considered by a particular culture or subculture to be central to its cultural identity.
connotation "The emotional implications and associations that words may carry, as distinguished from their denotative meanings." (HH)
allusion ""An established practice—whether in technique, style, structure, or subject matter—commonly adopted in literary works by customary and implicit agreement or precedent rather than by natural necessity." (CB)
diction Literary word choice.
didactic A work "designed to impart information, advice, or some doctrine of morality or philosophy." (CB)
discourse Denotes language in actual use within its social and ideological contexts and in institutionalized representations of the world called discursive practices. Literary works may contain any number of discourses. Literary language is a kind of discourse.
figure of speech "An expression that departs from the accepted literal sense or from the normal order of words, or in which an emphasis is produced by patterns of sound." (CB)
form Form can refer to a genre , to an established pattern of poetic devices, to the structure or unifying principle of design in a given work. Critics refer to its structural design and pattern, or sometimes to its style and manner distinct from its content.
genre Type or class of composition. A recognizable and established category of written work employing common conventions to prevent audiences from mistaking it with another kind. Distinguished from mode in greater specificity as to form & convention.
ideology Comprehensive world view of formal & informal thought, philosophy & cultural presuppositions associated with specific positions within political, social & economic hierarchies. Ideological context of reader & author affects meanings assigned to the work.
irony A perception of inconsistency, usually but not always humorous, in which an apparently straightforward statement or event is undermined by its context so as to give it a very different significance.
metaphor A figure of speech in which one thing, idea or action is referred to by a word or expression normally denoting another thing, idea or action, to suggest some common quality shared by the two. All metaphors are based on the implicit formula "X is like Y."
mode An unspecific critical term usually identifying a broad but identifiable literary method, mood, or manner that is not tied exclusively to a particular form or genre. Some examples are the satiric mode, the ironic, the comic, the pastoral, and the didactic
metonymy "A figure of speech that replaces the name of one thing with the name of something else closely associated with it" (CB). The figure is based upon logical connections other than resemblance. For example, you might use "sail" to refer to "ship," as in "I s
mimesis "The Greek word for imitation. . . . A literary work that is understood to be reproducing an external reality or any aspect of it is described as mimetic." (CB)
motif Recurrent image, word, phrase, represented object or action that tends to unify the literary work or that may be elaborated into a more general theme. Or a situation, incident, idea, image or character type that is found in many different literary works.
novel Usually an extended realistic fictional prose narrative most often describing "a recognizable secular social world often in a skeptical and prosaic manner. . . ." (CB)
paradox A statement or expression so surprisingly self-contradictory as to provoke us into seeking another context in which it would be true. Paradoxical language is valued in literature as expressing a mode of understanding that challenges our habits of thought.
prose "In its broadest sense the term is applied to all forms of written or spoken expression not having a regular rhythmic pattern." (HH) "[A]lthough it will have some form of rhythm and some devices of repetition and balance, these are not governed by a regul
sign "A basic element of communication, either linguistic. . . . or non-linguistic . . . .; or anything that can be construed as having a meaning. . . . [E]very sign has two inseparable aspects, the signifier, which is the materially perceptible component such
subjectivity "The quality originating and existing in the mind of a perceiving subject and not necessarily corresponding to any object outside that mind." (HH)
symbol ". . . .[S]omething that is itself and also stands for something else. . . . In a literary sense, a symbol combines a literal and sensuous quality with an abstract or suggestive aspect." (HH)
syntax "The way in which words and clauses are ordered and connected so as to form sentences; or the set of grammatical rules governing such word order." (CB)
theme "A salient abstract idea that emerges from a literary work’s treatment of its subject-matter; or a topic occurring in a number of literary works." (CB)
topos (plural, topoi) Term for a type of convention specific to a given genre. From the Greek term for "place." Refers to a convention that appears at a particular point in the structure of works in a given genre. Absence has profound significance on interpretation of the work
trope A term often used to denote figures of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning. Distinguished from figures of speech based upon word order or sound pattern.
homograph a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not
enjambed The running over of a sentence or thought into the next couplet or line without a pause at the end of the line; a run-on line
denotation The basic dictionary meaning of a word, as opposed to its connotative meaning.
Created by: omgalexalex