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CLEP Literature

Literary terms to know for the CLEP Analyzing & Interpreting Literature exam

Act– plays are broken down into smaller units of action. Sometimes broken down further into scenes. Is similar to a chapter in a book.
Antagonist— the character or force with which the protagonist conflicts.
Aside– words spoken by one character in a play, either directly to the audience or to another character, that the other characters supposedly do not hear.
Audience– the group of readers to whom a piece of literature is directed. It might be a specific age group or sex or might share similar interests (e.g. soccer or skateboarding).
Author’s Purpose– the reason the author has written a piece of literature. The writer may try to inform, persuade, entertain, or express an opinion. The writer’s primary goal influences how the writer presents the information.
Catharsis– a Greek term first used by Aristotle to describe an emotional cleansing or an overwhelming sense of relief.
Character– an individual in a story or play.
Characterization– the process by which the writer reveals a character's personality to the reader.
Cliché– a phrase or expression that has been repeated so often it has lost its significance.
Comic Relief– a humorous moment in a serious drama that temporarily relieves the mounting tension.
Conflict— a struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces, or emotions. Without it, most plots would never go anywhere. It spurs the action of most fiction and nonfiction.
Connotation– the emotion or feeling a word creates.
Denotation– the literal meaning (or dictionary definition) of a word.
Dialect– the way people speak in various parts of the country or around the world. It involves pronunciation, word choice, and sentence structure, and is used in literature to help develop character and setting.
Dialogue– a conversation between two or more characters in a literary work. It is set off by quotation marks, and a new paragraph begins each time a different character speaks.
Diction– a writer’s choice of words and sentence structure; may be formal or informal, literal or figurative.
Fiction– a narrative (story) generated by the writer’s imagination.
Figurative Language– creative, non-literal language that creates powerful images in the reader’s mind; includes the use of figures of speech like metaphor, simile, and personification.
Flashback— the action of the story is interrupted in order to return to an event or conversation which took place before the current action of the story.
Folklore– the traditional beliefs and customs of a group of people that have been passed down orally.
Foreshadowing– the use of clues to hint at what is going to happen later in the plot. Often used to arouse the reader's curiosity and to create suspense.
Imagery— words and phrases that vividly recreate a sound, sight, smell, touch, or taste for the reader by appealing to the senses.
Irony– the difference between what is expected and what actually happens.
Situational Irony– the difference between what the character or the reader expects and what actually happens.
Verbal Irony– the difference between what a character says and what he means.
Dramatic Irony— the difference between what a character expects and what the reader knows will happen.
Legend– a story passed down over generations that is believed to be based on real events and real people (even though magic and supernatural events are often incorporated into the story).
Metaphor– a figure of speech in which a comparison is made between two things without using "like" or "as".
Mood– the feeling or atmosphere that a writer creates for the reader. It is an emotional response created in the reader.
Motif–` a recurring pattern found in a work or works of literature; the pattern is usually representative of something else.
Myth– a story passed down over the generations that was once believed to be true. These stories usually involve superhuman characters and actions (gods, goddesses) and often explain the unexplainable. The most originated with the Greeks and Romans.
Narrator– the person who “tells” the story.
Narrative– any type of writing, either fiction or nonfiction, that is primarily concerned with relating an event or a series of events.
Nonfiction– is prose writing about real people, places, and events.
Oral Tradition– before the advent of education for the masses, most people did not learn how to read or write. In order to preserve their traditions, people passed their traditions (usually in the form of songs or stories) by word of mouth from generation to generation.
Parable– a short story that teaches a moral or a religious lesson.
Personification– a figure of speech in which an inanimate object, animal, or idea is given human qualities or characteristics.
Plot– the series of events that make up a story or drama. It is the form or structure of a story.
Exposition— the characters and setting are introduced and the plot begins to unfold.It generally occurs at the beginning of a story.
Rising Action— as the conflict or conflicts develop and the characters attempt to resolve those conflicts, suspense builds.
Climax— this is the point when the action reaches a turning point and interest and intensity reach their peak. It usually involves an important decision, discovery, or event which influences the final outcome of the story.
Falling Action— the point after the climax where the action begins to drop off and the events of the plot become clear or are explained in some way, leading toward the resolution.
Resolution (also called denouement)— the loose ends are tied up. Does not necessarily indicate a “happy ending.”
Point of View– the vantage point from which the writer tells the story.
1st Person– the narrator is a character in the story and tells the reader his/her story using the pronoun "I." The narrator can comment only on what he/she sees and hears, and cannot comment on other characters' thoughts and feelings.
3rd Person Limited– the narrator is outside of the story and tells the story from the perspective of only one character. As a result, the narrator can report only what that one character sees and hears.
3rd Person Omniscient– the narrator is outside of the story and is all-knowing or Godlike because he/she knows everything that occurs and everything that each character thinks and feels. This does not mean that the narrator shares everything with the reader.
Protagonist– the main character in fiction or drama whose conflict starts the plot in motion.
Setting– the time and place of a story or play. This is very important in establishing the mood of a story. For example, a romantic story is not likely to take place in a haunted house.
Simile– a figure of speech in which two things are compared using “like” or “as.”
Soliloquy– a speech delivered while only one character is on stage; it reveals a character’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
Stereotype– specific characteristics are applied to an entire group of people and are used to “classify” those people as part of a “group.”
Structure– the organizational form of a literary work.
Style– refers to how a piece of literature is written rather than to what is actually said; involves the use of literary techniques, word choice, and sentence structure, and sets one writer apart from another.
Suspense– a tension created as the reader becomes involved in a story and when the author leaves the reader in doubt about what is coming next.
Symbol— a person, place, thing or event that has meaning in itself and also stands for something more than itself.
Symbolism— the use of symbols in literature to convey meaning.
Theme– the central idea or insight of a work of literature. This is the idea the writer wishes to convey about the subject. Most are implied rather than stated directly.
Tone– the writer’s attitude toward his/her subject. Usually reflects the feelings of the writer.
Created by: pinetreeacademy
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