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AP Amer. Lit. Terms

Adage a short but memorable saying which holds some important fact of experience that is considered true by many people, or that has gained some credibility through its long use. It often involves a planning failure such as "don't count your chickens before..."
Allegory story, play, or picture in which characters are used as symbols; fable
Alliteration use of the same consonant at the beginning of each stressed syllable in a line of verse
Allusion a reference to something literary, mythological, or historical that the author assumes the reader will recognize
Anachronism something located at a time when it could not have existed or occurred
Anaphora repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row. This is a deliberate form of repetition and helps make the writer's point more coherent. "I have a dream that someday...I have a dream...",
Anecdote short account of an incident (especially a biographical one)
Antithesis a statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced "Many are called, but few are chosen."
Aphorism A brief, cleverly worded statement that makes a wise observation about life.
Archetype a detail, image, or character type that occurs frequently in literature and myth and is thought to appeal in a universal way to the unconscious and to evoke a response. "Snakes= Evil, like Slytherin Unicorns= Good."
Assonance the repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words "on a proud round cloud in white high night"
Asyndeton lack of conjunctions between coordinate phrases, clauses or words
Avant-garde group of artists whose work is based on the newest ideas and methods; CF. vanguard
Ballad a type of poem that is meant to be sung and is both lyric and narrative in nature
Cacophony Harsh, jarring, discordant sound; dissonance
Cadence a recurrent rhythmical series
Caesura a break or pause (usually for sense) in the middle of a verse line
Canon a collection of books accepted as holy scripture especially the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired
Caricature a representation of a person that is exaggerated for comic effect
Carpe diem "Seize the day"; a Latin phrase implying that one must live for the present moment, for tomorrow may be too late.
Catharsis purging or cleansing of any passage of the body; purging and weakening of strong emotions as a result of experiencing a dramatic work of art
Chiasmus a statement consisting of two parallel parts in which the second part is structurally reversed "Anny walked in, and out rushed Chris."
Chorus A group of characters in Greek tragedy (and in later forms of drama), who comment on the action of a play without participation in it.
Cliché an idea or expression that has become stale due to overuse
Conceit an extended metaphor
Consonance the repetition of consonants (or consonant patterns) especially at the ends of words "all mammals named Sam are clammy"
Couplet a stanza consisting of two successive lines of verse
Denouement final outcome; final development of the plot of a play or other literary work; the end of a story when everything is explained
Diction a writer's or speaker's choice of words
Digression a message that departs from the main subject
Dimeter A line of poetry consisting of two metrical feet.
Eclipsis omission or suppression of parts of words or sentences
Elegy a mournful poem, esp. one lamenting the dead
Elison the ommission of an unstressed vowel or syllable to preserve the meter of a line of poetry. "o'er a cloud" "W'sup dawg"
Ellipsis a series of three dots, used when quoting to omit information or create a pause in thinking. Four dots can also be used at the end of sentence to finish off ominously. "I can't believe you Anny... You had the audacity to drink my Snapple when..."
Enjambment The running over of a sentence from one verse or couplet into another so that closely related words fall in different lines "I am not prone to weeping, as our sex Commonly are; the want of which vain dew Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have...
Epic a long narrative poem telling of a hero's deeds
Epigram a witty saying "Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine."
Epigraph The use of a quotation at the beginning of a work that hints at its theme.
Epilogue a short passage added at the end of a literary work. "the epilogue told what eventually happened to the main characters"
Epitaph an inscription on a tombstone or monument in memory of the person buried there
Epithet A term used to characterize a person or thing "rosy-fingered in rosy-fingered dawn or the Great in Alexander the Great."
Epitome a summary, condensed account; an instance that represents a larger reality
Eponymous referring to the name of a person, a mythical being, or a literary figure associated with something, or to a word incorporating the name of such a person "Trudeaumania, Jeffersonian economics, Jacksonian democracy, McCarthyism, Thatcherism..."
Euphony a succession of harmonious sounds used in poetry or prose; the opposite of cacophony
Exemplum A brief story used to make a point in an argument or to illustrate a moral truth.
Exposition The introductory material which gives the setting, creates the tone, presents the characters, and presents other facts necessary to understanding the story.
Fable a brief story that leads to a moral, often using animals as characters
Fabliau a medieval tale in eight-syllable verse. Humorous, often bawdy, it frequently satirizes women and the clergy. Adaptations of it appear in several of Geoffrey Chaucer's tales, including those of the Miller, the Reeve, the Friar, the Summoner...
Foot a group of 2 or 3 syllables forming the basic unit of poetic rhythm
Frame story a secondary story or stories embedded in the main story
Ghost-writer a writer who gives the credit of authorship to someone else
Greek tragedy Characters of high birth or status, experience a series of events that threaten position, suffer a tragic fall of own actions
Homeric epithet Recurring epithets, such as 'the rosy-fingered dawn or swift-footed Achilles'. Metric stop-gaps as well as mnemonic devices.
Hubris excessive pride or arrogance that results in the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy
Iamb a metrical foot in poetry that has an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, as in the word "protect"
Iambic trimeter a line of poetry with 3 iambic feet, each containing one syllable followed by one stressed syllable.
Idiom An expression that cannot be understood if taken literally; Figurative language "Get your head out of the clouds"
In medias res in or into the middle of a plot; into the middle of things. When a book starts in the middle of a chain of events.
Incantation a chant; the repetition of statements or phrases in a way reminiscent of a chant
Invocation any address to a deity, usually for help of some sort. The epic traditionally begins with an invocation to the Muse (a request for help in the telling of the tale).
Lament ..., a song or hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person
Lampoon to ridicule someone with satire
Limerick ..., a kind of humorous verse of five lines, in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines, which are shorter, form a rhymed couplet
Litany a prayer consisting of short appeals to God recited by the leader alternating with responses from the congregation; any repetitive chant; a long list
Litotes a type of understatement in which an idea is expressed by negating its opposite (describing a particularly horrific scene by saying, "It was not a pretty picture.")
Local colour The detail in a story that is specific to a geographic region or environment. Local colour develops the setting and atmosphere, increases the reader interest, and adds to authenticity.
Loose sentence a complex sentence in which the main clause comes first and the subordinate clause follows
Lyric poetry Personal, reflective poetry that reveals the speaker's thoughts and feelings about the subject
Malapropism the mistaken substitution of one word for another word that sounds similar "The doctor wrote a subscription."
Manifesto A public statement explaining the intentions, motives, or views of an individual or group
Maxim a common saying expressing a principle of conduct; adage "Haters gonna hate."
Metathesis reversal in the temporal order of two segments so that two segments that appear in a particular order in one form of a word occur in the reverse order in another form of the word "animal"->"aminal"
Meter the regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that can establish the rhythm of a poem
Metonymy symbolism; one thing is used as a substitute for another with which it is closely identified (the White House)
Mimesis the imitative representation of nature and human behavior in art and literature
Minstrel a singer or musician who sang or recited poems to music played on a harp or other instrument
Mock-epic a work in which something trivial is treated humerously because it is written in an elevated style of the epic
Muse (n.) one of the ancient Greek goddesses presiding over the arts; the imaginary source of inspiration for an artist or writer. (v.) To reflect deeply; to ponder
Mythopoeia The construction or appropriation of myths to the author's intended purpose
Narrative verse poetry that tells a story
Nouvelle a short novel or novelette which is a work of fiction of intermediate length between the short story and the novel
Novel a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.
Octameter a verse line having eight metrical feet
Oral tradition pass down from one generation to another by word of mouth
Organic form describes the form of a work of literature (usually a poem) that does not adhere to any set formal arrangement or structure
Oxymoron conjoining contradictory terms "deafening silence"
Paean (ancient Greece) a hymn of praise (especially one sung in ancient Greece to invoke or thank a deity)
Parable a short moral story (often with animal characters)
Paradox a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
Parody a composition that imitates somebody's style in a humorous way
Pastoral a literary work idealizing the rural life (especially the life of shepherds)
Periodic sentence a sentence that, by leaving the completion of its main clause to the end, produces an effect of suspense. "After suffering an abyss of rape that the Nazis had done to her, the Jew escaped."
Peripety sudden and unexpected change of circumstances, or turning point
Plot sequence of events in a literary work
Poetic justice the operation of justice in a play with fair distribution of rewards for good deeds and punishment for wrongdoing
Polemic an aggressive argument against a specific opinion
Polysyndeton using several conjunctions in close succession, especially where some might be omitted "he ran and jumped and laughed for joy"
Prologue an introduction to a play
Proverb a condensed but memorable saying embodying some important fact of experience that is taken as true by many people
Quatrain A stanza or group of four lines of poetry
Renaissance The great period of rebirth in art, literature, and learning in the 14th-16th centuries, which marked the transition into the modern periods of European history
Rhythm the arrangement of spoken words alternating stressed and unstressed elements
Satire form of literature in which irony, sarcasm, and ridicule are employed to attack human vice and folly
Scansion The process of marking lines of poetry to show the type of feet and the number of feet they contain
Scop old english term for poet, entertainer or historian(composers or storytellers of anglo-saxon time soe period)
Sketch a humorous or satirical drawing published in a newspaper or magazine
Socratic irony admission of your own ignorance and willingness to learn while exposing someone's inconsistencies by close questioning.
Soliloquy a (usually long) dramatic speech intended to give the illusion of unspoken reflections
Spenserian sonnet a sonnet consisting of three quatrains and a concluding couplet in iambic pentameter with the rhyme pattern: abab bcbd cdcd ee
Spoof a composition that imitates somebody's style in a humorous way
Stichomythia when single lines of verse are spoken by alternate speakers, usually in the form of a verbal fencing match
Stream of consciousness a literary genre that reveals a character's thoughts and feeling as they develop by means of a long soliloquy
Stress emphasis on one syllable as compared with another
Strophe the part of an ancient Greek chorual ode sung by the chorus when moving from right to left
Sutra a rule or aphorism in Sanskrit literature or a group of aphoristic doctrinal summaries prepared for memorization
Syllogism a three-part deductive argument in which a conclusion is based on a major premise and a minor premise "All people that have a Name that start with the latter "A" are stupid; "Anny" starts with an "A"; therefore, Anny is stupid."
Synaesthesia describing one kind of sensation in terms of another, thus mixing senses. "How sweet the sound."
Synecdoche symbolism; the part signifies the whole, or the whole the part "All hands on deck"
Syntax the grammatical arrangement of words in sentences; sentence structure
Tone the writer's or speaker's attitude toward the subject of a story, toward a character, or toward the audience (the readers).
Tragic flaw the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall
Turning point the third part of plot structure, the point at which the action stops rising and begins falling or reversing. Sometimes referred to as the climax of the story.
Vignette a decorative design or small illustration used on the title page of a book or at the beginning or end of a chapter.
Villanelle a short poem of fixed form, written in tercets, usually five in number, followed by a final quatrain, all being based on two rhymes.
Created by: markgro



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