English Final Literary Terms

Act

A major section of a play. (blank) are divided into varying numbers of shorter scenes. From ancient times to the nineteenth century plays were generally constructed of five acts, but modern works typically consist of one, two, or three acts.

Allegory

A narrative technique in which characters representing things or abstract ideas are used to convey a message or teach a lesson. (blank) is typically used to teach moral, ethical, or religious lessons but is sometimes used for satiric or political purposes

Alliteration

A poetic device where the first consonant sounds or any vowel sounds in words or syllables are repeated.

Amalgamation (Amalgam)

when used to refer to a fictional character or place, refers to one that was created by combining, or is perceived to be a combination, of several other previously existing characters or locations.

Antagonist

The major character in a narrative or drama who works against the hero or protagonist.

Anti-hero

A central character in a work of literature who lacks traditional heroic qualities such as courage, physical prowess, and fortitude. (blank) typically distrust conventional values and are unable to commit themselves to any ideals. They generally feel help

Aporism

A terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Apostrophe

A statement, question, or request addressed to an inanimate object or concept or to a nonexistent or absent person. Requests for inspiration from the muses in poetry are examples of (blank), as is Marc Antony's address to Caesar's corpse in William Shakes

Archetype

A recurrent image, symbol, character or even situation that is an instinctual expression of man's nature and experiences that are universal in nature.. The word "archetype" was coined by Carl Jung, who theorized that humans have a collective unconscious,

Aside

A device in which a character in a drama makes a short speech which is heard by the audience but not by other characters in the play.

Assonance

in poetry, the repetition of the sound of a vowel or diphthong in nonrhyming stressed syllables near enough to each other for the echo to be discernible (e.g., penitence, reticence ).

Blank Verse

Loosely, any unrhymed poetry, but more generally, unrhymed iambic pentameter verse(composed of lines of five two-syllable feet with the first syllable accented, the second unaccented). (blank) has been used by poets since the Renaissance for its flexibili

Character

Broadly speaking, a person in a literary work. The actions of (blank) are what constitute the plot of a story, novel, or poem. Flat (blanks) are two-dimensional in that they are relatively uncomplicated. By contrast, round (blanks) are complex. Static (bl

Characterization

(blank) is the act of creating and describing characters in literature. (blank) includes both descriptions of a character's physical attributes as well as the character's personality. The way that characters act, think, and speak also adds to their (blank

Climax

The turning point in a narrative, the moment when the conflict is at its most intense.

Comedy

One of two major types of drama, the other being tragedy. Its aim is to amuse, and it typically ends happily. In a restricted sense the term (blank) refers only to dramatic presentations, but in general usage it is commonly applied to nondramatic works as

Conflict

The (blank) in a work of fiction is the issue to be resolved in the story. It usually occurs between two characters, the protagonist and the antagonist, or between the protagonist and society or the protagonist and himself or herself.

Consonance

(Also known as Half Rhyme or Slant Rhyme.) (blank) occurs in Poetry when words appearing at the ends of two or more verses have similar final consonant sounds but have final vowel sounds that differ, as with "stuff" and "off.

Convention

Any widely accepted literary device, style, or form. A soliloquy, in which a character reveals to the audience his or her private thoughts, is an example of a dramatic (blank).

Couplet

Two lines of Poetry with the same rhyme and Meter, often expressing a complete and self-contained thought. The following couplet is from Alexander Pope's "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady": 'Tis Use alone that sanctifies Expense, / And Splendour

Denoument

A French word meaning "the unknotting." In literary criticism, it denotes the resolution of conflict in fiction or drama. The (blank) follows the climax and provides an outcome to the primary plot situation as well as an explanation of secondary plot comp

Deus ex Machina

Literally "god in the machine, deus ex machina is a literary device dating back to ancient Greek theater in which divine intervention is employed to get the protagonist out of a sticky situation or untangle an ugly plotline.

Dialogue

In its widest sense, (blank) is simply conversation between people in a literary work; in its most restricted sense, it refers specifically to the speech of characters in a drama.

Dissonance

A combination of harsh or jarring sounds, especially in Poetry. Although such combinations may be accidental, poets sometimes intentionally make them to achieve particular effects. (blank) is also sometimes used to refer to close but not identical rhymes.

Double Entendre

A corruption of a French phrase meaning "double meaning." The term is used to indicate a word or phrase that is deliberately ambiguous, especially when one of the meanings is risqu� or improper. An example of a (blankblank) is the Elizabethan usage of the

Drama

In its widest sense, a drama is any work designed to be presented by actors on a stage. Similarly, "(blank)" denotes a broad literary genre that includes a variety of forms, from pageant and spectacle to tragedy and Comedy, as well as countless types and

Dramatic Irony

Occurs when the audience of a play or the reader of a work of literature knows something that a character in the work itself does not know. The irony is in the contrast between the intended meaning of the statements or actions of a character and the addit

Dynamic Character

A character that undergoes an important change in the course of the story.

Elegy

A lyric poem that laments the death of a person or the eventual death of all people. In a conventional (blank), set in a classical world, the poet and subject are spoken of as shepherds. In modern criticism, the word elegy is often used to refer to a poem

Epic

A long narrative poem about the adventures of a hero of great historic or legendary importance. The setting is vast and the action is often given cosmic significance through the intervention of supernatural forces such as gods, angels, or demons. Epics ar

Epithet

A word or phrase, often disparaging or abusive that expresses a character trait of someone or something.

Fable

A prose or Verse narrative intended to convey a moral. Animals or inanimate objects with human characteristics often serve as characters in fables. A famous fable is Aesop's "The Tortoise and the Hare.

Fairy Tales

Short narratives featuring mythical beings such as fairies, elves, and sprites. These tales originally belonged to the folklore of a particular nation or region, such as those collected in Germany by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Fiction

Any story that is the product of imagination rather than a documentation of fact. Characters and events in such narratives may be based in real life but their ultimate form and configuration is a creation of the author.

Figurative Language

A technique in writing in which the author temporarily interrupts the order, construction, or meaning of the writing for a particular effect. This interruption takes the form of one or more figures of speech such as hyperbole, irony, or simile. (blankblan

Flashback

A device used in literature to present action that occurred before the beginning of the story. (blanks) are often introduced as the dreams or recollections of one or more characters.
(blank) techniques are often used in films, where they are typically set

Flat Character

A (blank) is the opposite of a round character. This literary personality is notable for one kind of personality trait or characteristic.

Foil

a character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of another character with the objective to highlight the traits of the other character.

Folktale

A story originating in oral tradition. (blanks) fall into a variety of categories, including legends, ghost stories, fairy tales, Fables, and anecdotes based on historical figures and events. Examples of folktales include American tales about the characte

Foot

The smallest unit of rhythm in a line of Poetry. In English-language poetry, a (blank) is typically one accented syllable combined with one or two unaccented syllables. There are many different types of feet. When the accent is on the second syllable of a

Foreshadowing

A device used in literature to create expectation or to set up an explanation of later developments.

Form

The pattern or construction of a work which identifies its genre and distinguishes it from other genres. Examples of (blanks) include the different genres, such as the lyric form or the short story form, and various patterns for Poetry, such as the Verse

Free Verse

(Also known as Vers libre.) Poetry that lacks regular metrical and rhyme patterns but that tries to capture the Cadences of everyday speech. The form allows a poet to exploit a variety of rhythmical effects within a single poem.

Genre

A category of literary work. In critical theory, genre may refer to both the content of a given work � tragedy, Comedy, pastoral � and to its form, such as Poetry, novel, or drama.
This term also refers to types of popular literature, as in the genres of

Haiku

(Also known as Hokku.) The shortest form of Japanese poetry, constructed in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables respectively. The message of a (blank) poem usually centers on some aspect of spirituality and provokes an emotional response in the

Hero/Heroine

The principal sympathetic character (male or female) in a literary work. (blanks) and (blankettes) typically exhibit admirable traits: idealism, courage, and integrity, for example.

Heroic Couplet

A rhyming couplet written in iambic pentameter (a Verse with five iambic feet).
The following lines by Alexander Pope are an example: "Truth guards the Poet, sanctifies the line,/ And makes Immortal, Verse as mean as mine.

Hyperbole

In literary criticism, deliberate exaggeration used to achieve an effect.
In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth (blankizes) when she says, "All the perfumes of Arabia could not sweeten this little hand.

Idiom

a phrase or expression that means something different from what the words actually say (for example, using the phrase "over his head" instead of "He doesn't understand").

Imagery

The array of images in a literary work. William Butler Yeats's "The Second Coming" offers a powerful image of encroaching anarchy:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart....

In medias res

Literally meaning "in the middle of things" in Latin

Internal Rhyme

rhyme that occurs within a single line of Verse. An example is in the opening line of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven": "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary." Here, "dreary" and "weary" make an (blank) rhyme.

Irony

In literary criticism, the effect of language in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated. Types of (blank) include: verbal (blank): occurs when the speaker means something totally different than what he or she is saying and often time

Lyric Poetry

A poem expressing the subjective feelings and personal emotions of the poet. Such poetry is melodic, since it was originally accompanied by a lyre in recitals. Most Western poetry in the twentieth century may be classified as lyrical.

Measure

The Foot, Verse, or time sequence used in a literary work, especially a poem. (Blank) is often used somewhat incorrectly as a synonym for Meter.

Metaphor

A figure of speech that expresses an idea through the image of another object. (blanks) suggest the essence of the first object by identifying it with certain qualities of the second object.
An example is "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks

Meter

In literary criticism, the repetition of sound patterns that creates a rhythm in Poetry. The patterns are based on the number of syllables and the presence and absence of accents. The unit of rhythm in a line is called a Foot. Types of meter are classifie

Monologue

A composition, written or oral, by a single individual. More specifically, a speech given by a single individual in a drama or other public entertainment. It has no set length, although it is usually several or more lines long.

Mood

The prevailing emotions of a work or of the author in his or her creation of the work. The (blank) of a work is not always what might be expected based on its subject matter.

Motif

(Also known as Motiv or Leitmotiv.) A theme, character type, image, Metaphor, or other verbal element that recurs throughout a single work of literature or occurs in a number of different works over a period of time. For example, the various manifestation

Muses

Nine Greek mythological goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). Each muse patronized a specific area of the liberal arts and sciences. Calliope presided over epic poetry, Clio over history, Erato over love poetry, Euterpe over music or Ly

Myth

An anonymous tale emerging from the traditional beliefs of a culture or social unit. Myths use supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. They may also explain cosmic issues like creation and death. Collections of (blanks), known as mythologies, are

Narrative Poetry

A nondramatic poem in which the author tells a story. Such poems may be of any length or level of complexity.

Narrator

The teller of a story. The narrator may be the author or a character in the story through whom the author speaks.

Noir

French for "dark", the writing may be sombre or have an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that may make up part of the plot or character; often focused on crime

Novel

A long fictional narrative written in prose. A novel is usually organized under a plot or theme with a focus on character development and action. The (blank) emerged as a fully evolved literary form in the mid-eighteenth century in Samuel Richardson's Pam

Novella

An Italian term meaning "story." This term has been especially used to describe fourteenth-century Italian tales, but it also refers to modern short novels.

Octave

A poem or stanza composed of eight lines. The term (blank) most often represents the first eight lines of a Petrarchan sonnet.

Ode

Name given to an extended lyric poem characterized by exalted emotion and dignified style. An (blank) usually concerns a single, serious theme. Most (blanks), but not all, are addressed to an object or individual. (odes) are distinguished from other lyric

Onomatopoeia

The use of words whose sounds express or suggest their meaning. In its simplest sense, (blank) may be represented by words that mimic the sounds they denote such as "hiss" or "meow." At a more subtle level, the pattern and rhythm of sounds and rhymes of a

Oxymoron

a figure of speech in which two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect. The common (blank) phrase is a combination of an adjective proceeded by a noun with contrasting meanings e.g. "cruel kindness" or "living death".

Parable

A story intended to teach a moral lesson or answer an ethical question.
In the West, the best examples of (blanks) are those of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, notably "The Prodigal Son," but (blanks) also are used in Sufism, rabbinic literature, Hasid

Paradox

a statement that appears to be self-contradictory or silly but may include a latent truth.

Pastoral

A term derived from the Latin word "pastor," meaning shepherd. A (blank) is a literary composition on a rural theme. The conventions of the pastoral were originated by the third-century Greek poet Theocritus, who wrote about the experiences, love affairs,

Personification

(Also known as Prosopopoeia.) A figure of speech that gives human qualities to abstract ideas, animals, and inanimate objects. William Shakespeare used (blank) in Romeo and Juliet in the lines "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,/ Who is already s

Plot

In literary criticism, this term refers to the pattern of events in a narrative or drama. In its simplest sense, the (plot) guides the author in composing the work and helps the reader follow the work. Typically, (plot) exhibit causality and unity and hav

Poetic Liscence

Distortions of fact and literary convention made by a writer � not always a poet � for the sake of the effect gained. (blankblank) is closely related to the concept of "artistic freedom." An author exercises (blankblank) by saying that a pile of money "re

Poetry

In its broadest sense, writing that aims to present ideas and evoke an emotional experience in the reader through the use of meter, imagery, connotative and concrete words, and a carefully constructed structure based on rhythmic patterns. Poetry typically

Point of View

The narrative perspective from which a literary work is presented to the reader. There are four traditional points of view. The "third person omniscient" gives the reader a "godlike" perspective, unrestricted by time or place, from which to see actions an

Prose

A literary medium that attempts to mirror the language of everyday speech. It is distinguished from poetry by its use of unmetered, unrhymed language consisting of logically related sentences. (blank) is usually grouped into paragraphs that form a cohesiv

Quatrain

A four-line stanza of a poem or an entire poem consisting of four lines.

Resolution

The portion of a story following the climax, in which the conflict is resolved.

Rhetoric

In literary criticism, this term denotes the art of ethical persuasion. In its strictest sense, (blank) adheres to various principles developed since classical times for arranging facts and ideas in a clear, persuasive, appealing manner. The term is also

Rising Action

The part of a drama where the plot becomes increasingly complicated.
(blankblank) leads up to the climax, or turning point, of a drama. The final "chase scene" of an action film is generally the (blankblank) which culminates in the film's climax.

Round Character

A character is anyone who has a complex personality; he or she is often portrayed as a conflicted and contradictory person

Scansion

The analysis or "scanning" of a poem to determine its Meter and often its rhyme scheme. The most common system of (blank) uses accents (slanted lines drawn above syllables) to show stressed syllables, breves (curved lines drawn above syllables) to show un

Scene

A subdivision of an Act of a drama, consisting of continuous action taking place at a single time and in a single location. The beginnings and endings of scenes may be indicated by clearing the stage of actors and props or by the entrances and exits of im

Science Fiction

A type of narrative about or based upon real or imagined scientific theories and technology. (blankblank) is often peopled with alien creatures and set on other planets or in different dimensions.

Sestet

Any six-line poem or stanza.

Setting

The time, place, and culture in which the action of a narrative takes place. The elements of (blank) may include geographic location, characters' physical and mental environments, prevailing cultural attitudes, or the historical time in which the action t

Short Story

What we read all the time in class and have annoying reading checks on.

Simile

A comparison, usually using "like" or "as", of two essentially dissimilar things, as in "coffee as cold as ice" or "He sounded like a broken record.

Soliloquy

- a speech delivered by a character in a play or other literature while alone, or an utterance by a person who is talking to him/herself, disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present. This technique is frequently used to disclose a character's inne

Sonnet

A fourteen-line poem, usually composed in iambic pentameter, employing one of several rhyme schemes. There are three major types of sonnets, upon which all other variations of the form are based: the "Petrarchan" or "Italian" sonnet, the "Shakespearean" o

Spondee

: In Poetry Meter, a Foot consisting of two long or stressed syllables occurring together. This form is quite rare in English Verse, and is usually composed of two monosyllabic words.
The first foot in the following line from Robert Burns's "Green Grow th

Stanza

A subdivision of a poem consisting of lines grouped together, often in recurring patterns of rhyme, line length, and Meter. (blanks) may also serve as units of thought in a poem much like paragraphs in prose.

Static Character

a character that does not undergo important change in the course of the story, remaining essentially the same at the end as he or she was at the beginning.

Stream of Consciouness

A narrative technique for rendering the inward experience of a character. This technique is designed to give the impression of an ever-changing series of thoughts, emotions, images, and memories in the spontaneous and seemingly illogical order that they o

Subplot

A secondary story in a narrative. A (blank) may serve as a motivating or complicating force for the main plot of the work, or it may provide emphasis for, or relief from, the main plot.
The conflict between the Capulets and the Montagues in William Shakes

Symbol

Something that suggests or stands for something else without losing its original identity. In literature, symbols combine their literal meaning with the suggestion of an abstract concept. Literary symbols are of two types: those that carry complex associa

Tall Tale

A humorous tale told in a straightforward, credible tone but relating absolutely impossible events or feats of the characters. Such tales were commonly told of frontier adventures during the settlement of the west in the United States.

Theme

The main point of a work of literature. The term is used interchangeably with thesis.

Tone

The author's attitude toward his or her audience may be deduced from the (blank) of the work. A formal (blank) may create distance or convey politeness, while an informal tone may encourage a friendly, intimate, or intrusive feeling in the reader. The aut

Tragedy

A drama in prose or Poetry about a noble, courageous hero of excellent character who, because of some tragic character flaw or hamartia, brings ruin upon him- or herself. (blank) treats its subjects in a dignified and serious manner, using poetic language

Tragic Flaw

In a tragedy, the quality within the hero or heroine which leads to his or her downfall.

Verse

A line of metered language, a line of a poem, or any work written in verse.