Literary Devices

terms used when talking about literature

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definitions & notes only words
  1. allegory
    a visible symbol representing an abstract idea
  2. alliteration
    use of the same consonant at the beginning of each word
  3. allusion
    passing reference or indirect mention
    can be a reference to a famous peron or event or thing in life or literature
  4. analogy
    drawing a comparison in order to show a similarity
  5. anastrophe
    the reversal of the normal order of words
  6. antagonist
    someone who offers opposition
  7. anthropomorphism
    the representation of objects as having human form
  8. assonance
    the repetition of similar vowels in successive words
  9. blank verse
    unrhymed poetry, usually in iambic pentameter
  10. character
    good repute
  11. characterization
    the act of describing essential features
  12. characterize
    be typical of
  13. climax
    the highest point of anything
  14. conflict
    opposition in a work of fiction between characters or forces
  15. connotation
    the internal content of a term or concept
  16. consonance
    the repetition of sounds especially at the ends of words
  17. context
    the set of facts or circumstances that surround a situation
  18. poetic license
    license used by a writer or artist to heighten the effect of their work
    also known as creative license
  19. dialogue
    the lines spoken by characters in drama or fiction
  20. dramatic irony
    when the audience understands something the characters don't
  21. exposition
    an account that sets forth the intent of a story
    where an author interrupts a story in order to explain something, usually to provide important background information.
  22. figurative
    not literal
    any use of language where the intended meaning differs from the actual literal meaning of the words themselves. There are many techniques which can be called figurative language, including metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, onomatopoeia, verbal irony and oxymoron.
  23. foil
    a person or thing that serves to contrast with another
  24. foreshadowing
    the act of providing vague advance indications
  25. hyperbole
    extravagant exaggeration
  26. iambic
    a verse line consisting of iambs
  27. pentameter
    a verse line having five metrical feet
  28. imagery
    the ability to form mental pictures of things or events
  29. irony
    incongruity between what might be expected and what occurs
  30. metaphor
    a figure of speech that suggests a non-literal similarity
  31. metaphorical
    expressing one thing in terms normally denoting another
  32. metonymy
    substituting the name of a feature for the name of the thing
  33. mood
    a characteristic state of feeling
  34. motif
    a recurrent element in a literary or artistic work
  35. onomatopoeia
    using words that imitate the sound they denote
  36. oxymoron
    conjoined contradictory terms
  37. paradox
    a statement that contradicts itself
  38. parallelism
    similarity by virtue of corresponding
  39. personification
    attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas
  40. plot
    the story that is told, as in a novel, play, movie, etc.
  41. point of view
    a mental position from which things are perceived
    the person or entity through whom the reader experiences the story. The peron who is telling the story (3rd person omniscient/limited or 1st person)
  42. protagonist
    the principal character in a work of fiction
  43. pun
    a humorous play on words
  44. repetition
    the continued use of the same word or word pattern
  45. meter
    rhythm as given by division into parts of equal duration
  46. rhyme
    correspondence in the final sounds of two or more lines
  47. setting
    the context and environment in which something is situated
  48. simile
    a figure of speech expressing a resemblance between things
  49. symbolism
    the practice of investing things with arbitrary meaning
  50. theme
    a unifying idea that is a recurrent element in literary work
  51. tragedy
    drama exciting terror or pity
  52. tragic
    very sad, especially involving grief or death or destruction
  53. hero
    the principal character in a play or movie or novel or poem
  54. heroine
    the main good female character in a work of fiction
  55. tragic flaw
    the error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall
  56. dystopian
    of an imaginary place where life is extremely bad
  57. epic poem
    a long narrative poem telling of a hero's deeds
  58. comedy
    light and humorous drama with a happy ending
  59. epistolary
    written in the form of letters or correspondence
  60. fantasy
    fiction with a large amount of imagination in it
  61. doppelganger
    a ghostly double that haunts its living counterpart
  62. couplet
    a stanza consisting of two successive lines of verse
  63. sonnet
    a verse form of 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme
  64. enjambment
    continuation from one line of verse into the next line
  65. epiphany
    an inspiration or divine manifestation
    a sudden, powerful, and often spiritual or life-changing realization that a character reaches in an otherwise ordinary or everyday moment.
  66. existentialism
    a philosophy that assumes that people are entirely free
    a postwar European philosophical movement. Faced with the isolation and meaninglessness of individual lives in a hostile global context, existentialists argued that individuals must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
  67. flashback
    a transition in a story to an earlier event or scene
  68. free verse
    poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular meter
  69. hubris
    overbearing pride or presumption
    excessive pride that leads to the protagonist's downfall
  70. omniscient
    infinitely wise
    omniscient narrator is a narrator who knows all of the actions, feelings, and motivations of the story's characters. Can be compared to God - All Knowing
  71. parable
    a short moral story
    a short narrative that illustrates a moral by means of allegory
  72. parody
    humorous or satirical mimicry
    a humorous, often satirical imitation of the style or a particular work of another author.
  73. satire
    witty language used to convey insults or scorn
    a work that exposes to ridicule the shortcoming of individuals, institutions, or society, often to make a political point.
  74. stanza
    a fixed number of lines of verse forming a unit of a poem
  75. symbol
    something visible that represents something invisible
  76. stream of consciousness
    the continuous flow of ideas and feelings that constitute an individual's conscious experience
  77. surrealism
    an artistic movement using fantastic and incongruous images
  78. villain
    someone who does evil deliberately
  79. utopian
    pertaining to or resembling an ideally perfect state
Created on August 30, 2013 (updated August 30, 2013)

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