List of Literary Terms
English 12 Name_____________________
1. Abstract- refers to language that describes concepts rather than concrete images.
2. Ad Hominem- In an argument, this is an attack on the person rather than on the opponent’s ideas. It comes from the
Latin meaning “against the man.”
3. Allegory- a work that functions on a symbolic level.
4. Alliteration- the repetition of initial consonant sounds, such as “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
5. Allusion (E10)- a reference contained in a work.
6. Ambiguity- the multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase, sentence, or passage.
7. Analogy- a literary device employed to serve as a basis for comparison. It is assumed that what applies to the parallel
situation also applies to the original circumstance. In other words, it is the comparison between two different items.
8. Anaphora- the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines.
9. Anastrophe- transposition of normal word order; most often found in Latin in the case of prepositions and the words
they control. (a form of hyperbaton)
10. Anecdote- a story or brief episode told by the writer or a character to illustrate to a point.
11. Antanagoge- placing a good point or benefit next to a fault criticism, or problem in order to reduce the impact or
significance of the negative point.
12. Antiphrasis- one word irony, established by context.
13. Antistrophe- repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses.
14. Antithesis- the presentation of two contrasting images. The ideas are balanced by word, phrase, clause, or
paragraphs. “To be or not to be…” “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your
15. Aphorism- a terse statement of known authorship which expresses a general truth or moral principle. (If the
authorship is unknown, the statement is generally considered to be a folk proverb.) An aphorism can be a memorable
summation of the author’s point.
16. Apophasis- (also called praeteritio or occupatio) asserts or emphasizes something by pointedly seeming to pass over,
ignore, or deny it.
17. Aporia- expression of doubt (often feigned) by which a speaker appears uncertain as to what he should think, say, or
18. Aposiopesis- a form of ellipse by which a speaker comes to an abrupt halt, seemingly overcome by passion (fear,
excitement, etc.) or modesty.
19. **Apostrophe (E11 & E12)- a figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person
or personified abstraction, such as liberty or love. The effect may add familiarity or emotional intensity.
William Wordsworth addresses John Milton as he writes, “Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee.”
20. Appositive- a noun or noun substitute placed next to (in apposition to) another noun to be described or defined by the
21. Archaism- use of an older or obsolete form.
22. Archetype -A term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a
reader. In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human
experiences, regardless of when or where they live, are considered archetypes. Common literary archetypes include
stories of quests, initiations, scapegoats, descents to the underworld, and ascents to heaven.
23. Argument- a single assertion or a series of assertions presented and defended by the writer
24. Assonance (E10)- repetition of the same sound in words close together.
25. Asyndeton- lack of conjunctions between coordinate phrases, clauses, or words.
26. Atmosphere- the emotional mood created by the entirety of a literary work, established partly by the setting and
partly by the author’s choice of objects that are described. Even such elements as a description of the weather can
contribute to the atmosphere. Frequently, atmosphere foreshadows events.
27. Ballad-(E9) A poem that tells a story similar to a folk tale or legend and often has a repeated refrain. A ballad is often
about love and often sung. A ballad is a story in poetic form. A collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland,
and their American variants, were collected by Francis James Child in the late 19th century.
28. Blank verse-(E9) Poetry that is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Blank verse is often unobtrusive and the
iambic pentameter form often resembles the rhythms of ordinary speech. William Shakespeare wrote most of his plays
in blank verse.
29. Brachylogy- a general term for abbreviated or condensed expression, of which asyndeton and zeugma are types.
30. Cacophony- harsh and discordant sounds in a line or passage in a literary work.
31. Catachresis- a harsh metaphor involving the use of a word beyond its strict sphere.
32. Cause and effect- analyses explain why something happened or what the consequences are or will be from a
33. Chiasmus- two corresponding pairs arranged not in parallels (a-b-a-b) but in inverted order (a-b-b-a)
34. Cliché-(E9) an overused common expression. The term is derived from a French word for a stereotype printing
block. Just as many identical copies can be made from such a block, so clichés are typically words and phrases used
so frequently that they become stale and ineffective. Everyone uses clichés in speech: “in less than no time” they
“spring to mind,” but “in the last analysis,” a writer ought to “avoid them like the plague,” even though they always
seem “to hit the nail on the head.”
35. Climax- arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of ascending power.
36. Colloquial- the use of slang in writing, often to create local color and to provide an informal tone. Huckleberry Finn
is written in a colloquial style.
37. Comic Relief- the inclusion of a humorous character or scene to contrast with the tragic elements of a work, thereby
intensifying the next tragic event.
38. **Conceit- a fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between
seemingly dissimilar objects. A conceit displays intellectual cleverness due to the unusual comparison being made.
39. Concrete –words describe things that exist and can be experienced through the senses. Abstractions are rendered
understandable and specific through concrete examples.
40. Connotation- the interpretive level of a word based on its associated images rather than its literal meaning.
41. Consonance (E10)- the repetition, at close intervals, of the final consonants of accented syllables or important words ,
especially at the ends of words, as in blank and think or strong and string or Lady lounges lazily and Dark deep dread.
42. Couplet-(E9) Stanza of only two lines of poetry which usually rhyme. Shakespearean (also called Elizabethan and
English) sonnets usually end in a couplet and are a pair of lines that are the same length and usually rhyme and form a
complete thought. William Shakespeare makes use of couplets in more complex rhyme schemes
43. Deduction- the process of moving from a general rule to a specific example.
44. Denotation- the literal or dictionary meaning of a word.
45. Dialect- the recreation of regional spoken language, such as a Southern dialect. Zora Neale Hurston uses this in such
works as Their Eyes Were Watching God.
46. Diction (E9)- is the choice of words used in speaking or writing. It is frequently divided into four levels: formal,
informal, colloquial, and slang. Formal diction is found in traditional academic writing, such as books and scholarly
articles; informal diction, generally characterized by words common in conversation contexts, by contractions, and by
the use of the first person (I), is found in articles in popular magazines. Bernard R. Berelson’s essay “The Value of
Children” (p.231) uses formal diction; Judy Brady’s “I Want a Wife” (p.441) is informal.
47. Didactic- From the Greek, didactic literally means “teaching.” Didactic works have the primary aim of teaching or
instructing, especially the teaching of moral or ethical principles.
48. **Dramatic Monologue- A poem in which a poetic speaker addresses either the reader or an internal
listener at length. It is similar to the soliloquy in theater, in that both a dramatic monologue and a soliloquy often
involve the revelation of the innermost thoughts and feelings of the speaker. Two famous examples are Browning's
"My Last Duchess" and "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." Cf. interior monologue and monologue.
49. **Elegy-In classical Greco-Roman literature, "elegy" refers to any poem written in elegiac meter (alternating
hexameter and pentameter lines). More broadly, elegy came to mean any poem dealing with the subject-matter
common to the early Greco-Roman elegies--complaints about love, sustained formal lamentation, or somber
meditations. Typically, elegies are marked by several conventions of genre:
The elegy, much like the classical epic, typically begins with an invocation of the muse, and then
continues with allusions to classical mythology.
The poem usually contains a poetic speaker who uses the first person.
The speaker raises questions about justice, fate, or providence.
The poet digresses about the conditions of his own time or his own situation.
The digression allows the speaker to move beyond his original emotion or thinking to a higher level
The conclusion of the poem provides consolation or insight into the speaker's situation. In Christian
elegies, the lyric reversal often moves from despair and grief to joy when the speaker realizes that
death or misfortune is but a temporary barrier separating one from the bliss of eternity.
The poem tends to be longer than a lyric but not as long as an epic.
The poem is not plot-driven.
In the case of pastoral elegies in the 1600s, 1700s, and early 1800s, there are several other common
The speaker mourns the death of a close friend; the friend is eulogized in the highest possible terms,
but represented as if he were a shepherd.
The mourner charges with negligence the nymphs or guardians of the shepherd who failed to
preserve him from death.
Appropriate mourners appear to lament the shepherd's death.
Post-Renaissance poets often include an elaborate passage in which flowers appear to deck the
hearse or grave, with various flowers having symbolic meaning appropriate to the scene.
Famous elegies include Milton's "Lycidas," Shelley's "Adonais," and Arnold's "Thyrsis." Closely
related to the pastoral elegy, the dirge or threnody is shorter than the elegy and often represented as a
text meant to be sung aloud. The term monody refers to any dirge or elegy presented as the utterance
of a single speaker. Various Anglo-Saxon poems such as "The Wife's Lament" and "The Wanderer"
are also considered elegies, though the term might not be perfectly applicable since the influence of the
Greek elegy was never pervasive in Anglo-Saxon literature, making it unlikely the anonymous authors
were familiar with the genre per se.
50. Ellipsis- indicated by a series of three periods, the ellipsis indicates that some material has been omitted from a given
text. It could be a word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, or a whole section. Be wary of the ellipsis; it could
obscure the real meaning of the piece of writing.
51. Epic (E9)- It is a poem that is (a) a long narrative about a serious subject, (b) told in an elevated style of language, (c)
focused on the exploits of a hero or demi-god who represents the cultural values of a race, nation, or religious group
(d) in which the hero's success or failure will determine the fate of that people or nation. Usually, the epic has (e) a
vast setting, and covers a wide geographic area, (f) it contains superhuman feats of strength or military prowess, and
gods or supernatural beings frequently take part in the action. The poem begins with (g) the invocation of a muse to
inspire the poet and, (h) the narrative starts in medias res (see above). (i) The epic contains long catalogs of heroes or
important characters, focusing on highborn kings and great warriors rather than peasants and commoners.
52. Epigraph- the use of a quotation at the beginning of a work that hints at its theme. Hemingway begins The Sun Also
Rises with two epigraphs. One of them is “You are all a lost generation” by Gertrude Stein.
53. Epithet (E9)- is an adjective or adjective phrase appropriately qualifying a subject (noun) by naming a key or
important characteristic of the subject.
54. Epizeuxis- repetition of one word (for emphasis).
55. Eponym- substitutes for a particular attribute the name of a famous person recognized for that attribute.
56. Euphemism- a more acceptable and usually more pleasant way of saying something that might be inappropriate or
uncomfortable. “He went to his final reward” is a common euphemism for “he died.” Euphemisms are also often used
to obscure the reality of a situation. The military uses “collateral damage” to indicate civilian deaths in a military
57. Euphony- the pleasant, mellifluous presentation of sounds in a literary work.
58. Exemplum- citing an example; using an illustrative story, either true or fictitious.
59. Exposition- background information presented in a literary work.
60. **Extended Metaphor- a sustained comparison, often referred to as a conceit. The extended metaphor is
developed throughout a piece of writing
61. **Farce- from Latin Farsus, "stuffed"): A farce is a form of low comedy designed to provoke laughter through
highly exaggerated caricatures of people in improbable or silly situations. Traits of farce include (1) physical bustle
such as slapstick, (2) sexual misunderstandings and mix-ups, and (3) broad verbal humor such as puns. Many literary
critics (especially in the Victorian period) have tended to view farce as inferior to "high comedy" that involves
brilliant dialogue. Many of Shakespeare's early works, such as The Taming of the Shrew, are considered farces.
Contrast with comedy of manners.
62. Figurative Language- the body of devices that enables the writer to operate on levels other than the literal one. It
includes metaphor, simile, symbol, motif, and hyperbole, etc.
63. Figures of speech- are deliberate departures from the ordinary and literal meanings of words in order to provide fresh,
insightful perspectives or emphasis. Figures of speech are most commonly used in descriptive passages and include
the following: Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Hyperbole, Etc...
64. Form- the shape or structure of a literary work.
65. Generalizations- are assertions or conclusions based on some specific instances. The value of a generalization is
determined by the quality and quantity of examples on which it is based. Bob Greene in “Cut” (p.57) formulates ma
generalization--being cut from and athletic team makes men super achievers later in life--on the basis of fiver
examples. For such a generalization to have validity, however, a proper statistical sample would be essential.
66. Homily- this term literally means “sermon,” but more informally, it can include any serious talk, speech, or lecture
involving moral or spiritual advice.
67. Hypallage- ("exchanging") transferred epithet; grammatical agreement of a word with another word which it does not
logically qualify. More common in poetry.
68. Hyperbaton- separation of words which belong together, often to emphasize the first of the separated words or to
create a certain image.
69. Hyperbole- extreme exaggeration, often humorous, it can also be ironic; the opposite of understatement.
70. Hypophora- consists of raising one or more questions and then proceeding to answer them, usually at some length.
71. Hypotaxis- using subordination to show the relationship between clauses or phrases (and hence the opposite of
72. Hysteron Proteron ("later-earlier")- inversion of the natural sequence of events, often meant to stress the event
which, though later in time, is considered the more important.
73. Iamb- A unit or foot of poetry that consists of a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable. Some
words in English naturally form iambs, such as behold, restore, amuse, arise, awake, return, Noel, support, depict,
destroy, inject, inscribe, insist, inspire, unwashed, and so on. A line of poetry written with syllables falling in this
pattern of stress are said to be in iambic meter.
74. Iambic pentameter (E9)- The most common meter in English verse. It consists of a line ten syllables long that is
accented on every second beat (see blank verse). These lines in iambic pentameter are from The Merchant of Venice,
by William Shakespeare:
Ĭn sóoth,/Ĭ knów/nŏt whý/Ĭ ám/sŏ sád.
Ĭt wéa/riĕs mé;/yŏu sáy/ĭt wéa/riĕs yóu....
75. Image- a verbal approximation of a sensory impression, concept, or emotion.
76. Imagery (E9)- the total effect of related sensory images in a work of literature.
77. Induction- the process that moves from a given series of specifics to a generalization.
78. Inference- a conclusion one can draw from the presented details.
79. Invective- a verbally abusive attack.
80. Irony (E9)-an unexpected twist or contrast between what happens and what was intended or expected to happen. It
involves dialog and situation, and can be intentional or unplanned. Dramatic irony centers around the ignorance of
those involved; whereas, the audience is aware of the circumstance.
81. **Kenning- A form of compounding in Old English, Old Norse, and Germanic poetry. In this poetic device,
the poet creates a new compound word or phrase to describe an object or activity. Specifically, this compound uses
mixed imagery (catachresis) to describe the properties of the object in indirect, imaginative, or enigmatic ways. The
resulting word is somewhat like a riddle since the reader must stop and think for a minute to determine what the object
is. Kennings may involve conjoining two types of dissimilar imagery, extended metaphors, or mixed metaphors.
Kennings were particularly common in Old English literature and Viking poetry. The most famous example is hron-
rade or hwal-rade ("whale-road") as a poetic reference to the sea. Other examples include Thor-Weapon as a reference
to a smith's hammer, battle-flame as a reference to the way light shines on swords, gore-cradle for a battlefield filled
with motionless bodies, and word-hoard for a person's eloquence. In Njal's Saga we find Old Norse kennings like
shield-tester for warrior, or prayer-smithy for a man's heart, or head-anvil for the skull. In Beowulf, we also find
Anglo-Saxon banhus ("bone-house") for body, goldwine gumena ("gold-friend of warriors") for a generous prince,
beadoleoma ("flashing light") for sword, and beaga gifa ("ring-giver") for a lord.
82. Litotes- understatement, for intensification, by denying the contrary of the thing being affirmed. (Sometimes used
synonymously with meiosis.)
83. Logic- the process of reasoning
84. Logical Fallacy- a mistake in reasoning
85. Loose sentence- A type of sentence in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first, followed by dependent
grammatical units such as phrases and clauses. If a period were placed at the end of the independent clause, the clause
would be a complete sentence. A work containing many loose sentences often seems informal, relaxed, and
86. Metabasis-consists of a brief statement of what has been said and what will follow.
87. Metanoia- (correctio) qualifies a statement by recalling it (or part of it) and expressing it in a better, milder, or
88. Metaphor-a direct comparison between dissimilar things. “Your eyes are stars” is an example.
89. **Metonymy- a figure of speech in which a representative term is used for a larger idea (The pen is mightier
than the sword).
90. Meter (E9): A recognizable though varying pattern of stressed syllables alternating with syllables of less stress.
Compositions written in meter are said to be in verse. There are many possible patterns of verse. Each unit of stress
and unstressed syllables is called a "foot." The following examples are culled from M. H. Abrams' Glossary of
Literary Terms, seventh edition:
Iambic (the noun is "iamb" or "iambus"): a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed
Example: "The cúrfew tólls the knéll of párting dáy." (Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a
Anapestic (the noun is "anapest") two light syllables followed by a stressed syllable: "The Assyrian
came dówn like a wólf on the fóld." (Lord Byron, "The Destruction of Sennacherib.")
Trochaic (the noun is "trochee") a stressed followed by a light syllable: "Thére they áre, my fífty
men and wómen."
Dactylic (the noun is "dactyl"): a stressed syllable followed by two light syllables: "Éve, with her
básket, was / Déep in the bélls and grass."
91. **Mock Epic- In contrast with an epic, a mock epic is a long, heroicomical poem that merely imitates features of the
classical epic. The poet often takes an elevated style of language, but incongruously applies that language to mundane
or ridiculous objects and situations. The mock epic focuses frequently on the exploits of an antihero whose activities
illustrate the stupidity of the class or group he represents. Various other attributes common to the classical epic, such
as the invocation of the muse or the intervention of the gods, or the long catalogs of characters, appear in the mock
epic as well, only to be spoofed. For instance, Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock gives in hyperbolic language a
lengthy account of how a 17th century lord cuts a lady's hair in order to steal a lock of it as a keepsake, leading to all
sorts of social backlash when the woman is unhappy with her new hairdo. Lord Byron's Don Juan gives a lengthy list
of the sexual conquests and catastrophes associated with a precocious young lord, Don Juan. Both are fine examples
of the mock epic. In some ways, the mock epic is the opposite of a travesty. See also spoof, satire.
92. Monologue- a speech given by one character (Hamlet’s “To be or not to be…”).
93. Mood- this term has two distinct technical meanings in English writing. The first meaning is grammatical and deals
with verbal units and a speaker’s attitude. The indicative mood is used for only factual sentences. For example, “Joe
eats too quickly.” The subjunctive mood is used for a doubtful or conditional attitude. For example, “If I were you,
I’d get another job.” The imperative mood is used for commands. For example, “Shut the door!” the second meaning
of mood is literary, meaning the prevailing atmosphere or emotional aura of a work. Setting, tone, and events can
affect the mood. In this usage, mood is similar to tone and atmosphere.
94. Motif- the repetition or variations of an image or idea in a work used to develop theme or characters.
95. Narrator- the speaker of a literary work.
96. **Ode- A long, often elaborate stanzaic poem of varying line lengths and sometimes intricate rhyme schemes
dealing with a serious subject matter and treating it reverently. The ode is usually much longer than the song or lyric,
but usually not as long as the epic poem. Conventionally, many odes are written or dedicated to a specific subject. For
instance, "Ode to the West Wind" is about the winds that bring change of season in England. Keats has a clever
inversion of this convention in "Ode on a Grecian Urn," in which his choice of the preposition on implies the poem
actually exists in the artwork on the urn itself, rather than as a separate piece of literary art in his poetry. Classical
odes are often divided by tone, with Pindaric odes being heroic and ecstatic and Horatian odes being cool, detached,
and balanced with criticism. Andrew Marvell's "Upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland" is an example of a Horatian
97. Onomatopoeia- words that sound like the sound they represent (hiss, gurgle, pop).
98. Oxymoron- an image of contradictory term (bittersweet, pretty ugly, jumbo shrimp).
99. Parable- a story that operates on more than one level and usually teaches a moral lesson. (The Pearl by John
Steinbeck is a fine example.).
100. Paradox- A statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense, but upon closer inspection
contains some degree of truth or validity. The first scene of Macbeth, for example, closes with the witches’ cryptic
remark “Fair is foul, and foul is fair….”
101. Parallelism- also referred to as parallel construction or parallel structure, this term comes from Greek roots meaning
“beside one another.” It refers to the grammatical or rhetorical framing of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to
give structural similarity. This can involve, but is not limited to, repetition of a grammatical element such as a
preposition or verbal phrase. A famous example of parallelism begins Charles Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the
epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” The effects of parallelism are numerous, but frequently, they act as
an organizing force to attract the reader’s attention, add emphasis and organization, or simply provide a musical
102. Paraprosdokian- surprise or unexpected ending of a phrase or series.
103. Parataxis- writing successive independent clauses, with coordinating conjunctions, or no conjunctions.
104. Parenthesis- a final form of hyperbaton, consists of a word, phrase, or whole sentence inserted as an aside in the
middle of another sentence.
105. **Parody- a comic imitation of a work that ridicules the original. It can be utterly mocking or gently humorous.
It depends on allusion and exaggerates and distorts the original style and content.
106. Paronomasia: use of similar sounding words; often etymological word-play.
107. Pathos- the aspects of a literary work that elicit pity from the audience. An appeal to emotion that can be used as a
means to persuade.
108. **Pastoral Poem- a poem that depicts rural life in a peaceful, idealized way for example of shepherds or
109. Pedantic- a term used to describe writing that borders on lecturing. It is scholarly and academic and often overly
difficult and distant.
110. Periodic Sentence- a sentence that places the main idea or central complete thought at the end of the sentence, after
all introductory elements. The effect of the periodic sentence is to add emphasis and structural variety.
111. Person- is a grammatical term used to refer to a speaker, the individual being addressed, or an individual being
referred to. English has three persons: first (I or we), second (you), and third (he, she, it, or they).
112. Personification- the assigning of human qualities to inanimate objects or concepts (Wordsworth personifies “the sea
that bares her bosom to the moon” in the poem London 1802.).
113. Persuasion- a type of argument that has as its goal an action on the part of the audience.
114. Pleonasm- use of superfluous or redundant words, often enriching the thought.
115. Plot- a sequence of events in a literary work.
116. Point-of-View- the method of narration in a literary work.
117. Polysyndeton- the repetition of conjunctions in a series of coordinate words, phrases, or clauses.
118. Praeteritio (=paraleipsis)- pretended omission for rhetorical effect.
119. Premise- in logic is a proposition-a statement of a truth-that is used to support or help support a conclusion.
120. Procatalepsis- by anticipating an objection and answering it, permits an argument to continue moving forward while
taking into account points or reasons opposing either the train of thought or its final conclusions.
121. Prolepsis- the anticipation, in adjectives or nouns, of the result of the action of a verb; also, the positioning of a
relative clause before its antecedent.
122. Pun- a play on words that often has a comic effect. Associated with wit and cleverness. A writer who speaks of the
“grave topic of American funerals” maybe be employing an intentional or unintentional pun.
123. Purpose- involves intent, the reason why a writer writes. Three purposes are fundamental: to entertain, to inform, or
to persuade. These are not necessarily separate or discrete; they can be combined. An effective piece of writing has a
124. Reduction ad Absurdum- The Latin for “to reduce to the absurd.” This is a technique useful in creating a comic
effect and is also an argumentative technique. It is considered a rhetoric fallacy, because it reduces an argument to an
125. Repetition- the duplication, either exact or approximate, of any element of language, such as a sound, word, phrase,
clause, sentence, or grammatical pattern. When repetition is poorly done, it bores, but when it’s well done, it links
and emphasizes ideas while allowing the reader the comfort of recognizing something familiar.
126. Rhetorical Question- one that does not expect an explicit answer. It is used to pose an idea to be considered by the
speaker or audience. (Ernest Dowson asks, “Where are they now, the days of wine and roses?”)
127. Sarcasm- a comic technique that ridicules through caustic language. Tone and attitude may both be described as
sarcastic in a given text if the writer employs language, irony, and wit to mock or scorn.
128. Satire- a mode of writing based on ridicule, that criticizes the foibles and follies of society without necessarily
offering a solution.
129. Sentence structure- when an essay question asks you to analyze sentence structure, look at the type of sentences the
author uses. Remember that the basic sentence structures are simple, compound, and complex, and variations created
with sentence combining. Also consider variation or lack of it in sentence length, any unusual devices in sentence
construction, such as repetition or inverted word order, and any unusual word or phrase placement. As with all
devices, be prepared to discuss the effect of the sentence structure. For example, a series of short, simple sentences or
phrases can produce a feeling of speed and choppiness, which may suit the author’s purpose.
130. Sententia- quoting a maxim or wise saying to apply a general truth to the situation; concluding or summing foregoing
material by offering a single, pithy statement of general wisdom.
131. Setting- the time and place of a literary work.
132. Simile- an indirect comparison that uses the words like or as to link the differing items in the comparison. (“Your eyes
are like the stars.”)
133. Slang- is common, casual, conversational language that is inappropriate in forma speaking or writing. Slang often
serves to define social groups by virtue of being a private, shared language not understood by outsiders. Slang changes
constantly and is therefore always dated. For that reason alone, it is wise to avoid using slang in serious writing.
134. **Sonnet (E9, E12)- A fixed form of lyric poetry that consists of fourteen lines, usually written in iambic
pentameter. There are two basic types of sonnets, the Italian and the English.
The Italian sonnet, also known as the Petrarchan sonnet, is divided into an octave, which
typically rhymes abbaabba, and a sestet, which may have varying rhyme schemes. Common
rhyme patterns in the sestet are cdecde, cdcdcd, and cdccdc. Very often the octave presents a
situation, attitude, or problem that the sestet comments upon or resolves, as in John Keats’s "On
First Looking into Chapman’s Homer."
The English sonnet, also known as the Shakespearean sonnet, is organized into three quatrains and a
couplet, which typically rhyme abab cdcd efef gg. This rhyme scheme is more suited to English poetry
because English has fewer rhyming words than Italian. English sonnets, because of their four-part
organization, also have more flexibility with respect to where thematic breaks can occur. Frequently,
however, the most pronounced break or turn comes with the concluding couplet, as in Shakespeare’s
"Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?"
135. Stanza- a unit of a poem, similar in rhyme, meter, and length to other units in the poem.
136. Stream of consciousness (E11)-
137. Structure- the organization and form of a work.
138. Style- the unique way an author presents his ideas. Diction, syntax, imagery, structure, and content all contribute to a
139. Subject- is what a piece of writing is about.
140. Subjective writing- expresses an author’s feelings or opinions about a particular subject. Editorials or columns in
newspapers and personal essays tend to rely on subjective judgments.
141. Surrealism- An artistic movement doing away with the restrictions of realism and verisimilitude that might be
imposed on an artist. In this movement, the artist sought to do away with conscious control and instead respond to the
irrational urges of the subconscious mind. From this results the hallucinatory, bizarre, often nightmarish quality of
surrealistic paintings and writings. Sample surrealist painters include Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. Sample surrealist
writers include Frank O'Hara, John Ashberry, and Franz Kafka.
142. Syllogism- the format of a formal argument that consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.
143. Symbol/ Symbolism (E9)-- something in a literary work that stands for something else. (Plato has the light of the sun
symbolize truth in “The Allegory of the Cave.”)
144. Symploce-combining anaphora and epistrophe, so that one word or phrase is repeated at the beginning and another
word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences.
145. **Synecdoche- a figure of speech that utilizes a part as representative of the whole. (“All hands on deck” is an
146. Syntax- the grammatical structure of prose and poetry.
147. Tautology- repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence.
148. Theme (E9)- the underlying ideas the author illustrates through characterization, motifs, language, plot, etc.
149. Thesis- simply, the main idea of a piece of writing. It presents the author’s assertion or claim. The effectiveness of a
presentation is often based on how well the writer presents, develops, and supports the thesis.
150. Tone (E9)- the author’s attitude toward his subject.
151. Topic Sentence- is a single sentence in a paragraph that contains a statement of subject or thesis. The topic sentence is
to the paragraph what the thesis statement is to an essay.
152. **Tragedy A story that presents courageous individuals who confront powerful forces within or outside
themselves with a dignity that reveals the breadth and depth of the human spirit in the face of failure, defeat, and even
death. Tragedies recount an individual’s downfall; they usually begin high and end low. According to Aristotle,
catharsis is the marking feature and ultimate end of any tragedy. He writes in his Poetics (c. 350 BCE): that the
purpose of the Tragedy is that the audience will feel both pity, and fear—the playing being such a believable imitation
of life that one would think, “could that happen to me?”" Traditionally, a tragedy is divided into five acts. The first act
introduces the characters in a state of happiness, or at the height of their power, influence, or fame. The second act
typically introduces a problem or dilemma, which reaches a point of crisis in the third act, but which can still be
successfully averted. In the fourth act, the main characters fail to avert or avoid the impending crisis or catastrophe,
and this disaster occurs. The fifth act traditionally reveals the grim consequences of that failure.
153. Transition- a word or phrase that links one idea to the next and carries the reader from sentence to sentence,
paragraph to paragraph.
154. Understatement – is the opposite of hyperbole; it is a deliberate minimizing done to provide emphasis or humor. In
William Least Heat Moon’s “Nameless, Tennessee” (p. 164), Miss Ginny Watts explains how she asked her husband
to call the doctor unless he wanted to be “shut of” (rid of) her. Her husband, Thurmond, humorously uses
understatement in his reply: “I studied on it.”
155. Unity- is a oneness in which all of the individual parts of a piece of writing work together to form a cohesive and
complete whole. It is best achieved by having a clearly sated purpose and thesis against which every sentence and
paragraph can be tested for relevance.
156. Voice- can refer to two different areas of writing. One refers to the relationship between a sentence’s subject and verb
(active voice and passive voice). The second refers to the total “sound” of a writer’s style.
157. Wit- in modern usage, wit is intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights. A witty statement is
humorous, while suggesting the speaker’s verbal power in creating ingenious and perceptive remarks. Wit usually
uses terse language that makes a pointed statement. Historically, wit originally meant basic understanding. Its
meaning evolved to include speed of understanding, and finally (in the early seventeenth century), it grew to mean
quick perception including creative fancy.