Glossary of Literary Terms Addresser/Addressee: The addresser of a text is the voice of a text. In prose, the term more commonly used is narrator, in a poem, speaker. The addresser is often different from the poet or author. The addressee is the receiver of a text, often the reader, but occasionally another implied receiver; for example, the addresser’s beloved in the case of a love poem. (See also Point of View.) Alliteration: Repetition of the initial letter (or sound) of successive words in a line of text; for example, “the snake slid stealthily across the sand.” If you spot alliteration in a text (it will almost always be a poem) justify its presence. In the above example, the repetition of the “s” sound suggests the hissing of a snake. Oftentimes, however, alliteration simply serves to link significant words together and make them stand out as in a line from Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Kahn”; a description of a river reads, “Five miles meandering with a mazy motion.” The words beginning with “m” are the key words intended to create a vivid impression of the dream-like undulations of the river. Alliteration serves to highlight these words. Allegory: A work that has a second or multiple meanings in addition to the surface meaning. George Orwell's Animal Farm, for example, aside from being about a group of animals that revolt against their owner, is also an allegory for the Communist revolution in Russia and more generally, for the rise of a totalitarian state. In the example of Orwell, many of the characters represent a person in history or an institution; Old Major is said to represent Karl Marx and Moses, the raven, symbolizes religion. Usually, however, the characters in allegories represent abstract vices or virtues such as avarice, charity, innocence or prudery. Ambiguity: Any text or element in a text that can be interpreted in different ways is said to be ambiguous. Ambiguity can be a fault that obstructs clear communication, but it can also provide enrichment by clustering associated and complementary meanings. Analogy: A comparison made between two things to show their similarities; for example, "tree" is to "apple" what "vine" is to "grape", or “going to school without your uniform on properly is like going to school without having showered and brushed your teeth.” (Seve) Allusion: A reference to another work of literature or art, or to a familiar person, place or event, that a writer expects a reader to recognize; for example, “her life has been a Cinderella story.” Alternate Rhyme: Lines that rhyme abab (see Rhyme Scheme). Anaphora: Consecutive sentences or lines of a poem that begin with the same words or structure; for example, “Theirs not to make reply/ Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die…” (Tennyson) Antithesis: Contrasting ideas sharpened by the use of opposite or noticeably different meanings; for example, “Crafty men contemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them.” Think of antithesis as an oxymoron written or stated with parallelism. Archetype: A prototype, a paradigm, an exemplar. Something, someone or some event that is universal, part of the ‘collective unconscious’. In general terms, the abstract idea of a class of things that represents the most typical and essential characteristics shared by the class. The fundamental facts of human existence are archetypal: birth, growing up, the struggle between children and parents, fraternal rivalry, love, family, community life, and death. Certain character or personality types have become archetypal. For instance: the rebel, the Don Juan, the all-conquering hero, the braggadocio, the country bumpkin, the local lad who makes good, the self-made man, the hunted man, the siren, the witch, the femme fatale, the villain, the traitor, the snob, the social climber, the guilt-ridden figure in search of expiation, the damsel in distress, the mysterious stranger and the person more sinned against than sinning. (For archetypal characters, you can also use the term ‘stock characters’ or ‘stereotype’.) Archetypal themes include the arduous quest or search, the pursuit of vengeance, the overcoming of difficult tasks, the descent into the underworld, symbolic fertility rites and redemptive rituals. Assonance: Repetition of a vowel sound in the middle or end of successive words; for example, “…a wide realm of wild reality.” Author Intrusion: Explanations or statements that go beyond a rendering of the situation to make an interpretive comment about it. The author usually addresses the reader directly, abandoning the illusion of his or her tale in order to delver an opinion or explanation. Ballad: a song or poem that tells a story in simple, rhythmic stanzas. Folk ballads have no known authors. Literary ballads are composed by known writers. Bathos: A lowering or deflation from a heightened tone, sometimes for ironic effect, but often unintentional; for example, “The trumpets sounded / Saint Peter said, ‘Come.’ / The pearly gates opened / And in walked Mum.” Binaries: Related or contrasting notions, such as day/night, sleep/ wakefulness, which can often give an insight into the working of a text. Blank Verse: Poetry that consists of unrhymed five-stress lines; properly iambic pentameter. Also used to refer simply to poetry that does not rhyme. Burlesque: Derisive imitation or exaggerated ‘sending up’ of a literary or musical work, usually stronger and broader in tone and style than parody. For the most part burlesque is associated with some form of stage entertainment. An example would be the play of Pyramus and Thisbe performed by Bottom and his companions in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare. In it, Shakespeare makes fun of the Interludes of earlier generations. ( Interlude means ‘between play’ and refers to a short entertainment put on between the courses of a feast or the acts of a play.) Caesura: A break, or pause, in the rhythm of a line of poetry. In Old and Middle English verse, a caesura is shown by a gap, in modern verse by strong punctuation like a period or semi-colon. Character: 1) One of the people who has a part in the story. 2) The quality or the sum of the qualities of such a person. In most stories it is easy to distinguish between central or main characters – on whom most of the author’s attention is focused – and the minor characters – who play some part in the development of the plot. Round characters are those presented as having the complex or contradictory qualities that we note in most human beings. Flat characters are those who display only a small fraction of normal human complexity. Flat characters are oftentimes Stock characters or stereotypical characters. Character Transformation: This term applies to the changes that a character undergoes after having gone through the conflict. When the story begins, the character is usually naïve in some way about the world, people, life or him/herself. After the climax, somewhere in the falling action and the resolution of the story, the character has usually become wiser on some level and this new wisdom is usually tied into the theme of the work. Characterization: The way a writer portrays or develops a character through various techniques such as describing what the character says, thinks or does; or showing what others say, think or do in response to the character. Chronology: The order of events presented in a story. Chronology may be linear, circular or complicated. Cliche: A trite, overused expression, for example, "He finally saw the writing on the wall." Such phrases are oftentimes figures of speech and idioms as well as clichés. Noting that a line in a text happens to be all three will only prove that you own a glossary, not that you understand why the expression was used. If it is used in dialogue or a piece of informal writing, focus on it as an idiom as it gives information about a character or reveals the writer’s tone in a piece. If it is used in a newspaper article or a poem without a speaker, comment on it as a cliché. The above is by no means a rule, simply a guideline; obviously context matters more than type of text. Coherence: The consistency of various parts of a story. For example, a character’s speech and actions should be consistent with his nature and certain consequences should follow from a particular act. Conflict: A struggle between characters or opposing forces in a story. The conventional conflicts are: man vs. man; man vs. nature; man vs. God; and man vs. himself. Connotation: The meaning that a word implies or suggests, usually by the ideas or feelings associated with the word; for example, the word “negro” for many has racist connotations Concreteness: Joseph Conrad wrote: “All art…appeals primarily to the senses….My task is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.” Good writers draw you into their stories and poems by making the intangible, tangible. They make their characters, setting and actions come to life with specific sensory details. Convention: Any aspect of a work that has been established by earlier and repeated usage. For example, a murderer in a story conveniently confessing the how’s and why’s of his crime just as he is about to (unsuccessfully) kill the hero seems to be a convention of most thrillers and murder mysteries. Conventional: This term frequently has a pejorative meaning –though it derives directly from the neutral term, convention. When used disparagingly, conventional means that the writer has tried to find approval by clinging to familiar narrative types and procedures, and noncontroversial values. Connector: A word that links sentences and parts of sentences together. It may simply be a conjunction such as 'and' with a purely grammatical function, or, especially in poetry, can alter the sense of a text: 'til' pointing to the future, for instance. Consonance: Repetition of a consonant sound in the middle or end of successive words; for example, “wind-knocked stalks of grass.” Colloquialism: an informal word or phrase you might use when chatting; for example, saying ‘spud’ instead of ‘potato’. Dialect: A language variety in which the use of grammar and vocabulary identify the regional or social background of the speaker. People in the West Midlands of England will say "her's saft" rather than "she's daft [crazy]"; "saft' combined from "soft" and "daft"; "her" used instead of "she". Dialogue: The actual speech of characters in a story, usually punctuated with quotation marks. Didactic: A story is said to be didactic if it deliberately teaches some lesson about the way people should behave. Dissonance: The arrangement of cacophonous (harsh) sounds in words, or rhythmical patterns, for a particular effect. Wilfred Owen uses dissonance in the following lines: "If you could hear, at every jolt the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs/ Bitter as the cud/ Of vile, incurable sores..." Dramatic Poem: A poem written in the voice of a character (monologue) or characters (dialogue) assumed by the poet. For an example, see the dramatic monologues of Joyce’s Ulysses. Emotive Language: loaded words or phrases that arouse an emotional response in the reader, for example, “the poor, defenseless animal.” Enjambment: Lines in a poem that continue onto the next line (also known as run-on lines). Epic Poem: A long narrative poem, frequently extending to several “books” (sections of several hundred lines) concerning weighty moral or historical themes. Epigram: 1) A succinct and witty statement in prose; for example, “We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow,/ our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so.” (Pope) 1) A short, witty poem. Euphemism: The substitution of a mild and pleasant expression for a harsh and blunt one, such as “passed away” for “died” or “peacemaker” for “nuclear missile.” Fable: A short narrative in prose or verse which gives a moral. Non-human creatures or inanimate objects are normally the characters. The presentation of human beings as animals is a convention of the literary fables (as opposed to fables passed down through oral tradition in indigenous populations). Figurative Language: Language that is not literal, that uses imagery and such figures of speech as metaphors, similes, hyperbole and personification. Fixed Form: Types of poetry which use a metre, rhyme scheme or stanza fixed by convention. The most prevalent type in English is the sonnet. Flashback: A break in the chronological sequence of a story that is made for the purpose of showing earlier events. Sometimes an entire story is told in flashback, for example, The Catcher in the Rye. Foil: A character whose main function is to contrast with another character and make that character’s qualities more obvious. For example, Laertes in Hamlet is a foil for Hamlet; he is swift in avenging his father’s murder which serves to highlight Hamlet’s procrastination in avenging his own father’s death. Foreshadowing: Hints of things to come. The technique of arranging events and information in a narrative in such a way that later events are prepared for or shadowed forth beforehand. A well-constructed novel, for instance, will suggest at the very beginning what the outcome may be; the end is contained in the beginning and this gives structural and thematic unity. For example, a gun shown in Act I of a play that foreshadows a murder in Act IV. Free Verse: Poetry which has no regular rhyme, rhythm or line length, but rather depends on the flow of natural spoken language. Genre: A form or type of literary work, such as biography, essay, short story, etc. Haiku: A Japanese form of poetry made up of seventeen syllables -- five, seven and five syllables for the first, second and third line respectively. Successful examples capture the essence, or 'Zen', of a single moment or incident. The following haiku is an example by James Kirkup titled “Evening,” the last of a sequence called “Four Haiku on the Inland Sea”: In the amber dusk Each island dreams its own night. The sea swarms with gold. Hubris: The shortcoming or defect in a Greek tragic hero that leads him to ignore the warnings of the gods and to transgress their laws and commands. Eventually hubris brings about downfall and nemesis, as in the case of Creon in Sophocles's Antigone . (See also Tragic Flaw). Hyperbole: A figure of speech using exaggeration for emphasis; for example, “I reminded her a million times.” Idiom: A form of expression, construction or phrase peculiar to a language and often possessing a meaning other than its grammatical or logical one. In the U.K., to say that someone is “a rough diamond” is to say that the person has incredible talent or personality though maybe not sophistication (a rough diamond is an uncut diamond). In the U.S., one would say “a diamond in the rough.” Idioms are oftentimes figures of speech and also clichés. Imagery: 1) Figures of speech. 2) More generally, the use of language to represent objects, actions, feelings, thoughts, ideas, states of mind and any sensory or extra-sensory experience. An ´image` does not necessarily mean a mental picture. Informative Writing: Writing such as a news article, that gives facts about a subject. Irony: A discrepancy between what is expected and what is revealed. There are three types of irony: 1) Verbal Irony: when language and tone is used to express the opposite of what is meant or felt. Sarcasm is verbal irony. 2) Situational Irony: when a situation in a text ends in the opposite way one would expect; for example, in Jackson´s “The Lottery”, the reader expects the winner of the lottery to get money or a prize, not to get stoned to death.) 3) Dramatic Irony: When the reader (or audience) knows more about what is happening in the story than the character(s). An example from Romeo and Juliet would be when Romeo kills himself thinking that Juliet is dead, and the reader/audience knows that Juliet is alive and about to awaken from her drug-induced sleep. Juxtaposition: In literary terms, the placing of two elements in a text (scenes, descriptions, monologues, etc.) side by side or near each other for purposes of contrasting. For example, in the article, “No One Wore Black” (May 1996 I.B. Paper 1) the writer juxtaposes images of the brightly dressed mourners with the dark and grim images of the funeral knell for ironic effect. Long Vowel Sounds: For example, hate, meet, and moon as opposed to hat, met and Monday which are examples of short vowel sounds. Vowel sounds are particularly important to notice in poetry where oftentimes the poet makes sound mimic sense. For example, in Richard Wilbur's poem “The Fire Truck”, monosyllabic words with short vowel sounds (which can be read quickly) are used to describe the speeding vehicle while multi-syllabic words with long vowel sounds (which draw out a line) are used to describe the speaker’s contemplations after the truck has passed. Generally, because cries of pleasure and of pain are constructed by long vowel sounds, words containing long vowel sounds are appropriate for emphasizing sensualism, longing or gloominess. In his poem “Trumpet Player,” Langston Hughes uses long vowel sounds to describe the bluesy jazz played by an African American musician in the racist turmoil of the 1960`s. The sounds of the words reinforce the nostalgia, frustration and sensuousness inherent in a lot of blues and jazz music. Lyric Poem: Originally, a song performed in ancient Greece to the accompaniment of a small harplike instrument called a lyre. The term is now used for any fairly short poem in the voice of a single speaker, although that speaker may sometimes quote others. Metaphor: a figure of speech in which one thing is described in terms of another; for example, “he dipped his hand into the river of her hair” (the woman’s hair is being compared to a river). Sometimes the metaphor is implied; for example, “he dipped his hand into the long flowing current of her hair.” Here, because the word “dipped” and “current are used, it is implied that the woman’s hair is being compared to water. Metre: (See pg. 856-862 of the photocopy attached to this glossary.) Mood: The emotional atmosphere or effect of a work of art often produced by the writer’s use of language; for example, “It was a dark and stormy night…” Metonymy: A figure of speech in which the name of an attribute or a thing is substituted for the thing itself. Common examples ore “The Stage” for the theatrical profession; “The Crown” for the monarchy; “The Bench for the judiciary; and “Shakespeare" for his works. Milieu: The political, social, cultural, economic, and intellectual aspects of the setting. Think of this analogy: milieu is to setting what Greek culture is to Greek geography. (See also setting.) Motif: One of the dominant ideas in a work of literature, a part of the main theme. It may consist of a (symbolic) character, a recurrent image or a verbal pattern. For example, George´s repetition of Lennie tending the rabbits in Of Mice and Men is a recurring motif. Narrative Poetry: A poem, usually long, that tells a story. Nemesis: The personification of the gods' resentment and anger in a Greek play at man's hubris. The term is used now for any punishment (be it in the form of a character or misfortune) that befalls a tragic hero. Onomatopoeia: Words whose sound suggest or imitate their meaning, such as buzz, chime, clang, hiss, ring, tic, and zoom. Oxymoron: A figure of speech which combines incongruous and apparently contradictory words. For example, “bittersweet.” Paradox: A statement that seems contradictory but which may be true; a person thing or situation that seems to have conflicting qualities, such as an intelligent person who lacks common sense. Personification: A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or animals are given human characteristics; for example, “the wind bellowed and moaned.” Persuasive Writing: Writing meant to convince the reader of something. Speeches and argumentative essays are examples of persuasive writing. Plosive Consonants: Consonants characterized by explosion in their articulation; for example “p” and “b” in which the lips must purse and then open in order to pronounce. Also of interest when reading poetry by a particularly musical poet are hard consonant sounds; for example, the “c” in crack as opposed to the “c” in race which is an example of a soft consonant. Plot: The sequence of events in a work of fiction or narrative poetry that follows a five part structure: 1) Exposition: The part of a story that gives the reader essential background information. 2) Rising Action: The part of a story, characterized by suspense, leading to the climax. 3) Climax: (Ideally) the most exciting part of a story, the major turning point in the conflict and action when the reader/audience’s important questions --for example, “will Luke Skywalker defeat Darth Vader?”-- are answered. 4) Falling Action: The part of the story after the climax that prepares for the resolution. 5) Resolution: The part of the plot (also known as denouement) after the falling action, when the conflict ends completely and the outcome of the action is clear. Most adult stories (including movies) contain multiple conflicts and climaxes and therefore multiple instances of rising and falling action. Point of View: The position from which an author tells a story. The three conventional viewpoints are: 1) First Person: when the story is told by one of the characters using “I”. 2) Second Person: when the story is told by a narrator who puts the reader into the story and uses “You” (see the book Bright Lights, Big City). 3)Third Person: when the story is not told by a character in the story and “he” and “she” are used. There are two conventional types of third person narration: a) Limited Third Person: when the narrator tells the story but the focus is on the thoughts and actions of one character more than any others. b) Omniscient Third Person: when the narrator can tell what all the characters are thinking and doing. Parallelism: A very common device in poetry and poetic prose in which phrases or sentences of similar construction and meaning placed side by side, balancing each other, as in Isaiah (9:2): "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." King's famous speech, "I Have a Dream" also demonstrates the use of parallelism. The fact that such a structure is poetic and prevalent in The Bible points to a possible purpose for prose writer's who use it. (Pardon the alliteration.) Parody: The imitative use of the words, style, attitude, tone and ideas of an author in such a way as to make them ridiculous. This is usually achieved by exaggerating certain traits, using more or less the same technique as the cartoon caricaturist. Its purpose may be corrective as wall as derisive. (See also burlesque.) Pastiche: A patchwork of words, sentences or complete passages from various authors or one author. It is, therefore, a kind of imitation and when intentional, may be a form of parody. An elaborate form of pastiche is a sustained work (say, a novel) written mostly or entirely in the style and manner of another writer. A good modern example in Peter Ackroyd's The Last Days of Oscar Wilde (1983) which is a diary. Pathos: The pity roused by the situation or the misfortune of characters in a story. Propaganda: Material which is written or broadcast to persuade the audience to think in a particular way or follow a certain course of action. When the WW1 started, for example the government issued propaganda (leaflets, articles, posters radio, broadcasts, etc.) to persuade everyone to join the war effort. Prose: This term literally means "straightforward discourse" in Latin. Prose usually refers to the direct written language one finds in stories, newspapers and essays. If differs from poetry or verse in that it is not restricted in rhythm, measure or rhyme. However, there are such things as poetic prose (prose that borrows poetic devices) and the prose poem (poems that borrow from the conventions of prose). Protagonist: The main character in a story or play. Pun: Also called "word play." This is the use of a word or phrase in which a double or multiple meaning is implied. The effect is usually meant to be humorous or ironic. For example, Mercutio's famous line as he is dying; "Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man" (Romeo and Juliet, III,i). Refrain: A phrase, line or lines repeated at intervals during a poem and especially at the end of a stanza. It is equivalent to a chorus in a song. Rhyme: Essentially, assonance plus consonance in words that appear close together. There are several different types of rhyme. Some of the most typical are: 1) End Rhyme: when the words at the end of a line rhyme. 2) Internal Rhyme: when some of the words within lines rhyme. 3) Para-rhyme or Half rhyme: when words at the end of lines almost rhyme with the use of consonance but the absence of assonance. 4) Eye Rhyme: when words at the end of lines look like they rhyme, but they actually do not, for example “love” and “prove”. (See also pg. 868 in the photocopy attached to this glossary.) Rhyme Scheme: A conventional way of noting how rhymed line-endings are arranged in a stanza or group of lines. The letter “a” is used for the first rhymed sound, “b” for the second, and so on. The word “x” denotes lines that do not rhyme with any others. For example, the following stanza, from a poem by Elizabeth Jennings has a rhyme scheme of ababcc: And when she died I felt no grief at all, Only the guilt of what I was once refused. I walked into her room among the tall Sideboards and cupboards – things she never used But needed; and no finger-marks were there, Only the new dust falling through the air. Satire: A broad term which encompasses writing in which social affectation and vice are ridiculed. The satirist mocks errant individuals and the folly of society, the purpose being to correct conduct. There are many different branches of satire, two (burlesque and parody) have been outlined in this glossary. Setting: The physical and cultural environment within which an action takes place. the stage that serves to demonstrate the qualities of the protagonist. An arena suitable for the conflict. Weather moods, urban uproar, the majesty and menace of the ocean can signal moods of human character. (See also milieu). Simile: A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two different things that are not alike, using such words as “like” and “ as”; for example, “a smile as bright as a sunbeam.” Soliloquy: A speech, often of some length and in metred lines, in which a character, alone on the stage, expresses his thoughts and feelings. The most famous soliloquy is probably Hamlet's 'to be or not to be' musings. Sonnet: Traditionally, a poem of fourteen iambic pentameter lines linked by an intricate rhyme scheme. See diagram below for the structure of conventional sonnets: Spoonerism: So called after the Rev. W.A. Spooner (1844-1930) dean and warden of New College, Oxford. It is a type of word play which consists of a transposition between the consonant sounds (especially the initial sounds) of two words; a practice to which Spooner was addicted. "The queer old dean", for the "the dear old queen" is one example. So are these valedictory words he is alleged to have addressed to an undergraduate pupil: "You have tasted your worm, hissed my mystery lectured, and you must catch the first town drain." Stanza: A group of lines forming one division in a poem. It is like a paragraph of a poem. Depending on how many lines the stanza is comprised of, it may have a particular name; for example, a couplet for two lines, a tercet for three lines, a quatrain for four lines, a sestet for six lines, and an octave for eight lines. Structure: This term refers to the building blocks of a text (the words, sentences, stanzas, scenes, rising action, conclusion, etc.) and their relationship to each other. These building blocks in turn can be broken down; for example, one can analyse the structure of a line of poetry (the syntax, the metre, etc.). Remember that it is not enough to merely label parts; you must discuss how these parts work together to form the structure and explain how the structure supports the writer’s purpose. Style: A writer’s characteristic way of expressing ideas through word choice, sentence structure, syntax, etc. Symbolism: A writer’s use of a person, object, or event to suggest or stand for something else; for example the use of a heart to symbolize love. Synecdoche: A figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole, and thus something else is understood within the thing mentioned. For example, in “Give us this day our daily bread,” `bread´ stands for the meals taken each day. Syntax: A term basically synonymous with sentence structure, though more general since sentence structure usually refers to the four established types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Disruption of normal syntax is important to note in a text as it usually serves to shift the focus onto a different word or different part of the sentence. For example, natural word order is a term applied to a sentence in which the subject precedes the verb as in, “The soft crying of a child could be heard from the far corner of the cellar.” When the verb precedes the subject, however, the sentence is said to show inverted word order. Examine how suspense is created by making the reader wait until the end of the sentence to find out the subject: “From the far corner of the cellar could be heard the soft cries of a child.” Theme: The central idea or message, stated or implied, in a work of fiction, movie or poem. Tone: The attitude or feeling a writer expresses toward his or her subject, characters, or even readers, which is conveyed through the style of writing. Tragic Flaw: Also referred to as hamartia, this term refers to that defect in a hero or heroine which leads to their downfall. (See also hubris). Turn: A change in the direction of argument or narrative in a text. Zeugma: A figure of speech in which the same word (verb or preposition) is applied to two others in different senses. For example, "She looked at the object with suspicion and a magnifying glass" or "Ms. Bolo went home in a flood of tears and a Sedan."
Pages to are hidden for
"Glossary of Literary Terms"Please download to view full document