Literary Terms and Techniques Alliteration- repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words or accented syllables. Writers use alliteration to emphasize ideas and to create pleasing sounds. Allusion- a reference to a well-known person, place, or event, literary work, or work of art. By using allusions, writers can bring to mind complex ideas simply and easily. Apostrophe- a figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses an absent person or a personified quality, object or idea. This technique is often used to add emotional intensity. Assonance- the repetition of similar vowel sounds. Blank Verse- poetry or drama written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Caesura- a pause or break in the middle of a line of poetry. Climax- the turning point or high point in a plot. Connotation- an association that a word calls to mind in addition to the dictionary meaning of the word. Characterization- the way in which an author develops the personality of a character. Conflict- a struggle between opposing forces. Consonance- the repetition of consonant sounds at the ends of words or accented syllables. Couplet- a two-line stanza. Denouement- that portion of the plot that reveals the final outcome of its conflicts or the solution of its mysteries. Deus ex machine (“god from the machine”)- the resolution of a plot by use of a highly improbable chance or coincidence. Dialect- the form of language spoken by people in a particular region or group. Dialogue- a conversation between characters. Diction- a writer or speaker’s word choice. Diction is part of a writer’s style. Dilemma- a situation in which a character must choose between two courses of action, both undesirable. Exposition- As a mode of communication, it is writing or speech that explains, informs, or presents information. In terms of the dramatic structure of a literary work, the exposition occurs in the beginning of the piece and acts as an introduction of the main characters, the plot, and the setting. Figure of Speech- way of saying one thing and meaning another. Foil- a character who provides a contrast to another character. Flashback- a section of a literary work that interrupts the chronological presentation of events to relate an event from an earlier time. Foreshadowing- a textual clue in a literary work to an upcoming event or character change. Free Verse- poetry that lacks a regular rhythmical pattern or meter. Gothic- refers to the use of primitive, medieval, wild, or mysterious elements in literature. Hyperbole- a deliberate exaggeration or overstatement. Imagery- words or phrases that appeal to one or more of the five senses. Writers use imagery to create word pictures and other sense experiences for the reader. Irony- In verbal irony, a word or phrase is used to support the opposite of its usual meaning. In dramatic irony, there is a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the audience or reader knows to be true. In irony of situation, an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the characters, the reader, or the audience. Lyric Poem- a poem that expresses the observations and feelings of a single speaker. Metaphor- a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of as though it were something else. It is an implied comparison such as “the long sleep of death.” Meter- the rhythmical pattern of a poem determined by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables. Metonymy- the use of something closely related for the thing actually meant. For, example in the line “Life spilled from the wound,” the metonymy lies in the fact that life is meant to signify blood. Monologue- a speech delivered entirely by one person or character. Mood- the atmosphere or feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage. Motivation- a reason that explains a character’s thoughts, feelings, actions, or speech. Narration- writing that tells a story. Narrative Poem- a story in the form of verse. Narrator- a speaker or character who tells a story. Omniscient Point of View- an all-knowing third person narrator. Onomatopoeia- the use of words that imitate sounds. Oxymoron- a figure of speech that combines two opposing or contradictory ideas, such as “freezing fire.” Paradox- a statement that seems to be contradictory but that actually presents a truth. Parallelism- the repetition of a grammatical structure. For example, the lines “What do we want of these men?/What do we want of ourselves?” contain the parallel use of the phrase “What do we want of…” Writers use parallelism to emphasize and link ideas. Parody- a humorous imitation of a literary work, one that exaggerates or distorts the original. Personification- a figure of speech in which a nonhuman subject is given human characteristics. Plot- a sequence of events in a literary work; the arrangement of the action. Point of View- the perspective or vantage point from which a story is told. Refrain- a repeated line or group of lines in a poem or song. Rhyme Scheme- a regular pattern of rhyming words in a poem. Rising Action- that part of the plot in a story that leads up to the climax. During the rising action, suspense increases as complications of the conflict develop. Satire- writing that ridicules or criticizes individuals, ideas, or institutions, social conventions, or other works of art or literature. Simile- a figure of speech that makes a direct comparison between two subjects using like, as, or than. Setting- the time and place of the action. Soliloquy- a long speech made by a character who is alone and who reveals his or her private thoughts or feelings to the audience. Stanza- a group of lines in a poem, considered as a unit. Stream of Consciousness- a narrative technique that presents thoughts as if they were coming directly from a character’s mind. Instead of being arranged in chronological order, the events of the story are presented from the character’s point of view. Style- a writer’s typical way of writing. Style includes word choice, tone, degree of formality, figurative language, sentence length, etc. Suspense- a feeling of growing uncertainty about the outcome of events. Symbol- anything that stands for or represents something else. Synecdoche- a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to stand for the whole thing. For example, in the line “Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?,” the word “face” represents the entire person of a beautiful woman-Helen of Troy. Theme- a central message or insight into life revealed by a literary work. Tone- the writer’s attitude toward his or her subject, characters or audience. Understatement- saying less than is actually meant, generally in an ironic way. Vernacular- the ordinary language of people in a particular region. It is also called colloquial language. It is the informal, realistic language of the common man.
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