American Literature EOCT Literary Terms

Alliteration
The repetition of identical beginning consonant sounds

Flashback
The author interrupts the scene of a narrative to tell about earlier events

Foreshadowing
An author gives hints or clues as to what will happen in a story

Hyperbole
Exaggeration for emphasis or humorous effect

Situational Irony
When things happen that are in direct contrast to what we expect (or would like to happen)

Verbal Irony
When people say one thing but mean the opposite

Dramatic Irony
When the reader knows something the character doesn’t

Metaphor
Compares two things directly, without using the words “like” or “as”

Extended Metaphor
A continued comparison throughout a work

Onomatopoeia
The technique of forming words that imitate specific sounds

Paradox
A statement that at first seems self-contradictory but that upon reflection makes sense

Personification
Gives human characteristics to animals, objects, or ideas

Pun
A play on words that have similar meanings

Refrain
A word, phrase, or series of lines that is repeated, adding rhythm and emphasis to a song or poem

Repetition
The act of repeating words and phrases throughout a work, or repeating literary devices such as metaphors, symbols, or types of imagery

Simile
A comparison using “like” or “as”

Symbol
Using one thing to represent another

Tone
The emotion created by the author’s use of language or by a character’s words and actions

Understatement
Minimizes or lessens the importance of what is meant

Fiction
A literary genre based on imagination and not necessarily on fact

Non-fiction
A literary genre based on fact

Drama
A literary genre intended to be performed by actors on a stage

Chronological
The story is arranged in order of time from the beginning to the end

Epistolary Narrative
A narrative written in the form of letters, diary/journal entries, postcards, or e- mail

Frame Narrative
A story is told within a story

In Medias Res
The novel or story begins at the midpoint

End Rhyme
Rhymes that occur at the end of a line of poetry; the most common type of rhyme

Internal Rhyme
Rhyme occurring within a line of poetry

Slant Rhyme
Also called a near rhyme, half rhyme, or off rhyme. The final consonant sounds are the same but the vowel sounds are different.

Consonance
Repetition of consonant sounds at any point in a word

Assonance
Repetition of vowel sounds

Rhyme Scheme
The pattern of rhymes in a poem

Fixed Form
Has specific requirements on length, rhyme scheme, and number of syllables

Free Verse
Follows no specific guidelines about rhyme, meter, or length

Narrative Poem
The main purpose is to tell a story

Ballad
A narrative poem, often of folk origin, intended to be sung

Lyric Poetry
Expresses a person’s thoughts or feelings

Allusion
An implied or indirect reference to a person, place, or thing that is fictitious, historical, or real

Conceit
An elaborate or extended simile or metaphor

Metonymy
A figure of speech where the name of a thing is being substituted for another word or term closely associated with it

Synechdoche
A part is used to represent the whole or vice versa

Tragedy
A serious play that ends in disaster and sorrow

Comedy
A lighthearted play intended to amuse the audience

Dramatic Conventions
Rules in which the actors and audience engage during a play

Fourth Wall
The imaginary wall that is supposedly removed to allow the audience to peer into a room to see the drama unfold

Expressionism
This dramatic style exaggerates reality

Minimalism
Relies on sparse scenery and limited dialogue

Political Drama
A drama or play with a political component, advocating a certain point of view or describing a political event

Modern Drama
Explores themes of alienation and disconnectedness

Theatre of the Absurd
Refers to plays written in the 1950s and 1960s with the basic belief that human existence is absurd, or without meaning

Theme
The central idea of a text

Denotation
The dictionary definition of a word

Connotation
A meaning or idea associated with a word

Dictionary
The best source for the definition and spelling of words

Encyclopedia
Reference book used to get more detailed information on subject areas

Thesaurus
Reference book used to find synonyms and related words

Narrative Writing
Tells a story

Descriptive Writing
Language to describe a person, place, or thing

Persuasive Writing
Designed to influence the reader’s thoughts in some way

Expository Writing
Used to provide information on a topic or to explain something

Bandwagon Technique
Appeals to people’s desire to fit in and be part of the group

Card Stacking
Refers to the persuasive technique of only presenting information that supports an idea

Stereotyping
Creates a simplified picture of a complex situation, individual, or group

Rhetorical Question
A question to which no answer is needed

Parallelism
The repetition of similar parts of a sentence or of several sentences to show that the phrases or sentences are of equal importance

Repetition
To repeat words or phrases to emphasize a point

Analogy
A comparison of two items, more extensive than a simile, often used to convey difficult ideas by comparing them to things or ideas most people know

Language
The words and phrases an author uses

Diction
The word choices a writer makes

Imagery
Description intended to elicit a sensory response

Exposition
Introduces the characters, establishes the setting, and reveals the problem or conflict

Plot
The events that occur in a story

Rising Action
Incidents that either help or hinder the protagonist in finding a solution

Climax
The peak or turning point of the action

Falling Action
The part after the climax that gives any necessary explanation and ends with resolution

Protagonist
The central character and the one with whom the reader often identifies

Antagonist
A character (or force) that opposes the protagonist

Setting
When and where a story takes place

Mood
A feeling or emotion created by the words and setting

Point of View
The perspective from which a story is told

First Person
The events are told by a character in the story using his or her own words

Second Person
The narrator addresses the reader directly using the word you

Third Person
A speaker outside the action narrates the events using he, she, and they