Mrs. Hastings AP Literary Terms List

Anaphora
repetition of a word or phrase as the beginning of successive clauses

Apposition
the act of positioning close together (or side by side)

Asyndeton
a construction in which elements are presented in a series without conjunctions

Chiasmus
inversion in the second of two parallel phrases

Cumulative Sentence
a sentence in which the main independent clause is elaborated by the successive addition of modifying clauses or phrases (main clause is at the beginning)

Ellipsis
omission or suppression of parts of words or sentences

Freight train
Sentence consisting of three or more very short independent clauses joined by conjunctions.

Hypozeugma
use of a series of subjects with a single predicate

Inverted Syntax
syntax is word order; inverted syntax is unusual, “backward” sounding syntax

Parallel Syntax
repetition of words, phrases, and clauses used in a concise manner

Periodic Sentence
a complex sentence in which the main clause comes last and is preceded by the subordinate clause

Polysyndeton
use of many conjunctions to slow pace

Syntax
the grammatical arrangement of words in sentences

Cosmic Irony
when a writer uses God, destiny, or fate to dash the hopes and expectations of a character or humankind in general

Dramatic Irony
when a reader is aware of something that a character isn’t

Situational Irony
occurs when the outcome of a work is unexpected, or events turn out to be the opposite from what one had expected

Verbal Irony
occurs when what is said contradicts what is meant or thought

Allusion
passing reference or indirect mention

Antithesis
the juxtaposition of contrasting words or ideas to give a feeling of balance

Apostrophe
A figure of speech in which one directly addresses an absent or imaginary person, or some abstraction

Conceit
the trait of being vain and conceited, a fanciful, particularly clever extended metaphor

Double Entendre
an ambiguity with one interpretation that is indelicate

Epic Simile
a simile developed over several lines of verse

Sarcasm
witty language used to convey insults or scorn

Hyperbole
extravagant exaggeration

Idiom
an expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up

Litotes
understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary)

Zeugma
use of a word to govern two or more words though appropriate to only one

Euphemism
an inoffensive expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive

Understatement
a statement that is restrained in ironic contrast to what might have been said

Synesthesia
a sensation that normally occurs in one sense modality occurs when another modality is stimulated

Synecdoche
substituting a more inclusive term for a less inclusive one or vice versa

Syllepsis
use of a word to govern two or more words though agreeing in number or case etc. with only one

Paradox
(logic) a self-contradiction

Simile
a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds (usually formed with ‘like’ or ‘as’)

Oxymoron
conjoining contradictory terms (as in ‘deafening silence’)

Metonymy
substituting the name of an attribute or feature for the name of the thing itself (as in ‘they counted heads’)

Metaphor
a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity

Extended Metaphor
the comparison between two things is continued beyond the first point of comparison. This extends and deepens a description.

Alliteration
use of the same consonant at the beginning of each stressed syllable in a line of verse

Assonance
the repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words

Consonance
the repetition of consonants (or consonant patterns) especially at the ends of words

Onomatopoeia
using words that imitate the sound they denote

Rhyme
a piece of poetry, correspondence in the sounds of two or more lines (especially final sounds)

Abstract Diction
refers to language that denotes ideas, emotions, conditions, or concepts that are intangible.

Abstract Generalization
vague, opposite to concrete

Ad hominem
appealing to personal considerations (rather than to fact or reason)

Anecdote
short account of an incident (especially a biographical one)

Archetype
A detail, image, or character type that occurs frequently in literature and myth and is thought to appeal in a universal way to the unconscious and to evoke a response

Colloquial
characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation

Concrete Diction
specific words that describe physical qualities or conditions.

Connotation
an idea that is implied or suggested, what you must know in order to determine the reference of an expression

Convention
something regarded as a normative example

Denotation
the most direct or specific meaning of a word or expression

Atmosphere
a distinctive but intangible quality surrounding a person or thing

Dialect
the change in speech patterns related to class, region, or other culture change

Diction
the manner in which something is expressed in words

Equivocation
falsification by means of vague or ambiguous language

Foreshadowing
The use of hints and clues to suggest what will happen later in a plot

Imagery
the ability to form mental images of things or events

In Media Res
a piece of writing that begins in the middle of the action

Motif
a unifying idea that is a recurrent element in a literary or artistic work

Non Sequitur
(logic) a conclusion that does not follow from the premises

Pathetic Fallacy
the fallacy of attributing human feelings to inanimate objects

Pathos
a quality that arouses emotions (especially pity or sorrow)

Personification
representing an abstract quality or idea as a person or creature

Prose
ordinary speech or writing without rhyme or meter; referring to speech or writing other than verse

Mood
The overall emotion created by a work of literature

Rhetorical Function
the purpose for which the communication is designed or why it exists

Rhetorical Question
A question asked merely for rhetorical effect and not requiring an answer

Setting
arrangement of scenery and properties to represent the place where a play or movie is enacted

Symbol
something visible that by association or convention represents something else that is invisible

Tone
The attitude of the author toward the audience and characters (e.g., serious or humorous).

Anapest
a metrical unit with unstressed-unstressed-stressed syllables

Dactyl
a metrical unit with stressed-unstressed-unstressed syllables

Spondee
a metrical unit with stressed-stressed syllables

Trochee
a metrical unit with stressed-stressed-unstressed syllables

Iambic Pentameter
10 syllables to a line

Ballad
a type of poem that is meant to be sung and is both lyric and narrative in nature

Blank Verse
unrhymed verse (usually in iambic pentameter)

Caesura
a break or pause (usually for sense) in the middle of a verse line

Couplet
a stanza consisting of two successive lines of verse

Dramatic Monologue
a poem in which a speaker addresses a silent listener

Free Verse
Poetry that does not have a regular meter or rhyme scheme

Lyric Poetry
poetry that expresses that poet’s thoughts and feelings

Meter
rhythm as given by division into parts of equal time, a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry

Ode
A poem usually addressed to a particular person, object or event that has stimulated deep and noble feelings in the poet

Quatrain
a stanza of four lines

Scansion
analysis of verse into metrical patterns

Sonnet
a verse form consisting of 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme

First Person Point of View
the narrator is a character in the story and used words like I, me, we

Second Person Point of View
The narrator tells the story using the pronouns “You”, “Your,” and “Yours” to address a reader or listener directly

Limited Omniscient Point of View
The author tells the story, using the third person, but is limited to a complete knowledge of one character in the story and tells us only what that one character thinks, feels, sees, or hears.

Omniscient Point of View
the narrator is capable of knowing, telling, and seeing all

Editorial Point of View
(also Authorial Intrusion) The effect that occurs when a third-person narrator adds his or her own comments into the narrative.

Narrator
someone who tells a story

Climax
the decisive moment in a novel or play

Conflict
opposition in a work of drama or fiction between characters or forces (especially an opposition that motivates the development of the plot)

Denouement
the final resolution of the main complication of a literary or dramatic work

Exposition
an account that sets forth the meaning or intent of a writing or discourse

Falling Action
events after the climax, leading to the resolution

Plot
the story that is told in a novel or play or movie etc.

Rising Action
events leading up to the climax

Allegory
A literary work in which characters, objects, or actions represent abstractions

Aphorism
a concise statement that expresses succinctly a general truth or idea, often using rhyme or balance

Autobiography
a biography of yourself

Bildungsroman
A coming of age story, novel that focuses on moral and psychological factors throughout story. Character matures
Ex:
Great Expectations

Biography
an account of the series of events making up a person’s life

Didactic Literature
writing whose purpose is to instruct or to teach, usually formal and focused on moral or ethical concerns

Elegy/Lamentation
a mournful poem

Epic
a long narrative poem telling of a hero’s deeds

Epistolary
written in the form of or carried on by letters or correspondence

Essay
an analytic or interpretive literary composition

Fable
a story about mythical or supernatural beings or events

Farce
a comedy characterized by broad satire and improbable situations

Genre
a kind of literary or artistic work

Gothic Novel
A novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terrors pervades the action

Harangue/Invective
a loud bombastic declamation expressed with strong emotion

Lampoon
a composition that imitates somebody’s style in a humorous way

Mock Epic
Mock-heroic, mock-epic or heroi-comic works are typically satires or parodies that mock common Classical stereotypes of heroes and heroic literature.

Parody
humorous or satirical mimicry

Satire
witty language used to convey insults or scorn

Vignette
a brief literary description

Antagonist
the character who works against the protagonist in the story

Byronic Hero
A kind of hero found in several of the works of Lord Byron.A Byronic hero is a melancholy and rebellious young man, distressed by a terrible wrong he committed in the past.

Caricature
a representation of a person that is exaggerated for comic effect

Direct Characterization
Author directly describes character

Dynamic Character
One whose character changes in the course of the play or story

Epic Hero
the main character or protagonist in an epic that heroically larger than life, often the source and subject of a legend or a national hero

Flat Character
A character who embodies a single quality and who does not develop in the course of a story

Foil
anything that serves by contrast to call attention to another thing’s good qualities

Indirect Characterization
The character is revealed through their personality, appearance, words, actions, and effect on others

Motivation
a character’s incentive or reason for behaving in a certain manner; that which impels a character to act

Protagonist
the principal character in a work of fiction

Round Character
this character is fully developed – the writer reveals good and bad traits as well as background

Static Character
a character that does not change from the beginning of the story to the end

Stock Character
The stereotyped character in which he is immediately known from typical characters in history

Anagnorisis
Recognition of truth about one’s self and his actions; moment of clarity

Aside
a line spoken by an actor to the audience but not intended for others on the stage

Catharsis
a release of emotional tension

Dialogue
a literary composition in the form of a conversation between two people

Epilogue
a short passage added at the end of a literary work

Hamartia
the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall

Hubris
overbearing pride or presumption

Monologue
a (usually long) dramatic speech by a single actor

Peripeteia
a sudden and unexpected change of fortune or reverse of circumstances (especially in a literary work)

Prologue
an introduction to a play

Soliloquy
a (usually long) dramatic speech intended to give the illusion of unspoken reflections

The Unities
time, place, and action

Tragic Flaw
the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall