Renaissance Literature Vocabulary

metaphysical poet
John Donne and those who wrote in a style inspired by or similar to his.

imagery
words or phrases that create pictures, or images, in the reader’s mind.

paradox
a statement that reveals a kind of truth, although it seems at first to be self-contradictory and untrue.

conceit/metaphysical conceit
a kind of metaphor that makes a comparison between two startlingly different things; unusual and intellectual, providing the framework for an entire poem.

oxymoron
a figure of speech that combines opposite or contradictory ideas or terms.

hyperbole
an extreme exaggeration

symbol
any object, person, place, or action that has a meaning in itself and that also stands for something larger than itself, such as a quality, an attitude, a belief, or a value.

Italian sonnet
a fourteen line lyric poem, usually written in rhymed iambic pentameter with two parts: an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). abbaabba cdecde is the rhyme scheme.

sestet
a six-line poem or stanza; last six lines in an Italian sonnet.

octave
an eight-line poem or stanza; first eight lines in an Italian sonnet.

Shakespearean sonnet
a fourteen line lyric poem, usually written in iambic pentameter, consisting of three quatrains and a concluding couplet. abab cdcd efef gg is the rhyme scheme.

Classicism
a movement or tendency in art, literature, or music that reflects the principles manifested in the art of ancient Greece and Rome.

masque
an elaborate and spectacular dramatic entertainment that was popular among the English aristocracy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Neoclassicism
a revival in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of classical standards of order, balance, and harmony in literature.

carpe diem
“seize the day”; a traditino dating back to classical Greek and Latin poetry and particularly popular among English Cavalier poets.

irony
a contrast or incongruity between what is stated and what is really meant, or between what is expected to happen and what actually happens.

epic
a long narrative poem telling about the deeds of a great hero and reflecting the values of the society from which it originated.

blank verse
unrhymed iambic pentameter.

in medias res
a technique of plunging into the middle of a story and only later using a flashback to tell what has happened previously.

invocation
at the beginning of an epic (or other poem) a call to a muse, god, or spirit for inspiration.

allusion
a reference to a person, a place, an event, or a literary work that a writer expects the reader to recognize and respond to.

allegory
a tale in verse or prose in which characters, actions, or settings represent abstract ideas or moral qualities.

apostrophe
a figure of speech in which an absent or a dead person, an abstract quality, or something nonhuman is addressed directly.

rhyme scheme
the pattern of rhymes in a poem.

metaphor
a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two things that are basically dissimilar.

personification
a figure of speech in which something nonhuman is given human qualities.