Document 7384213

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English 12
Literary Terms
Literary Terms
• Allegory: An extended narrative in prose or verse in
which characters, events, and settings represent
abstract qualities where the writer intends a second
meaning to be read beneath the surface story
• Eg. The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser (written in 1590)
• Spenser only completed half of The Faerie Queene he
planned. In a letter to Sir John Walter Raleigh, he explained
the purpose and structure of the poem. It is an allegory, a
story whose characters and events nearly all have a specific
symbolic meaning. The poem's setting is a mythical "Faerie
land," ruled by the Faerie Queene. Spenser sets forth in the
letter that this "Queene" represents his own monarch, Queen
• Allusion: A passing reference to historical
of fictional character, places, or events, or
to other works that the writer assumes the
reader will recognize.
• Eg. Bible:
– From HAMLET by William Shakespeare
O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow?(2.3)
The underlined
section makes
reference to
the slaying of
Abel by Cain in
the Bible
• Analogy:A comparison of similar
things for the purpose of making
something unfamiliar to seem familiar
• Eg. River system compared to a tree
• Metaphor and simile often make unexpected
and creative comparisons
• Aphorism: A statement of a principle or
truth, usually an observation about life
• Eg. The happiest of women, like the
happiest nations, have no history
• George Eliot Mary Ann Evans
(22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880),
better known by her pen name
George Eliot, was an
English novelist. Her most famous
work is MIDDLEMARCH (1871-72),
• Apostrophe: In poetry, when an absent
person, an abstract concept, or an
important object is directly addressed
• Eg. Paradise Lost by John Milton begins
with an invocation to the heavenly muse:
“Sing, Heavenly Muse”
• Aside: In drama, a convention by
which actors speak briefly to the
– Eg. Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “A little more
than kin, and less than kind” (1.2. line
• Assonance: is the repetition of vowel
sounds but not consonant sounds as in
– Eg. Fleet feet sweep by sleeping geeks.
• Ballad: A form of narrative poetry that
presents a single dramatic episode, which is
often tragic or violent. Often meant to be
• Folk ballad: Composed anonymously and transmitted
orally from generation to generation—sung or recited.
Dealt with common people rather than nobility and the
supernatural played an important role
Eg. Bonnie George Campbell
Hie upon the Highlands, and laigh upon the Tay,
Bonnie George Campbell rode, out on a day.
He saddled, he bridled, and gallant rode he,
And hame came his guid horse, but never cam he.
Out cam his mother, dear, greeting fu sair,
And out cam his bonnie bryde, riving her hair.
"The meadow lies green the corn is unshorn
But bonnie George Campbell will never return.
Saddled and bridled and booted rode he,
A plume in his helment, a sword at his knee.
but toom cam his saddle, all bloody to see
Oh, hame cam his guid horse, but never cam he
• Ballads continued:
– Literary Ballads: More polished and
consciously artful than folk ballads and
contain more elevated language and
poetric diction
– Eg. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
• Ballad Stanza: The stanza form of
the ballad, usually four lines
rhyming abcb
• The first and the third lines
typically contain four accented
syllables, the second and the
fourth lines, three accented
• A refrain (repeated line found
elsewhere in the same position) at
the end of the stanza is common
Iambic Meter—the stress in each
in on
Martinmas time A
1st & 3rd = U It line
8 syllables A When the green leaves were a-falling, B
Sir John Graeme, in the West Country,C
2 &4
fell in love with Barbara Allan
6 syllables A
I He sent his men down through the town
To the place where she was dwelling
“O haste and come to my master dear,
Gin ye be Barbara Allan”
Language is
O hooly, hooly rose she up,
Simple and
To the place where he was lying
And when she drew the curtain by,
“Young man, I think you’re dying.”
The young man
is love sick O it’s I’m sick, and very sick,
And it’s a’ for Barbara Allan”;
“O the better for me ye’s never be,
Though your heart’s blood were a spilling.
• Blank Verse: A verse consisting of
unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter.
(ten syllables per line)
Eg. Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burned the topless towers of Illium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss
Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus
• Caesura: A pause within a line of
poetry often resulting from the
natural rhythm of language and not
necessarily indicated by punctuation
• Caricature: Descriptive writing that
exaggerates specific features of
appearance or personality, usually for
comic effect
• Chorus: A character whose role is to
comment on the actions of the main
• Comedy: Any
literary work that
aims to amuse by
dealing with
humorous, familiar
situations involving
ordinary people
speaking everyday
• Conceit: An elaborate figure of speech comparing two very
dissimilar things.
Eg. My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130) by
William Shakespeare
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
• Consonance: The close repetition of identical consonant
sounds before and after differing vowel sounds. It is NOT
necessarily (but can be) alliteration
– Eg. forever, over
• Couplet: Two consectuive lines of
poetry that rhyme and that are
written in the same meter or pattern
of stressed and unstressed syllables
Eg. Three be the things I shall have till I
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye
by Dorothy Parker from “Inventory”
• Denotation: The dictionary definition
of a work. Opposite of
• Dialect: The version of a language
spoken by people of a particular
region or social group
• Diary: A journal or personal reflection
and record of the daily life of a person.
• Diction: Word choice. Two basic
• Clear diction is both precise and concrete with
strong verbs.
• Appropriate diction is diction at a level—formal,
informal, colloquial, slang—suitable to the
• Dissonance: Words that are put together
in such a way as to be awkward for
• Dramatic Monologue: A poem in which a
single character, overheard speaking to a
silent listener, reveals a dramatic
– Eg. Robert Browning “My Last Duchess”
• Elegy: A poem of sorrow or mourning
for the dead.
– Eg. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a
Country Churchyard”
• English or Shakepearean Sonnet:A fixed
form consisting of fourteen lines of 5foot iambic verse. It’s arranged into
three quatrains rhyming abab, cdcd,
efef, followed by a rhyimg couplet gg,
which sums up the poem.
• Epic: A long narrative poem in loftyl style
set in a remote time and place, and
dealing with heroic character and deeds
important in the legends and history of a
nation or race.
• Epigram: Any witty, pointed saying.
– Eg. She knows the cost of everything and the
value of nothing.
• Figurative Language: Language the contains
the figures of speech such as metaphor,
simile, personification and hyperbole.
• Foil: A character who, by contrast, points
up the qualities or characteristics of
another character.
• Form: The organizing principle that shapes
a work of literature.
• Free Verse: Poetry that doesn’t follow a set form or
rhyme scheme.
• Genre: A type of literary work.
• Heroic Couplet: A pair of rhyming iambic pentameter lines.
• Hyperbole: Exaggeration for dramatic effect. Used to
create humour OR emphasis.
Eg. A section from Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
• Iambic Pentameter: A poetic line of five
iambic feet.
What is Iambic Pentameter?
Ten syllables in each line
Five pairs of alternating unstressed and stressed
The rhythm in each line sounds like:
ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM
If mu- / -sic be / the food / of love, / play on Is this / a
dag- / -ger I / see be- / fore me?
• Image: Language referring to
something that can be perceived
through one or more of the senses.
• Imagery: The making of pictures in
words, the pictorial quality of a
literary work achieved through a
collection of images.
• In medias res: Literally “in the middle
of.” When a piece of literature begins in
the middle of the action/story then
using flashbacks in order to fill in the
beginning of the story.
• Internal rhyme: The rhyming of two or
more words in the same line of poetry.
• Inversion: Reversing the normal order
of sentence parts—usually to ask a
• Invocation: At the beginning of an epic,
an appeal to a god or godess for
• Irony: In the broadest sense, the
recognition of the incongruity or
difference between reality (what is) and
appearance (what seems to be).
• Situational: The difference between what is
expected to happen and what actually occurs.
• Verbal Irony: Contrast between what is said and
what is actually meant. (Sarcasm is a harsh form
of this)
• Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet: A sonnet
that is organized into two parts:
– Octave: consists of the first eight lines of
the poem rhyming abba, abba;
– Sestet: the final six lines of the poem,
rhyming cde, cde. The octave is the question
and the sestet is the answer/resolve.
• Kenning: A metaporic compound owrd or
phrase used as a synony for a common
– Eg. Beowulf: “ring bestower”
• Lyric Poem: A poem that expresses the
emotions and thoughts of the author
• Metaphysical (poetry): A term applied to
the poetry of John Donne and several
other seventeenth-century poets such as
Andrew Marvell. This poetry rebells
against the conventional love poetry of
the Elizabethans.
• Meter: The fixed (or nearly fixed)
pattern of accented and unaccented
syllables in the lines of a poem that
produces its pervasive rhythm. Basic unit
of rhythm is the FOOT, consisting of at
least one accented syllable and one or
more unaccented syllables.
• Metonymy: A figure of speech that
substitutes the name of a related object,
person, or idea for the subject at hand.
• Eg. Crown=monarchy
• White House=President of United States
• Shakespeare=works of Shakespeare
• Mock Epic: A literary work that comically or
satirically imitates the form and style of the
epic, treating a trivial subject in a lofty
• Eg. The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
• Motif: A recurring image, word, phrase,
action, idea, object, or situation
throughout a literary work
• A recounting of a series of actual or
fictional events in which some
connection between the events is
established or implied.
• Octave: See Italian/Petrarchan Sonnet
• Ode: A long and elaborate lyric poem, usually
dignified in tone and often written to praise
someone or something or to mark an important
– Eg. Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley
• Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which two
contradictory words or phrases are combined
in a single expression, giving the effect of a
condensed paradox.
– Eg. Wise Fool, Living death, cruel kindness
• Paradox: A statement, while apparently self-contradictory,
is nonetheless essentially true.
• Parallelism: The technique of showing that words, phrases,
clauses, or larger structures are comparable in content and
importance by placing them side by side and making them
similar in form.
– Eg.
Halcyon Days by Walt Whitman
Not from successful love alone,
Nor wealth, nor honor’d middle age, nor victories of politics
or war;
But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm
As gorgeous vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,
As softness, fulness, rest ,suffuse the frame, like fresher,
balmier air,
As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last
Hangs really finish’d and indolent-ripe on the tree,
Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all!
The brooding and blissful halcyon days!
• Parody: A piece that ridicules another
composition by imitating and
exaggerating aspects of its content,
structure and style.
• Pastoral: A poem having to do with
shepherds and rural life
• Pentameter: See iambic pentameter
• Persona: The voice or mask created by the author through which
a story is told.
• Petrarchan or Italian Sonnet: The basic meter of all sonnets in
English is iambic pentameter. Divided into two sections by two
different groups of rhyming sounds. The first 8 lines is called the
octave and rhymes: a b b a a b b a The remaining 6 lines is called
the sestet and can have either two or three rhyming sounds,
arranged in a variety of ways:
• cdcdcd
The point here is that the poem is divided into two sections by
the two differing rhyme groups. This change occurs at the
beginning of L9 in the Italian sonnet and is called the volta, or
"turn"; the turn is an essential element of the sonnet form,
perhaps the essential element. It is at the volta that the second
idea is introduced.
• Point of view: The view from which as
story is told.
• 1st Person: Uses “I”
• Omniscient: “God-like” narrator. Knows
thoughts and feelings of all characters
• Limited omniscient/third person: “Godlike” narrator that only follows one
• Dramatic or objective: A play
• Second Person: Uses “you”
• Protagonist: The main character of a
story. Can be an anti-hero (bad guy)
• Pun: A play on words
• Quatrain: Four line stanza
• Refrain: A group of words repeated at
intervals during a poem—usually at the
end of a stanza
• Rhyme: similar sound between two words.
• Rhyme Scheme: patterns of rhymes in a
stanza or poem. Usually indicated by
letters of the alphabet (abba)
• Rhythm: The patterned flow of sound in
poetry and prose
• Romanticism: Movement in art and
literature in 18th & 19th centuries in
revolt against neoclassicism. “Literature
depicting emotional matter in an
imaginative form.”
• Satire: Literature that uses ironic
humour and wit with criticism for the
purpose of ridiculing folly, vice for the
purpose of making positive change.
• Sestet: See Italian/petrarchan sonnet
• Setting: The time and place of a story
• Shakespearean/English sonnet: See
English sonnet
• Simile: Comparison using like or as
• Soliloquy: A dramatic convention in which
a character in a play, alone of stage,
speaks his or her thoughts aloud.
– Eg. “To be or Not to be” speech in Hamlet
• Sonnet: 14 line lyric poem
• Speaker: The voice of a poem. The poet may
be speaking as him/herself or take on a
• Spenserian Stanza: A stanza pattern,
creatied by Edmund Spenser that consists
of nine lines in iambic meter rhyming
• Stanza: A “paragraph” or section of poetry
• Style:A writer’s characteristic way of
saying things. It may be the arrangement of
ideas, word choice, use of lit decvices,
sentence structure, rhythm etc.
• Repetition: The repeating of a word or
phrase for dramatic effect.
• Synecdoche: A figure of speech in which
a part of something stands for the whole
– Eg. I’ve got wheels (wheels=car), The sails
were seen on the horizon (sails=boats).
• Syntax: The arrangement and
grammatical relation of words, phrases
and clauses in sentences.
• Tercet: A three line stanza.
• Terza rima: A form of verse composed
of tercets linked by rhyme: abc, bcb,
cdc, ded and so on.
• Tetrameter: A line of poetry compsed of
four metrical feet (eight syllables).
• Tone: The reflection in a work of the
author’s attitude toward his or her
subject, characters, and readers.
– Eg. Brusque, friendly, teasing etc.
• Theme: The central or dominating ideas,
the “message” implicit in a work.
(Remember that when you are writing
about theme, you must create a theme
• Tragedy: In simplest terms—the
protagonist dies due to a fatal
flaw/error in judgment/twist of fate.
• Trimeter: A line of poetry consisting of
three metrical feet (six syllables/line)
• Villanelle: A lyric poem made up of five stanzas
of three lines plus a final stanza of four lines.
Aba, abaa.
– Eg. Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan
• Voice: A term to identify the sense a written
work conveys to a reader of its writer’s
attitude, personality, and character.
• Volta: Also called a turn, a volta is a sudden
change in thought, direction, or emotion near
the conclusion of a sonnet.
• Wit: The ability to make brilliant,
imaginative, or clever connections between
• Proverb: A short saying that expresses
some commonplace truth or bit of folk
wisdom concerning some aspect of
practical life.
– Eg. “A friend in need is a friend indeed”
– “A rolling stone gathers no moss”
• Thesis: The topic sentence that states the
central argument of a piece of writing
• Jargon: Language specific to a particular
– Eg. Medical jargon
• Colloquial Language: A word or phrase in
everyday use in conversation and
informal writing, but sometimes
inappropriate in formal writing.
– Eg. Carol won’t let on, but I know she’s down
in the dumps.
• Euphemism: A kinder, gentler way of
saying something that’s negative.
– Eg. He passed on (instead of he died)
• Direct presentation: When the author
states what a character is like.
• Indirect presentation: When the author
asks the reader to deduce from his/her
actions what a character is like.