Literary Terminology: A-Z

A compilation of literary terms ranging across forms.

  • Created by: ciannie
  • Created on: 27-03-17 09:26
Allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance.
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Alliteration is the repetition of initial sounds in neighboring words.
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Allusion is a brief reference to a person, event, or place, real or ficticious, or to a work of art. An allusion may be drawn from history, geography, literature, or religion.
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Amplification is use of bare expressions, likely to be ignored or misunderstood by a hearer or reader because of the bluntness.
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Anagram is a word or phrase made by transposing the letters.
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Analogy is the comparison of two pairs which have the same relationship.
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The deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs.
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Inversion of the normal syntactic order of words, for example: "To market went she"
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The perception of all things (animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words) as animate and alive.
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The act of attributing human forms or qualities to an entities which are not human. Typical examples of anthropomorphism use animals, but it can also be attributed to gods.
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Aphorism is a brief saying embodying a moral, a concise statement of a principle or precept given in pointed words.
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Authorial Intrusion
Discussions directed to the reader and constituting a substantial break in the narrative illusion of reality are termed authorial intrusions. While ordinary descriptions are notauthorial intrusions, substantial essays addressed to the reader are.
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Archetype is the usage of any object or situation as it was originally made - think of it as the biggest cliché ever, but one that never dies.
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Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds
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Asyndeton is a stylistic scheme in which conjunctions are deliberately omitted from a series of related clauses. (Think asyndetic listing)
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Bibliomancy prediction based on a Bible verse or literary passage chosen at random.
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Bildungsroman is a story in which the protagonist undergoes growth throughout the entire narrative, generally starting off by being removed or chased from their home. Their growth is often impeded by opposition of their desires by other characters.
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Cacophony is harsh, discordant sounds.
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In prose it is a natural pause or break- in poetry it is the same but is also used to refer to punctuation imbedded within lines.
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Characterisation is the method used by an author to further develope a character.
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A type of rhetoric in which the second part is syntactically balanced against the first. Example: There's a bridge to cross the great divide. . . . There's a cross to bridge the great divide. . . ."
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the use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter form of expression; a roundabout or indirect manner of writing or speaking
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Conflict is the struggle found in fiction.
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Connotation is an implied meaning of a word- for example, "virginity" has religious connotations.
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Consonance is the repitition of consonant sounds.
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Denotation is the literal meaning of the word- for example, the denotation of "virginity" is "the state before a person first has sexual intercourse".
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Deus ex Machina
Deus ex Machina is an improbable contrivance in a story. It is used as a means to suddenly, and improbably, resolve conflict (through characters, setting etc)
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Diction is the choice of language used by the speaker or writer. For instance a young adult uses different words, language, style depending on to whom s/he is speaking or writing.
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Doppelganger is a ghostly double of another character, especially if it haunts its counterpart- However, one of the criteria for a doppelganger isn't that it looks like its counterpart. Frankenstein and his monster are considered to be doppelgangers.
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An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or work of art: it has to do with reflecting on the 'action' of a painting or scene. It's a means for poets to amplifiy and expand meaning.
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A section or speech at the end of a book/play that serves as a commentary or conclusion on that which has happened.
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An adjective or phrase expressing a quality/attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned. 'Dirty' is an epithet for old men.
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A word or expression used in place of the actual subject/thing- for example 'she's painting roses' is a euphemism for a menstruating woman.
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The use of words or phrases that create an agreeable or pleasent sound: 'silver bells slipping down'.
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A short story, typically involving animals, conveying morals. Otherwise a fictitious tale.
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Faulty parallelism
It is a construction in which parts of a sentence are roughly equivalent in meaning to a gramatically correct sentence, but are overall incorrect: "Annie likes to rap, nap, and eating snacks"
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An interruption of the chronological order of events where the past is interjected in order to provide context.
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A character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight the features of said other character.
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A reference to a later event in a story.
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An inversion of the normal order of words, such as: 'this I must see' as opposed to 'I must see this'. Here the normal order, Subject/Verb/Object, becomes Object/Subject/Verb
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Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
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Internal rhyme
Rhyme within one line of a poem: 'I clapped him, slapped him, as I should/no one thought this woman could'
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The placing of things considered opposite next to each other, not limited to words directly next to each other as in oxymoron. A chapter set in nighttime and the following set in daytime could be juxtaposition.
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In literature, a kenning is a magic poetic phrase, a figure of speech, substituted for the usual name of a person or thing- 'a storm of swords' means a battle.
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The act/habit of misusing words ridiculously, usually for comedic effect: 'trespassers will be prostituted'- 'prosecuted' is meant.
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Reference to a thing with a related concept: 'the prince is the next heir to the crown'- the 'crown' meaning king.
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Any reoccuring element with metaphorical significance to the story. Time is a motif in Gatsby
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Nemesis is a literary device that refers to a situation of poetic justice where the good characters are rewarded for their virtues and the evil characters are punished for their vices.
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A word that imitates the sound it represents: 'pop'.
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The pairing of 'opposite' words together, such as 'happy death', 'calm anger', 'raging sleep'.
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A simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.
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Pathetic fallacy
The attribution of human emotions and responses to inanimate objects, or animals.
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The use of indirect writing: 'he did go to the mountain' instead of 'he went to the mountain', 'he did sing' instead of 'he sang'.
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Periodic structure
A sentence in which the main clause/information is withheld until the end of the sentence: "despite such and such, the cake was eaten".
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Giving human qualities to animals or inanimate things.
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The repetition of connectives or conjunctions- eg, here there and everywhere.
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The joining of words to create a new word- 'smoke' and 'fog' make 'smog'.
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A piece of literature designed to ridicule its subject- not to produce humour but contempt, to make fun of human weaknesses and shortcomings.
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The comparison of something as another with the use of 'is like'- "a bell pepper is like a savoury apple".
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It is the switching of letters in words to create a non-sensical sentance; often used to replicate a slip of the tongue when speaking: "caddock or hod?" instead of "cod or haddock?"
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Stream of consciousness
A form of narration in which a character's mental thoughts and processings are narrated without break: "What an apple, was it an apple? Oh shoot, I left the back door open, the apples on the counter will spoil. Why does food spoil?"
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The use of a word which changes meaning through the sentence, usually for comedic effect: "I just blew my nose, the electric board, and my chances with Edith."
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A figure of speak in which a term for part of something refers to the whole of something: "Spain lost by eight wickets" meaning "the Spanish cricket team".
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A technique adopted by writers to present ideas, characters or phrases in such a way that stimulates multiple senses at once.
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The components of a sentence/the way the sentence is put together. For example, Yoda speaks in reverse syntax: "go to bed, he must."
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A specific type of literary genre: tragedies generally have noble protagonists with fatal flaws; they are doomed to makes a serious error in judgement and fall from high esteem.
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The appearance of something as true.
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A line of poetry
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A term used in literary criticism to identify the sense a written work conveys to a reader of its writer's attitude, personality, and character.
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From German, the "spirit of the age"; the moral, emotional, or intellectual climate or tendency characteristic of a period or era.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


Alliteration is the repetition of initial sounds in neighboring words.



Card 3


Allusion is a brief reference to a person, event, or place, real or ficticious, or to a work of art. An allusion may be drawn from history, geography, literature, or religion.


Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4


Amplification is use of bare expressions, likely to be ignored or misunderstood by a hearer or reader because of the bluntness.


Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5


Anagram is a word or phrase made by transposing the letters.


Preview of the back of card 5
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