Allegory—An allegory is a literary work that has an underlying meaning beneath the literal meaning. Allegory relies heavily on symbolism to teach a lesson or illustrate an idea. Characters often represent abstract concepts such as truth

Epic—a long narrative poem about the adventures of a hero whose action reflect the ideals and values of a


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Epic—a long narrative poem about the adventures of a hero whose action reflect the ideals and values of a

nation or group. Epics usually address universal concerns, such as good and evil, life and death, and

other serious subjects. There are basically two types of epics: 1) primary—also known as oral or

primitive, belonging to oral tradition thus being composed orally and recited and much later in some

cases written down; 2) secondary—also known as literary because it is written down from the


  • Examples of Primary (oral) Epics—The Epic of Gilgamesh, Illiad and Odyssey, and Beowulf

  • Examples of Literary (written) Epics—Paradise Lost
    , Aeneid, and La Legende des siecles

Epiphany—a sudden understanding or realization

  • In “A cup of Tea,” by Katherine Mansfield, Rosemary Fell’s realization that her husband finds Miss Smith pretty is an epiphany.

Essay—a short nonfiction work about a particular subject. Most essays have a single major focus and a clear

introduction, body, and conclusion.

1—narrative essay—tells a true story about real people

2—expository essay—presents information, discusses ideas, or explains a process

3—persuasive essay—presents and supports an opinion with strong arguments or reasons

4—descriptive essay—describes events and feelings by including images and details

5—reflective essay—communicates a writer’s thoughts about a topic of personal interest
Euphemism—more agreeable or less offensive substitute for unpleasant words or concepts

  • Euphemism—A clean bomb exploded in the midst of the New England states and has a suspected connection to the war on terrorism.

  • Reality—A nuclear bomb with minimal fall-out, which kills tens of thousands of people, as opposed to a regular nuclear bomb, which kills hundreds of thousands of people, exploded in the midst of the New England states and has a suspected connection to the war on terrorism.

Exposition—The exposition is the portion of the story which reveals important character background, setting,

and initial conflict information.

Fable—a brief story or poem, usually with animal characters, that teaches a lesson, or moral. The moral is

usually stated at the end of the fable. The fable is an ancient literary form found in many cultures. The

fables written by Aesop, a Greek slave who lived in the sixth century B.C., are still popular with

children today.

  • Animal
    Farm is written in fable form.

Fantasy—a highly imaginative writing that contains elements not found in real life. Examples of fantasies

include stories that involve supernatural elements, stories that resemble fairy tales, stories that deal

with imaginary places and creatures, and science-fiction stories.
Fiction—a prose writing that tells about imaginary characters and events.
Figurative Language (figures of speech)—writing or speech that is not meant to be taken literally. The many

types of figurative language include metaphor, simile, and


  • He ran like a hare down the street.

Figurative meaning—is the suggested by the connotations of words and by the images employed by an

Flashback—is a scene in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem that interrupts the action to show an

event that happened earlier.

  • In “And Sarah Laughed,” the author Joanne Greenberg uses flashback when she relates Sarah’s memory of the day she first discovered that her baby was unable to hear.

Folk Tale—a story composed orally and then passed from person to person by word of mouth. Most folk tales

are highly entertaining, with plots featuring heroes, adventure, magic, or romance.

Foil—a secondary character whose personality or actions serve as a commentary (frequently through contrast)

on a principal character.

  • Mercutio is Romeo’s foil in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Foot (or feet)—a measurement of accented and/or unaccented syllables. These fall into various patterns and

constitute the basis of meter in poetry

Foreshadowing—is the author’s use of clues to hint at what might happen next in the story. It is used to build

the reader’s sense of expectations or to create suspense.

  • In Gerald Haslam’s “The Horned Toad,” the death of the toad and its burial in its natural environment foreshadow the death and burial of Grandma in the open country where she’d spent most of her life.

Free verse—poetry which breaks from metrical regularity or fixed patterns. Although the verse is free, it

generally creates its own internal rhythm. It usually rhyme and frequently unfolds in lengthy


  • Walt Whitman “After the Sea-ship”

After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds,

After the white-grey sails taut to their spars and ropes,

Below, a myriad myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks,

Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship,

Waves of the ocean bubling and gurgling, blithely prying…

Genre—A term used in literary criticism to designate the distinct types of categories into which literary works

are grouped according to form or technique. The traditional genres include tragedy, comedy, epic,

and lyric. Today the division of literature into genres would also include novel, short story, essay,

television play, and motion picture scenario.

Haiku—a three-lined Japanese verse form. The first and third lines of a haiku each have five syllables. The

second line has seven syllables. A writer of haiku uses images to create a single vivid picture,

generally of a scene from nature.

  • a clear sheet of sky

calligraphy of blackbirds

written and erased

Katy Peale

Homeric Simile—elaborated comparison that is more involved, more ornate, and is a conscious imitation of

the Homeric manner. The secondary object or picture that is developed into an independent

aesthetic object, an image which for the moment excludes the primary object with which it is

being compared

  • …and I leaned on it

turning it as a shipwright turns a drill

in planking, having men below to swing

the two-handles strap that spins it in the groove. Homer, The Odyssey
Homily—a “sermon;” any serious talk, speech, or lecture involving moral or spiritual advice
Hyperbole—A figure of speech in which conscious exaggeration is used without the intent of literal

persuasion. It may be used to heighten effect, or it may be used to produce comic effect.

Exaggeration or overstatement of an idea, attitude, emotion, or detail in a literary work.

  • “A hundred strong men strained beneath his coffin.” “The Funeral,” Gordon Parks

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