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

Idiom—an expression whose meaning is different from the sum of the meanings of its individual words


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Idiom—an expression whose meaning is different from the sum of the meanings of its individual words.

Imagery—Words and phrases create vivid sensory experiences for the reader. Though sight imagery is most

common, imagery may appeal to any of the senses. Good writers often attempt to appeal to

several senses.

  • Robert Lowell “Our Lady of Walsingham”

There once the penitents took off their shoes

And then waked barefoot the remaining mile;

And the small tress, a stream and hedgerows file

Slowly along the munching English lane,

Like cows to the old shrine, until you lose

Track of your dragging pain.

The stream flows down under the druid tree,

Shiloah’s whirlpools gurgle and make glad

The castle of God.

Invective—an emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language that

expresses dislike, disgust, contempt, and even hatred of a class or group of people, an institution,

a scene, or on life itself

  • Jonathan Swift expresses dislike, contempt, and disgust of English nobility in Gulliver’s Travels, and “A Modest Proposal” attacked the issue of famine and its solutions with a satirical contempt.

Irony—the general name given to literary techniques that involve surprising, interesting, or amusing


1—verbal irony—words are used to suggest the opposite of their usual meanings.

2—dramatic irony—there is a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the

reader or audience knows to be true

3—situation irony—an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the

characters, the reader, or the audience.

Juxtaposition—a poetic rhetorical device, which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed

next to one another

Legend—a widely told story about the past, one that may or may not have a foundation in fact.

  • Robin Hood is a legendary hero.

Limerick---a short, humorous poem of five lines. The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme, as do the third and

fourth. The lines that rhyme have the same rhythm.

  • There was a young person of Mullion,

Intent upon marrying bullion;

By some horrible fluke

She jilted a duke

And had to elope with a scullion.

Literal Meaning—surface meaning of a literary work derived by an emphasis on denotation, summary, and


Litotes—opposite of hyperbole; intensifies an idea by understatement.

  • War is not healthy for children and other living things.

Lyric—a poem, generally short, presented by a single speaker, either the poet or some voice imaginatively

adopted by the poet, and expressing some basic emotions such as sorrow or love. The tone can vary

from light, frivolous compliment to a beloved one to a deeply felt yearning or sorrow. They are usually

constructed with a unity of a single mood, emotion, or thought.

  • “The World Is Too Much with Us” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth are examples of lyric poetry.

Memoir—a form of autobiographical writing that deals with the writer’s memory of someone or of a significant

event. Often, memoirs are very personal.

  • Night, by Elie Wiesel, is an example of a memoir.

Metaphor—a comparison between two unlike things.

  • [love] is a pot full of yellow corn

to warm your belly in winter “I Am Offering This Poem,” Jimmy Santiago Baca
1--extended metaphor—a subject is spoken of, or written, as though it were something else.

However, an extended metaphor differs from a regular metaphor in that

several comparisons are made.
Meter—the lines of poetry, the arrangement of accented and unaccented syllables into various patterns. A

stressed syllable can be marked with a slash (/), and an unaccented syllable can be designated by a

dash (-). The combinations of these syllables are generally measured in feet.
Metonymy—designation of one thing with something closely related or associated with it

  • Crown is a metonymy of king.

Monologue—a one sided conversation

  • Shakespeare—Othello—The Moore, Othello, uses a monologue to come to self-realization.

Mood—Mood is the feeling or atmosphere that a writer creates for the reader. Connotative words, sensory

images, and figurative language contribute to the mood of a selection, as do the sound and rhythm of

the language.
Moral—a lesson taught by a literary work. A fable usually ends with a moral that is directly stated. A poem,

short story, novel, or essay often suggests a moral that is not directly stated. The reader must draw the

moral from other elements.

Motif—Motif is a simple element that serves as a basis for an expanded narrative. Less strictly, it is a

conventional situation, device, interest, or incident employed in folklore, fiction, or drama. The carrying

off of a mortal queen by a fairy lover is a motif about which full stories were built in medieval romance.

  • Luck is a central motif of D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner.”

Motivation—Motivations is the presentation of reasons and explanations for the actions of a character in any

work of fiction. It results from a combination of the character’s temperament and moral nature

with the circumstances in which a character is placed.
Myth—a motif or narrative recurring through human experience and religious history and dealing with gods

and heroes, with natural phenomena, or with basic hopes and fears of people derived from universal

experience and transformed into psychological or imaginative expression. A myth thus is a part of the

cultural and religious heritage of mankind. There are many sources of myth which literary artists have


1—anthropology—primitive rites of initiation and trial

2—natural phenomena—water as purification, spring as rebirth

3—a given culture—cultural mythology and works like the Iliad and Oedipus the King

4—a given religion—or one aspect of it, for example, the Judas tree, the fall of Adam and Eve

5—psychology—for instance, the Oedipus complex as representative of man’s incestuous desire, or

archetypes, which are elements of human experiences residing permanently in the

collective unconscious of man, such as death and rebirth or the struggle between

Narration—is writing that tell a story.
Narrative Poem—a story told in verse. Narrative poems often have all the elements of short stories, including

characters, conflict, and plot.

  • Examples—Beowulf
    , The Epic of Gilgamesh, Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Rape of the Lock

Narrator---a speaker or character who tells a story.

1—third-person narrator—one who stands outside the action and speaks about it

2—first-person narrator—one who tells a story and participates in its action
Nonfiction—prose writing that presents and explains ideas or that tells about real people, places, objects, or

Novel—a long work of fiction. Novels contain such elements as characters, plot, conflict, and setting.

Ode—a long lyric poem, generally free in structure and usually serious in subject matter, what can be quite

varied. The style of an ode is dignified and rhetorical.

  • Ben Johnson “Ode to Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H. Morison”

It is not growing a tree

In bulk, doth make man better be;

Or standing long an Oak, three hundred year,

To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear.

A Lily a day

Is fairer far, in May

Although it fall and die that night;

It was the plant and flower of light.

In small proportions we just beauties see;

And in short measure, life may be perfect.

Onomatopoeia—Onomatopoeia is the use of words which by their pronunciation suggest their meaning. The

words literally represent sound. The use of a word or words which imitate the sound they

stand for.

  • Examples—buzz, hiss, dong, crackle, moo, pop, whiz, whoosh, zoom

Oral tradition—the passing of songs, stories, and poems from generation to generation by word of mouth.
Oxymoron—contradiction; two contradictory terms or ideas are used together

  • Examples—sweet sorrow, jumbo shrimp, beginning expert, political honesty

Paradox—the linking of ideas or feelings which are seemingly contradictory but which actually express a basic

truth when they are put together and the implications are formulated. It is related to irony.

  • I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,

“On Monsieur’s Departure,” Elizabeth I
Parallelism—the balancing of equal parts of a sentence, the repetition of a sentence pattern, or the repetition

of words at the beginning of lines of poetry. When an author frequently stresses the equal parts

of sentences, the word balanced is used to describe his style. The use of parallelism contributes

to the musical quality of prose of poetry. Expressing similar or related ideas in similar

grammatical structures.

  • Between the conception / and the creation /

Between the emotion / And the response /

Falls the Shadow “The Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot

Parenthesis—the insertion of words, phrases, or a sentence that is not syntactically related to the rest of the

sentence. Such material is set off from the rest of the sentence in one of two ways, dashes or

parenthesis. Either is acceptable.
Parody—an imitation of a literary work that usually mock or burlesques the basic characteristics of the


  • Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130” is a parody of Renaissance love poetry.

Persona—the voice speaking in a literary work—sometimes the author, his image of himself, or very frequently

a character created by the author

  • The narrator of Canterbury Tales is a persona created by the author to tell the stories.

Personification—Personification gives an inanimate object characteristics of life.

  • And memory sleeps beneath the gray

And windless sky… “Rain in My Heart,” Edgar Lee Masters

Persuasion—used in writing or speech to convince the reader or listener to adopt a particular opinion or

course of action.

Plot—the sequence of events in which each event results from a previous one and causes the next. In most

novels, dramas, short stories, and narrative poems, the plot usually involves both characters in a central

conflict. The plot usually begins with an exposition that introduces the setting, the characters, and the

basic situation. This is followed by rising action, in which the central conflict is introduced and developed.

The conflict then increases until it reaches a high point of interest or suspense, the climax. The climax is

followed by the falling action, or the end of the central conflict. Any events that occur during the falling

action make up the resolution.
Poetry—one of the three major types of literature. Poetry is usually divided by lines and stanzas and often

employ rhythmic patterns.

Point of View—Point of view refers to the narrative method used in a short story, novel, or nonfiction selection.

1—first person—The narrator is a character in the story, narrating the action as he or she

understands it. First person point of view is indicated by the pronoun “I.”

2—third person—A third person narrator is not a participant in the action and thus maintains a

certain distance from the characters. Third person point of view is indicated

by he use of the pronouns “he,” “she,” “it,” and “they.”

3—third person omniscient—The narrator is all-knowing about the thoughts and feelings of

the characters. With this point of view, the writer can reveal

the emotional responses of all the characters and can

comment at will on the events taking place.

4—third person limited—The writer presents events as experienced by only one character.

5—perspective—a study and evaluation of the effects of an author’s choice of communicator

and his means of communication in a literary work that includes persona and

point of view

Polysyndeton—the use of many conjunctions has the effect of greatly slowing the prose.

  • Ernest Hemingway was addicted to the use of “and” as an example of polysyndeton.

I did not say anything. I was always embarrassed by the words scared, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. . . Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the number of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates. ( A Farewell to Arms, 191)
Prose—one of the three major types of literature. It is the most ordinary and most common form. Anything that

is not poetry, drama, or song is considered prose.

Protagonist—The protagonist is the character in opposition to the antagonist, the chief character in a drama

or work of fiction.

Pun—a play on the meaning of words.

  • coals, colliers, choler, collar from ACT I, scene 1. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Refrain—Refrain is a group of words forming a phrase or a sentence and consisting of one or more lines

repeated at intervals in a poem, usually at the end of a stanza.

  • Sir Thomas Wyatt—

Disdain me not without desert,

Nor leave me not so suddenly;

Since well ye wot that in my heart

I mean ye not but honestly.

Disdain me not.
Refuse me not without cause why,

Nor think me not to be unjust;

Since that by lot of fantasy

This careful knot need knit I must.

Refuse me not…
Repetition—the use, more than once, of any element of language—a sound, word, phrase, clause, or


Rhetoric—describes the principles governing the art of writing effectively, eloquently, and persuasively
Rhetorical Devices—the skill of using spoken or written communication effectively; the art of guiding the

reader or listener to agreement with the writer or speaker.

1—analogy—making clear a concept or idea by showing its similar to a more familiar


2—analysis of cause—identifying the forces responsible for an effect.

3—alternatives—considering of other options.

4—appeal—an address to the audience usually through the pronoun YOU or WE used

to link the speaker or writer to listener or reader.

5—assertion—to suggest for consideration as true or possible.

6—antithesis—a statement of purpose opposed to an earlier assertion or thesis.

7—anticipate an objection—to anticipate an objection, addressing it before anyone

else can raise the objection.

8—ad hominem—to attack another person’s argument as weak because of a human

falling that is not logically part of the argument.

9—ad misericordiam—an appeal for sympathy.

10—ad populum—appeal to the crowd.

11—ad vericundiam—an appeal to authority.

12—composition—arguing that a group must have the same qualities or characteristics

as its members.

13—concession—an acknowledgment of objections to a proposal.

14—consequences of events—listing or indicating what resulted from a particular

event or condition.

15—contradictory premises—the main premises contradict each other.

16—correction of erroneous views of statement—pointing out where another

person’s observations need

modification or correction.

17—corrective measures—proposing measures to eliminate undesirable conditions.

18—description—the enumeration of characteristics of objects that belong to the same


19—definition—to define a concept like “excessive violence” to help resolve a question

by narrowing or clarifying meaning.

20—deduction—arguing from a general point to a particular point or application.

21—direct address—to speak to directly, remove any separation between speaker and


22—division—arguing that an individual must have the same qualities or characteristics

of the group.

23—dicto simpliciter—an argument based on n unqualified generalization.

24—either/or fallacy—requires absolutes which do not allow for intermediate cases;

very clear statements or choices.

25—emotional appeal—a speaker’s or writer’s effort to engage feelings in the audience

or reader.

26—equivocation—using the same term with a different meaning in the same


27—extended metaphor—a protracted metaphor which makes a series of parallel

comparisons throughout the speech or writing.

28—false analogy—wrongful comparisons of dissimilar situations, conditions, or events.

29—faulty dilemma—the major premise presents a choice that does not exhaust the


30—guilt or innocence by association—providing examples that prove the guilt or

innocence of a person based on his/her

actions, beliefs, or motivations.

31—hypothesis contrary to the fact—beginning with a premise that is not necessarily

true and then drawing conclusions from it.

32—inquiry as introduction—setting an essay in motion by raising a question and

suggesting that the answer may be interesting or


33—illustration of ways to correct a condition—create specific examples to correct a

condition or situation and give very

clear, concise details.

34—non-sequitur—the conclusion does not follow in logic from the preceding


35—over generalizing or hasty generalization—too few or too many instances are

presented to reach an accurate


36—premise and the common ground—the terms of the premise must be accepted as

true by the reader or the audience.

37—rebuttal—final opposition to an assertion; disprove or refute the ideas or opinions of

another person.

38—reduce to the absurd—to show the foolishness of an argument by taking the

argument to its logical conclusion.

39—rhetorical question—to ask a question of an audience or reader to engage them

without having a response from the audience or reader.

40—self-evident truth—proceeding from an unwarranted assumption to a foregone

conclusion (time is money)

41—specious reasoning—having only apparent logic; not truly logical but presented to

be as such.

42—thesis—a statement of purpose or intent.

43—under/over statement—to say considerably more or less than a condition

warrants; usually applied for ironic or unexpected contrast.

Rhetorical Shift—a shift from tone, attitude, etc. Some signal words for a shift include: however, but, even

though, although

Rhyme—the use of matching sounds, generally accented vowels, at the end of two lines or more of poetry. It

contributes to the musical quality of poetry.

Rhyme Scheme—a regular pattern of rhyming words in a poem. The rhyme scheme of a poem is indicated by

lower case letters. Each rhyme is assigned a different letter of the alphabet

Rhythm—the measured movement or beat in the musical flow of poetry established by the technical resources

of both the poet and the oral interpreter of his work. Rhythm is really created by many factors

involved in the reading of poetry.

Run-on line (enjambment)—the continuation of the though and structure of a poetic sentence from one line to

the next without pause. A line in which thought and structure conclude

simultaneously is referred to as end-stopped, as in the second line of the closed

couplet. The run-on line provides flexibility and parallels human discourse more

truly than the end-stopped couplet does.

  • Auden’s Letter to Lord Byron

It is a commonplace that’s hardly worth

A poet’s while to make profound or terse,

That now the sun does not go round the earth,

That man’s no center of the universe.

Sarcasm—A form of verbal irony in which, under the guise of praise, a caustic and bitter expression of strong

and personal disapproval is given. Sarcasm is personal, jeering, intended to hurt, and is intended

as a sneering taunt.

Satire—Satire is a literary manner that blends a critical attitude with humor and wit for the purpose of

improving society. Satire can be gentle and sympathetic, or it can be angry, bitter, and biting. The

criticism of a person, human nature, events movements, or institutions by the use of exaggeration,

ridicule, sarcasm, irony, and humor in order to reduce the subjects to absurdity.

  • Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is an example of satire,

Scansion—the identifying and marking of the metrical patterns of a poem for purposes of analysis

Schemes—arrangements of ideas, words, or phrases that are stylistically effective. The pattern of the words

effectively serves to reinforce the meaning.

1--schemes of addition-- effective writers can add words or phrases to a sentence to vary the

style and draw emphasis to certain parts of the sentence. (apposition,


2--schemes of balance—the syntactic structures of each sentence supports its meaning. Similar

ideas are expressed in similar grammatical structure, contrasting ideas

in contrasting grammatical structures, or a series of ideas in climactic

order. (parallelism, chiasmus, climax, antithesis)

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