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AP English Literature and Composition: Barron’s Key Terminology

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abstract
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an abbreviated synopsis of a longer work of scholarship or research
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adage
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a saying or proverb containing a truth based on experience and often couched in methaphorical language
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allegory
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a story in which the narrative or characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical, or possibly an ethical meaning-values beyond themselves
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alliteration
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repetition of one or more initial consonants in lines of poetry or prose (“look before you leap” or “the furrow follows free”)
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allusion
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reference to a person, place, or event-enhances meaning of idea
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ambiguity
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a vagueness of meaning-meant to evoke multiple meanings and interpretation
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anachronism
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“against time” person, scene, or event that fails to correspond with the era of the work (Aristotlee wearing a wristwatch)
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analogy
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a comparison that points out similarities between two dissimilar things
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annotation
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brief explanation or evaluation of a text
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antagonist
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character or force that, by opposing the protagonist produces tension/conflict
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antithesis
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contrast of ideas by means of a grammatical arrangement of words, clauses, or sentences (“ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”or “promised freedom but provided slavery”)
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aphorism
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a short statement of a generally accepted truth or sentiment,
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apostrophe
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a rhetorical device in which a speaker addresses a person or personified thing not present
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archetype
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perfectly typical example
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assonance
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repetition of two or more vowel sounds (“meet pete green”)
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ballad
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simple narrative verse telling a story that is sung/recited
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bard
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a poet, in olden times telling heroic stories to musical accompaniment
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bathos
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use of insincere or overdone sentimentality
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bibliography
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works cited
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bildungsroman
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german word referring to a novel structured as a series of events that take place as the hero travels in quest of a goal
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blank verse
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written in iambic pentameter, lines generally do not rhyme
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bombast
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inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects
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burlesque
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work of literature meant to ridicule a subject
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cacophony
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inharmonious sounds
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caesura
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pause somewhere in middle of verse, often marked by punctuation
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canon
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works considered more important in a nation literature or period; works widely read and studied
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caricature
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grotesque likeness of striking qualities in a person/thing
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catharsis
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cleansing of the spirit brought about by the pity and terror of a dramatic tragedy (Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth)
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classic
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withstood the test of time
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classicism
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deriving from the orderly qualities of ancient greek and roman culture, implies formality, simplicity, and restraint
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climax
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the high point in a story
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coming of age story
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young protagonist experiences an introduction to adulthood
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conceit
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develops a comparison which is exceedingly unlikely but is, nonetheless, intellectually, imaginative (“two lovers with the two legs of a draftsman’s compass).
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connotation
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suggested or implied meaning of a phrase
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consonance
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repetition of two or more consonant sounds in a group of words or line of poetry
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couplet
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pair of rhyming lines
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heroic couplet
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two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter
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denotation
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dictionary definition of a word
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deus ex machina
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in literature the use of an artificial device or person to solve a problem (“god in machine”)
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diction
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word choice
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Dionysian
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refers to a sensual, pleasure seeking impulse
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dramatic irony
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circumstance in which the audience knows more about a situation than a character
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elegy
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laments on the passing or death of something or someone of value
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ellipsis
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three periods ( . . .) indicates omission of words in a thought or quotation
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elliptical construction
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sentence containing a deliberate omission of words (“May was hot and June the same”)
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empathy
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feeling of association or identification with an object or person
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end
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stopped-term that describes a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause indicated by a mark of punctuation
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enjambment
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in poetry, use of successive line with no punctuation or pause between them
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epic
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extended narrative poem telling the adventures of a hero that is generally larger than life (Odysseus or Homer’s Iliad)
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epigram
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concise but ingenious, witty, and thoughtful statement
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euphony
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pleasing, harmonious sounds
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epithet
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adjective or phrase that expresses a striking quality of a person or thing (“Death lies on her like an untimely frost. Upon the sweetest flower of all the field” from Romeo and Juliet).
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ex. sun lit lake
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eponymous
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term for the title character of a work of literature
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euphemism
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mild or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term (pass away for the word die)
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expose
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piece of writing that revels weakness, faults ,frailties, or other short comings
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exposition
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background and events that lead to the presentation of the main idea or purpose of literature
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explication
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interpretation or analysis of a text
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extended metaphor
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a series of comparison between two unlikely objects
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fable
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short tale often featuring nonhuman characters that act as people drawing useful lessons from human behavior
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falling action
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action in a play/story that occurs after the climax, often leads to conclusion and resolution of conflict
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farce
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comedy containing an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness
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figure of speech
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implies meaning
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foil
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a minor character whose personality or attitude contrasts with that of the main character
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foot
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a unit of stressed and unstressed syllables used to determine the meter of a poetic line
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frame
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structure that provides premise or setting for a narrative
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free verse
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without rhymed lines, rhythm, or fixed metrical feet
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Gothic novel
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novel in which supernatural horrors and atmosphere of unknown terrors pervades the action
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harangue
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forceful sermon or lecture
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hubris
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excessive pride that often leads tragic heroes to death
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humanism
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a belief that emphasizes faith and optimism in human potential and creativity
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hyperbole
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overstatement; gross exaggeration for rhetorical effect
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idyll
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lyric poem or passage that describes a kind of ideal life or place
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image
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world or phrase representing that which can be seen, touched ,tasted, smelled, of felt
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in medias res
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Latin term for narrative that starts not at the beginning of events but at some other critical point
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indirect quotation
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rendering of a quotation in which actual words are not stated but paraphrased
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irony
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mode of expression in which the intended meaning is opposite of what is stated
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kenning
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name of thing is replaced by one of its functions or qualities (“ring giver” for king or “whale road” for ocean)
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lampoon
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mocking, satirical assault on a person or situation
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light verse
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variety of poetry meant to entertain or amuse, sometimes with satirical thrust
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litotes
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form of understatement in which the negative of the contrary is used to increase emphasis (He is not a bad dancer.)
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loose sentence
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sentence that follows the customary word order of English
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lyric poetry
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personal, reflective poetry
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maxim
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a saying or proverb expressing common wisdom or truth
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melodrama
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literary form in which events are exaggerated in order to create an extreme emotion response
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metaphor
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figure of speech that compares unlike objects
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metaphysical poetry
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the work of poets, particularly those 17th century; uses elaborate conceits, very intellectual, expresses the complexities of love and life
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meter
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pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in poetry
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metonymy
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a figure of speech that uses the name of one thing to represent something else (The white house says…)
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middle english
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the language spoken in England roughly between 1150-1500 AD
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mock epic
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parody of traditional epic form; treats a frivolous topic with extreme seriousness
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mode
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general form, pattern, and manner of expression of a work of literature
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montage
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quick succession of images or impressions used to express an idea
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mood
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the emotional tone in a work of literature
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moral
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brief and often simplistic lesson that a reader may infer from a work of literature
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motif
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phrase, idea, or event that through repetition serves to unify or convey a theme in a work of literature
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muse
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one of the ancient Greek goddesses presiding over the arts; the imaginary source of inspiration for a artist or writer
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myth
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imaginary story that has become an accepted part of the cultural or religious tradition of a group or society
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narrative
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form of verse or prose that tells a story
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naturalism
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often used as a synonym for realism; view of experience that is generally characterized as bleak and pessimistic
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non sequitur
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a statement or idea that fails to follow logically from the one before
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novella
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work of fiction of roughly 20,000-50,000 words
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novel of manners
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novel focusing on and describing the social customs and habits of a particular social group (ex.: Pride and Prejudice)
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ode
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lyric poem usually marked by serious, respectful, and exalted feelings
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Old English
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the Anglo Saxon language spoken in what is now ngland from approximately 450-1150 A.D.
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omniscient narrator
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narrator with unlimited awareness, understanding, and insight of characters, settings, background, and all other elements of a story
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onomatopoeia
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the use of words who’s sounds suggest meaning
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ottava rims
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8-line rhyming stanza of a poem
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oxymoron
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term consisting of contradictory elements juxtaposed to create a paradoxical effect (“loud silence” “jumbo shrimp”)
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parble
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story consisting of events from which a moral or spiritual truth may be derived
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paradox
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statement that seems self-contradictory but is nevertheless true
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parody
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imitation of a work meant to ridicule its style and subject
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paraphrase
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version of a work put into simpler, everyday terms
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pastoral
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work of literature dealing with rural life
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pathetic fallacy
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faulty reasoning that inappropriately ascribes human feelings to nature or nonhuman objects
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pathos
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element of literature that stimulates pity or sorrow
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pentameter
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verse with 5 poetic feet per line
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periodic sentence
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sentence that departs from the usual word order of English sentences by expressing the main thought only at the end; the particulars in the sentence are presented before the idea they support (In spite of heavy snow and cold temperatures, the game continued.)
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persona
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role or faced that a character assumes
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personification
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figure of speech in which objects and animals are given human characteristics
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plot
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interrelationship among the events in a story
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picaresque novel
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episodic novel about a rogue like wanderer who lives off his wits
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protagonist
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main character in a work of literature
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pseudonym
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“pen name”
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pulp fiction
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novels written for mass consumption
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pun
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humorous play on words
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quatrain
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4-line poem or 4-line unit of longer poem
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realism
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depiction of people, things, and events as they really are
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rhetoric
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language of a work and its style
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rhetorical stance
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language that conveys a speakers attitude or opinion with regard to a particular subject
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rhyme
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repetition of similar sounds at regular intervals
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rhyme scheme
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pattern of rhymes within a given poem
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roman a clef
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French for a novel in which historical events and actual people appear under the work of fiction
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romance
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extended narrative about improbable events and extraordinary people in exotic places
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satire
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literary style used to poke fun at, attack or ridicule an idea for the purpose of inducing a change
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scan
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act of determining the meter of a poetic line scansion
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sentiment
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synonym for view or feeling
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sentimental
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term that describes characters’ excessive emotional response to experience; also nauseatingly nostalgic
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setting
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total environment for the action in a novel or play
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simile
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figurative comparison using the worlds like or as
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sonnet
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popular form of verse with 14 lines and prescribed rhyme scheme (Shakespeare created Elizabethan sonnet; Petrarch created Italian sonnet)
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stanza
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group of two or more lines in poetry that combine according to subject matter, rhyme, or other plan
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stream of consciousness
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a style of writing in which the author tries to reproduce the random flow of thoughts in the human mind
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subplot
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a subordinate or minor collection of events in a novel or play, usually connected to the main point
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subtext
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implied meaning that underlies the main meaning of a work
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symbolism
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use of one object to evoke ideas and associations not literally part of the original object
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synecdoche
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figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole (pigskin for football)
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syntax
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organization of language into meaningful structure; pattern of words
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theme
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the main idea or meaning
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title character
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a character whose name appears in the title of the novel or play; eponymous character
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tone
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author’s attitude towards subject being written about
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tragedy
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form of literature in which the hero is destroyed by some character flaw and a set of forces that cause the hero considerable anguish
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trope
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generic name for a figure of speech such as image, symbol, simile, and metaphor
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verbal irony
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discrepancy between the true meaning of a situation and the literal meaning of the written word
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verse
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a synonym for poetry; group of lines in a song or poem; also a single line of poetry
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verisimilitude
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similar to the truth; quality of realism in a work that persuades readers that they are getting a vision of life as it is
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versification
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the structural form of a line of verse as revealed by the number of feet it contains
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villanelle
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french verse form calculated to appear simple and spontaneous but consisting of 19 lines and prescribed rhyming pattern
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volta
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any shift or turning point in a work of prose or poetry; may mark a shift in point of view, tone, mood, or style; found in sonnets between the octave (first 8 lines) and sestet (final six lines)