English Department's Site

Literary Terms

Literary Terms

Essential Literary Terms

HAVERLING HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH DEPARTMENT'S OFFICIAL LIST

As it says, this list is official.  Except for the first five terms, which belong in a group, it is alphabetized.

There is a link to a printable version of this list at the bottom of the page.

 

Exposition- The essential background information at the beginning of a literary work

 

Rising action- the development of conflict and complications in a literary work

 

Climax- the turning point in a literary work

 

Falling action- results or effects of the climax of a literary work

 

Resolution/denouement- end of a literary work when loose ends are tied up and questions are answered

 

Alliteration – repetition of the initial consonant sounds of words: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”

 

Allusion – a reference to something well-known that exists outside the literary work

 

Antagonist- character that is the source of conflict in a literary work

 

Aside – a dramatic device in which a character makes a short speech intended for the audience but not heard by the other characters on stage

 

Assonance – repetition of vowel sounds followed by different consonant sounds: “Anna’s apples,” “the pond is long gone”

 

Characterization- The manner in which an author develops characters and their personalities

 

Conflict -  struggle between two or more opposing forces (person vs.  person; nature; society; self; fate/God)  

 

Dialogue - direct speech between characters in a literary work

 

Diction -  word choice to create a specific effect

 

Figurative Language –language that represents one thing in terms of something dissimilar (non-literal language).  Includes simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, symbol)

 

Flashback- the method of returning to an earlier point in time for the purpose of making the present clearer

 

Foreshadowing- hint of what is to come in a literary work

 

Genre – type or category to which a literary work belongs

 

Hyperbole – extreme exaggeration to add meaning

 

Imagery – language that appeals to the five senses

 

Irony -  Dramatic…  when the reader or audience knows something a character does not

             Situational…   when there is a disparity between what is expected and what actually occurs

             Verbal…   when the speaker says one thing but means the opposite

 

Metaphor – an implied comparison between dissimilar objects:   “Her talents blossomed” 

 

Motif- a recurring feature of a literary work that is related to the theme

 

Onomatopoeia – use of a word whose sound imitates its meaning: “hiss”

 

Oxymoron – phrase that consists of two words that are contradictory: “living dead” or “Microsoft works”

 

Personification – figure of speech in which non-human things are given human characteristics

 

Plot- The sequence of events in a literary work

 

Point of view- the vantage point or perspective from which a literary work is told…

1st person point of view- the narrator is a character in the story                 (use of ‘I’)

3rd person point of view- the narrator is outside of the story (use of ‘he’ ‘she’ ‘they’)

 

Protagonist- the main character in a literary work

 

Rhyme – repetition of similar or identical sounds: “look and crook”

 

Rhyme Scheme – pattern of rhyme among lines of poetry [denoted using letters, as in ABAB CDCD EE]

 

Setting- The time and place of a literary work

 

Simile – a direct comparison of dissimilar objects, usually using like or as:       “I wandered lonely as a cloud”

 

Soliloquy -  a dramatic device in which a character is alone and speaks his or her thoughts aloud

 

Speaker – voice in a poem; the person or thing that is speaking

 

Stanza – group of lines forming a unit in a poem

 

Stereotype-  standardized, conventional ideas about characters, plots and settings

 

Suspense – technique that keeps the reader guessing what will happen next  

 

Symbol/symbolism – one thing (object, person, place) used to represent something else

 

Theme – the underlying main idea of a literary work.  Theme differs from the subject of a literary work in that it involves a statement or opinion about the subject.

 

Tone – the author’s attitude toward the subject of a work.

 



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    doc Printable version of this list (3 pages) (doc file - 32 KB)

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