Glossary of Literary Terms
in which the goal is more description in plain language than it is exactitude
See also: The All-American Glossary of Lit Terms and Glossary of Lit Term for Carson-Newman College
A B Ca Co D E F G H I J K L M N L O P Q R Sa So T U V W XYZ
Allegory – (10th Grade) An allegory is a story in which its parts - characters, setting, etc. - should also be understood as having a second, deeper meaning. The parts stand for something in the real world. Allegory is first taught with the tenth grade play The Crucible. Other allegories include the 11th grade novel Lord of the Flies and the 12th grade novel Animal Farm. The island of Lord of the Flies and the farm of Animal Farm both stand for the real world, and the leaders of each stand for types of leaders in the real world.
Alienation – (10th Grade) Alienation is a feeling, sense, or attitude of an individual that he or she does not belong to his or her society. These individuals lack connections to others. Examples would include Wing Biddlebaum from Sherwood Anderson's "Hands," Walter Mitty, or the Grandfather from Steinbeck's "The Leader of the People."
Alliteration – (8th Grade) Alliteration is the repetition of the first letter: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Allude / Allusion – (8th Grade) a reference to another story or poem: a reference to another well-known work of art. In the story "Go On or Die", Harriet Tubman is called “the Moses of her people”. In this way, the story refers to the Bible’s story of Moses, who led his people out of slavery. The most common allusions are to the Bible, to Shakespeare, or to Greek Mythology.
Allude is the verb form: The author alludes to the story of Moses.
Allusion is the noun form: The author has made an allusion.
Example: She was as lost as Dorothy or Alice. This sentence alludes to The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.
Ambiguity – (10th Grade) is writing in which the author leaves something unclear on purpose. Instead of telling the readers what to think about something, the author leaves them thinking.
Analogy – (10th Grade)
Anecdote – (8th Grade) is a very short story that makes a point or serves as an example. Anecdotes can be helpful in a research paper because they personalize the issue, but the argument cannot rest entirely on anecdotes.
Antagonist – (8th Grade) the person who is against the main character in the story: the “bad guy”
Anthropomorphism – (10th Grade) Our minds have the ability to see human faces and human characteristics in things that are not human.
Anti-hero – (10th Grade) a main character that lacks the attributes or characteristics usually associated with a hero. A hero is typically brave, honorable, and noble - he does the right thing and represents his society well. The anti-hero may have some of the following attributes: he or she may be repulsive, alienated, cowardly, or a failure. Examples could include the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Wing Biddlebaum from Sherwood Anderson's "Hands," or the Grandfather from Steinbeck's "The Leader of the People." For more information, read "Heroes and the Rat Man"
Antonyms – (8th Grade) words that mean nearly the opposite of each other
Archaic Language – (9th Grade) (ar-KAY-ik) Archaic language refers to words and phrases that are no longer being used. In Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, we encounter such words as coz, God-den, Marry! thee and thy, and many others.
Article – (9th Grade) See Newspaper Genres
Aside – (9th Grade) An aside is when an actor speaks to the side - as though he was talking to himself. The other actors on stage ignore the speaker, as though they can't hear him. We study aside when we read Romeo and Juliet.
Autobiography – (8th Grade) is a life story written by the person who is the story’s main character. Examples in 8th grade include "The Dogs Could Teach Me" by Gary Paulsen or "Camp Harmony" by Monica Stone.
Ballad – (8th Grade) a poem or song that tells a story such as "Paul Revere's Ride", "Barbara Frietchie", or "Cremation of Sam McGee"
Biography – (8th Grade) a true story of someone’s life. In eighth grade, we read such biographies as "Go On or Die" and Anne Frank.
Blank Verse – (9th Grade) is poetry without rhyme or meter. See examples.
Cadence – (10th Grade) a rhythm in words, especially those imitating a natural rhythm of speech or of walking.
Canto – (11th Grade) Sometimes a long poem is divided into sections called cantos. These are like a chapters in a novel.
Carpe Diem – (11th Grade) Latin phrase meaning “seize the day” - to grab life right now. It's one of the ideas held by Romantics.
Catalog, Poetic – (10th Grade) is a list that appears in a poem. The most famous examples can be found in the poetry of Walt Whitman.
Catharsis – (12th Grade) an emotional release felt by the viewer or listener of a piece of art, especially drama. The word itself means “cleansing” or “purging.”
Character – (8th Grade) the people or animals in the story (or occasionally, objects, as in The Brave Little Toaster).
Characterization – (8th Grade) the techniques used by a writer to reveal the personality of a character.
Chorus – (12th Grade) is the group that sings or chants together in a Greek drama. Their job is to give narration and commentary. They sometimes portray the citizens or elders of the city. They are the oldest part of the drama; as Greek drama developed, soloists from the chorus became actors on the stage. See a video lecture.
Chronological Order – (8th Grade) writing in the order that it happened. This is one common method of organizing a story or an essay.
Cliché – (11th Grade) is something that has been done so many times that most people are tired of it: the villain ties the hero's girlfriend to the railroad tracks. Clichés can also be phrases that we've heard over and over again: the bad guy says to the hero, "We're not so different, you and I". Avoid clichés like the plague.
Climax – (8th Grade) See Plot
Comedy – (9th Grade) Early drama was divided into comedy, tragedy, and history. A comedy ended with a happy ending, such as a couple marrying. The term is more what we would call a romantic comedy. It doesn’t really include slapstick such as the Three Stooges or Dumb and Dumber.
Comic Relief – (9th Grade) In a tragedy or serious drama, writers sometimes include a bit of comedy to give the reader or viewer some relief from the seriousness of it all.
Coming-of-Age Story also called an initiation story . They are each stories in which the main character has a life-changing experience or realization. They are stories in which the main character begins as a child and ends up a little more an adult.
A rite-of-passage story is similar, but focuses on a ritual that accompanies the change from youth to adulthood.
Complications – (8th Grade) See Plot
Conceit – (10th Grade)
Concrete Poem – (10th Grade)
Conflict – (8th Grade) Conflict is the struggle between the character and other forces. Conflict is often thought about these three ways:
Character vs. Character: the character must deal with an enemy or a competitor. In the story "Raymond's Run", the main character, Squeaky, is a racer who has to deal with Gretchen, another girl who is very fast. Squeaky also has to deal with other kids who make fun of her brother.
Character vs. Environment: the character must deal with the challenges of society or nature. Many people will quickly think of stories in which the character struggled against nature, such as Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, think also of how characters also struggle with a city environment, such as in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
Character vs. Self: In the story "Raymond's Run", the main character is a character named Squeaky, a girl who has a negative attitude about other people. In the story, she learns that many people really aren't so bad.
However, conflict is also divided in these two ways:
External conflict describes a situation in which a character struggles against people or things around him.
Internal conflict describes a situation in which the character must deal with a problem that exists inside himself or herself: a bad attitude, a disease, alcoholism, or perhaps a decision the character must make.
Connotation – (8th Grade) The "feeling" that a word carries with it, something beyond the dictionary definition. The word "odor" means a smell, but it often carries a negative connotation - the smell isn't pleasant. "Fragrance" carries a more positive connotation.
Couplet – (9th Grade) is a rhyming pattern in poetry in which pairs of lines that rhyme - see examples.
Denouement – (10th Grade) (day-new-MAHN) a part of the plot following the climax in which the problems are solved. It is French for "the unraveling." See Plot.
Deus ex Machina – (11th Grade) The phrase Deus ex Machina is Latin for "The god out of the machine." It refers to a story ending that is sudden or fake. Today, people like stories in which the characters solve their own problems. People today feel an ending is "cheap" if the cavalry suddenly arrives and saves everyone. Many years ago, however, the Romans would have plays where the characters got into more and more trouble until they couldn't possibly get themselves out of it. Then the play would suddenly end when an actor playing a god would be swung down on a crane (the "machine"). The god would then solve all their problems for them.
Dialect, Slang, and Jargon – (12th Grade) These terms are introduced with the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.
A dialect is any distinct variety of language used by a group of specific people, especially if that variety is difficult for outsiders to understand. Examples in English would include language used in a specific area (Hillbilly English or Southern English) or language used by a specific ethnic group (Cajun English or Ebonics, also called African American Vernacular). See examples of our local dialect.
Slang is very informal language. It is often more playful than Standard English. Slang may change rapidly.
Jargon is specialized language associated with an occupation or a specific area of study. Examples would include computer jargon, military jargon, medical jargon, etc.
Dialogue – (8th Grade) Dialogue is the conversation between characters in a story. In ordinary prose, the writer encloses the words spoken in quotation marks. Mark said, "This has been my best summer ever." Typically, a writer also begins a new paragraph with each new speaker.
Diary – (8th Grade) a journal written by an individual, such as Anne Frank.
Diction – (8th Grade)
Didactic – (9th Grade) refers to a story that was written less for its value in reading enjoyment and more for its value in instruction or conversion of belief. It is similar to propaganda.
Direct quotations – (8th Grade) "Go On or Die"
Drama – (10th Grade) a story intended to be acted on the stage; a play. It usually involves conflict between characters. Typically, the written drama consists of dialogue and stage direction. The drama can also lack dialogue, in which case it is called a pantomime. The play may be written in either prose or verse. The characters' names are typically listed at the beginning of the piece.
Dramatic monologue – (10th Grade)
Dystopia – (12th Grade) an imaginary world which has turned out badly, usually in the form of a future government gone bad. Dystopian fiction is written as a caution. The short story "Harrison Bergeron" is an excellent example. Examples in novel form would include Lois Lowry's novel The Giver, Scott Westerfield's Uglies, and George Orwell's 1984. Examples in film would include The Children of Men, Blade Runner, and V for Vendetta.
Editorial – (9th Grade) See Newspaper Genres
Elegy – (11th Grade) a type of poem
Elements of Narrative – (8th Grade) A narrative is a story, whether fiction, biography, etc. The most important elements of a narrative include characters, conflict, plot, setting, and theme, but such writing techniques as foreshadowing and suspense can also be considered elements of narrative.
Elements of Informational Text – (8th Grade) The central elements of informational text include a thesis statement or main idea and support for that main idea. The support may appear as quotes, facts, or statistics, but may also appear as tables, graphs, pictures, maps, and textboxes. Elements of informational text also include a works cited, indexes, appendices, subheadings, etc. Examples of informational text would include research papers, essays, science textbooks, and history textbooks.
Epic – (9th Grade) A long, heroic story written in verse with the following characteristics:
Epic Hero: The main character of the epic is a physically impressive hero of national or historical importance; he or she becomes larger-than life figure; the main character is usually male. The epic hero embodies the ideals of a nation or race.
The plot will focus on heroic deeds and events important to a culture or nation, such as the founding of the country; a series of great achievements or events; or a quest or journey undertaken in search of something important
A vast setting taking in much of the known world and sometimes the Land of the Dead
The epic is written in a formal, elevated style.
Watch this short film discussing the attributes of an epic: "The Hero's Journey / Monomyth". YouTube:Cornertalker. (7:18)
Epitaph – (11th Grade)
Epiphany – (10th Grade) An epiphany (ee-PIFF-an-nee) is a sudden realization resulting in a paradigm shift - a different view of life. Although the epiphany is often used in stories in which the main character is a child or teen (see coming-of-age stories/initiation story/rite-of-passage story), this is not always the case. The grandfather in Steinbeck's "The Leader of the People" has an epiphany late in life as does the detective in Child 44.
Epithet – (10th Grade)
Essay – (8th Grade) a short writing on a particular theme or subject. It usually is structured with an introduction, supporting arguments, and a conclusion.
Exaggeration – (8th Grade) "The Cremation of Sam McGee"
Exposition – (8th Grade) See Plot
Expository Text – (10th Grade) writing that mostly explains or conveys information. This term in introduced just before reading Of Mice and Men. This is also called informational text. See elements of informational text.
External Conflict – (8th Grade) see conflict
Fable – (8th Grade) Legend and Tall Tale Unit
Farce – (10th Grade)
Feature Article – (11th Grade) See Newspaper Genres.
Fiction – (8th Grade) A story that is fiction is one that is made up; nonfiction is true. Remember: Fiction is Fake.
Figure of Speech – (8th Grade)
Figurative Language – (10th Grade) is the opposite of literal language. In literal language, words mean exactly what they say, but in figurative language, authors stretch the readers imagination by using a figure of speech, a simile, or a metaphor.
Flashback – (8th Grade) The play Anne Frank begins long after most of the action takes place. Mr. Frank arrives at their hiding place after the war is over. When he finds Anne's diary, he begins to remember and the rest of the play is a flashback.
Foil – (9th Grade) A character that is contrasts another character. For example, if the main character is a coward, then the foil will be extremely brave to contrast him. We study the term foil while reading Romeo and Juliet in the 9th grade and again while reading Antigone in the 12th grade.
Folk Tale – (8th Grade) See "Legends, Folktales, and Tall Tales."
Foot, Poetic – (10th Grade)
Foreshadowing – (8th Grade) Foreshadowing is little hints about what's going to happen. In Roald Dahl's short story, "The Landlady", the main character seems to remember the other names in the guest book, and seems to remember that something nasty happened to them. The reader should also wonder if something nasty is going to happen to him.
Frame Story – (8th Grade) the beginning and ending parts are called the frame story when the larger middle is a long flashback or a tale told by one of the characters. For example, the 8th grade story "The Inn of Lost Time" begins and ends with two unemployed samurai stopping at an inn, where one of them tells a story about his youth. The play Anne Frank begins and ends years after most of the events have taken place. In the senior novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character Janie tells her life story to a friend.
Free Verse – (8th Grade) verse free of rhyming or meter - the poet essentially writes however he or she wants without restrictions. See examples.
Genre – (8th Grade) (ZHAWN-ruh) different types or kinds of writing:
Genres of Writing
Genres of Fiction
Genres of Narrative Nonfiction
Genres of Expository Nonfiction
Genres of Poetry
Many of these genres are broken down into sub-genres. For example, fantasy can be broken down into urban fantasy, medieval fantasy, etc.
Harlem Renaissance – (10th Grade) an artistic movement amongst African-Americans in Harlem, New York, which focused on jazz but included acting, painting, sculpture, poetry, memoir-writing, and other arts.
Haiku – (9th Grade) is a type of poem using 17 Japanese characters. A similar poem has developed in English using syllables instead of characters.
Hubris – (12th Grade) means a pride that rises to such arrogance that it results in (1) a loss of touch with reality and (2) overestimating one’s own capabilities. These in turn result in the character’s great downfall or death. Hubris often leads a character to assume a role reserved for God or the gods or to ignore a warning given by God or the gods. Hubris is usually translated as “overweening pride” which is probably the only place one ever hears the word “overweening.” We study hubris while reading Antigone in the 12th grade.
Hyperbole – (9th Grade) [hi-PER-boh-lee]
Iambic Pentameter – (9th Grade) A type of verse with two things: First, it has specific beat of two syllables with emphasis on the second syllable (ta-DUM). Secondly, it has five of these pairs per line (ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM). Iambic pentameter is used in Romeo and Juliet.
Imagery – (8th Grade) is language that appeals to the senses. Imagery is first taught with the eighth-grade story "Mrs. Flowers", 1st quarter.
Consider, for example, Edwin Robinson’s poem “The House on the Hill”. The poet appeals to the senses of vision and sound when he writes:
Through broken walls and gray
The winds blow bleak and shrill
Imagism – (10th Grade) a style of poetry which does not attempt to convey deep meaning through symbolism, allegory, or allusion, but instead try to depict an image or picture through words. We encounter imagism Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" and in many of William Carlos Williams' poems, such as "The Red Wheelbarrow", "The Great Figure", and "As the Cat".
In Media Res – (11th Grade) Sometimes a writer chooses to begin a story in the middle of the action or on the verge or an important moment. This strategy is called in media res.
Informational Text – (8th Grade) See Elements of Informational Text
Initiation Story (also called a coming-of-age story) An initiation story is one in which shows how the main character begins to grow up. the first steps toward becoming an adult often comes as a shock, in the form of an epiphany. Examples would include "Through the Tunnel" by Doris Lessing (?), "Mrs. Flowers" by Maya Angelou.
Interior monologue – (10th Grade)
Internal Conflict – (8th Grade) see conflict
Internal rhyme – (10th Grade)
Inversion – (8th Grade)
Irony (9th Grade) Irony occurs when there is a clash between two things:
Situational irony occurs when there is a clash between what is expected and what results. One would expect that a kidnapped child would be frightened and his kidnappers would be cruel, but this is the opposite of what is encountered in O. Henry's tale, "The Ransom of Red Chief".
Verbal irony occurs when there is a clash between what is said clashes with what is meant.
Dramatic irony occurs when the reader or viewer knows something that the character does not . The great suspense-film director Alfred Hitchcock said there's no suspense in putting a bomb under a character's chair unless everyone in the audience knows it's there and the character doesn't. That's a great example of dramatic irony.
See humorous examples of irony.
Jargon – (11th Grade) See: Dialect, Slang, and Jargon
Kenning (11th Grade) Used in the Beowulf unit.
Legend, Myth and Tall Tale (8th Grade) Legend and Tall Tale Unit. There is some overlap between these types of stories: Paul Bunyan may be considered a legend, for instance.
A folk tale is a story that is passed down orally through generations, often told to children, has characters that are clearly good or bad; has magical events such as wishes or talking animals; often deals with things in threes (three bears, three trips up the beanstalk); often begins "Once upon a time..." See more details.
A legend is a story handed down orally amongst a particular people, but unable to be proven as historical. The tales of King Arthur are famous examples.
A myth is a story concerned with gods and goddesses, and often tries to explain some natural event, such as the rising of the sun, the birth of the world. Myths are usually strongly associated with a particular culture.
A tall tale is a story with great exaggeration. Paul Bunyan is probably the greatest American example.
An urban legend is a modern version of a legend. See examples.
Letter to the Editor – (9th Grade) See Newspaper Genres
Limerick (8th Grade) A five-line poem with a specific rhythm. They are usually funny and often dirty. See examples.
Literal Language – (8th Grade) Language is literal when words mean exactly what they say, without symbolism, metaphor, simile, etc. The opposite of literal language is figurative language.
Loss of Innocence – (10th Grade) is essentially the same as coming-of-age
Lyric – (8th Grade) a type of poetry that is like a song, especially one that pours out the poet's thoughts and feelings
Magic Realism – (9th Grade) is writing that includes elements of the supernatural, but the characters seem to take them in stride, as though magic were quite ordinary or even mundane.
Marginalia – (11th Grade) are notes, scribbles, and editorial comments made in the margin of a book. People mark up books to help them learn and remember relevant information. Traditional marginalia include corrections, explanations of hard words and obscure passages, references to sources, and illustrative examples. Expressions of opinions were rare: like editors, annotators seem to have been expected to suppress private views in the interest of cumulative scholarship. Modern readers in contrast to late medieval reading only add personal reactions to the reading of the text. Some readers engage in argument with the books they read, or express distaste for or disapproval of them.
Melodrama – (10th Grade) is a story with sensational action, exaggerated emotional scenes, and an unbelievable ending, either unrealistically happy or heroically tragic. The plot is often riddled with clichés. Words often used to describe melodrama include schmaltzy, corny, and trite. Examples in film might include Beaches, Ladder 49, and Titanic. Examples in literature might include the works of Lurlene McDaniel and Nicholas Sparks. See more.
Memoir – (11th Grade) is the story of a significant moment in the writer's life told from a mature, reflective standpoint. They are narrations that have many elements of an essay: Read this excellent quote: "While memoirs tell stories about one's own life, they are occasions in which the writer reflects on her life, tries to make sense of it in the present. To this extent, memoirs are also like essay--they attempt to make a point." Writing Memoirs. Community Writing Center. http://www.slcc.edu/wc/community/memoir.pdf Students will write a memoir in the Night and Hiroshima Unit.
Metamorphosis – (8th Grade)
Metaphor – (9th Grade) A comparison in which an object or person is said to be something else.
For example, when Romeo stands beneath Juliet's balcony, he says:
But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun
Here, Juliet is said to be the sun despite the fact that she has nothing physically in common with a nuclear furnace hundreds of thousands of miles away. See also Simile.
Meter – (8th Grade) Meter is a rhythmic pattern, a regular and controlled repetition of stressed and unstressed syllables. See examples.
Monologue – (8th Grade)
Motif – (11th Grade) a repeated design or pattern
Motivation – (8th Grade) The desires, emotions, or beliefs that urge a person to do the things that he or she does.
Myth – (8th Grade) See Legend, Myth and Tall Tale
Narrative Text – (8th Grade) See Elements of Narrative Text
Narrative poem – (8th Grade)
Newspaper Genres – (9th Grade) Newspaper genres are studied in the To Kill a Mockingbird unit.
News Article – (9th Grade) Articles in a newspaper typically run on the front page or in the front page section. Its purpose is to present an unbiased presentation of the story. It may be written by a staff member of the newspaper or it may have been purchased from another news agency, such as the Associated Press. It typically features a headline, a byline, and a dateline.
Letter to the Editor – (9th Grade) typically, a letter to the editor is obvious that it contains personal opinion; usually ends with the name and town of the writer; usually appears on the back pages of the front-page section. The writer of a letter to the editor is not paid, but writes only to express his or her opinion.
Editorial – (9th Grade) A newspaper editorial obviously contains personal opinion; it could be written by the staff of the newspaper or it could be written by a commentator paid by the newspaper. Typically, editorials appear on the back pages of the front-page section.
Feature Article – (11th Grade) is an article in a newspaper or magazine that places emphasis on people or social issues rather than facts and hard news. The feature article is taught during the 11th grade Frankenstein unit.
Nonfiction – (8th Grade)
Non Sequiteur –
Nonfiction Narrative – (9th Grade) A non-fiction narrative tells a true story in a lively, story-like fashion. The writer of a non-fiction narrative will use setting, characterization, and conflict in much the same way as a fiction writer would do. We first encounter this in the ninth-grade selection from All Creatures Great and Small entitled "Haven't I Made a Difference?" The nonfiction narrative in this case is autobiography.
Novel – (8th Grade) A novel is a fictional story that is longer than a short story; it cannot be read in a single sitting. It is almost always prose, not poetry. It is usually published in book form.
Ode – (12th Grade) is a lyric poem typically expressing high emotion with intricate or irregular meter. Odes are used in the play Antigone, which we study in 12th grade. Here, the chorus sings odes that comment on the characters and their actions.
Onomatopoeia – (9th Grade) [ON-oh MON-oh PEE-uh] the quality of a word that actually sounds like what it means - buzz, clink, etc.
Oxymoron – (11th Grade) two things that are opposites and yet the writer has (nonsensically) put them together. Examples would include: jumbo shrimp, clearly confused, pretty ugly, good grief, and extinct life. See more.
Parable – (9th Grade)
Paradox – (10th Grade) is two things that seem contrary and yet both are true. "if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." (Mother Teresa).
Parallelism – (10th Grade) phrases or sentences that repeat a similar structure. A writer should construct both parts in the same manner (using the same verb tense, for example). See more examples.
Parody – (10th Grade) is a work of art that makes fun of another work of art. Examples would include the works of Weird Al Yancovic, Scary Movie, Date Movie, and Spaceballs. We encounter the term parody first when we read “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.
Pastoral – (11th Grade) writing that brings an atmosphere of the simple country life. Note the similarity of the word to pasture.
Personification – (8th Grade) When a writer gives the characteristics of a person to an animal, an object, or an idea, it is called personification. In the short story "There will come Soft Rains", the author writes about the house as though it were alive and had a personality.
Persuasive Essay – (8th Grade)
Primary Document – (9th Grade), also called a primary source, is any letter, speech, law, newspaper article, or any other written material that was created during the time period that is being researched. It is a document that does not have the benefit of hindsight, later interpretation or evaluation. For example, it is Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" and not an encyclopedia article about Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address."
Plot – (8th Grade) The events that take place in a story. Often these follow a specific pattern a seen below. See The Wizard of Oz as an example.
Exposition – the beginning of the plot that introduces the characters and their main problem
Complications – sometimes called "Rising Action" - Things start happening.
Climax – The part of the plot that has the most action, the crisis of the theme, often just before the end. In Anne Frank, the climax occurs when the Nazis discover the two families' hiding place.
Resolution or Denouement – The problem gets resolved.
Poetry – (8th Grade) See examples.
Poetic Catalog – (10th Grade) a list that appears in a poem. The most famous examples can be found in the poetry of Walt Whitman.
Point of View – (8th Grade) see details.
First Person A story has a first-person narrator if the story is told by one of the characters in the story. The text will say, "I did this; I saw this." Usually, when reading a novel written with a first person narrator, the reader knows only what the main character knows because the reader is unable to witness anything beyond those things that can be seen and heard by the character telling the story. Examples include "Raymond's Run", "Mrs. Flowers", and "The Dogs Could Teach Me".
Third Person – A story has a third-person narrator if the narrator refers to the main character as "he" or "she" but never "I" or "me". There are two basic types of third-person narrators:
Third Person Limited – A story has a third-person limited narrator if the narrator only reveals what the main character can see or hear.
Third Person Omniscient – "Omniscient" means "all-knowing". A story has an omniscient point of view if the reader is aware of what any of the characters can see or hear. This will often include the "bad guys".
Prologue – (9th Grade) is an introduction - in a play, often in verse and introducing the theme; in a book or movie, often introducing events that happened before the story opened. We study the prologue of Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade.
Propaganda – (10th Grade) People call persuasive writing propaganda if they believe that its technique is deceitful, sly, or underhanded. To call something propaganda is to make a judgment about it. Propaganda can appear as fiction or nonfiction.
In nonfiction propaganda, the author will attempt to set forth an argument, but it will be tricky or overly one-sided.
In fiction propaganda, the author will typically use character-development to sway his reader or viewer: characters that oppose the author's position will be portrayed negatively, but characters that agree with the author's position will be portrayed positively.
Prose – (8th Grade) This is "normal" writing - writing in paragraphs. It is not poetry or drama.
Protagonist – (8th Grade) the main character, the character who the story is about; "the good guy."
Proverb – (10th Grade) A compact saying handed down over generations, such as "A penny saved is a penny earned," or "Marry in haste, repent at your leisure." Many examples of African proverbs can also be found in Things Fall Apart.
Pun – (9th Grade)
Quatrain – (10th Grade) a type of poetry grouped in lines of four. See detail and examples.
Realism – (10th Grade) a period of time in American Literature following the Civil War in which literature rejected the fantasies of the romantic era and readers and writers demanded literature that was more realistic. See unit.
Realistic Fiction – (9th Grade) Realistic fiction is an attempt to portray characters and events as they really could be. Realistic fiction includes stories that could happen in the real world, in a time and setting that are possible, with characters that are true to life. We first encounter the term Realistic Fiction when we begin To Kill a Mockingbird in the 9th grade and return to it in the 10th grade with Of Mice and Men.
Rebuttal – (8th Grade) the portion of an essay or speech that acknowledges the opponent's position and gives evidence or argument against it. A rebuttal is required on the ACT essay.
Refrain – (9th Grade) A refrain is short group of words that repeats throughout a song, poem, or speech. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech makes heavy use of this strategy.
Regionalism – (10th Grade) is the term given to a literary increased interest in various regions. This is often displayed by the author's emphasis on customs of a particular area. A regionalist author often uses dialect in his or her characters. In American Literature, an increase in regionalism begins with the Civil War.
Resolution – (8th Grade) See Plot
Rhetorical Question – (10th Grade) is just asked for emphasis - the asker doesn't really expect the listener to respond. In Back to the Future, Biff the bully asks his victim, "Do I look stupid to you, McFly?"
Rhyme Scheme – (8th Grade)
Rhythm – (8th Grade)
Rising Action – (8th Grade) See Plot
Romance – (9th Grade)
Satire – (10th Grade) Satire uses ridicule or scorn in a humorous way to expose evil or error. Satire is encountered just before reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; at this time we read "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift.
Setting – (8th Grade) when and where the story takes place. It also refers to the mood created by the setting.
Short Story – (8th Grade)
Slang – (11th Grade) See: Dialect, Slang, and Jargon
Simile – (9th Grade) A comparison in which an object or person is said to be like something else.
For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, the narrator tells that:
ladies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft tea-cakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.
Here, the ladies are said to be like cakes to help the reader see how hot Maycomb could be and the routine of some of the women as they responded to the conditions. See also Metaphor.
Slice of Life – (10th Grade) Slice of Life is a term used to describe a short story that presents a typical portion of a character's life, usually only a few hours. Although the slice that is offered the reader often fails to present the traditional plot (introduction, rising action, conclusion), the story nevertheless is able to define the character. Examples would include "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Worn Path", both studied in the Modernist period of American Literature.
Soliloquy – (9th Grade) (so LILL ick wee) a longer speech in a play in which a character appears to be talking to himself or herself. Notice the word's similarity to the word "solo".
Sonnet – (9th Grade) a type of poem with fourteen lines. Usually, this consists of four quatrains and a couplet. See details and examples.
Speaker – (8th Grade) the “narrator” of the poem.
Standard English – (8th Grade) Standard English is “proper” English – not slang or dialect. It is the language that one ought to be speaking if one expects to get a decent-paying job.
Stanza – (8th Grade) a stanza is to poetry what a paragraph is to prose.
Stereotype – (8th Grade)
Stream of Consciousness – (10th Grade) Some Modern stories were written in a style that imitates the flow of thought inside a character’s head. This appears as a chain of thoughts that are sometimes connected and sometimes not. Stream of consciousness could be done in either the first person or the third person point of view, but was quite different than either the well-thought-out memoir style of older first person or the story-teller style of older third person narrators. We encounter stream of thought in Eudora Welty's "The Worn Path" and James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".
Suspense – (8th Grade) a feeling of tension because the reader or viewer doesn't know what's going to happen. In the short story, "The Monkey's Paw" or "The Landlady", the reader feels suspense because he or she doesn't know the outcome.
Symbol – (8th Grade) a person or object that has meaning beyond their obvious or literal meanings.
Contextual Symbols – (11th Grade) Author invents the symbolic relationship. Contextual symbols are studied in 11th grade while reading Lord of the Flies and in 12th grade while reading The Great Gatsby.
Universal Symbols – (11th Grade) Reader accepts the symbol as common knowledge (see below). Universal symbols are studied in 11th grade while reading Lord of the Flies and in 12th grade while reading The Great Gatsby.
Examples of universal Symbols:
|Universal Color Symbols||Biblical Symbols||Other Universal Symbols|
White = Reverence, purity, marriage, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, sterility.
Black = death, mourning, formality, fear, evil, anger, night
Grey = dignity, reliability, maturity, old age.
Red = passion, love, desire, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence.
Pink = femininity, love, romance, tenderness.
Yellow = idealism, hope, sunshine, summer.
Blue = water; depression, cold, peace, sky.
Purple = Royalty, nobility, arrogance
Green = Nature, environment, health;
Gold = money, wealth, best.
Silver = Security, calm, second best
Bronze = third best, lowest
Apple or apple tree = Innocence lost; temptation. Originally from the Adam & Eve story, later appearing in The Sound and the Fury, “A Game of Catch”, etc.
Cloak = Elijah passing the cloak to his successor.
Dove = Peace, freedom. A dove appears to Noah carrying an olive branch when the flood is over.
Graffiti = The “writing on the wall” was the original a warning of the end in the book of Daniel. Later, it appears when Melinda in Laurie Anderson's Speak sees the graffiti condemning her attacker, it is almost over for him.
Hair, long = savagery, raw or primitive strength; From the story of Samson, in the book of Judges. Later appearing in The Lord of the Flies
Nails = sacrifice, forgiveness. Originally from the crucifixion, later seen in Blade Runner, etc.
Snake = evil
Cave or tunnel = Hell, the depths of despair, the lowest part, death, often containing treasure or hidden knowledge: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Aeneid, The Odyssey, The tomb of Christ in the Gospels
Cave or Tunnel = Initiation, especially sexual: “Through the Tunnel”
Egg = New beginning, new possibilities
Path, Road = the course of life; Robert Frost’s “The Path Not Taken”, Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”, The Road
Staff = power and knowledge of the mature male. Moses, The Lion King’s Rafiki, and Tolkien’s Gandalf are all examples.
Stars - Destiny, fate; Romeo and Juliet
Storm – change
Woods – madness, Lost; lost physically, lost spiritually, lost in madness, in Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Universal Symbolism in the Seasons:
|Spring = If the story is set in the spring, expect new beginnings, rebirth, and comedy.||Summer = If the story is set in the summer expect romance or a coming-of-age story.||
Autumn = If the story is set in the Autumn, expect things coming to an end - a tragedy.
Winter = If the story is set in winter, expect death, hardship, old age - also satire.
Synonyms – (8th Grade) words with almost the same meaning, such as what we do in our vocabulary exercises.
Tall tale – (8th Grade) See Legend, Myth and Tall Tale
Theme – (8th Grade) Themes are the ideas explored in a work, rather than the events that happen during the story (which would be plot). Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. The theme is the message of the story.
Examples of Themes in Cinema and Television
Beauty and the Beast /
Shrek / Shallow Hal
Lord of the Rings
Sense and Sensibility
Tone – (8th Grade) Tone is the mood created in a story. Tone is the attitude the narrator or writer takes toward the characters and events.
Tragedy – (9th Grade) A play, movie, novel, or other story that is serious and which the characters come to an unhappy end. The main character is usually dignified and courageous, but has a serious character flaw.
Understatement – (8th Grade)
Unreliable narrator – (8th Grade) Usually, when a narrator tells a story, the reader can trust what they say, but sometimes an author will trick readers by having a narrator that is mad, lies, or just has a strong point of view. The reader can't take it for granted that what the narrator says is the undeniable truth. We see this in the eighth-grade story, "The Tell-Tale Heart".
Urban Legend – (8th Grade) See Legend, Myth and Tall Tale
Vernacular – (10th Grade) the ordinary speech of regular people