Explication Literary Terms

allusion: making a reference to something well-known
anecdote: a short, single episode tale that’s often humorous
antagonist: the chief opposition to the work’s heroic figure
antithesis: placing two things or concepts into direct opposition
aphorism: a short, popular saying
apostrophe: a direct address to someone or something that isn’t present
aside: an actor directly addressing the audience, usually in a humorous way
atmosphere: the "feeling" or sensation that a setting or situation produces
ballad: a song-like poem with 8-6 or 8-8 meter that will tell a short story
blank verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter
caesura: a mid-split in a line of poetry, causing the reader to pause
caricature: the imitation of a person, often with humorous exaggeration
climax: the highest, most dramatic point in the plot, centering on a confrontation
comic relief: a humorous incident or situation placed within a period of tension
conceit: an extended metaphor dealing with two “very” dissimilar things
connotation: the literal or actual dictionary meaning of words or phrases
couplet: a pair of rhyming lines
denotation: the implied or suggested meaning of words or phrases
denouement: another word fro plot resolution, bringing to an end
dialect: the unique way a language is spoken by a given culture or group
diction: the means of expressing oneself (formal or informal)
drama: literature intended to be performed on stage
dramatic audience: the actors on stage who are present for a dramatic monologue
dramatic monologue:when an actor directly addresses an internal audience
dynamic character: one who undergo personality changes when motivated
elegy: a formal funeral speech
epigram: a short, wise saying, often including bits of wisdom
epiphany: a sudden discovery of something of great emotional importance
epitaph (or epigraph): an inscription on a statue or grave marker
epithet: a nickname, usually with a humorous implication
exemplum: a short story intended to teach a moral or lesson
exposition: the first part of a plot where important elements are introduced
expressionism: artistic movement stressing feeling more than reality
extended metaphor: multiple comparisons of dissimilar things
fable: a tale with animal characters intended to teach a lesson
fantasy: dealing strictly with imagination and departing from reality
farce: a drama intended to mock--much like a satire
flashback: element of plot that sends the action back into the past
foil: a minor character used to highlight features of the main character
folk lore:literature that applies to a specific race or culture
free verse:poetry that has form, but no rhyme or meter
gothic:artistic elements traced back to ancient Germanic culture
heroic couplet: a pair of rhyming lines, using iambic pentameter and an end stop
hyperbole:extreme exaggeration, usually for humorous effect
iambic pentameter: lines that alternate 10 unaccented and accented syllables
imagery:words or phrases that create mental pictures for the senses
incongruity:a detail or development that fails to fit the expected pattern
internal rhyme:random rhyme sets that fall within a pre-existing pattern
inversion:the reverse of expectations or “turning something around”
irony:an unexpected result or surprise
kenning:Anglo-Saxon compound words to extend vocabulary
lyric poem:verse that deals with thoughts and feelings, not plot
metaphor:an implied comparison or two dissimilar things (“A” is “B”)
metaphysical:dealing with philosophy and the meaning of life
meter:poetic sound pattern using accented and unaccented syllables
metonymy:substituting the part for the whole
mock epic:a heroic adventure of a foolish main character
monologue:first person point of view spoken directly at an audience
mood:the reader’s reaction to an author’s degree of seriousness
motif:a thematic trend or pattern in various works of art
motivation:the reason behind a character’s actions
narration:the point of view for the story teller, first or third
narrative poem:a poem that tells a story with a distinct plot line
naturalism:art that avoids interpretation and deals with basic reality
neoclassicism:a post-renaissance return to the classics
octave:a verse section of eight lines with a set rhyme scheme
ode:a poem that is written as a song of praise
omniscient p.o.v..:narrator knows past, future, and character’s thoughts
onomatopoeia:a word that is an exact representation of a sound
ottava rima:stanzas of eight lines with a pattern of A B A B A B C C
oxymoron:a figure of speech that combines opposites
paradox:something that seems contradictory but is really true
parody:a humorous imitation of another literary work
pastoral:related to the beauty and simplicity of nature
pathos:used to evoke great sympathy on the part of the audience
personification:giving human qualities to animals or things
protagonist:the central character who gains an audiences’ sympathy
quatrain:a set of four lines with a rhyme pattern of A B A B or A B B A
rhyme scheme:end rhyme in a poem that is established in a pattern
romance:a heroic adventure with elements of knighthood and chivalry
romanticism:literature that focuses on the individual, not on social views
run-on line:lines of poetry that don’t abruptly stop on rhyming words
satire:literature that mocks elements within one’s society
sestet:a verse section of six lines with a set rhyme scheme
simile:a comparison or two dissimilar things, using “like” or “as” (“A” is like “B”)
slant rhyme:rhyming words that don’t exactly match in sound, but are similar
soliloquy:a speech by a character alone on stage, thinking aloud
stanza:a section of a poem forming a block of lines
static character:one who fails to change, even when there’s reasonable motivation
stereotype:a person or thing considered to be a “typical” example of others
stream of consciousness::plot format using thought patterns in place of time
suspense:tension developed as a plot approaches the climax
symbol:a thing used to represent something else on two levels of meaning
synecdoche:where a part is used to stand for the whole
terza rima:third rhyme stanza-- A B A B C B C D C
theme:the central or controlling idea of a literary work
tone:an author’s degree of seriousness resulting in mood
tragedy:drama focusing on the downfall of a heroic character
tribute:a work intended to honor or praise its subject
vernacular:a given vocabulary of a subject, group, or culture