allegory a literary work or visual imagery that functions on two or more levels of meaning by comparing objects to symbols outside the scope of the work.
alliteration the repetition of consonant sounds, even those spelled differently.
allusion a brief or indirect reference to something or someone known to most people.
analogy a literary parallel or comparison between like situations, objects, or ideas, often expressed as a simile or implied as a conceit, image, or metaphor.
anapest a metrical foot or unit formed of three syllables, two unstressed beats followed by a stressed beat (– ‘).
anti-hero, anti-heroine a protagonist or central figure who lacks heroic qualities.
antithesis a balanced statement of contrasts that juxtaposes opposites in words, phrases, clauses, images, or themes.
apologia a literary defense of a person or situation, also an explanation or detailed accounting of an event or belief.
apostrophe an emotion-charged address to an absent or dead person, abstract quality, or object.
approximate rhyme words that come close to rhyme without copying the exact sound pattern, as in steer/stare, mud/could, and late/light.
archetype a recurrent character, setting, or pattern from early literature.
assonance repetition of a vowel sound, as with the a sound in ace/eight/say.
balanced sentence a sentence composed of equal elements on each side of a connector, which creates a pause to stress proportional comment on either side.
ballad a dramatic chronological story-poem.
bathos overstatement, excessive emotion, or anticlimax that stresses loss, sentiment, or tragedy to the point of creating humor or melodrama.
beast fable an amoral animal story or allegorical satire that features nonhuman characters in a comic action to reveal a character fault or weakness.
belles lettres elegant writing.
blank verse an unrhymed pattern of short and long beats into a five-beat line (- ‘/ – ‘/- ‘/- ‘/- ‘/).
cacophony an arrangement of harsh or grating sounds to annoy or create conflict or tension.
cadence a unified arrangement of phrases or sounds into a pattern.
caesura a pause or interruption in a line of verse.
canon an authentic body of writing by one author.
canto a major segment or numbered section of a long poem.
character name a method of revealing qualities of character or attitude through symbolic or descriptive names.
chiaroscuro a deliberate contrast of light and dark elements.
climax the turning point or height of a series of actions.
conceit an elaborate comparison that teases the imagination to understand its logic.
consonance the repetition of consonants, as in leaves/loaves.
context the phrases surrounding a passage.
contrast a strong difference between two elements in a comparison.
couplet a pair of rhymed lines composed in the same meter.
dactyl a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, a stressed beat followed by two unstressed beats (‘ –).
denotation the literal definition of a word.
diction the selection of words and phrasing.
elegy dignified verse that praises, laments, or meditates on a subject.
end-stopped the ending of a thought at the end of a line of poetry.
enjambment thought that continues from one line of poetry into another.
euphony a series of pleasant sounds producing a positive effect.
feminine rhyme a pattern of words concluding on unstressed syllables.
foot a unit of rhythm or cadence.
free verse poetry written in a casual or unpatterned rhythm similar to spoken language.
griot a storyteller or tribal historian.
hexameter a poetic line containing six units, often broken into two groupings of three beats.
hyperbole an exaggeration or overstatement.
iamb a metrical unit that contains two syllables, an unstressed beat followed by a stressed beat (- ‘).
idiom a phrase or expression producing meaning beyond the sum of the words.
imagery a grouping of word pictures that create a single sense impression of sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell.
imagism a free verse study of a single object and its use or purpose.
impressionism style stressing personal response to an event or object.
internal rhyme rhymed words within a poetic line.
irony an implied discrepancy between the actual event or statement and what is meant.
juvenilia literary works produced by an immature author.
lyricism strikingly emotional verse that flows like a melody.
magical realism free association of whimsy, dream, and fantasy with realistic detail.
masculine rhyme an arrangement of stresses ending on an accented syllable.
metaphor an implied comparison of unlike objects or thoughts.
meter the pattern of stressed and unstressed beats in poetry to form a rhythm. The five standard meters are iambic (-‘), trochaic (‘-), dactylic (‘–), anapestic (–‘), and spondaic (”). The number of feet in a line gives a name to the rhythm, as in monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, and hexameter.
mood the controlling atmosphere of a work, which may be tense, uplifting, sad, or a blend of atmospheres.
motif an obvious pattern of events, characters, or themes.
naturalism a type of literary study that depicts humans as animals controlled by heredity and environment, but not by supernatural forces or gods.
octave a set of eight lines of verse; an octet.
ode a lengthy ceremonial stanza that studies a single dignified subject and theme.
onomatopoeia an echo word or phrase that imitates the sound it represents, as with gurgle, thump, hum, and snort.
paean a tribute or praise song.
paradox an unusual statement of truth through obvious contradiction.
parallelism the use of similar grammatical structures.
pastoral a literary work stressing rural events and characters.
personification a phrase that gives human thought and feeling to an abstract idea, being, or object.
Petrarchan sonnet a fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter comprised of an octave to a sestet and rhyming in some variation of abbaabbacdecde.
pun a witty remark comparing words with similar meanings or sounds.
quatrain a four-line stanza.
realism a literary re-creation of life in action, setting, atmosphere, and character.
rhyme scheme the arrangement of rhymes at the ends of a series of lines.
rhythm a natural arrangement of stresses in a line of verse.
satire mockery that stresses human faults and weaknesses.
sestet a six-line stanza.
Shakespearian sonnet a fourteen-line poem composed in iambic pentameter rhyming abab, cdcd, efef, gg.
sibilance alliterated s, z, or sh sounds.
simile a comparison built around like, as, or than.
sonnet a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter.
spondee a metrical foot composed of two stressed syllables (”).
symbol a tangible object that represents an abstract idea or relationship.
theme the main thought or idea of a work, such as patriotism, regret, or youth.
tone the author’s attitude toward a work and its audience — for example, cynical, earnest, or objective.
vignette a brief scenario.