A trope that involves making an affirmation by negating its opposite. “Not unkind” means “kind.” “Not bad” usually means “good.”
A complex sentence in which an independent clause is followed by one or more other elements. It is syntactically complete on the front end. These are less formal, more conversational, and more common in English than periodic sentences.
A trope involving deliberate understatement, usually for comic, ironic, or satiric effect. Typically involves characterizing something in a way that, taken literally, minimizes its gravity. Ex: “One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.”
A figure of speech that associates two distinct things without using a connective word. Ex: “That child is a wet napkin.”
A type of neologism in which misspelling a word creates a rhetorical effect. To emphasize dialect, one might spell dog as “dawg.” To emphasize that something is unimportant, we might add -let or -ling at the end of the word, referring to a deity as a “godlet”, or a prince as a “princeling.” To emphasize the feminine nature of something normally considered masculine, try adding -ette to the end of the word, creating a smurfette or a corvette. To modernize something old, the writer might turn the Greek god Hermes into the Hermenator. Likewise, Austin Powers renders all things shagedelic. The categories following this entry are subdivisions of metaplasmus. I remember these by thinking about adding PEP.
adding an extra syllable or letters to the beginning of a word: Shakespeare writes in his sonnets, “All alone, I beweep my outcast state.” He could have simply wrote weep, but beweep matches his meter and is more poetic. Too many students are all afrightened by the use of this. This creates a poetic effect, turning a run-of-the-mill word into something novel.
(also called infixation) — adding an extra syllable or letters in the middle of a word. Shakespeare might write, “A visitating spirit came last night” to highlight the unnatural status of the visit. Ned Flanders from The Simpsons might say, “Gosh-diddly-darn-it, Homer.”
adding an extra syllable or letters to the end of a word. For instance, Shakespeare in Hamlet creates the word climature by adding the end of the word temperature to climate (1.1.12). The wizardly windbag Glyndwr (Glendower) proclaims that he “can call spirits from the vasty deep” in 1 Henry IV (3.1.52).
deleting a syllable from the beginning of a word to create a new word. For instance, in King Lear, we hear that, “the king hath cause to plain” (3.1.39). Here, the word complain has lost its first syllable. In Hamlet 2.2.561, Hamlet asks, “Who should ‘scape whipping” if every man were treated as he deserved, but the e- in escape has itself cleverly escaped from its position!
deleting a syllable or letter from the middle of a word. For instance, in Cymbeline, Shakespeare writes of how, “Thou thy worldy task hast done, / Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages” (4.2.258). In 2 Henry IV, we hear a flatterer say, “Your lordship, though not clean past your youth, hath yet some smack of age in you, some relish of the saltness of time” (1.2.112). Here, the -i- in saltiness has vanished to create a new word. This is particularly common in poetry, when desperate poets need to get rid of a single syllable to make their meter match in each line.
deleting a syllable or letter from the end of a word. In The Merchant of Venice, one character says, “when I ope my lips let no dog bark,” and the last syllable of open falls away into ope before the reader’s eyes (1.1.93-94). In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare proclaims, “If I might in entreaties find success–/ As seld I have the chance–I would desire / My famous cousin to our Grecian tents” (4.5.148). Here the word seldom becomes seld.
The measured arrangement of words in poetry, as by accentual rhythm, syllabic quantity, or the number of syllables in a line.
The use of a word or phrase to stand in for something else which it is often physically associated. ie. Hollywood for US cinema, the Crown for UK government, the White House, City Hall.
The general feeling created for the reader by a work at a given point. This is established through elements such as imagery, setting, and sound. This is not the same as tone, which is the author’s attitude toward the reader, audience, or subject matter.
A recurrent, unifying element in an artistic work, such as an image, symbol, character type, action, idea, object, or phrase.
A traditional anonymous story, originally religious in nature, told by a particular cultural group in order to explain a natural or cosmic phenomenon. These are distinguished from legends (adventures of a human cultural hero like Robin Hood) and fables (which have a moral, didactic purpose and often feature animals).
A speaker through whom an author presents a narrative. These are classified by point of view:
first-person–the author, the protagonist, another character, a witness to the action. “I’m on the ramp.” They are also classified by whether or not they are intrusive (opinionated), unintrusive (detached), reliable, unreliable, self-conscious or self-effacing.
Second person (Narrator)
the narrator refers to the reader as “you,” making the reader a part of the story. “You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge.”
Third person omniscient (Narrator)
each and every character is referred to by the narrator as “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they.” This type of narrator has knowledge of all times, people, places, and events, including all characters’ thoughts.
Third person limited (Narrator)
This type of narrator may know absolutely everything about a single character and every piece of knowledge in that character’s mind, but the narrator’s knowledge is “limited” to that character — that is, the narrator cannot describe things unknown to the focal character.
A lengthy fictional prose narrative.
A shorter fictional prose narrative that ranges from 50-100 pages in length.
Literally “seizing,” this is the rhetorical figure of bringing up and responding to a counterpoint before the opponent has the chance to make it. Ex: “Now mom, I know you’re going to say that if I join the Dungeons and Dragons club it may damage my social life, but Sheila and Tracy are already members!” This is opposed to apophasis, where the rhetorician feigns unwillingness to discuss a topic he or she is interested in.
An eight-line stanza. More specifically, the first eight lines of an italian sonnet. May pose a question or a dilemma that the sestet answers.
A relatively long, serious, and usually meditative lyric poem that treats a noble subject in a dignified or calm manner.
The desire a young child feels for the opposite-sex parent and the hostility the child correspondingly feels toward the same-sex parent. Based on the Greek legend of Oedipus, who blinds himself after discovering that he killed his dad and then married his mother.
Words that seem to signify meaning through sound effects. Ex: Hiss, sizzle, pop, moo, purr, quack, beep.
A person or category of people seen as different from the dominant social group. Almost any ideology involves the classification of some group as the this, often by virtue of race, class, gender, sexuality, or other characteristic. This practice often results in marginalization and oppression of that group.
A short, realistic, but usually fictional story told to illustrate a moral or religious point or lesson; a type of allegory.
A statement that seems self-contradictory, but expresses an underlying truth. Ex: “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” Or, from the Tao Te Ching: “My words are easy to know and practice, but there is no one in the world who is able to know and practice them.”
A rhetorical figure involving a speaker’s assertion that he or she will not discuss something that he or she in fact goes on to discuss.
A sequence of sentences bearing only a loose logical relation to one another. Elements within those sentences tend to be joined by simple conjunctions (like and) that do little to show or explain causal or temporal relations. Another way to think about it is that all of the sentences carry the same weight. Ex: “There were no rooms at the inn. We drove farther until we found a hotel. It was raining heavily and we got soaked on the way to the door. Our socks stank of mildew. We ate dinner there and talked little.”
A literary mode historically and conventionally associated with shepherds and country living.
A line of verse with five metrical feet. The most common line length in English verse.
Ex: “Deer walk | upon | our moun | tains, and | the quail |”
A complex sentence that is not syntactically complete until its very end. The opposite of a loose sentence.
A roundabout way of speaking or writing. The term is often used pejoratively to designate pompous or wordy writing. Ex: Ronald Reagan once called a lie a “terminological inexactitude.”
A figure of speech in which human characteristics are bestowed upon anything nonhuman.
The arrangement and interrelation of events in a narrative work, chosen and designed to engage the reader’s attention and interest, while also providing a framework for the exposition of the author’s message or theme.
The choice and phrasing of words deemed suitable for verse. Ex: “Ere,” “thrice,” “thou.”
The idea that virtuous and evil actions are ultimately dealt with justly, with virtue rewarded and evil punished.”
The linguistic liberty taken by poets in composing verse. They can do unusual things, break rules, etc.
Point of View
The vantage point from which a narrative is told.
This is the use of several conjunctions in close succession, especially where some might be omitted (as in “he ran and jumped and laughed for joy”). It is a stylistic scheme used to achieve a variety of effects: it can increase the rhythm of prose, speed or slow its pace, convey solemnity or even ecstasy and childlike exuberance. Another common use of this is to create a sense of being overwhelmed, or in fact directly overwhelm the audience by using conjunctions, rather than commas, leaving little room for a reader to breathe. Ex: “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” –Ernest Hemingway
The body of literature written by authors with roots in countries that were once colonies established by European nations. This theory explores the situation of colonized peoples both during and after colonization.
A term referring to radically experimental works produced after WWII. Much of this kind of writing reveals and highlights the alienation of individuals and the meaninglessness of human existence.