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Literary Terms (Examples)

Alliteration
the repetition of similar sounds, usually consonants, in a group of words (“whose heart hung humble” -The Open Boat by Stephen Crane)

Allusion
a reference to a person, a place, an even, or a literary work that a writer expects a reader to recognize (“He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot and Priam’s Neighbors”-Miniver Cheevy by Edwin Arlington Robinson)

Apostrophe
a figure of speech where something inanimate or nonhuman is addressed directly (“Sleep sweetly in your humble graves”-Ode on the Confederate Dead by Henry Timrod) (“O world, I cannot hold thee close enough.”)

Anaphora
repetition or phrase at the beginning of lines of verse or prose (“And they tell me”-Chicago by Carl Sandburg)

Assonance
repetition of similar vowel sounds (“our toes, our noses”-Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath)

Blank Verse
verse in unrhymed iambic pentameter (The Death of a Hired Man and Mending Wall by Robert Frost)

Catalogue
a long list of things, people, or events (Song of Myself by Walt Whitman)

Conceit
usually long metaphor between startlingly different things (Prayers of Steel by Carl Sandburg, he compares himself to a crowbar)

Concrete Poetry
poetry that uses verse lines to imitate inanimate subject of the poem (The Merit Parkway by Denise Leveton)

Consonance
repetition of similar consonant sounds in a group of words (“Let me pry loose old walls. Let me lift and loosen old foundations.” -Prayers of Steel by Carl Sandburg) (“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”- The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost)

Couplet
two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme (Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish)

Confessional Poetry
poetry about the poet’s life (The Fortress by Anne Sexton)

Dactyl
poetic foot with a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables (“rollicking”-The Dance by William Carlos Williams)

Dramatic Lyric
personal thoughts and emotions of an imagined character are explained (The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter by Ezra Pound)

Dramatic Monologue
narrative poem in which a character speaks to listeners whose replies are not given (Mending Wall by Frost)

Ecphrastic Poetry
poetry about art forms such as music, graphic art, film, architecture, poetry, etc. (The Dance by William Carlos Williams is about a painting)

Epigraph
motto or inscription that proceeds a literary work (“Sung at the occasion of decorating the graves at magnolia cemetery” -Ode on the Confederate Dead by Henry Timrod)

Epitaph
short inscription on a grave (George Gray by Edgar Lee Masters) (Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters???/)

Foot
unit used to measure the meter of a line of poetry

Iamb
foot with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable

Trochee
foot with a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable

Anapest
foot with two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable

Free Verse
unrhymed verse that has no or an unusual pattern (woops. didn’t write one down. Walt Whitman I think)

Haiku
Japanese poem; 5 syllables, 7, 5

Harlem Renaissance
black artistry in the 1920s (The Tropics in New York by Claude McKay)

Iambic Pentameter
five feet, each foot is in iamb (Shakespeare?)

Imagery
words of phrases that create pictures (“blue nights into white stars”-Prayers of Steel by Carl Sandburg)

Imagism
1. direct concentration on precise image
2. use of precise words and common speech
3. creation of new rhythms
4. freedom of choice of subject
(can a movement have an example?)

Internal Rhyme
rhyme within a line (you can figure it out. read the lines)

Inversion
reversal of usual word order (“Rambled over the fields where sang the larks”-Lucinda Matlock by Edgar Lee Masters)

Irony (Verbal)
when one thing is said but the opposite is meant (War is Kind by Crane)

Irony (Dramatic)
reader or audience perceives something that a character doesn’t know

Irony (of Situation)
expected and actual results or events are not the same “Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson, the perfect man kills himself)

Hyperbole
exaggeration, overstatement (I don’t think he gave us a real example?)

Elegy
poem of mourning (Elegy for Jane by Theodore Roethke)

Ode
serious poems on a lofty subject (Ode on the Confederate Dead by Henry Timrod)

Metaphor
comparison between two dissimilar things (“Life in itself/Is nothing,/ An empty cup”)

Meter
pattern of syllables

Metonymy
a part or word representing a whole or person (“crown” representing monarch)

Mixed Metaphor
use of two or more inconsistent metaphors (“The awful tide battled to and fro” -Douglass by Paul Laurence Dunbar)

Octave
eight line poem or stanza

Onomatopoeia
sound imitates meaning (“click”- The Skaters by John Gould Fletcher)

Oxymoron
brief paradox; figure of speech that combines words of opposite meaning (“armless ambidextrian”-End of the World by Archibald MacLeish

Parallelism
uses of phrases or structures that are similar in wording or meaning (“I am the poet of body and I am the poet of the Soul”-Song of Myself by Walt Whitman)

Parable
a short tale with a moral (Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliot though Mr. Peachey doesn’t really agree)

Paradox
a statement that seems controversial but relays a universal truth (Much Madness is Divinest Sense by Emily Dickinson)

Pathetic Fallacy
nature sympathizes with plot (“The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead”-The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter by Ezra Pound)

Personification
non human object given human qualities (“sorrow knocked at my door/ambition called to me”- George Gray by Masters)

Pun
intentional play on words (Janet Waking by John Crowe Ransom)

Quatrain
four line stanza with a definite rhyme scheme (almost all of Emily Dickinson)

Refrain
a word, phrase, or lines are repeated regularly, usually at the end of a stanza (“war is kind”-War is Kind by Stephen Crane)

Repetition
repeating of words

Requiem
a prayer /poem/song for the repose of the dead (Death of a Salesman)

Rhyme
repetitions of similar ending sounds

Masculine Rhyme
last syllable rhymes (him and slim)

Feminine Rhyme
two last syllables rhyme (seasons and reasons)

Sestet
six line poem or stanza

Simile
comparison with like or as (“April/Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers”)

Sonnet
a fourteen line poem in iambic pentameter

Sonnet (English or Shakespearean)
three quatrains followed by a couplet (Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “On Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven”)

Sonnet (Italian or Petrachan)
octave and sestet (Douglass by Paul Laurence Dunbar)

Stanza
unit of a poem (every single poem?)

Stream of Consciousness
attempts natural flow of thoughts/feelings (Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliot)

Symbol
any object that has a deeper meaning (“In seeds of laurel in the earth”-Ode on the Confederate Dead by Timrod)

Synecdoche
a part represents a whole (“shades”-Ode on the Confederate Dead by Timrod. shades represent bodies)

Tanka
Japanese poem with five lines and thirty one syllables

Tone
attitude the writer takes toward his or her subject, characters, or readers (the mocking tone in Miniver Cheevey by Edwin Arlington Robinson)

Transcendentalism
existence beyond proof; intuitive philosophy (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau)

Understatement
less is said than is meant (“death is no parenthesis” by ee cummings)

Organic Rhythm
the syllables or rhythm of the poem represent the sounds or actions of the subject (“Poem” by William Carlos Williams)

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