Literary Device Glossary Assignment Help

See also: Glossary of poetry terms, Literary criticism, Literary theory, and Index of literature articles

The following is a list of literary terms; that is, those words used in discussion, classification, criticism, and analysis of poetry, novels, and picture books.

TermDescriptionCitationCategoryNotes
Abecedariusan acrostic in which the first letter of every word, strophe or verse follows the order of the alphabet[1]
Acatalectic
AccentNoun used to describe the stress put on a certain syllable while speaking a word. Ex.- In Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” there has been much controversy over the pronunciation of “Abora” in line 41. According to Herbert Tucker of the website For Better For Verse, the accent is on the first and last syllable of the word, making its pronunciation: AborA.[2][3]
Accentual verseAccentual verse is common in children's poetry; nursery rhymes and the less well-known skipping-rope rhymes are the most common form of accentual verse in the English Language.[4]
AcrosticAn acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message. An Acrostic By Edgar Allan Poe.[5]
Act
Adjectivea word or phrase which modifies a noun or pronoun, grammatically added to describe, identify, or quantify the related noun or pronoun.[6][7]
AdverbA describing word used to modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Typically ending in -ly, adverbs answer the questions when, how, and how many times.[2][8]
Aisling
AllegoryA specific type of writing in which the settings, characters, and events stand for other specific people, events, or ideas.[9]
AlliterationRepetition of the initial sounds of words, as in “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”[10]
AllusionA figure of speech that makes a reference to, or representation of, people, places, events, literary work, myths, or works of art, either directly or by implication.[10]
AnachronismErroneous use of an object, event, idea, or word that does not belong to that time period.[11]
Anacrusis
Anadiplosis
AnagnorisisThe point in a plot where a character recognizes the true state of affairs[12]
Analects
AnalepsisAn interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point the story has reached[13]
Analogue
AnalogyComparison between two things that are otherwise unlike. H[14][15]
Anapesta version of the foot in poetry in which the first two syllables of a line are unstressed, followed by a stressed syllable. Ex. Intercept (the syllables in and ter are unstressed followed by cept which is stressed)[16]
Anaphora
Anastrophe
Anecdotea short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.[17]
Annal
Annotation
Antagonistthe adversary of the hero or protagonist of a drama or other literary work: Iago is the antagonist[18] of Othello.[18]
Antanaclasis
AntecedentA word or phrase referred to by any relative pronoun.[6]
Antepenult
Anthology
Anticlimax
Anti-hero
Anti-masque
Anti-romance
Antimetabole
Antinovel
Antistrophe
Antithesis
Antithetical couplet
Antonym
Aphorism
Apocope
Apollonian and Dionysian
Apologue
Apology
Apothegm
Aposiopesis
ApostropheA figure of speech in which the speaker addresses an object, concept, or person (usually absent) that is unable to respond.[6]
Apron stage
Arcadia
Archaism
Archetype
Aristeia
Argument
Arsis
Asemic writing
Aside
Assonance
Astrophicstanzas having no particular pattern.[2][8]
AsyndetonThe omission of conjunctions between clauses. An example is when John F. Kennedy said on January the 20th 1961 "...that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."[19]
Aube
Aubade
Audience
Autobiography
Autotelic
Avant-garde
Ballad
Ballade
Ballad stanza
Bard
Baroque
Bathos
Beast fable (beast epic)
Beast poetry
Beat Generation
Beginning rhyme
Belles-lettres
Bestiary
Beta reader
Bibliography
Bildungsroman
Biography
Blank verseVerse written in iambic pentameter without rhyme.[8][20]
Body
Bombast (fustian)
Boulevard theatre
Bourgeois drama
Bouts-Rimés
Breviloquence
Broadside
Burlesque
Burletta
Burns stanza
Buskin
Byronic hero
Cadence
Caesura
Calligram
Canon
Canso
Canticum
Canto
Canzone
Capa y espada
Captivity narrative
Caricature
Carmen figuratum
Carpe diem
Catachresis
Catalectic
Catalexis
Catastrophe
Catharsis
Caudate sonnet
Cavalier drama
Cavalier poetry
Celtic Renaissance
Celtic Revival
Celtic Twilight
Caesura
Chain of Being
Chain verse
Chanson de geste
Chansonnier
Chant royal
Chapbook
Character
Characterization
Charactonym
Chaucerian stanza
Chiasmus
Chivalric romance
Choriamb
Choriambus
Chorus
Chronicle
Chronicle play
Cinquain
Classicism
Classification (literature)
Clerihew
Cliché
Climax
Cloak-and-sword play
Close reading
Closed heroic couplet
Closet drama
Collaborative poetry
Colloquialism
Comédie larmoyante
Comedy
Comedy of errors
Comedy of humors
Comedy of intrigue
Comedy of manners
Comedic relief
Commedia dell'arte
Comic relief
Commedia erudita
Common measure
Commonplace book
Common rhyme
Comparative linguistics
Compensation
Complaint
Conceit
Concordance
Concrete universal
Confessional literature
Confidant/confidante
Conflict
Connotation
Consistency
Consonance
Contradiction
Context
Contrast
Convention
Counterplot
Coup de théâtre
CoupletTwo lines with rhyming ends. Shakespeare often used a couplet to end a sonnet.[8]
Courtesy book
Courtly love
Cowleyan ode
Cradle books
Craft cycle
Crisis
Criticism
Cross acrostic
Crown of sonnets
Curtain raiser
Curtal sonnet
Dactyl
Dada
Dandyism
Débat
Death poem
Death of the novel
Debut novel
Decadence
Decasyllabic verse
Decorum
Denotation
Dénouement
Dependent ClauseA group of words containing a subject and a verb, but does not equate to a complete thought.[6]
Description
Descriptive linguistics
Detective story
Deus ex machina
Deuteragonist
Dialect
DialogicA work primarily featuring dialogue; a piece of, relating to, or written in dialogue.[11]
Dialogue
Dibrach
DictionAlso known as "lexis" and "word choice," the term refers to the words selected for use in any oral, written, or literary expression. Diction often centers on opening a great array of lexical possibilities with the connotation of words by maintaining first the denotation of words.[21]
DidacticIntended to teach, instruct, or have a moral lesson for the reader.[11]
Digest
Digression
Dime novel
Diameter
DimeterA line of verse made up of two feet (two stresses).[9]
Dipody
Dirge
Discourse
Dissociation of sensibility
Dissonance
Distich
Distributed Stress
Dithyramb
Diverbium
Divine afflatus
Doggerel
Dolce stil nuove
Domestic tragedy
Donnée
Doppelgänger
Double
Double rhyme
Drama
Drama of sensibilityUsing ones senses as a medium for writing to relay emotion and the perception of sensations of oneself or of others and play upon those sensations to create a relatability stemming from the human condition.[6]
Dramatic character
Dramatic irony
Dramatic lyric
Dramatic monologue
Dramatic proverb
Dramatis personae
Dramaturgy
Dream allegory
Dream vision
Droll
Dumb show
Duodecimo
Duologue
Duple meter/duple rhythm
Dystopia
Dynamic Character
Echo verse
Eclogue
EkphrasisA vivid, graphic, or dramatic written commentary or description of another visual form of art.[2][8]
Elegiac couplet
Elegiac meter
Elegy
Elision
Emblem
Emblem book
Emendation
Emotive language
Encomiastic verse
End rhyme
End-stopped lineA line in poetry that ends in a pause—indicated by a specific punctuation, such as a period or a semicolon.[9]
English sonnet
EnjambmentThe continuing of a syntactic unit over the end of a line. Enjambment occurs when the sense of the line overflows the meter and line break.[2]
Entr'acte
Envoy/envoi
Epanalepsis
Épater la bourgeoisie
Epic poetryA long poem that narrates the victories and adventures of a hero. It can be identified by lofty or elegant diction.[8]
Epic simile
Epic Theater
Epigraph
Epilogue
Epiphany
Episode
Episteme
Epistle
Epistolary novel
Epistrophe
Epitaph
Epithalamion
Epithet
Epizeuxis
Epode
Eponymous author
Equivalence
Erotica
Erziehungsroman
Essay
Ethos
Eulogy
Euphony
Euphuism
Evidence
Exaggeration
Exegesis
Exemplum
Existentialism
Exordium
Experimental novel
Explication de texte
Exposition (literary technique)
Exposition (dramatic structure)
Expressionism
Extended metaphor
Extension
Extrametrical verse
Extravaganza
Eye rhyme
Fable
Fabliau
Falling action
Falling rhythm
Fancy and imagination
Fantasy
Farce
Feeling
Feminine ending
Feminine rhymeA rhyme with two syllables. One is stressed, one is unstressed. Examples: “Merry”, “Coffee”.[2][8]
Fiction
Figurative language
Figure of speech
Fin de siècle
FlashbackAn interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point the story has reached[13]
FlashforwardAn interjected scene that takes the narrative forward in time from the current point of the story in literature, film, television and other media[13]
Flat character
Foil
Folio
Folk drama
Folklore
Folk tale
Foot
Foreshadowing
Form
Fourteener
Frame story
Free indirect discourse
Free verse
French forms
Freytag's pyramid
Fustian
FutureExpresses a condition happening in the future by using shall, will, am, is, are and going to with a verb. Adverbs are also used with the present tense of the verb to show future tense.[2][8]
Futurism
Gallows humor
Gathering (literature)
Genetic fallacy
Genius and talent
Genre
Georgian poetry
Georgics
Gesta
Ghazal
Gloss
Gnomic verse
Golden line
Goliardic verse
Gongorism
Gonzo journalism
Gothic novel
Grand Guignol
Greek tragedy
Grub Street
Guignol
Gushi
Hagiography
Hagiology
HaibunProse written in a terse, haikai style, accompanied by haiku[22]
HaikaiBroad genre comprising the related forms haikuhaikai-renga and haibun[22]
HaikuModern term for standalone hokku[22]
Half rhyme
Hamartia
Handwaving
Headless line
Head rhyme
Hemistich
Hendecasyllable
Hendecasyllabic verse
Heptameter
Heptastich
Heresy of paraphrase
Heroic couplets
Heroic drama
Heroic quatrain
Heroic stanza
HexameterA line from a poem hat has six feet in its meter. Another name for hexameter is "The Alexandrine."[8]
Hexastich
Hiatus
High comedy
Higher criticism
Historical linguistics
Historic present
History play
HokkuIn Japanese poetry, the opening stanza of a renga or renku (haikai no renga)[23]
Holograph
Homeric epithet
Homily
Horatian ode
Horatian satire
Hornbook
Hovering accent
Hubris
Hudibrastic
Humor
Humours
Hybris
Hymn
Hymnal stanza
Hypallage
Hyperbatona figure of speech that alters the syntactic order of the words in a sentence or separates normally-associated words.The term may also be used more generally for all different figures of speech that transpose the natural word order in sentences.[24][25]
Hyperbole
Hypercatalectic
Hypermetrical
Hypocorism
Hysteron-proteron
HypotacticA term where different subordinate clauses are used in a sentence to qualify a single verb, or modify it.[8]
Iambic pentameter
Ideology
Idiom
Idyll
Imagery
Imagism
Impressionism
Incipit
Indeterminacy
Inference
In medias res
Innuendo
InterjectionA word that’s tacked onto a sentence in order to add strong emotion. It’s grammatically unrelated to the rest of the sentence. They are usually followed by an exclamation point.[8]
Internal conflict
Internal rhyme
Interpretation
IntertextualityRefers to the way in which different works of literature interact with and relate to one another in order to construct meaning.[8]
Intuitive description
Irony
Jacobean era
Jeremiad
Ji-amariThe use of one or more extra syllabic units (on) above the 5/7 standard in Japanese poetic forms such as waka and haiku.[26]
Jintishi
JitarazuThe use of fewer syllabic units (on) than the 5/7 standard in Japanese poetic forms such as waka and haiku.[27]
Judicial criticism
Jueju
Juggernaut
Juncture (literature)
Juvenalian satire
Juxtaposition
Kabuki
Kafkaesque
Katharsis
Kenning
KigoIn Japanese poetry, a seasonal word or phrase required in haiku and renku[28]
King's English
KirejiIn Japanese poetry, a "cutting word" required in haiku and hokku[29]
Kitsch
Künstlerroman
Lacunagap, hole, conspicuous absence
Lai
Lake Poets
Lament
Lampoon
L'art pour l'art
Laureate
Lay
Legend
Legitimate theater
Leonine rhyme
Lexis
Letters
Level stress (even accent)
Libretto
Light ending
Light poetry
Light rhyme
Light stress
Light poetry
Limerick
Linguistics
Linked rhyme
Link sonnet
Literary ballad
Literary criticism
Literary epic
Literary fauvism
Literary realism
Literary theory
Literature
Litotes
Litterateur
Liturgical drama
Living Newspaper
Local color[disambiguation needed]
Logaoedic
Logical fallacy
Logical stress
Logos
Long metre
Long poem
Loose sentence
Lost Generation
Low comedy
Lullaby
Lune
Lushi
LyricA short poem with a song-like quality, or designed to be set to music; often conveying feelings, emotions, or personal thoughts.[9]
Macaronic language
Madrigal (poetry)
Magic realism
Malapropism
Maqama
Märchen
Marginalia
Marinism
Marivauge
Marxist literary criticism
Masculine ending
Masculine rhyme
Masked comedy
Masque
Maxim
Meaning
Medieval drama
Meiosis
Melic poetry
MelodramaA work that is characterized by extravagant theatricality and by the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization[11]
Memoir
Menippean satire
Mesostic
MetaphorMaking a comparison between two unlike things without using the words like, as, or than.[9]
Metaphysical conceit
Metaphorical language
Meter
Metonymy
Metre
Metrical accent
Metrical foot
Metrical structure
Microcosm
Middle Comedy
Miles gloriosus
Miltonic sonnet
Mimesis
Minnesang
Minstrel
Mystery play (miracle play)
Miscellanies
Mise en scène
Mixed metaphor
Mock-heroic (mock epic)
Mode
Monodrama
Monody
Monogatari
Monograph
Monologue
Monometer (monopody)
Monostich
Monograph
Mood
Mora
Moral
Morality play
Motif
Motivation
Movement
Mummery
Muses
Literary Analysis: Using Elements of Literature

Students are asked to write literary analysis essays because this type of assignment encourages you to think about how and why a poem, short story, novel, or play was written.  To successfully analyze literature, you’ll need to remember that authors make specific choices for particular reasons.  Your essay should point out the author’s choices and attempt to explain their significance. 

Another way to look at a literary analysis is to consider a piece of literature from your own perspective.  Rather than thinking about the author’s intentions, you can develop an argument based on any single term (or combination of terms) listed below.  You’ll just need to use the original text to defend and explain your argument to the reader.

Allegory - narrative form in which the characters are representative of some larger humanistic trait (i.e. greed, vanity, or bravery) and attempt to convey some larger lesson or meaning to life. Although allegory was originally and traditionally character based, modern allegories tend to parallel story and theme.

  • William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily- the decline of the Old South
  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- man’s struggle to contain his inner primal instincts
  • District 9- South African Apartheid
  • X Men- the evils of prejudice
  • Harry Potter- the dangers of seeking “racial purity”

Character - representation of a person, place, or thing performing traditionally human activities or functions in a work of fiction

  • Protagonist - The character the story revolves around.
  • Antagonist - A character or force that opposes the protagonist.
  • Minor character - Often provides support and illuminates the protagonist.
  • Static character - A character that remains the same.
  • Dynamic character - A character that changes in some important way.
  • Characterization - The choices an author makes to reveal a character’s personality, such as appearance, actions, dialogue, and motivations.  

Look for: Connections, links, and clues between and about characters. Ask yourself what the function and significance of each character is. Make this determination based upon the character's history, what the reader is told (and not told), and what other characters say about themselves and others.

Connotation - implied meaning of word. BEWARE! Connotations can change over time.

  • confidence/ arrogance
  • mouse/ rat
  • cautious/ scared
  • curious/ nosey
  • frugal/ cheap

Denotation - dictionary definition of a word

Diction - word choice that both conveys and emphasizes the meaning or theme of a poem through distinctions in sound, look, rhythm, syllable, letters, and definition  

Figurative language - the use of words to express meaning beyond the literal meaning of the words themselves

  • Metaphor - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme without using like or as  
    • You are the sunshine of my life.
  • Simile - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme using like or as  
    • What happens to a dream deferred, does it dry up like a raisin in the sun
  • Hyperbole - exaggeration
    • I have a million things to do today.
  • Personification - giving non-human objects human characteristics
    • America has thrown her hat into the ring, and will be joining forces with the British.

Foot - grouping of stressed and unstressed syllables used in line or poem

  • Iamb - unstressed syllable followed by stressed
    • Made famous by the Shakespearian sonnet, closest to the natural rhythm of human speech
      • How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
  • Spondee - stressed stressed
    • Used to add emphasis and break up monotonous rhythm
      • Blood boil, mind-meld, well- loved
  • Trochee - stressed unstressed
    • Often used in children’s rhymes and to help with memorization, gives poem a hurried feeling
      • While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
  • Anapest - unstressed unstressed stressed
    • Often used in longer poems or “rhymed stories”
      • Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
  • Dactyls - stressed unstressed unstressed
    • Often used in classical Greek or Latin text, later revived by the Romantics, then again by the Beatles, often thought to create a heartbeat or pulse in a poem
      • Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
        With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

The iamb stumbles through my books; trochees rush and tumble; while anapest runs like a hurrying brook; dactyls are stately and classical.

Imagery - the author’s attempt to create a mental picture (or reference point) in the mind of the reader. Remember, though the most immediate forms of imagery are visual, strong and effective imagery can be used to invoke an emotional, sensational (taste, touch, smell etc) or even physical response.

Meter - measure or structuring of rhythm in a poem

Plot - the arrangement of ideas and/or incidents that make up a story

  • Foreshadowing - When the writer clues the reader in to something that will eventually occur in the story; it may be explicit (obvious) or implied (disguised).
  • Suspense - The tension that the author uses to create a feeling of discomfort about the unknown
  • Conflict - Struggle between opposing forces.
  • Exposition - Background information regarding the setting, characters, plot.
  • Rising Action - The process the story follows as it builds to its main conflict
  • Crisis - A significant turning point in the story that determines how it must end
  • Resolution/Denouement - The way the story turns out.

Point of View - pertains to who tells the story and how it is told. The point of view of a story can sometimes indirectly establish the author's intentions.

  • Narrator - The person telling the story who may or may not be a character in the story.
  • First-person - Narrator participates in action but sometimes has limited knowledge/vision.
  • Second person - Narrator addresses the reader directly as though she is part of the story. (i.e. “You walk into your bedroom.  You see clutter everywhere and…”)
  • Third Person (Objective) - Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character's perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning.
  • Omniscient - All-knowing narrator (multiple perspectives). The narrator knows what each character is thinking and feeling, not just what they are doing throughout the story.  This type of narrator usually jumps around within the text, following one character for a few pages or chapters, and then switching to another character for a few pages, chapters, etc. Omniscient narrators also sometimes step out of a particular character’s mind to evaluate him or her in some meaningful way.

Rhythm - often thought of as a poem’s timing. Rhythm is the juxtaposition of stressed and unstressed beats in a poem, and is often used to give the reader a lens through which to move through the work. (See meter and foot)

Setting - the place or location of the action.  The setting provides the historical and cultural context for characters. It often can symbolize the emotional state of characters. Example – In Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the crumbling old mansion reflects the decaying state of both the family and the narrator’s mind. We also see this type of emphasis on setting in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.

Speaker - the person delivering the poem. Remember, a poem does not have to have a speaker, and the speaker and the poet are not necessarily one in the same.

Structure (fiction) - The way that the writer arranges the plot of a story.

Look for: Repeated elements in action, gesture, dialogue, description, as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc.

Structure(poetry) - The pattern of organization of a poem. For example, a Shakespearean sonnet is a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter. Because the sonnet is strictly constrained, it is considered a closed or fixed form. An open or free form poem has looser form, or perhaps one of the author’s invention, but it is important to remember that these poems  are not necessarily formless.

Symbolism - when an object is meant to be representative of something or an idea greater than the object itself.

  • Cross - representative of Christ or Christianity
  • Bald Eagle - America or Patriotism
  • Owl - wisdom or knowledge
  • Yellow - implies cowardice or rot

Tone - the implied attitude towards the subject of the poem. Is it hopeful, pessimistic, dreary, worried? A poet conveys tone by combining all of the elements listed above to create a precise impression on the reader.

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