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English Vocab Words

1. Didactic – aims to teach the reader some lesson

2. Absurd, the (literature, theater of) – 20th century works that depict the
absurdity of the modern human condition. Depict the individual as isolated
and alone, without religious, philosophical, or cultural roots. Tied to
- Post modern idea, taking into account the events of the 21st century
- Man becomes the center of the universe, assigning of value to the
- Describes a sense of being adrift in the world, rootless, lack of
3. Accent – in poetry, the stress placed on a syllable of a word. Used to provide
emphasis, to create rhythmic patterns, or to create regionalism
- Three kinds: word accent (entire word stressed), rhetorical accent (used to
create patterns), metrical accent (used for poetry)
4. Act: major division
Scene: subdivision
Line: basic unit of prose/ verse
5. Allegory – the presentation of an abstract idea through more concrete means.
The author expects the reader to recognize the existence of a second—a
deeper—level of meaning. A kind of extended metaphor
6. Alliteration – the repetition of sounds in a sequence of words
7. Allusion – an indirect reference to a person, place, thing, event, book, the
arts, or history
8. Anachronism – something that is not placed in its correct historical time
period. The author places an event, thing, or person in a time when it could
not have existed
9. Anagnorisis – used in the Poetics to refer to the moment in a drama when the
protagonist “discovers” something that leads to or explains a reversal of
10.Anapest – a metrical foot of poetry consisting of two unstressed syllables
followed by one stressed syllable
11.Antistrophe – the second stanza of a classical Greek Ode
- Strophe – first stanza (chorus dances)
- Antistrophe - second stanza (chorus dances in opposite direction)
- Epode – third stanza (chorus stands still)
12.Aphorism – a concise, pointed statement that purports to reveal a truth or
principle. Aphorisms can be attributed to a specific person, once authorship is
lost, the term to describe this is proverb
13.Maxim – a statement giving behavioral advice
14.Apostrophe – a figure of speech in which the speaker directly addresses a
person who is dead or otherwise not physically present, an imaginary person
or entity, something inhuman, or a place or concept, or abstract idea
15.Archetype – the original model from which something is developed or made.
In literature, character types
16.Ballad – a poem that recounts a story, composed to be sung
- Simple stanzas
- Refrains
- Incremental repetition
- Dialogue used to create character
- Employs ballad stanza: a four-line stanza characterized by abab rhyme
17.Beast fable – a story in which the principal characters are animals
18.Blank verse – unrhymed iambic pentameter. Replicates the natural patterns
of English speech
19.Burlesque – a type of comedy that employs distortion and exaggeration to
evoke ridicule. Usually trivializes some lofty subject through the glorification
of a related lowly or commonplace one. An instrument of satire
20.Caesura – a pause in a line of poetry. Produced by a natural speaking rhythm
rather than meter
21.Scansion – the analysis of poetic meter
22.Classicism – a general term that calls to mind certain characteristics as
praised in critical writings from the Greeks and Romans. Classicism refers to
the values, beliefs, and attitudes reflected in classic writings such as poems,
plays, and orations
23.Cliché – a hackneyed expression that has lost its impact
24.Climax – highpoint of the action
25.Comic relief – a humorous scene or passage inserted into an otherwise
serious work intended to provide an emotional outlet and change of pace for
the audience as well as to create a contrast that emphasizes the seriousness
of the work. Can occur in situations or characters
26.Connotation – the associations evoked by a word that go beyond its literal
27.Dactyl – a metrical foot in poetry consisting of an accented syllable followed
by two unaccented syllables
28.Dirge – a song or poem sung at a funeral, written to lament or commemorate
someone’s death. Dirge and elegy are sometimes used interchangeably, but
an elegy is a lament on the general subject of death. Elegies are almost
always spoken, not sung
29.Dissonance – harsh, discordant sounds in any kind of writing. Cacophony is a
related term. Used to create a specific effect—discord, agitation, unrest,
disquiet, alarm, etc.
30.Double rhyme – words of two syllables in which identical unstressed syllables
follow rhyming stressed syllables, called feminine rhyme
31.Masculine rhyme – rhymes involving stressed single syllable words
32.Hexameter – six metrical feet
33.Haiku – Japanese verse form, three unrhymed lines, 17 syllables
34.Hymn – song of praise, usually in verse. Usually written in stanzas and
35.Idyll – a narrative work (usually in verse) that depicts and exalts pastoral
virtues and scenes. Implied comparison between the joys of the simple rural
life and the bustle and corruption of the city
36.In medias res – latin for “in the middle of things.” The literary technique of
beginning a narrative in the middle of the action. Primarily associated with
epics. Used to hook the reader by beginning at an exciting point in the story.
Prior events told through flashback or exposition
37.Invocation – a direct and explicit request for help in writing (usually in verse)
to a divine entity
- Calliope : muse of music
- Clio: muse of history
- Urania: muse of astronomy
- Thalia: comedy
- Euterpe: lyric poetry
- Melpomene: tragedy
- Terpsichore: choral songs / dances
- Erato: love poetry
- Polyhynia: sacred poetry
38.Italian sonnet – 14 lines, 1 octave, abba abba, 1 sestet cde cde or cdcdcd.
Originated in 14th century Italy. Uses iambic pentameter
39.Shakespearean sonnet – 3 quatrains abab cdcd ef ef or gg
40.Lexicon – dictionary, the vocabulary of a particular subject
41.Light verse – satiric, witty, playful verse written to amuse. Distinguished by
tone rather than subject matter
42.Local color – the depiction of distinctive characteristics of a particular region
—a dialect, dress, mannerisms, culture, etc. helps the reader envision and
understand a moral dilemma faced by characters.
43.Loose sentence – uses a series of clauses---meaning clear from 1st clause.
Uses conjunctions and a combination of dependent and independent clauses
44.Periodic sentence – not syntactically complete until the final punctuation
45.Malapropism - the erroneous substitution for the correct word of a similar
sound but very different in meaning
46.Medieval – collapse of the Roman Empire – the Turkish invasion of
Constantinople in 1453 which caused the migration of Greek scholars to
western Europe
- Chivalric ideals, courtly love, primacy of the church, stable moral/ civic
order, the crusades / inquisition, limits on the power of the king
47.Melodrama – originally only drama accompanied by music. In Victorian
theater, came to mean a play which emphasized conflict between pure good
and pure evil. The goal—to elicit an emotional response from the audience
- Improbable situations, malevolent intrigue, despicable villains, moral
48.Metaphysical poetry – poetry that deals with philosophical or spiritual
matters. Generally limited to works by 17th century poets such as John Donne,
whose poems tend to examine the relationship of man and God.
- Take the form of an argument, links wit to powerful emotion, intellectual
tone, analytical structure, irregular rhyming pattern
49.Metonymy – one thing is represented by another thing that is commonly
associated with it
50.Synecdoche – a part representing the whole
51.Monologue – an extended narrative –written or oral—delivered uninterrupted
and exclusively by one person. Other may be present / hear
52.Interior monologue – type of monologue where the inner thoughts and
workings of a character’s mind are revealed
53.Soliloquy – a single character alone on stage who reveals his inner thoughts
out loud
54.Monometer – a line of verse consisting of one metrical foot
55.Morality play – a medieval drama, usually allegory, that makes a moral point,
whether it be religious or didactic, the protagonist represents humanity.
Other characters represent angels and demons and personified abstractions
struggling for the protagonist’s soul
56.Nom de plume – penname
57.Novella – fictional prose narrative of 50-100 pages—longer than a short story,
shorter than a novel, but with the same literary elements. In a novella, there
are a limited number of characters and a single plot line
58.Octameter – 8 metrical feet per line
59.Octave – 8 lines of verse, especially the first 8 lines of an Italian sonnet
60.Old English Period – in literature, first half of 5th century with the migration to
Britain of the four primary Germanic tribes – the Norman conquest (1066)
61.Omniscient point of view – 3rd person all-knowing narrator, author is able to
reveal external details and inner thoughts and emotions of all characters
Limited omniscient: some information is withheld
Objective: no thoughts
62.Ottava rima – Italian verse form, 8 lines of iambic pentameter
63.Palimpsest – a piece of parchment or other manuscript writing material that
has been scraped clean so it can be used again. Metaphorically, it refers to
multiple or layered meanings of words
64.Parable – a short, realistic, and illustrative story intended to teach a moral or
religious lesson—a type of allegory
- Fable: a short fictional prose or verse tale with a specific moral.
Frequently employs animals that speak
- Exemplum – a short story that is told to validate a general moral point
65.Parallelism – used to accentuate or emphasize ideas or themes. Parallel
elements may be words, phrases, imagery, characters, situations, events,
66.Parody – an imitation of an established literary style or specific work, a form
of satire. Usually meant to poke fun at the author or style rather than the
subject matter of the work.
67.Pastoral – an adjective that can be applied to any work with a rural setting
that can be applied to any work with a rural setting and that generally praises
a rustic way of life. As a noun, it names a literary style that tells the stories of
shepherds and country living
68.Pathetic fallacy – the attribution of human emotions to inanimate nature.
According to John Ruskin, a serious artistic flaw.
69.Perfect rhyme – rhyme in which the final accented vowels and all subsequent
sounds are identical
70.Picaresque novel – a novel that realistically recounts the adventures of a
carefree but engaging rascal who always manages to escape by the skin of
his teeth
- Episodic structure, constant presence of the central character, first person
point of view, realistic details
71.Poetic diction – the choice and phrasing of words deemed suitable for verse
72.Poetic justice – the idea that virtue is rewarded and vice punished. The world
is just
73.Poetic license – linguistic liberties taken by poets, deviations from normal
speech patterns, unusual syntax, unusual word choices, etc.
74.Pun – a play on words that capitalizes on a similarity of spelling and/ or
pronunciation between words, or use of a word with multiple meanings.
Purpose is usually comic
75.Realism – an accurate depiction of the everyday life of a character in a work
of fiction. Accurate portrayal of dress, scenic elements, dialect, behavior, etc.
76.Surrealism – an expression of the irrational, the unconscious, the dream-
state, the imagination, a wish to transcend a word shaped by rationality
77.Renaissance Period – in English literature: 1500 – 1660
78.Revenge tragedy – a type of popular play in Elizabethan England, modeled
after the Roman playwright Seneca. Generally deals with a son’s quest to
avenge the death of his father.
- Ghost inspires son to act, son hesitates, other delays to action, deception,
scenes of horror
79.Rhetoric – the art of persuasion through speaking or writing, of the seven
medieval subjects of study
80.Rhyme royal – introduced by Chaucer. Iambic pentameter, ababbcc rhyme
81.Roman a clef – a work of fiction that represents real people as fictional
characters. Usually the true identity of the characters is apparent, at least to
most contemporary readers
82.Romanticism – emphasis on the subjective, innovation, imagination, and the
Romantic period: end of 18th century through much of the 19th. A reaction
against neoclassism, values emotion over logic, colloquial over formal
language, individual style over formal limitation of the classics
83.Satire – a genre that includes the use of irony and wit, designed to expose
humanity’s vices and faibles, to create change or reform through ridicule.
Differs from comedy, which seeks to entertain or amuse.
84.Scansion – to scan, the analysis of poetic meter, the more or less regular
pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem. To scan a line of
poetry is to determine a poem’s predominant metrical pattern and discover
deviations from that pattern
85.Sentimentalism – refers to works that play excessively and unconvincingly on
the reader’s emotions, especially pity and sympathy. Usually used
pejoratively. Emphasis on feelings rather than logic
86.Sestet – any 6-line stanza or poem. Usually describes the final 6 lines of an
Italian sonnet
87.Sestina – a poem made up of 6 sestets and an envoy (3-line stanza)
88.Stock character – a type of character who regularly appears in certain literary
forms. Based on stereotypes—the reader ascribes certain characteristics to
the character by virtue of convention, often flat types or caricatures
89.Seven cardinal virtues – charity, faith, hope, fortitude, justice, prudence,
90.Seven deadly sins – pride, anger, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth
91.Tercet – 3 lines of verse, also called a triplet
92.Terza rima – verse composed in tercets. Rhyme is interlocking: aba bcb cdc
93.Tone – the attitude of the author toward the reader of the subject matter
94.Voice – the authorial presence in a work lying behind the various elements of
the text. Tone is distinguished from atmosphere – the general feeling created
by a work
95.Triplet – a tercet in which all three lines rhyme
96.Trochee – a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by an
unstressed syllable
97.Unreliable narrator – a narrator who for some reason does not or cannot
comprehend the outside world and whose conclusions and judgments the
reader mistrusts
98.Versification – the art of composing verse, the form of verse used in a
particular poem
99.Villanelle – French verse form, 19 lines, 5 tercets and a quatrain aba aba aba
aba aba abaa
- Line 1 repeats as last line of tercets 2 and 4
- Line 3 repeats as last line of tercets 3 and 5