AP Literature Terms List

Alliteration:
repeating consonant sound in close proximity to others

Allusion:
a casual reference in literature to a person, place, or event in another passage of literature

Anapest:
a foot or unit of poetry consisting of two light syllables followed by a single stressed syllable

Apostrophe:
act of addressing some abstraction or personification that is not physically present

Assonance:
repeating identical or similar vowels in nearby words

Ballad:
a narrative poem consisting of quatrains of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter

Blank verse:
unrhymed lines of ten syllables each with the even-numbered syllables bearing accents

Bildungsroman:
German term for a coming-of-age story

Caesura:
a pause separating phrases within lines of poetry

Colloquialism:
a word or phrase used in plain and relaxed speech but rarely found in formal writing

Conceit:
an elaborate or unusual comparison using unlikely metaphors, simile, hyperbole, or contradiction

Connotation:
additional meaning a word carries beyond its strict definition

Consonance:
alliteration in which the repeated consonants are marked by changes in intervening vowels

Convention:
a common feature that has become traditional or expected

Couplet:
two lines of the same metrical length that end in a rhyme to form a complete unit

Dactyl:
a three-syllable foot consisting of a heavy stress and two light stresses

Denotation:
the minimal, strict definition of a word as found in a dictionary

Diction:
the choice of a particular word as opposed to others

Didactic:
writing that seeks to overtly convince a reader of a particular point or lesson

Dramatic monologue:
a poem in which a poetic speaker addresses either the reader or an internal listener

Dramatic poem:
a poem containing emotional, spiritual, and detailed elements

Elegy:
a poem dealing with the subject matter common to early Greco Roman poems

Epiphany:
a sudden flare into revelation of an ordinary object or scene

Explication:
the act of making clear or removing obscurity from the meaning of a word or symbol

Figurative language:
the use of something other than the literal meaning of words to express an idea

Foil:
a character that serves by contrast to highlight or emphasize opposing traits in another character

Foot:
a basic unit of meter consisting of a set number of strong stresses and light stresses

Formulaic:
constituting or containing a verbal formula or set form of words

Free verse:
poetry based on the natural rhythms of phrases and normal pauses rather than constraints of meter

Hubris:
implying arrogance or excessive self-pride

Hyperbole:
exaggeration or overstatement

Iamb:
a unit or foot of poetry that consists of a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable

Iambic pentameter:
a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable, five feet long

Imagery:
sensory perceptions referred to through description, allusion, simile, and metaphor

Internal rhyme:
poetic device in which a word in the middle of a line rhymes with a word at the end

Intrusive narrator:
an omniscient narrator who reports on the events of a story and further, comments on it

Irony:
saying one thing and meaning another; verbal, dramatic, and situational irony

Leitmotif:
used to designate a musical theme associated with a particular object, character, or emotion

Literal:
a passage, story, or text intended only as a factual account of a real historical event

Litotes:
a form of understatement using a negative statement

Lyric:
a short poem often only a dozen lines long, often designed to be set to music

Metaphor:
a comparison or analogy stated in a way as to imply that one object is another one

Meter:
a recognizable, varying patter of stressed syllables alternating with syllables of less stress

Metonymy/synecdoche:
a specific physical object used as a vague suggestive symbol for a more general idea

Monologue:
a character speaking aloud to himself, narrating an account for the audience alone

Mood:
feeling, emotional state, or disposition of mind

Motif:
a conspicuous recurring element such as an incident, device, reference or verbal formula

Narrative poem:
a poem that has a plot including epics, ballads, idylls, and lays

Narrator:
the voice that speaks or tells a story

Octave:
a set of eight lines that rhyme according to the pattern ABBAABBA

Ode:
a long, elaborate poem of varying line lengths with a serious subject matter

Onomatopoeia:
the use of sounds that are similar to the noise they represent for a rhetorical or artistic effect

Oxymoron:
using contradiction in a manner that oddly makes sense on a deeper level

Parable:
a story or short narrative designed to reveal allegorically some religious principle, lesson, or truth

Paradox:
using contradiction in a manner that oddly makes on a deeper level

Paraphrase:
a brief restatement in one’s own words of all or part of a literary or critical work

Parody:
a parody imitates the manner and characteristic features of a particular work in order to mock it

Pathos:
elements used to inspire an emotional reaction

Persona:
an external representation of oneself which might or might not accurately reflect one’s inner self

Personification:
a device through which animals, ideas, and inanimate objects are given human characteristics

Prosody:
the mechanics of verse poetry—sounds, rhythms, scansion, meter, stanzaic form, alliteration, rhyme

Pun:
a play on two words similar in sound but different in meaning

Quatrain:
a stanza of four lines, often rhyming in an ABAB pattern

Refrain:
a line or set of lines at the end of a stanza or section of a longer poem, repeated at regular intervals

Rhyme:
a matching similarity of sounds in two or more words

Rhyme scheme:
the pattern of rhyme

Rhythm:
the varying speed, loudness, pitch, elevation, intensity, and expressiveness of speech or poetry

Satire:
an attack on or criticism of any stupidity or vice in the form of scathing humor or critique

Scansion:
the act of scanning a poem to determine its meter

Sestet:
six lines that rhyme with a varying pattern such as CDECDE or CDCCDC

Soliloquy:
a monologue spoken by an actor at a point in the play when the character believes to be alone

Sonnet:
a lyric poem of fourteen lines, usually in iambic pentameter, with rhymes arranged according to pattern

Spondee:
a metrical foot consisting of two successive strong beats

Stanza:
an arrangement of lines of verse in a pattern usually repeated throughout the poem

Stress:
the emphasis, length and loudness that mark one syllable as more pronounced than another

Style:
the author’s words and the characteristic way that writer uses language to achieve certain effects

Subplot:
a minor or subordinate secondary plot

Symbol:
a word, place, character, or object that means something beyond what it is on a literal level

Symbolism:
the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities

Syntax:
the standard word order and sentence structure of a language

Theme:
a central idea or statement that unifies and controls an entire literary work

Tone:
the means of creating a relationship or conveying an attitude or mood

Trochee:
a two-syllable unit or foot of poetry consisting of a heavy stress followed by a light stress

Verse:
a line of metrical writing, a stanza, or composition written in meter

Sound Devices

Alliteration:
repeating consonant sound in close proximity to others

Assonance:
repeating identical or similar vowels in nearby words

Consonance:
alliteration in which the repeated consonants are marked by changes in intervening vowels

End rhyme:
rhyme in which the last word at the end of each verse is the word that rhymes

Internal rhyme:
a poetic device in which a word in the middle of a line rhymes with a word at the end

Onomatopoeia:
the use of sounds that are similar to the noise they represent for a rhetorical or artistic effect

Rhyme:
a matching similarity of sounds in two or more words

Metrical Devices

Anapest:
a foot or unit of poetry consisting of two light syllables followed by a single stressed syllable

Blank verse:
unrhymed lines of ten syllables each with the even-numbered syllables bearing accents

Caesura:
a pause separating phrases within lines of poetry

Dactyl:
a three-syllable foot consisting of a heavy stress and two light stresses

Foot:
a basic unit of meter consisting of a set number of strong stresses and light stresses

Iamb:
unit or foot of poetry that consists of a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable

Iambic pentameter:
lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable, five feet long

Meter:
a recognizable, varying patter of stressed syllables alternating with syllables of less stress

Refrain:
a line or set of lines at the end of a stanza or section of a longer poem, repeated at regular intervals

Rhythm:
the varying speed, loudness, pitch, elevation, intensity, and expressiveness of speech or poetry

Scansion:
the act of scanning a poem to determine its meter

Trochee:
a two-syllable unit or foot of poetry consisting of a heavy stress followed by a light stress

Forms

Ballad:
a narrative poem consisting of quatrains of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter

Couplet:
two lines of the same metrical length that end in a rhyme to form a complete unit

Free verse:
poetry based on the natural rhythms of phrases and normal pauses rather than constraints of meter

Octave:
a set of eight lines that rhyme according to the pattern ABBAABBA

Sestet:
six lines that rhyme with a varying pattern such as CDECDE or CDCCDC

Sonnet:
a lyric poem of fourteen lines, usually in iambic pentameter, with rhymes arranged according to pattern

Quatrain:
a stanza of four lines, often rhyming in an ABAB pattern

Stanza:
an arrangement of lines of verse in a pattern usually repeated throughout the poem

Types

Ballad:
narrative poem consisting of quatrains of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter

Dramatic monologue:
a poem in which a poetic speaker addresses either the reader or an internal listener

Dramatic poem:
a poem containing emotional, spiritual, and detailed elements

Elegy:
a poem dealing with the subject matter common to early Greco Roman poems

Lyric:
a short poem often only a dozen lines long, often designed to be set to music

Metaphysical:
concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being in the world

Pastoral:
artistic composition dealing with the life of shepherds or with a simple, rural existence

Narrative poem:
a poem that has a plot including epics, ballads, idylls, and lays

Ode:
a long, elaborate poem of varying line lengths with a serious subject matter

Prose poem:
a piece of writing in prose who poetic qualities are self-evident

Villanelle:
a genre of poetry consisting of nineteen lines—five tercets and a concluding quatrain

Source: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms.html

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