Glossary of Literary Terms

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abstract words – words that do not refer to tangible, specific items

act – a section of a play which generally includes more than one scene

action – the events that occur in the piece of literature

allegorical figures – the symbolic character representing something in an allegory such as the character Faith representing religious faith in “Young Goodman Brown”

allegorical framework – the overall organization of an allegory

allegory – a pattern of using symbols in prose or poetry to tell a story in a story

alliteration – the repetition of sounds in the beginnings of word; front rhyme

allusion– a reference to an historical event, aspect of culture, character or content in a piece of literature, or other widely known type of information to convey a feeling, idea, or image; serves to convey information using few words

analyze – review critically considering possibility of author bias, accuracy and completeness of information presented, use of language to convey message and influence interpretation, and implications of information presented

anaphora – repetition of word or words at the beginning of lines or stanzas

Ancient Greek Theater (Dionysus, Sophocles, Euripides) – the presentation of drama and comedy dating back about 400-500 BC to Sophocles and Euripides in Ancient Greece.

Ancient Literature – all written stories, poems, histories, and dramas from the surviving texts from about 2800 BC to about 500 AD

Ancient Poetry – poetry created before the late 500s AD having roots in an oral tradition of creating and performing poetry verbally. Surviving poetry includes love poem from Ancient Sumeria, poetic verses in ancient religious texts including the Bible and Koran, and epics such as the Iliad and Odyssey.

anecdotes – short, amusing, true events about a person that relate a bigger truth about life than the specific incident

Anglo-Saxon era – poetry created from the beginning of the Middle Ages (late 500s AD) into the end of the Middle Ages (mid-1400s) usually associated with tales of heroic deeds and non-romantic love

antagonist – the forces against the protagonist; could be another character, a force of nature, or an organization, or other entity or situation which creates opposition to protagonist

apostrophe – where the speaker speaks to a dead or non-present person

approximate rhyme – near rhyme

archetypal images – images that are generally accepted as representing something such as the Statue of Liberty representing freedom and opportunity

arrangement of events – how the events are structured in a plot; may be chronological, start in the middle of things (in medias res), or as flashbacks

asides – where a character makes a comment to the audience which is supposedly not heard by the other characters; used in drama

assonance – use of vowel sounds for rhyming

assumptions – guesses; information that is not based on evidence

atmosphere – the general feeling of the surroundings that is created in the work such as peaceful or tragic; slightly different from mood which is the emotional reaction in the reader to the atmosphere although mood and atmosphere are sometimes used interchangeably.

aubade – a lyric poem about morning or the rising sun

auditory imagery – the creation of an image of sound

autobiography – a factual story written by a person on his or her own life

ballad stanza – a stanza of four lines (quatrain) with the second and fourth lines rhyming

ballad – a narrative poem telling a story a person or event often about love usually told in rhymed stanzas and which includes a repeated refrain. Ballads are often sung.

beast fable –a fable that has animals with human qualities as characters

Beat poets – a movement beginning in the late 1940s where poets turned to use of psychogenic drugs for mind expansion and where social and political criticism was a common theme.

biography – a factual story written about a person by a another person

Black Arts Movement – a movement beginning in the 1960s where poets focused on social and political situation of African-Americans.

Black Mountain poets – a movement during the 1930s starting in Black Mountain, North Carolina which stressed the process of writing instead of the completed poem

blank verse – unrhymed iambi pentameter

cacophony – unrhymed or discordant sounds

caesura – a pause or stop in the middle of a verse

capture narrative – a journal kept by a person who was captured and held against his or her will and forced to live in another culture; generally associated with stories white people have written about being captured and living with the Indians in early American history

caricatures – a character presented with an exaggeration of prominent features; a type of stock character

carpe diem – “seize the day”; sometimes, a theme in a fiction or poem

character analysis – the analysis of a character’s personality based on the behavior described in the work of literature; may be described in everyday language such as selfish, kind, thoughtful, or mean or in psychological terms such as having a narcissistic personality disorder or depressed.

character – a person in a piece of literature

chivalric romance – a romance popular from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance involving the romantic exploits of chivalric heroes, men who abided by the Code of Chivalry

chorogos – the leader of the chorus

chorus – in staged performances, a group of “townspeople” who articulate different perspectives; from the Greek chorus

chronological order – the presentation of events in the order they occurred in time

Classical Greek Drama – the period from about 550 BC to 323 BC highlighted by dramatists such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides where the art forms of tragedy and comedy began.

cliché – a worn-out phrase purporting to tell some general truth which no longer has meaning because of his overuse

climax – the highest point of conflict; the point at which the action begins to fall to resolution (denouement)

closed form (fixed form) – poetry which follows a pattern of sounds, rhyme, or meter

colloquialisms – non-standard or non-grammatical use of language in everyday speech

colonnade – a line of pillars with a roof behind the skene in Ancient Greek Theater

comedy of manners – a comedy which makes fun of the manners or customs of a specific segment of the society; uses exaggeration

comedy – a form of literature originating in the plays of the Classical Greek era which include a theme of new life often through a marriage; though to have evolved from the aspect of the rebirth of the god in the Dionysian rituals

commercial literature – literature written to appeal to popular audiences and not written with any deeper meaning to be conveyed

common measure – a ballad stanza generally rhyming in alternating pairs

concrete poem – a poem whose words or letters are laid out on the page to reflect the theme of the poem.

concrete words – words that name something that can be seen, touched, heard, or otherwise experienced through the senses

confessional poems – a movement beginning in the 1950s where the subject of poems were the very personal experiences of the poet beyond just a yearning for love or a specific emotional reaction

conflict – the friction between the goals of the protagonist (the main character – doesn’t have to be the “good” character) and the forces against the protagonist, called the antagonist

connotation – the understood or implied meaning of a word as opposed to the literal meaning such as the word home which has more meaning than just where a person lives.

consonance – use of consonants for rhyming

conventional symbols – symbols with a generally understood meaning across cultures with similar usages such as the various road signs or even computer icons

conventional theme – a theme topic that has been commonly used such as loss of innocence

conventional word order – subject – verb – object along with any modifying words adjacent to the words modified

couplet – a poem or stanza of two line

crime fiction – a type of fiction whose plot revolves around solving a crime

cultural context – the consideration of the cultural setting in order to do a character analysis such as the pre-Women’s Movement in America in a rural community in the 1920s or 1930s.

cultural setting – the ethnic, religious, or other setting relating to culture such as sociological

denotation – the dictionary definition of a word

deus ex machina – a plot contrivance to unexpectedly save a character from a seemingly inescapable, problematic situation often associated with a divine intervention; first used in Ancient Greek and Roman theatre where mechanical devices were used, such as a pulley to lower a god or goddess onto the set to take the character back into the heavens

dialogue – a conversation between or among characters

diction – the way words are written or spoken such an formal or informal

drama – a form of literature presented where parts are written for actors to perform and the action is revealed primarily through the dialogue of the characters and the action includes high emotional content; the modern usage includes television and film

dramatic irony (tragic irony) – an irony created when the audience knows something a character does not know

dramatic monologue – a lyric poem where the speaker expresses strong emotions or ideas to silent listeners.

dramatic poetry – a poem that almost entirely uses dialgue between characters

dynamic character – a character that changes during the story


elegy – a lyric poem which mourns the death of a particular person

Elizabethan Theater – developed during the 1500, a form of theater which where plays were performs in the courtyards of inns and evolved into a highly sophisticated form of theater with elaborate theaters; includes Shakespearean plays

end-stopped line – a pause at the end of a line of verse

enjambment/run-on line – continuation of a thought or sentence onto a new line

epic – a narrative which tells a story of a great adventure or battle and which involves humans of exceptional stature such as kings who often have superior strength or skills or includes gods. The results of the adventure or battle or war has drastic consequences beyond the fate of the participants often for an entire country or kingdom

epigram – a short clever poem making a pointed, sometimes paradoxical, observation

epiphany – the sudden insight a character has about him or herself, another character, or the situation

episodia – episodes or scenes following the parodos where the actors play out the conflict.

epithet – words used to describe or characterize a person or a thing such as wine dark sea in wine dark sea.

euphony – good or pleasing sound

evaluate – form a judgment as to information provided on content

exposition – a part of the fiction (or or drama or poem) which introduces the characters, settings, and conflict

expressionism – a literary movement in the early 1900s which focused on finding and expressing an inner or spiritual reality rather than portraying an actual external reality.

expressionistic stage setting – the creation of scenery, costumes, props, and/or lighting in an exaggerated way that reflects the theme or mood of the play such as drab dark colors and lighting to show the depressed mood of the characters

extended metaphor – direct comparison which is repeated in the poem; more commonly used in an epic poem where the same comparison is used throughout

extended simile – comparison using the word like or as which is repeated in the poem; more commonly used in an epic poem where the same comparison is used throughout

eye rhyme – a similarity in spelling between words that are pronounced differently

fables – a short tale used for teaching a lesson which uses animals, objects, or nature

facts – the truth; information based on evidence

fairy tales – stories that include supernatural creatures such as fairies or magicians

falling action – the action following the climax ending in resolution (denouement)

falling meter – movement from stressed to unstressed meter

fantasy – a fiction which includes some aspect or situation that does not fall into the understood rules of physics, scientific possibility, or reality

farce – a form of literature which uses a situation more than characters to create humor; usually involve slapstick – an exaggerated action such as falling over a chair or a long-played effort at what should be simple such as placing a carton on a shelf; silly, light-hearted, not cynical or satiric.

fiction – a created series of characters and events that has not actually happened

fictionalize – to create a fiction from an actual event

figurative language – language that is used to mean some other or something more than it says; language that is used in a non-literal way

figurative level – the non-literal level; the place where the story behind the story is told

figures of speech – various ways speech is used figuratively

first-person narrator (first-person point of view) – a story told from the viewpoint of the author of the story as a character in the story using the word I to tell the story; may be omniscient (all knowing) or limited (knows only information from that character’s perspective)

flash fiction – a type of short story less than 1000 words

flashbacks – a technique used to show events that previous occurred by interrupting the present action and going back to previous events; generally used when a story starts in medias res (in the middle of things) such as where a scene opens during a trial and then some of the previous action leading up to the trial is told.

flat character – a character described with only one or two personality traits; a superficial character

foil – a character created as a contrast to another character as a way of focusing attention on the traits of that other character such as a character taking an unethical approach in order to focus attention on another character taking the ethical approach

folk tales – stories or legends that are about or from a culture or group of people (folk)

foreshadowing – a literary device that gives a hint about what is going to occur

form (poetic form) – poetry has two forms: narrative which tells a story and lyric which expression an emotion or idea

formal diction – the use of words following rules of grammar and Standard English

general words – non-specific words

genre – categories of literature: fiction, poetry, drama

geographical setting – the town, state, country, or other geographical place

Globe Playhouse – an elaborate theater built in 1599 which includes various sections: hell, heaven, rear stage, music gallery, and huts

groundlings – the commoners who stood and watched the plays in the courtyard presentations

gustatory imagery – the creation of an image of taste

haiku – a form of Japanese verse with three lines which are not rhymed and which have five, seven, and five syllables usually involving some aspect of nature.

Harlem Renaissance – a movement during the 1920s starting in Harlem which focused on Black culture

heroic couplet – two lines of rhymed verse in iambic pentameter; generally used in epic poems

hip-hop – musical verse which uses rhyme, repetition of sounds and phases

historical setting – the moment in history where the action occurs

history – the actual events

horror fiction – a type of fiction that includes an event or events that are very frightening and which may include fantasy or science fiction

hubris – arrogance; an attribute where a character (or a person) has an exaggerated sense of him or herself or his or her importance

hyperbole – saying more than what is meant; exaggeration

iambic pentameter – a common type of pattern of sounds and rhythm used in poetry created by pairing ten syllables for each line into five pairs. Commonly used by Shakespeare in his sonnets

imagery – the creation of sensory images through words

imaginative literature – literature created by an author’s imagination to convey some personal feeling or observation or message

imagism – a poetic movement beginning in the early 1900s where poets began experimenting with open verse and focused on the poet’s response to a situation or object stressing concrete imagery

imagism – a poetic movement beginning in the early 1900s where poets began experimenting with open verse and focused on the poet’s response to a situation or object stressing concrete imagery

imperfect rhyme – close but not exact rhyme; near rhyme; approximate rhyme

in medias res – Latin expression meaning “in the middle of things”; an arrangement of events where the story starts somewhere in the middle of the action and then goes forward giving information about what happened before through narration, dialogue, or flashbacks

informal diction – the use words with slang, colloquialisms, and non-Standard English

initiation theme – a theme about being initiated into something new

interpretative literature – literature intended to say more than just the story on a larger issue and to be interpreted; literature that can have more than one meaning

inverted sequence – an order of words that is not conventional

ironic title – a title which contains irony often helping to reveal theme

irony – created when there is a discrepancy between an expectation and an actuality


Kabuki dramas – Japanese dance drama characterized by ornate costumes and make-up

kinetic imagery – an image which creates a sense of motion or movement such as the wind in the trees

limerick a type of poem, usually humorous, consisting of five lines where the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other and the third and fourth lines, which are shorter, form a rhymed couplet.

limited omniscient – a limited omniscient narrator only knows about the story and characters from a limited perspective such as one of the characters who does not know everything

line – a line of poetry is what is written on one line; not necessarily a sentence

literary symbols – symbols that are used within a piece of literature to represent a person, object, or situation in that piece of literature such as pink ribbons representing the purity and innocence of a character who is wearing them.

literary canon – a collection of literature that is generally considered significant

literature – any style or genre of writing whose primary focus is the expression or communication of feelings or narrating of events in a way that is not common speech and uses figurative language as opposed to writing to keep records or communicate information.

lyric – a form of poetry which expresses feelings or observations

Master of Revels – an appointed person to decide which plays would be performed in Elizabethan Theater

meditation – a lyric poem which starts by observing a specific object and then drawing some philosophical inferences

metafiction – writings about fiction

metaphor – a direct comparison or equivalence

metaphysical poets – a poetic movement during the 1600s characterized by analysis, complex form, and themes associated with intellect over emotions

metaphysical poets – a poetic movement during the 1600s characterized by analysis, complex form, and themes associated with intellect over emotions

meter – the recurring pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in lines of poetry of specific length

metonymy – referring to one thing by something else it is associated with: the crown to refer to the king

micro fiction – a type of short-short story ranging from a few words to a paragraph of less than 250 words

Middle Ages – an historic period from the late 500s AD to the middle of the 1400s.

Middle Ages – an historic period from the late 500s AD to the middle of the 1400s.

modern short story – a short story characterized by an apparent lack of action or conflict and/or without resolution

Modern Theater – began in the late 1800s and is characterized by events and characters based on reality; inspired by the realism movement in art and literature

modernism – a literary movement beginning in the early 1900s spurred by the industrial age, a first World War I, and challenges to established Christianity which characterized by feelings of loss of “old ways” and an unknown, insecure future

monologue – a long speech-like expression by one character where the other present characters are silent; used more commonly in plays than fiction; a dramatic monologue is a particularly emotional expression

mood – the feeling that is created in the reader as a result of the tone or atmosphere in a work such as anger. Tone is created by how the author describes the characters, setting, and events such as gloomy or humorous. Atmosphere is the general feeling of the work itself. Mood and atmosphere are sometimes used interchangeably.

moral – a lesson learned as a result of actions that occurred in a story

morality plays – developed and performed from the 1300s and 1400s which were allegories demonstrating Christian principles

motivation – the reasons a character takes or does not take action

mystery plays – developed during the 900s through the 1500s which are representations of stories from the Bible and gradually fell from popularity with the production of drama such as the works of Shakespeare

myth – a traditional story which explains the world and existence of humans usually as part of a cluster of such stories and which is a reflection of a religious belief system or social values of a culture

narrative – a story or poem about a sequence of events; a story

narrator – the person through whose perspective, knowledge, and voice a story is told

near rhyme – approximate rhyme

No plays – highly stylized Japanese performance art from which Kabuki dramas evolved

novel – a longer piece of fiction characterized by more plot and character development than a short story

novella – a piece of fiction shorter than a novel and longer than a short story; usually thought of as a short novel


objective narrator (objective point of view) – relates the story as a sequence of events without commenting or judging the characters or their action or situation

objective – relates the story as a sequence of events without commenting or judging the characters or their action or situation

occasional poem – lyric poetry written about an occasion

octave– a poem or stanza of eight lines in a poem

ode – a lyric poem explicating the attributes or aspects of nature or a specific object or living creature such as “Ode to a Nightingale.” Uses complex stanza patterns.

olfactory imagery – the creation of an image of smell

omniscient – an omniscient narrator knows everything about the events and the characters

onomatopoeia – words that sound like the sound they mean: buzz

open form (free verse, vers libre) – poetry that does not follow any specific pattern of form, rhyme, or meter

opinion – a personal evaluation

oral tradition – the tradition of transmitting stories, poems, and other cultural information from generation to generation through oral presentation instead of by written documents

orchestra – the part of the stage where the orchestra performs generally in a lower section in front of the stage; from “the dancing place” in Ancient Greek Theater

ottava rima– a poem or stanza of eight lines with a specific rhyme pattern: iambic pentameter with ab ab ab cc

oxymoron – – use of contradictory, opposing, or inconsistent terms such as fearless coward

pageants – recreations of Biblical stories during the 1100s and 1200s; also called mystery plays; forerunners of Elizabethan Theater

palindrome – a word, line, verse, number, or sentence which reads the same backward as forward such as radar

parables – a short tale used for teaching a lesson

parodos – a part of Ancient Greek tragedy where the chorus enters and comments on the prologos following the prologos

participatory drama – where actors mingle and interact with members of the audience

pastoral romance – a romance which focuses on the pleasures of the simple, rural life

pastoral – a lyric poem which observes the simple pleasures of rural life

pattern of imagery – the systematic use of imagery in a work

perfect rhyme – when a sound in a word is the same as the sound in another word

persona – the personality a narrator assumes; a mask used in Ancient Greek theater by the actors playing a particular role

personal perspective – a position based on personal experiences

personification – attributing human qualities to a non-human or non-living object

Petrarchan sonnet – a lyric poem about unattainable love

physical setting – the place where the action occurs: a park, a supermarket

picaresque – a story about a rogue

plot – the sequence of events in the main action in a piece of literature

poem – non-prose use of words to express a feeling or idea usually associated with repetition of sounds, patterned sequences of words and/or lines, figurative language and other poetic devices, and has a highly focused purpose either to tell a story or express an emotion or idea

poetic devices – ways of using language such as imagery, figures of speech, irony, symbolism, allusion, fantasy, point of view, rhyme, rhythm, and theme; used in poetry to compress meaning into fewer words and more intense expression.

poetic language – focused use of language which is not bound by Standard English to create an image or arouse a particular emotion

poetic liberty – taking the liberty for the purpose of creating an image, feeling, or idea to stray from standard language usage including spelling, definition, and grammar and even linear placement of letters or words; does not have to be only in a poem although that is the most frequent acceptable use.

poetic license – the term used to describe the justification for taking poetic liberty

poetic license – use of non-standard grammar and other conventions of punctuation of literal use of language

poetry – use of language in non-everyday ways such as repetition of sounds and rhyme or focus on an observation or feeling using figures of speech and imagery and other devices to compress meaning resulting in more intense communication

point of view – the perspective from which an author tells a story point of view

pop fiction – a type of fiction with exciting or thrilling plots designed for popular audiences characterized by suspenseful plots, usually flat characters, and focus on a swift-moving action

postmodernism – a literary movement that began in the 1960s characterized by introspection, disengagement of conventions and standardization, focus on popular themes of the day such as anti-establishment ideology and personal freedom, exploration, and determination.

prologos – the prologue; in Ancient Greek tragedy, the opening section where an actor gives a background or introduction to the play

prose poem – is poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effect; an open-form of poetry that is presented as prose

prose – a style of writing generally used in a variety of settings for communication and record keeping and characterized by non-poetic elements; follows standard grammar and other conventions of writing; non-poetic style of language

protagonist – the main character, not necessarily the “good” character

quatrain – a poem or stanza of four lines

rap – vocal style of performing hip-hop verse

realism – an artistic movement from about 1865 to 1910 characterized by an attempt to portray life as it actually was

Renaissance – from the French for rebirth; a period ranging from the mid-1400s to the mid-1500s associated with a renewed interest in science, philosophy, and arts including literature. William Shakespeare wrote during this period.

resolution (denouement) – the end; the result of the conflict, sometimes left for the reader to interpret

revenge tragedy – revenge tragedy – a genre of tragedy which later evolved where the main theme is to avenge a perceived wrong such as in Hamlet.

rhyme royal – a poetic form using seven line stanzas in iambic pentameter with a rhyme pattern of ababbcc.

rhyme – the repetition of similar sounds

rhythm – is the movement of sound in a recurrent pattern; the beat

rising action – the building of conflict and suspense prior to the climax

rising meter – movement from unstressed to stressed meter

romance – as a literary genre, romance fiction began in the Middle Ages and involved high adventure of noble heroes often with super-human qualities pursuing a righteous quest, included some supernatural aspect, and did not necessarily involve a love situation. The modern usage or the term is a fiction which includes a romantic element.

Romanticism – a poetic movement beginning in the 1700s characterized by emotion and appreciation for nature and the supernatural and mysterious along with a return to using first-person lyric form

round character – a character whose personality is multi-dimensional; a complicated character as distinguished from a flat character whose personality is not described in detail. Stock characters and caricatures are types of flat characters since their personalities generally have a single, dominant characteristic.

run-on line/enjambment – the continuation of a sentence or thought onto the next line


sarcasm – a form of expression which says something opposite from what is meant in a way to criticize or insult or express anger such as describing a bad day by saying, “What a great day I had!”

satire – a form of literature which uses exaggerated, flat characters to represent some aspect of a person or society for the purpose of making a critical comment through ridicule.

scansion – a way of marking the metrical pattern in a poem

scene – a part of the play where specific action occurs; from the Ancient Greek skene, a building behind the platform stage which served as the dressing room for the actors

scenery – items used to create the scene including furnishings and props; lighting, music, costumes, and sound effects are also used in plays

science fiction – a type of fantasy that includes unreal scientific technology or events

second-person narrator (second-person point of view) – a story told in second person (you); may be from the perspective of a character in the story who knows everything (omniscient narrator) or who has limited knowledge (limited narrator); not generally used in fiction

sestet – a poem or stanza of six lines in a poem

sestina – a thirty-nine line poem consisting of six six-line stanzas with a three-line stanza (tercet) at the end

setting – the environment in which the action occurs

Shakespearean sonnet – a sonnet that has three four-line stanzas (quatrains) and a two-line stanza (couplet)

short story – a fictional story that is shorter than a novel; usually begins near climax; setting is generally limited, and characters are few and less developed than novel; often includes an epiphany (where a character has a flash of insight)

short-short story – a short story from a paragraph to a page or so in length; less than 1500 words; includes flash fiction and micro fiction; also called sudden fiction

sidekick – a character subordinate to another character; often used for comic relief

simile – a comparison using the word like or as

situational irony – an irony created when there is a discrepancy between what is expected to have occurred and what has actually occurred in the situation

slam poetry – a movement characterized by the competitive art of performance poetry

slam poetry – a movement characterized by the competitive art of performance poetry

slang – non-standard use of language

slant rhyme – close but not exact rhyme; near rhyme; approximate rhyme

soliloquy – where a character shares his or her feelings or thoughts with the audience where no other character can hear

sonnet – a fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter with a carefully patterned rhyme scheme

speaker – the narrator of a poem

specific words – words that specify something such as large, round, blue

spoken word movement – a movement starting in the 1990s to make poetry more popular and accessible to everyone; some consider rap an example of this movement

stage business – incidental actions or movements of an actor to enhance the performance such as wringing hands or sitting a certain way on a chair

stage directions – playwright’s directions in the play to the actors such as possibly where to stand or whether a line should be spoken loudly or quietly

stage – the various structures created upon which plays were or are performed including box set, picture frame stage with proscenium arch, thrust stage, arena, and open air

staging – refers to all aspects necessary to produce a play such as arranging for scenery and props, costumes, securing the performance hall, and so on: the staging of a play

Standard English – the form of English which follows rules of grammar without slang or colloquialism

stanza – a group of lines generally completing an idea

stasimon (strophes, antistrophes) – a section between the episodia where the chorus enters and comments on the action in groups representing different positions: strophes and antistrophes

static imagery – an image which is unchanging

static – a character that does not change during the story

stock characters – stereotyped characters such as the good doctor, the determined detective, the kindly old neighbor lady

storytelling – the communication of a series of events which may take different forms such as anecdotes, myths, fables, tall tales, legends, fairy tales

stream-of-consciousness – a style of writing meant to convey written-down thoughts

stream-of-consciousness – a style of writing that writes how a person is thinking; written-down thoughts.

stream-of-consciousness – a style of writing that writes how a person is thinking; written-down thoughts.

stress – the emphasis on particular syllables

style – the composite of ways a speaker or writer uses language to create a communication

subject – the person, object, or topic of focus in literature

subplot – the sequence of events in a subordinate storyline in piece of literature

sudden fiction – a type of short story of less than 1500 words; another way of referring to the short-short story

surrealism – a literary movement beginning about 1910 where writers wrote automatically rather than with preliminary organizing in an effort to channel inner reality into a writing; followed from a movement in art

surrealistic stage setting – the use of colors, props, costumes, lighting, music, and/or scenery that are outside the boundaries of everyday usage such as usual shapes and colors of walls or furniture

suspense – the emotional reaction to the conflict in anticipation of future action, climax, and resolution

symbol – something that is what it is and also represents something else

symbolic title – a title which contains a symbol often helping to reveal theme

synecdoche – use of a part of a person to object to refer to the person or the object: the hand that rocked the cradle to refer to the person rocking the cradle

synesthesia – the combining of sensory images

tactile imagery – the creation of an image of touch

ten-minute plays – a short play which is performed in no more than ten minutes

tension – the result of the friction between the protagonist and antagonist

tercet – a three-line poem or stanza in a poem

terza rima – a poem or stanza in three lines with the first and third line rhyming: aba bcb cdc and so on

text – any written body of words; may be either prose or poetry

text – any written body of words; may be either prose or poetry

Theater of the Absurd – a movement in drama beginning around the 1960s where exaggerated characters and action using symbols seems absurd

theme (theme of a story)– the central idea in a story about life or human nature expressed in a statement. The theme of a story is different from a conventional theme which is a commonly used theme topic such a love or family. The theme of a story is what idea is conveyed about a topic. Theme is also different from plot which is the sequence of events in the story.

third person narrator (third person point of view) – a story told in third person (he, she, it); may be from the perspective of a character in the story who knows everything (omniscient narrator) or who has limited knowledge (limited narrator)

third person – third person point of view tells the story from the perspective of an outsider as opposed to first person where the narrator is telling a story about him or herself using the word I

title – what a story is called; often includes symbolism or irony

tone – the attitude of the speaker or narrator such as in an angry or cheerful tone; the attitude with which the story is told as expressed in particular words; a description of people laughing and enjoying themselves conveys a happy tone, for example. Tone helps creates the atmosphere which is the general or overall feeling or emotion or a work. Tone also helps create mood which is the emotional reaction in the reader resulting from the atmosphere. Mood refers to individual emotions while atmosphere refers to an overall feeling. Sometimes, mood and atmosphere are used interchangeably.

tragedy – a form of literature originating in the plays of the Classical Greek era which includes a tragic hero, an otherwise noble person having a superior stature in the community who through some tragic flaw causes himself a fall resulting in an adverse impact upon his community and often his own death; thought to have evolved from the aspect of the dying god in the Dionysian rituals

tragic flaw – an undesirable personality trait that results in the fall of an otherwise good person

tragic hero – a character of elevated status who is a good person but for a tragic flaw which brings about his or her downfall

travel narrative – a narrative about a journey usually written by the person about his or her own journey

troubadours – traveling poets/performers from the Provencal region of France during the Middle Ages reciting lyric poetry about courtly love

troubadours – traveling poets/performers from the Provencal region of France during the Middle Ages reciting lyric poetry about courtly love

understatement – saying less than what is meant

universal symbols (archetypes) – symbols that seem to be part of the human psyche which are generally accepted across time and culture such as the Old Man representing experience and wisdom or the Grim Reaper representing death

unreliable narrators – a narrator who is either not omniscient or is deliberately misleading the reader

verbal irony – an irony created within a sentence where there is a difference between what is said and what is meant

Victorian Period – defined by the period when Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 and included several artistic movements characterized by a concern for the impact of industrialization on humans and social reform; includes different artistic movements

villanelle – a nineteen-line poem of five three-line stanzas (tercets) followed by a four-line stanza (quatrain) and which includes two repeating rhymes and two refrains

visual imagery – the creation of an image of sight