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A GLOSSARY OF LITERARY TERMS


Accent In this book, the same as stress. A syllable given more prominence in pronunciation than its neighbors is said to be accented.
Allegory
A narrative or description having a second meaning beneath the surface one.
Alliteration
The repetition at close intervals of the initial consonant sounds of accented syllables or important words (for example, map-moon, kill-code, preach-approve). Important words and accented syllables beginning with vowels may also be said to alliterate with each other inasmuch as they all have the same lack of an initial consonant sound (for example, "Inebriate of Air--am I").
Allusion
A reference, explicit or implicit to something in literature or history.
Anapest
A metrical foot consisting of two unaccented syllables followed by one accented syllable (for example un der STAND).
Anapestic meter
A meter in which a majority of feet are anapests.
Anaphora
Repetition of an opening word or phrase in a series of lines.
Apostrophe
A figure of speech in which someone absent or dead or something nonhuman is adressed as if it were alive and present and could reply.
Approximate rhyme
(Also known as imperfect rhyme, near rhyme, slant rhyme or oblique rhyme) A term used for words in a rhying pattern that have some kind of sound correspondance but are not perfect rhymes. Approximate rhymes occur occasionally in patterns where most of the rhymes are perfect, and sometimes are used systematically in place of perfect rhyme.
Assonance
The repetition at close intervals of the vowel sounds of accented syllables or important words,
Aubade
A poem about dawn; a morning love song; or a poem about the parting of lovers at dawn.
Ballad
A fairly short narrative poem written in a songlike stanza form.
Blank Verse
Unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Cacophony
A harsh, discordant, unpleasant sounding choice and arrangement of sounds.
Caesura
A speech pause occuring within a line.
Connotation
What a word suggests beyond its basic dictionary definition; a word's overtones of meaning.
Consonance
The repetition at close intervals or the final consonant sounds of accented syllables or important words (for example, book--plaque--thicker).
Continuous form
That form of a poem in which the lines follow each other without formal grouping, the only breaks being dictated by units of meaning.
Couplet
Two successive lines, usually in the same meter, linked by rhyme.
Dactyl
A metrical foot consisting of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables (for example, MER ri ly).
Dactylic meter
A meter in which the majority of feet are dactyls.
Denotation
The basic definition or dictionary meaning of a word.
Didactic poetry
Poetry having as a primary purpose to teach or preach.
Dimeter
A metrical line containing two feet.
Double rhyme
A rhyme in which the repeated vowel is in the second-to-last syllable of the words involved (for example, politely--rightly--spritely); one form of feminine rhyme.
Dramatic frameword
The situation, whether actual or fictional, realistic or fanciful, in which an author places his or her characters in order to express the theme.
Duple meter
A meter in which a majority of feet contain two syllables. Iambic and trochaic are both duple meters.
End rhyme
Rhymes that occur at the ends of the lines
End-stopped rhyme
A line that ends with a natural speech pause, usually marked by punctuation.
English (or Shakespearean) sonnet
A sonnet rhyming ababcdcdefefgg. Its content or structure ideally parallels the rhyme scheme, falling into three coordinate quatrains and a concluding couplet; but it is often structured, like the Italian sonnet, into octave and sested, the principal break in thought coming at the end of the eighth line.
Euphony
A smooth, pleasant-sounding choice and arrangement of sounds.
Expected rhythm
The rhythmic expectation set up by the basic meter of a poem
Extended figure
A figure of speech (usually metaphor, similie, personification, or apostrophe) sustained or developed through a considerable number of lines or through a whole poem.
Extrametrical syllables
In metrical verse, extra unaccented syllables added at the beginnings or endings of lines; these may be either a feature of the metrical form or occur as exceptions to the form. In iambic lines they occur at the end of the line; in trochaic, at the beginning.
Feminine rhyme
A rhyme in which the repeated accented vowel is in either the seond- or the third-to last syllable of the words involved (for example, ceiling--appealing ).
Figurative Language
Language employing figures of speech; language that cannot be taken literally or only literally.
Figure of speech
Broadly, any way of saying something other than the ordinary way; more narrowly, a way of saying one thing and meaning another.
Fixed form
Any form of poem in which the lenth and pattern are prescribed by previous usage or tradition, such as sonnet, villanelle, and so on.
Folk ballad
A narrative poem designed to be sung, composed by an anonymous author, and transmitted orally for years or generations before being written down. It has usually undergone modification through the process of oral transmission.
Foot
The basic unit or measurement of metrical verse. A foot usually contains one accented syllable and one or two unaccented syllables.
Form
The external pattern or shape of a poem, describable without references to its content, such as continuous form, stanzaic form, fixed form, free verse, and syllabic verse.
Free Verse
Nonmetrical poetry in which the basic rhythmic unit is the line, and in which pauses, line breaks, and formal patterns develop organically from the requirements of the individual poem rather than from established poetic forms.
Grammatical pause
(Also known as Caesura) A pause introduced into the reading of a line by a mark or punctuation.
Heard rhythm
The actual rhythm of a metrical poem as we hear it when it is read naturally. The heard rhythm mostly conforms to but sometimes departs or modifies the expected rhythm.
Hexameter
A metrical line containing six feet.
Hyperbole
See Overstatement
Iamb
A metrical foot consisting of one unaccented syllable followed by one accented syllable (for example re HEARSE ).
Iambic meter
A meter in which the majority of feet are iambs. The most common English meter.
Imagery
The representation through language of sense experience.
Internal rhyme
A rhyme in which one or both of the rhyme words occur(s) within the line.
Irony
A situation, or a use of language, involving some kinds of incongruity or discrepancy. Three kinds of irony are distinguished:
Verbal Irony - A figure of speech in which what is meant is the opposite of what is said.
Dramatic Irony - A device by which the author implies a different meaning from that intended by the speaker (or by a speaker) in a literary work.
Irony of situation - A situation in which there is an incongruity between actual circumstances and those that would seem appropriate, or between what is anticipated and what actually comes to pass.
Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet
A sonnet consisting of an octave rhyming abbaabba and a sested using any arrangement of two or three additional rhymes, such as cdcdcd or cdecde.
Masculine rhyme
(Also known as single rhyme) A rhyme in which the repeated accented vowel sound is in the final syllable of the words involved (for example, dance--pants).
Metaphor
A figure of speech in which an implicit comparison is made between two things essentially unlike. It may take one of four forms: 1) that in which the literal term and the figurative term are both named; 2) that in which the literal term is named and the figurative term implied; 3) that in which the literal term is implied and the figurative term named; 4) that in which both the literal and the figurative terms are implied.
Meter
The regular patterns of accent that underlie metrical verse; the measurable repetition of accented and unaccented syllables in poetry.
Metonymy
A figure of speech in which some significant aspect of detail of an experience is used to represent the whole experience. In this book the single term metonymy is used for what are sometimes distinguised as two separate features: synecdoche (the use of the part for the whole) and metonymy (the use of something closely related for the thing actually meant).
Metrical variations
Departures from the basic metrical pattern.
Monometer
A metrical containing one foot.
Octave
1) An eight-line stanza. 2) the first eight lines of a sonnet, especially one structured in the manner of an Italian sonnet.
Onomatopoeia
The use of words that supposedly mimic their meaning in their sound (for example, boom, click, pop).
Onomatopoetic language
Language employing onomatopoeia.
Overstatement (or hyperbole)
A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used in the service of truth.
Oxymoron
A compact paradox in which two successive words seemingly contradict each other.
Paradox
A statement or situation containing apparently contradictory or incompatible elements.
Paradoxical situation
A situation containing apparently but not actually incompatible elements. The celebration of a fifth birthday anniversary by a twenty-year old man is paradoxical but explainable if the man was born on February 29.  The Christian doctrines that Christ born of a virgin and is both God and man are, for a Christian believer, paradoxes (that is, apparently impossible but true).
Paradoxical statement (or verbal paradox)
A figure of speech in which an apparently self-contradictory statement is nevertheless found to be true.
Paraphrase
A restatement of the content of a poem designed to make its prose meaning as clear as possible.
Pentameter
A metrical line containing five feet.
Personification
A figure of speech in which human attributes are given to an animal, an object, or a concept.
Petrarchan sonnet
See Italian sonnet
Phonetic intensive
A word whose sound, by an obscure process, to some degree suggests its meaning. As differentiated from onomatopoetic words, the meanings or phonetic intensives do not refer explicitly to sounds.
Prose meaning
That part of a poem's total meaning that can be separated out and expressed through paraphrase.
Prose poem
Usually a short composition having the intentions of poetry but written in prose rather than verse.
Quatrain
1) A four-line stanza 2) A four-line division of a sonnet marked off by its rhyme scheme.
Refrain
A repeated word, phrase, line, or group of lines, normally at some fixed position in a poem written in stanzaic form.
Rhetorical pause
(also known as a caesura) A natural pause, unmarked by punctuation, introduced into the reading of a line by its phrasing or syntax.
Rhetorical poetry
Poetry using artificially eloquent language; that is, language too high-flown for its occasion and unfaithful to the full complexity of human experience.
Rhetorical stress
In natural speech, as in prose and poetic writing, the stressing of words or syllables so as to emphasize meaning and sentence structure.
Rhythm
Any wavelike recurrence of motion or sound.
Rhyme
The repetition of the accented vowel sound and all succeeding sounds in important or importantly positioned words (for example, old--cold, vane--reign, court--report). The above definition applies to perfect rhyme and assumes that the accented vowel sounds involved are preceded by differing consonant sounds. If the preceding consonant sound is the same (for example, manse--romance, style--stile), or if there is no preceding consonant sound in either word (for example, aisle--isle, alter--altar), or if the same word is repeated in the rhyming position (for example, hill--hill), the words are called identical rhymes. Both perfect rhymes and identical rhymes are to be distinguishd from approximate rhymes.
Rhyme scheme
Any fixed pattern of rhymes characterizing a whole poem or its stanzas.
Run-on line
A line which has no natural speech pause at its end, allowing the sense to flow uninterruptedly into the succeeding lines.
Sarcasm
Bitter or cutting speech; speech intended by its speaker to give pain to the person addressed.
Satire
A kind of literature that ridicules human folly or vice with the ostensible purpose of bringing about reform or of keeping others from falling into similar folly or vice.
Scansion
The process of measuring metrical verse, that is, or marking accented and unaccented syllables, dividing the lines into feet, identifying the metrical pattern, and noting significant variations from that pattern.
Sentimental poetry
Poetry that attempts to manipulate the reader's emotions in order to achieve a gerater emotional response than the poem itself really warrants. (A sentimental novel or film is sometimes called, pejoratively, a "tear-jerker.")
Sestet 1) A six-line stanza. 2) The las six lines of a sonnet structured on the Italian model.
Shakespearean sonnet
See English sonnet.
Similie
A figure of speech in which an explicit comparison is made between two things essentially unlike. The comparison is made explicit by the use of some such word or phrase as like, as, than, similar to, resembles, or seems.
Single rhyme
See Masculine rhyme.
Situational irony
See Irony.
Sonnet
A fixed form of fourteen lines, normally iambic pentameter, with a rhyme scheme conforming to or approximating one of two main types -- the Italian or the English.
Spondee
A metrical foot consisting of two syllables equally or almost equally accented (for example TRUE-BLUE).
Stanza
A group of lines whose metrical pattern (and usually its rhyme schme as well) is repeated throughout a poem.
Stanzaic form
The form of a poem written in a series of unites having the same number of lines and usually other characterisitics in common, such as metrical pattern or rhyme scheme.
Stress
In this book, the same as Accent.
Structure
The internal organization of a poem's content. See Form.
Substitution
In metrical verse, the replacement of the expected metrical foot by a different one (for example, a trochee occurring in an iambic line).
Sustained figure
See Extended figure
Syllabic verse
Verse measured by the number of syllables rather than the number of feet per line.
Symbol
A figure of speech in which something (object, person, situation, or action) means more than what it is. A symbol, in other words, may be read both literally and metaphorically.
Synecdoche
A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. In this book it is subsumed under the term Metonymy.
Synesthesia
Presentation of one sense experience in terms usually associated with another sensation.
Tercet
A three-line stanza exhibited in terza rima and villanelle as well as in other poetic forms.
Terza rima
An interlocking rhyme scheme with the pattern aba bcb cdc, etc.
Tetrameter
A metrical line containing four feet.
Theme
The central idea of a literary work.
Tone
The writer's or speaker's attitude toward the subject, the audience, or herself or himself; the emotional coloring, or emotional meaning, of a work.
Total meaning
The total experience communicated by a poem. It includes all those dimensions of experience by which a poem communicates -- sensous, emotional, imaginative, and intellectual -- and it can be communicated in no other words than those of the poem itself.
Trimeter
A metrical line containing three feet.
Triple meter
A meter in which a majority of the feet contain three syllables. (Actually, if more than 25 percent of the feet in a poem are triple, its effect is more triple than duple, and it ought perhaps to be referred as triple meter.) Anapestic and dactylic are both triple meters.
Trochaic meter
A meter in which the majority of feet are trochees.
Trochee
A metrical foot consisting of one accented syllable followed by one unaccented syllable (for example, BAR ter ).
Truncation
In metrical verse, the omission of an unaccented syllable at either end of a line.
Understatement
A figure of speech that consists of saying less than one means, or of saying what one means with less force than the occasion warrants.
Verse
Metrical language; the opposite of prose.
Villanelle
A nineteen-line fixed form consisting of five tercets rhymed aba and a concluding quatrain rhymed abaa, with lines 1 and 3 of the first tercet serving as refrains in an alternating pattern through line 15 and then repeated as lines 18 and 19. (And because this sounds scarier than it actually is, go look at one here. More examples are here ).