Literary Terms

Literary Terms
Academic Sophomore Literature

Allusion: a reference in literature to a familiar person, place, thing, or event

Antagonist: the adversary of the hero in as literary work

Autobiography: history of a person’s life written by that person

Bildungsroman: a “novel of education” that focuses on the youthful development of the central character

Character: a person who takes part in the action
Static: a character that does not change during the course of a piece of literature
Dynamic: a character that does change during the course of a piece of literature
Flat: a character that can be defined by one character trait without much detail;
Usually this is a minor character
Round: a complex character that can be defined by many character traits and is
Usually the main character

Characterization/Character Development: The method a writer uses to develop characters.
Physical appearance (direct)
Dialogue (direct)
Other character’s dialogue, thoughts, feelings about a character (indirect)
Narrator comments (direct)

Connotation: the attitude and feelings associated with a word. These associations can be negative or positive, and have importance influence on style and meaning.

Denotation: dictionary/literal meaning

Dialogue: Conversation between two/more people

Diction: the author’s word choice, including connotation (the suggested meaning of a word) and denotation (the literal meaning of the word).

Flashback: A shift in time during the course of a piece of literature, returning the reader to the past

Foreshadowing: hints/clues to indicate events that will occur in a story

Imagery: words and phrases that create a picture in the reader’s mind (can be completed through the use of figurative language)

Simile: a direct comparison of unlike things using like or as
Metaphor: a direct comparison of unlike things
Hyperbole: a deliberate exaggeration for effect (I’d die for a piece of candy)
Analogy: comparing two things that have at least one thing in common

Irony: contrast between expectations and reality

Mood: how the reader feels while reading a piece of literature– insulting, humorous, shocked

Narration: identification of from whose point of view the story is told
First Person: “I” is telling the story
Interior Monologue: someone speaking to him/herself–thinking–we overhear his/her thoughts
Detached Autobiography: told by main character years after the event (objective)
Subjective Narration: told by one character years after the event (subjective)

Third Person: outside narrator
Anonymous Narration/ Limited: narrator knows thoughts & feelings of one character
Anonymous Narration/Omniscient: narrator knows thoughts & feelings of all characters
Anonymous Narration: eyewitness account

Plot: action or sequence of events in a story
Exposition: introduces characters, time, scene, and situation
Rising Action: intensification of the conflict
Climax/Turning Point: emotional high point
Falling Action: conflict proceeds towards resolution
Resolution/Denouement: conclusion of the conflict

Protagonist: main character

Setting: time and place of the action

Symbol: a tangible object that represents an abstraction

Symbolism: extensive use of symbols

Syntax: the study of the patterns of formation of sentences and phrases from words

Theme: the central idea of a piece of literature—the horrors of war, the tyranny of totalitarianism, the destructive nature of jealousy, the healing power of love, the nature of betrayal, man’s eternal struggle to understand the complexities of life
What does it add up to?
What motif holds the happenings together?
What does it make out of life, and, perhaps, what wisdom does it offer?

Tone: the writer’s attitude as expressed in the language chosen–sarcastic, morbid, scary, nostalgic, melancholy, urgent, silly, joyful, vibrant

Four types of conflict in literature
Man against Himself
Man against Nature
Man against Society
Man against Man