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Stylistic Terms

Alliteration A figure of speech in which the consonants, especially at the beginning of words, or stressed syllables, are
repeated. Tends to be used for the achievement of the special effect.

Allusion - Usually an implicit reference, perhaps to another work of literature or art, to a person or an event. It is often a
kind of appeal to a reader to share some experience with the writer. An allusion may enrich the work by association and give
it depth. When using an allusion the writer tends to assume an established literary tradition, a body of common knowledge
with an audience sharing that tradition and an ability on the part of the audience to pick up the reference. Roughly, we can
distinguish: (a) a reference to events and people, (b) reference to facts about the author himself, (c) a metaphoric allusion,
and (d) an imitative allusion.

Anecdote A brief account of or a story about an individual or an incident.


Apostrophe A figure of speech in which a thing, a place, an abstract quality, an idea, a dead or absent person, is
addressed as if present and capable of understanding.

Allegory A story in verse or prose with a double meaning: a primary or surface meaning; and a secondary or under-thesurface meaning. Closely related to the fable and parable. Can be read on two or more levels.

Assonance Sometimes called vocalic rhyme, it consists of the repetition of similar vowel sounds, usually close
together, to achieve a particular effect of euphony.

Asyntactic (from the Greek not arranged) Applied to prose or verse which is loose, ungrammatical in structure and
therefore which breaks the normal conventions governing word order.

Cacophony The opposite of euphony. Harsh sounds are used deliberately by the writer, especially the poet, to achieve a
particular effect.

Cadence Refers to the melodic pattern preceding the end of a sentence; for instance, in an interrogation or an exhortation;
and also the rhythm of accented units. (Also refers to the natural rhythm of language; its inner tune, rising and falling.)

Caesura A break or pause in a line of poetry, dictated, usually, by the natural rhythm of the language.
Chiasmus (Greek placing crosswise) A reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses.
Clich A trite, over-used expression which is lifeless. Many idioms have become cliches through excessive use.
Connotation The suggestion or implication evoked by a word or phrase, over and above what it means or actually
denotes. May be personal and individual, or general and universal.

Consonance The close repetition of identical consonant sounds before and after different vowels.
Denotation The most literal and limited meaning of a word, regardless of what one may feel about it or the suggestions
and ideas it connotes.

Diction Diction denotes the vocabulary used by a writer. Poetic diction usually refers to that rather particular kind of
language and artificial arrangement employed by many poets. (Especially Neoclassic poets.)

Dissonance The arrangement of cacophonous sounds in words, or rhythmical patterns, for a particular effect.
Ellipsis (Greek leaving out) A figurative device where a word (or several words) is left out in order to achieve more
compact expression. (Modern poets like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden use the device frequently.)

Emotive language Language intended to express or arouse emotional reactions towards the subject.
Empathy When we experience empathy we identify ourselves, up to a point, with an animate or inanimate object. The
experience might even be an involuntary projection of ourselves into an object.

End-rhyme This occurs at the end of a line or verse. Distinguished from head-rhyme or alliteration & internal rhyme.
Enjambement Running on of the sense beyond the second line of one couplet into the first line of the next.
Epithet - Usually an adjective or phrase expressing some quality or attribute which is characteristic of a person or thing.
Euphony The terms denotes pleasing, mellifluous sounds, usually produced by long vowels rather than consonants.
Fiction - A vague and general term for an imaginative work, usually in prose.
Figurative language Language which uses figures of speech; for example, metaphor, simile, alliteration, etc.
Flashback A term which describes any scene or episode in a play, novel, story or poem which is inserted to show events
that happened at an earlier time. (Frequently used in modern fiction.)

Foot A group of syllables forming a metrical unit; a unit of rhythm. We measure feet in terms of syllable variation: long
and short syllables, stressed and unstressed. (Common feet = iamb, trochee, dactyl, anapest and spondee.)

Foreshadowing The technique of arranging events and information in a narrative in such a way that later events are
prepared for or shadowed forth beforehand.

Free verse Has no regular meter or line length and depends on natural speech rhythms and the counterpoint of stressed
and unstressed syllables.

Homonym (Greek: Same name) A word having the same sound and spelling as another, but a different meaning.
Homophone (Greek: Same sound) A word which is pronounced the same as another, but has a different spelling and
meaning.

Hyperbole A figure of speech which contains an exaggeration for emphasis.


Hypotaxis (Greek: Under arrangement) Subordination; syntactic relationship between dependent and independent
constructions.

Iambic pentameter Denotes a line of five feet, arranged as unstressed, followed by stressed syllables. (Shakes. Sonnet)
Idyll (Greek: Little form) It can refer to either a poem or an episode which describes some episode or scene in rural life,
or a description of any scene of tranquil happiness.

Illusion The semblance of reality and verisimilitude in art which most writers create in order to enable the reader to think
that he is seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting and smelling, or having some extra-sensory or kinesthetic experience.

Imagery As a general term covers the use of language to represent objects, actions, feelings, thoughts, ideas, states of
mind and any sensory or extra-sensory experience. Many images are conveyed by figurative language.

Irony Most forms of irony involve the perception or awareness of a discrepancy or incongruity between words and their
meanings, or between actions and their results, or between appearance and reality. In all cases there may be elements of the
absurd or the paradoxical. The two basic kinds are verbal (saying what one does not mean) and situational irony.

Lyric From Greeks a song to be sung to the accompaniment of the lyre, but also the term used to describe a particular
kind of poem in order to distinguish it from narrative or dramatic verse of any kind. Usually fairly short and personal.

Malapropism From Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridans The Rivals, who had the habit of using polysyllabic words incorrectly.
Metanoia (Greek: Afterthought) A figurative device in which a statement is made, and then withdrawn or lessened in
its impact.

Metaphor A figure of speech in which one thing is described in terms of another. A comparison is usually implict.
Meter (Greek: Measure) Refers to the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in verse.
Metonymy (Name change) Figure of speech in which name of an attribute or a thing is substituted for the thing itself.
Monologue A single person speaking alone with or without an audience.
Motif One of the dominant ideas in a work of literature; a part of the main theme. It may consist of a character, a reurrent
image or a verbal pattern.

Octave Also known as an octet. A group of 8 lines either in stanza form or as the first 8 lines of a sonnet. (abbaabba)
Ode (Greek: song) A lyric poem, usually of some length. Contains an elaborate stanza structure, a marked formality and
stateliness in tone and style, and lofty sentiments and thoughts. Public ode is ceremonious, while private ode is personal.

Onomatopoeia (Greek: Name-making) The formation and use of words to imitate sounds. Used for a special effect.
Oxymoron A figure of speech which combines incongruous and apparently contradictory words and meanings for a
special effect. Closely related to antithesis and paradox.

Paradox An apparently self-contradictory (even absurd) statement which, on closer inspection is found to contain a truth
reconciling the conflicting opposites.

Parallelism Common device in poetry, consisting of phrases or sentences of similar construction and meaning placed
side by side, balancing each other. (See T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Walt Whitman, Beowulf, etc.)

Parataxis Co-ordination of clauses without conjunctions. The effect is terseness and compression. (See Pope, Dickinson)
Pathos (Greek: suffering; feeling) That quality of art which evokes feelings of tenderness, pity or sorrow.
Pentameter The five-foot line and the basic line in English verse; especially in blank verse and the heroic couplet.
Persona (Latin: Mask) From it derives the term dramatis personae. Denotes the person who speaks in aa poem or
novel or other form of literature.

Personification The impersonation or embodiment of some quality of abstraction; the attribution of human qualities to
inanimate objects. Appears frequently, especially in poetry.

Prolepsis (Greek: Anticipation) A figurative device by which a future event is presumed to have happened.
Pun A figure of speech, which involves a play upon words. Gives rise to a fairly universal form of humor.
Quatrain A stanza of four lines, rhymed or unrhymed. It lends itself to a wide variation in meter and rhyme.
Refrain A phrase, line or lines repeated at intervals during a poem and especially at the end of a stanza.

Rhyme - Rhyme has two main functions: it echoes sounds and is thus a source of aesthetic satisfaction, and rhyme assists
in the actual structure of verse.

Rhythm In verse or prose, the movement or sense of movement communicated by the arrangement of stressed and
unstressed syllables and by the duration of the syllables. In verse the rhythm depends on the metrical pattern.

Sestet The sub-division or last six lines of the Italian sonnet following the octave.
Simile A figure of speech in which one thing is likened to another, ins such a way as to clarify and enhance an image. It is
an explicit comparison recognized by the use of the words like or as.

Soliloquy A soliloquy is a speech, often of some length, in which a character, alone on stage, expresses his thought and
feelings. It is an accepted dramatic convention of great importance. Shows a characters intentions, motives, feelings, etc.

Sonnet A poem of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter with considerable variation in rhyme scheme.
Stanza A group of lines of verse. The stanza is the unit of structure in a poem.
Stress As a metrical term, stress is interchangeable with accent. A metrical foot usually comprises one stressed syllable
and one or more unstressed syllables.

Style The characteristic manner of expression in prose or verse; how a particular writer says things. To analyze a writers
style, look at the writers choice of words, his figures of speech, the rhetorical and other devices, the shape of his sentences,
the shape of his paragraphs, etc.

Symbol - Is an object, animate or inanimate, which represents or stands for something else. Actions and gestures can be
symbolic, too. A literary symbol combines an image with a concept, and it may be universal or local.

Synaesthesia (Greek: Perceiving together) The mixing of sensations; the concurrent appeal to more than one sense; the
response through several senses to the stimulation of one.

Synechdoche (Greek: Taking up together) A figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole, and thus
something else is understood within the thing mentioned.

Synonym A word similar in meaning to another.


Tercet A stanza of three lines linked by rhyme. Also as one of a pair of triplets which makes up the sestet of a sonnet.
Theme The theme of a work is not its subject but rather its central idea, which may be stated directly or indirectly.
Triad (Greek: Three) In Classical Greek poetry a group of 3 lyric stanzas: strophe, antistrophe and epode.
Verisimilitude Likeness to the truth, and therefore the appearance of being true or real even when fantastic. When the
writer does this well, the reader finds the result an acceptable presentation of reality. (As in fantasy.)

Verse Three meanings: (a) a line of metrical writing; (b) a stanza; (c) poetry in general.
Viewpoint The position of the narrator in relation to his story; thus the outlook from which the events are related. The
omniscient: the author moves from character to character, place to place, and episode to episode with complete freedom,
giving himself access to his characters thoughts and feelings whenever he chooses and providing information whenever he
wishes. Third person limited: The author chooses a character and the story is related in terms of that character in such a way
that the field of vision confined to him or her alone. First person narrative: here he story is told in the first person by one of
the characters.