AP Lit Terms (Prose)

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Allegory
A narrative or description having a second or symbolic meaning beneath the surface one
Allusion
A reference, explicit or implicit, to something in previous literature or history
Anecdote
A short account of an interesting or humorous incident
Artistic unity
That condition of a successful literary work whereby all its elements work together for the achievement of its central purpose
Cacophony
A harsh, discordant, unpleasant-sounding choice and arrangement of sounds
Euphony
A smooth, pleasant-sounding choice and arrangement of sounds
Genre
A type or class, as poetry, drama, etc.
Imagery
The representation through language of sensory experience
Mood
The pervading impression of a work
Moral
A rule of conduct or maxim for living expressed or implied as the “point” of a literary work
Prose
Non-metrical language; the opposite of verse
Theme
The main idea, or message, of a literary work. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and may be implied rather than stated explicitly
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
Topic
The subject matter or area of a literary work
Setting
The context in time and place in which the action of a story occurs
Symbol
(literary) Something that means more than what it is; an object, person, situation, or action that in addition to its literal meaning suggests other meanings as well, a figure of speech which may be read both literally and figuratively.
Verse
Metrical language; the opposite of prose
Voice
The distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or a character in a book
Antagonist
Character in a story or poem who opposes the main character (protagonist). Sometimes the antagonist is an animal, an idea, or a thing.
Character
(1) Any of the persons involved in a story or play [sense 1] (2) The distinguishing moral qualities and personal traits of a character [sense 2]
Characterization
The process of conveying information about characters
Deuteragonist
the second most important character, after the protagonist, often a foil or eventual antagonist
Direct presentation of character
A method of characterization in which the author, by exposition or analysis, tells us directly what a character is like, or has someone else in the story do so
Dynamic character
A character (sense 1) who during the course of a story undergoes a permanent change in some aspect of character (sense 2) or outlook.
Flat character
A character (sense 1) whose character (sense 2) is summed up in one or two traits
Foil
a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight various features of that other character’s personality, throwing these characteristics into sharper focus
Hero
man who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for bold exploits, and favored by the gods
Hubris
Overbearing and excessive pride
Indirect presentation of character
That method of characterization in which the author shows us a character in action, compelling us to
infer what the character is like from what is said or done by the character
Protagonist
The main character of a novel, play, or film
Round character
A character (sense 1) whose character (sense 2) is complex and many sided.
Static character
A character who is the same sort of person at the end of a story as at the beginning.
Stock character
A stereotyped character
Tragic Flaw
A flaw in the character of the protagonist of a tragedy that brings the protagonist to ruin or sorrow
Aside
A brief speech in which a character turns from the person being addressed to speak directly to the audience; a dramatic device for letting the audience know what a character is really thinking or feeling as opposed to what the character pretends to think or feel
Colloquial
informal, conversational language
Dialogue
(1) Conversation between characters in a drama or narrative. (2) A literary work written in the form of a conversation
Dialect
A regional variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary
Diction
word choice
Euphemism
Substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for a harsh, blunt, or offensive one
Figure of speech
Broadly, any way of saying something other that the ordinary way; more narrowly (and for the purposes of this class) a way of saying one thing and meaning another
Hyperbole
A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used in the service of truth
Invective
Denunciatory or abusive language
Monologue
(1) A dramatic soliloquy. (2) A literary composition in such form
Proverb
A short, pithy saying that expresses a basic truth or practical precept
Pun
A play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words
Sarcasm
Bitter or cutting speech; speech intended by its speaker to give pain to the person addressed
Soliloquy
a device often used in drama where by a character relates his or her thoughts and feelings to him/herself and to the audience without addressing any of the other characters.
Slang
A kind of language esp. occurring in casual or playful speech, usu. made up of short-lived coinages and figures of speech deliberately used in place of standard terms
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.
Exposition
The part of a play (usually at the beginning) that provides the background information needed to understand the characters and the actions
Conflict
A clash of actions, desires, ideas, or goals in the plot of a story or drama. Conflict may exist between the main character and some other person or persons; between the main character and some external force—physical nature, society, or “fate”; or between the main character and some destructive element in his or her own nature. A struggle that takes place in a character’s mind is called internal conflict
Rising Action
That development of plot in a story that precedes and leads up to the climax
Climax
The turning point or high point of a plot
Falling Action
The falling action immediately follows the climax and shows the aftereffects of the events in the climax
Denouement
(Also called the resolution) the conclusion of the story. Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of catharsis for them and the reader. Sometimes a hint as to the characters’ future is given
Irony
situation, or a use of language, involving some kind of incongruity or discrepancy
Dramatic irony
An incongruity of discrepancy between what a character says or thinks and what the reader knows to be true (or between what a character perceives and what the author intends the reader to perceive).
irony of situation
A situation in which there is an incongruity between appearance and reality, or between expectation and fulfillment, or between the actual situation and what would seem appropriate.
Verbal irony
A figure of speech in which what is said is the opposite of what is meant
Epistolary novel
a novel written as a series of documents
First person point of view
The story is told by one of its characters, using the first person
Flashback
A literary device in which an earlier event is inserted into a narrative.
Flashforward
A literary device in which a later event is inserted into a narrative.
In medias res
(into the middle of things) is a Latin phrase denoting the literary and artistic narrative technique wherein the relation of a story begins either at the mid-point or at the conclusion, rather than at the beginning, establishing setting, character, and conflict via flashback and
expository conversations.
Limited omniscient point of view
The author tells the story, using the third person, but is limited to a complete knowledge of one character
in the story and tells us only what that one character thinks, feels, sees, or hears
Linear structure
a plot that follows a straight-moving, cause and effect, chronological order
Objective point of view
The author tells the story, using the third person, but is limited to reporting what the characters say or do; the author does not interpret their behavior or tell us their private thoughts or feelings
Omniscient point of view
The author tells the story, using the third person, knowing all and free to tell us anything, including what the
characters are thinking or feeling and why they act as they do
Narrator
the speaker or the “voice” of an oral or written work. Although it can be, the narrator is not usually the same person as the author.
The narrator is one of three types of characters in a given work, (1) participant (protagonist or participant in any action that may take place in the story), (2) observer (someone who is indirectly involved in the action of a story), or (3) non participant (one who is not at all involved in any action of the story). The narrator is the direct window into a piece of work
Nonlinear structure
when the plot is presented in a non-causal order, with events presented in a random series jumping to and from the main plot with flashbacks or flashforwards; or in any other manner that is either not chronological or not cause and effect, for example, in medias res.
Point of View
The angle of vision from which a story is told.
Stream of consciousness
Narrative which presents the private thoughts of a character without commentary or interpretation by the author
Unreliable narrator
a narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised. Unreliable narrators are usually first-person narrators.
Anticlimax
A sudden descent from the impressive or significant to the ludicrous or inconsequential
Catastrophe
The concluding action of a classical tragedy containing the resolution of the plot
Comic Relief
A humorous incident introduced into a serious literary work in order to relieve dramatic tension or heighten emotional impact
Dilemma
A situation in which a character must choose between two courses of action, both undesirable
Deus ex machina
(god from the machine) The resolution of a plot by use of a highly improbable chance or coincidence (so named from the practice of some Greek dramatists of having a god descend from heaven at the last possible minute—in the theater by means of a stage machine—to rescue the protagonist from an impossible situation)
Indeterminate ending
An ending in which the central problem or conflict is left unresolved
Categories: Prose