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  1. Saga
  2. Satire
  3. Scansion
  4. Setting
  5. Short Story
  6. Simile
  7. Soliloquy
  8. Sonnet
  9. Spondee
  10. Stanza
  11. Stereotype
  12. Style
  13. Suspense
  14. Symbolism
  15. Synecdoche
  16. Synesthesia
  17. Theatre of the Absurd
  18. Theme
  19. Tone
  20. Tragedy
  21. Trochee
  22. Understatement
A story of the exploits of a hero, or the story of a family told through several generations. Stories of the exploits of Daniel Boone or Davey Crockett are sagas in the former sense. Alex Haley's "Roots" would be considered a saga in the latter sense. Return to Menu

A piece of literature designed to ridicule the subject of the work. While satire can be funny, its aim is not to amuse, but to arouse contempt. Jonathan swift's "Gulliver's Travels" satirizes the English people, making them seem dwarfish in their ability to deal with large thoughts, issues, or deeds. Return to Menu

A close, critical reading of a poem, examining the work for meter.
See Meter for more information.
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The time and place in which a story unfolds. The setting in Act 1, scene 1 of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," for example, is a public square in Verona, Italy. A drama may contain a single setting, Or the setting may change from scene to scene. Return to Menu

Short Story
A short fictional narrative. It is difficult to set forth the point at which a short story becomes a short novel (novelette), or the page number at which a novelette becomes a novel. Here are some examples which may help in determining which is which: Ernest Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" is a short story; John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" is a novelette; and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" is a novel.
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A figure of speech which takes the form of a comparison between two unlike quantities for which a basis for comparison can be found, and which uses the words "like" or "as" in the comparison, as in this line from Ezra Pound's "Fan-Piece, for Her Imperial Lord": clear as frost on the grass-blade,In this line, a fan of white silk is being compared to frost on a blade of grass. Note the use of the word "as" in the comparison.
See Metaphor for more information.
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In drama, a moment when a character is alone and speaks his or her thoughts aloud. In the line "To be, or not to be, that is the question:" which begins the famous soliloquy from Act 3, scene 1 of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" Hamlet questions whether or not life is worth living, and speaks of the reasons why he does not end his life.
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A lyric poem of fourteen lines whose ryhme scheme is fixed. The rhyme scheme in the Italian form as typified in the sonnets of Petrarch is abbaabba cdecde. The Petrarchian sonnet has two divisions: the first is of eight lines (the octave), and the second is of six lines (the sestet). The rhyme scheme of the English, or Shakespearean sonnet is abab cdcd efef gg. (See Rhyme Scheme). The change of rhyme in the English sonnet is coincidental with a change of theme in the poem. SeeTheme.The meter is iambic pentameter.
See Meter for more information.
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A metrical pattern characterized by two or more successively-placed accented syllables. In the following example from Shakespeare's "Othello," Othello's sleep has been disturbed by a fight. He angrily demands to know who started the fight that disturbed him. Not receiving an immediate answer he says:
This is the first instance in the play where Othello shows that he can be ruled by his emotions. The spondee in the first three feet (followed by an iamb in the remaining feet) reminds the reader of a bowstring being drawn back before the arrow flies, or of a bull pawing the ground before charging. This is the use of literary devices: to draw the reader's attention to some noteworthy phenomenon within the literary work, either to illuminate or to intensify.
See Meter for more information.
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A major subdivision in a poem. A stanza of two lines is called a couplet; a stanza of three lines is called a tercet; a stanza of four lines is called a quatrain. Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night," consists of four rhymed tercets followed by a rhymed couplet. The following illustrates the look of a stanza:
      I have been one acquainted with the night.
      I have walked out in rain-and back in rain.
      I have outwalked the furthest city light.

      I have looked down the saddest city lane
      I have passed by the watchman on his beat
      And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
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An author's method of treating a character so that the character is immediately identified with a group. A character may be associated with a group through accent, food choices, style of dress, or any readily identifiable group characteristic. Examples are the rugged cowboy, the bearded psychiatrist, and the scarred villain. A criticism leveled at TV drama is that those who produce such dramas use outdated or negative qualities of groups to stereotype individuals. Ignoring the group's positive qualities, they perpetuate and strengthen the group's negative image in the minds of viewers. Some examples are: the Jewish accountant, the corrupt politician, the Black gambler in a zoot suit, and the voice on the phone in a Middle Eastern accent associated with a bomb threat. A well-known tobacco company uses the stereotype of the rugged cowboy in its cigarette ads.
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Many things enter into the style of a work: the author's use of figurative language, diction, sound effects and other literary devices. Ernest Hemingway's style derives, in part, from his short, powerful sentences. The style of the Declaration of Independence can be described as elegant.
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Suspense in fiction results primarily from two factors: the reader's identification with and concern for the welfare of a convincing and sympathetic character, and an anticipation of violence. The following line from Elizabeth Spencer's "The Name of the Game" is an example of a suspense maker:
He was an innocent, this boy; the other boys were out to get him.
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A device in literature where an object represents an idea. In Willaim Blake's "The Lamb," the speaker tells the lamb that the force that made him or her is also called a lamb:
            Little lamb, who made thee?
            Little lamb, who made thee?
            Little lamb, I'll tell thee,
            Little lamb, I'll tell thee!
      He is called by thy name,
      For he calls himself a lamb;
The symbol of the lamb in the above lines corresponds to the symbolism of the lamb in Christianity wherein Christ is referred to as The Lamb of God. Return to Menu

A figure of speech wherein a part of something represents the whole thing. In this figure, the head of a cow might substitute for the whole cow. Therefore, a herd of fifty cows might be referred to as "fifty head of cattle." In Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses" Ulysses refers to his former companions as free hearts, free foreheads-
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One sensory experience described in terms of another sensory experience. Emily Dickinson, in "I Heard a Fly Buzz-When I Died," uses a color to describe a sound, the buzz of a fly:with blue, uncertain stumbling buzz
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Theatre of the Absurd
A drama based on an absurd situation. In Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," two characters spend the entire play waiting for someone named Godot, who is supposed to solve their problems, but who never appears. Instead, Godot's servant appears, but only to tell the two that Godot will not appear that day. The waiting commences again and is only broken by the occasional appearance of the servant who tells them that Godot will, once again, not appear that day.
Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" is another example. Return to Menu

An ingredient of a literary work which gives the work unity. The theme provides an answer to the question What is the work about?There are too many possible themes to recite them all in this document. Each literary work carries its own theme(s). The theme of Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" is lonliness. Shakespeare's "King Lear" contains many themes, among which are blindness and madness. Unlike plot which deals with the action of a work, theme concerns itself with a work's message or contains the general idea of a work. Return to Menu

Tone expressesthe author's attitude toward his or her subject. Since there are as many tones in literature as there are tones of voice in real relationships, the tone of a literary work may be one of anger or approval, pride or piety-the entire gamut of attitudes toward life's phenomena. Here is one literary example: The tone of John Steinbeck's short novel "Cannery Row" is nonjudgemental. Mr. Steinbeck never expresses disapproval of the antics of Mack and his band of bums. Rather, he treats them with unflagging kindness.
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According to A. C. Bradley, a tragedy is a type of drama which is pre-eminently the story of one person, the hero. "Romeo and Juliet" and "Antony and Cleopatra" depart from this, however, and we may view both characters in each play as one protagonist.
The story depicts the trouble part of the hero's life in which a total reversal of fortune comes upon a person who formerly stood in high degree, apparently secure, sometimes even happy.
The suffering and calamity in a tragedy are exceptional, since they befall a conspicuous person, e. g., Macbeth is a noble at first, then a king; Hamlet is a prince; Oedipus is a king. Moreover, the suffering and calamity spread far and wide until the whole scene becomes a scene of woe. The story leads up to and includes the death (in Shakespearean tragedy) or moral destruction (in Sophoclean tragedy) of the protagonist. Return to Menu

A metrical pattern in a line of poetry characterized by one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable. The opening line to Vachel Lindsay's "General William Booth Enters into Heaven" provides an example:

See Meter for more information.
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A statement which lessens or minimizes the importance of what is meant. For example, if one were in a desert where the temperature was 125 degrees, and if one wee to describe thermal conditions saying "It's a little warm today." that would be an understamement. In Shakespeare's "Macbeth," Macbeth, having murdered his friend Banquo, understates the number of people who have been murdered since the beginning of time by saying "Blood hath been shed ere now."
The opposite is hyperbole. See Hyperbole for more information.
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Email: Joel Sommer Littauer