Literary Terms

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Estancia High School – Comp/Lit II
10th Grade Literary Terms to Know

CA 9/10 Content Standards: Reading/Literary Response and Analysis 3.3 – students apply their understanding of content-area terminology during narrative analyses of grade-level literary texts ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This sheet includes the most common literary terms used to support the discussion of literature at the sophomore level. These terms appear in writing prompts, reading selections and assignments, quizzes and exams. They also appear on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the Content Standards Test (CST) both taken in the spring semester.

1. allegory – a story with two or more levels of meaning – a literal level and one or more symbolic levels; for example, Of Mice and Men, The Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, War and Peace, A Tale of Two Cities

2. alliteration – when two or more words in a poem begin with the same letter or sound.

Example of alliteration: “Caring cats cascade off”

3. allusion – an allusion is a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art; writers often make allusions to the Bible, William Shakespeare’s plays, Roman and Greek mythology, and major historical events or battles; when speaking, a person can make an allusion to someone or something (an indirect reference)

4. antagonist – the character who opposes the protagonist

5. aside – a short speech delivered by an actor in a play, which expresses the character’s thoughts; traditionally, the aside is directed to the audience and is presumed inaudible to the other characters; for example, on the television series Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm uses asides when he speaks to the audience eye to eye

6. atmosphere/mood – the feeling created in a reader by a literary work or passage

7. author’s purpose – an author’s motivation for writing about a given topic

8. autobiography – a form of nonfiction in which a person tells his or her own life story

9. blank verse (iambic pentameter) – poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter; a form of verse frequently used by William Shakespeare

10. characterization – (direct characterization) the author directly states a character’s traits; (indirect characterization) a character’s personality is developed or reflected in his or her actions, words, thoughts, appearance, emotions, or through another character’s observations and reactions

11. conflict – a struggle between opposing forces; (external conflict) the main character struggles against an outside force; (internal conflict) when a character is in conflict with himself or herself

12. connotation - the connotation of a word is the set of ideas associated with it in addition to its explicit meaning

13. couplet – two rhyming lines in a work of poetry

14. denotation – the literal or exact meaning of a word; a dictionary contains the denotations of words in any language

15. diction –word choice; a writer’s use of one word over another to be more precise or descriptive; a thesaurus is the ideal resource when selecting the most appropriate word to convey an idea

16. drama – a story written to be performed by actors

17. dramatic irony – a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader or audience know to be true

18. dramatic monologue – a poem or speech in which a fictional character addresses a silent listener

19. exposition – writing or speech that explains a process or presents information about a topic; in fictional works, exposition refers to the early chapters in the book where the setting is established, characters are named, and the reader is given a preview of the conflict to be developed in the plot

20. figurative language – writing or speech not meant to be interpreted literally (includes idioms, metaphors,...
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