Glossary of Literary Terms

Act
Aesthetics
The philosophy and psychology of beauty in art and nature.
Affective Fallacy
Allegory
Alliteration
Allusion
Ambiguity
Anaphora
The repetition of a word or parallel verbal construction at the beginning of lines, sentences, or parts of sentences.
Antagonist
The character or force that opposes the hero (protagonist) in a story.
Anticlimax
A surprising plot twist that shifts the tone of a narrative away from the expected climax, often shifting from the serious to the mundane or absurd. Can be used for comic or satiric effect.
Antithesis
Apostrophe
Archetype
Aside
Assonance
Atmosphere
Avant-garde
Ballad
Beat Generation
Bildungsroman
A novel about the education and maturing of a young person. Also known as a coming of age story.
Black Comedy
Blank verse
Unrhymed iambic pentameter verse.
Cacophony
Caesura
A natural pause in the middle of a poetic line. Can be indicated by punctuation, or not. Caesura adds variety and texture to a poem's rhythm.
Canon
Carpe diem
"Seize the day". A quote from an ode by Horace. It encapsulates a philosophy of living in the moment. Carpe diem has been a theme in literature ever since.
Catharsis
The therapeutic purging of powerful emotions when experiencing a literary work, especially tragic drama.
Chapbook
Character
Characterization
Chorus
Close reading
Colloquialism
Comedy
Concrete poetry
Conflict
The engine of most dramatic and fictional art, conflict is the tension or battle between opposing forces: characters, settings, and psyches.
Consonance
A pattern of repeated consonant sounds.
Convention
Couplet
A pair of rhymed lines.
Criticism
Dactyl
Deconstruction
Dénouement
Deus ex Machina
Dialogue
Quoted, overheard conversation between literary characters.
Diction
Didactic
Drama
Dramatic monologue
A poem written in the voice of a character, as if that character is speaking a soliloquy.
Dramatis personae
The roster of characters in a drama.
Dynamic character
A literary character who changes significantly by the end of a narrative.
Elegy
Epiphany
A "shining moment of clarity" in a story, wherein a character suddenly sees the truth in a new light
Pentameter
A five foot line of verse.