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ENGL 2240: Glossary


Allegory—a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another; a set of symbolic parallels in the narrative

Archetype—the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model, or first form; prototype

Climax—the highest or most intense point of conflict in the development of the plot; a decisive moment that is of maximum intensity or is a major turning point in a plot

Dénouêment—the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot, as of a drama, novel, or short story; the place in the plot at which this occurs


Dialogue—a conversation between characters in a novel, drama, or short story

Dichotomy—division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups

Diction—style of speaking or writing as dependent upon choice of words; and speech-sound quality manifested by an individual speaker; see dialect


Exposition—writing or speech primarily intended to convey information or to explain; a detailed statement or explanation; the state of being uncovered, revealed, or otherwise exposed

Falling Action—the part of a literary plot that occurs after the climax has been reached and the conflict has been resolved

Fictio—Latin for “counterfeit” and from where the modern work “fiction” is derived

Flashback—a device in the narrative of a motion picture, novel, drama, or short story, etc., by which an event or scene taking place before the present time in the narrative is inserted into the chronological structure of the work

Hubris—excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance; sometimes called a “fatal flaw”

Imagery—the formation of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things, or of such images collectively in a work of literature

In medias res—Latin, meaning beginning “in the middle of things”; a literary technique where the opening of a literary work occurs with action already underway; often used in conjunction with flashback

Irony--a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character's words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.

Juxtaposition—placing two similar things (i.e., characters, situations, scenes, etc.) against one another to examine subtle differences and meanings

Literary Triangle—Aristotle: Time, Place, Action; Poe: Tone, Vocabulary, Effect; Freytag: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax (Crisis), Falling Action, and Dénouêment

Lyrical Ballads--a collection of poems published in 1789, the work marks the transition into the English Romanticism

Melodrama—a dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect and that exaggerates emotion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization

Metafiction—fiction which discusses, describes, or analyzes a work of fiction or the conventions of fiction

Metaphor—a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance or comparison

Monologue—a form of dramatic entertainment, or a prolonged talk or discourse by a single speaker, especially one dominating or monopolizing a conversation

Narrative—a story or an account of events, experiences, or the like; a book or literary work, etc., containing such a story

Narrator—a person who gives an account or tells the story of events, experiences, etc.

Old South—the U.S. South before the Civil War; antebellum

Oral Tradition—a family’s or community’s cultural and historical traditions passed down by word of mouth or example from one generation to another without written instruction

Personification—the attribution of human nature or character to animals, inanimate objects, or abstract notions, especially in a dramatic or literary work

Plot—also called a storyline, the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story

Plot reversal—an unexpected twist in the plot, which may occur at any point in the text, but most often near the end

Protagonist—a leading character, hero or heroine, of a drama or literary work

Rising Action—a related series of incidents in a literary plot that build toward the point of greatest interest, conflict, or tension

Setting—the locale or period in which the action of a novel, play, film, short story, etc., takes place

Simile—a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in “she is like a rose”

Situational irony—irony involving a situation in which actions have an effect that is opposite from what was intended, so that the outcome is contrary to what was expected

Stream of consciousness—thought regarded as a succession of ideas and images constantly moving forward in time

Symbol—something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign

Tone—quality or character of sound


Unreliable narrator—when, for whatever reason, factual or otherwise, the narrator belies the given aspect of impartiality, honesty, or integrity