Glossary of Literary Terms and Devices



Catalogue: long rhetorical list or inventory— traditional epic device

Chiasmus: a rhetorical sentence pattern (or even a larger pattern) repeating in the sequence A-B-B-A, such as “I know she loves me, but she loves to keep me from knowing it.”

Comedy: literary work beginning in adversity and ending in prosperity that describes the regeneration and success of a group or society

Comedy of Humors: exposes and ridicules the humors (excesses and eccentricities) of characters in order to reform them

Comedy of Manners: usually high comedy, in which the social conventions of society are examined and satirized

Comedy of the Absurd: modern form of

comedy that dramatizes the absurdities of existence and ends ambiguously

Conceit: an elaborate or unusual comparison, using unlikely metaphors, similes, imagery, hyperbole, and oxymora, such as Shakespeare’s comparison in Richard II of two kings competing for power as two buckets in a well

Connotation: the emotional, psychological, or social overtones or implications that words carry in addition to their standard dictionary meaning (versus denotation)

Consonance: repetition of identical or similar consonants in neighboring words whose vowel sounds are different (versus assonance)

Denotation: standard dictionary meaning of a word (versus connotation)

Dichotomy: division into two exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups

Diction: word choice, type of words, and level of language.

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