The following terms will be useful to know for the midterm.  The terms may be on this page, in the posted PowerPoints, or in the links to the list of literary terms on the Other Resources page in Moodle. 


irony situational irony dramatic irony Gothic symbol
genre satire synechdoche metonymy unreliable narrator
metafiction epiphany myth gaze dramatic monologue
narrator speaker stanza aesthetic types of meter
plot protagonist antagonist confict caesura
conceit  metaphor allegory ambiguity imagery
setting personification sight rhyme foreshadowing epigraph
simile enjambment satire Other theme
image narrative rhyme scheme couplets punctuation
canon tradition utopia dystopia extended metaphor


The following terms will be useful to know for the final exam. The terms may be on this page, in the posted PowerPoints, or in the links to the list of literary terms on the Other Resources page in Moodle. 




symbol parody genre

dramatic irony

allegory protagonist satire science fiction
situational irony internal rhyme antagonist epiphany myth
Gothic metaphor conflict ambiguity narrator
unreliable narrator setting image imagery gaze
plot dialogue foreshadowing personification point of view
allusion intertextuality theme motif aesthetic
dramatic monologue sight rhyme ballad caesura end-stopped line
dystopia Other tragic hero narrative  
narrator/speaker utopia exposition dramatic question dramatic situation
symbol Freytag Pyramid enjambment climax denoument
epigraph anti-hero synechdoche metonymy epistolary
rising action setting simile genre hero
metafiction foreshadowing aesthetic conceit meter



Irony is a contrast between what is expected and what actually happens. There are three types of irony in literature.

Ø      Verbal irony occurs when a character states one thing and means another.

Ø      Dramatic irony occurs when the reader knows more about a situation or character than the characters in the story do.

Ø      Situational irony is a contrast between what the reader expects to happen and what actually happens.



A genre (a recognizable or established category of written work) that contains elements of terror, suspense, and the supernatural.  It reached its height in the 1790s.  Characteristics of the genre include ghosts and graveyards, as well as a fascination with the darker aspects of the human psyche, including cruelty and horror.  The stories often took place in dark castles or other medieval settings with secret rooms and strange images in mirrors.  Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) is one the most famous examples.  Some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work can be considered to be gothic in their style. 


•By the 20th century, the domination of northern ideals and values had infiltrated through to southern society and their own regional identity and values were being replaced.

•The decaying, crumbling landscape of the post-Civil War era became the backdrop for tales of human indecency and horror, all the while presenting the supposed righteous and chivalric values of the Old South. 

•It is a dying way of life, yet some Southerners do anything to hold on to it. 

Though GROTESQUE characters or situations can sometimes be violent and hard to read about, the grotesque can comment on unpleasant aspects of society, especially the decay and deterioration of the South's traditions and identity.

•Grotesque characters are often vile, ugly, violent crippled (physically and/or emotionally), and immoral, yet even as we are repulsed by them, we are also moved to pity and sympathy for characters such as Miss Emily.   


You probably learned in high school that a metaphor is a comparison that does not use “like” or “as.” Often this comparison is made between two seemingly unrelated subjects.

For instance, you might say, “She has a heart of stone,” to convey the notion that she is hard-hearted; her heart is not literally stone, but like a stone.

Or, my computer is a real memory hog, meaning that it uses an excessive amount of memory.

While it is true that a metaphor is a comparison , this definition somewhat oversimplifies a complex idea. A metaphor is the ascribing of the qualities of one object to another; the application of a name or descriptive term or phrase to an object or action to which it is imaginatively but not literally applicable—that is, not just comparing two things, but representing one thing by showing how it has certain qualities recognizable in another thing.

“All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players."

  W. Shakespeare

Here, the metaphor is more complex. We equate our lives with the idea of drama and performance. In our social world, we are on “stage” in front of others. As well, the phrase “merely players” implies that we are insignificant within the vastness of the world. It could also infer that we do not have as much control over our lives as we believe.






Remember, the companion term for metaphor —a simile is a comparison that uses “like” or “as”? This is an acceptable definition, but think of it this way too: a simile is a figure of speech in which a similarity between two objects is directly expressed. You also could think of metaphor as an equation and a simile as an approximation .

- for example, the snow was like a blanket

More complex forms of simile also invoke imagery and other literary devices, including punctuation.

“Death has many times invited me: it was like the salt invisible in the waves.”

Pablo Neruda



Frequently, a text is open to different interpretations.  It may be a scene that is ambiguous, or a use of language that may be understood in different ways. An author may be deliberately ambiguous to create confusion in the reader, or to point to multiple ways of reading the text. Regardless, it is usually a creative device that encourages the reader to see the complexity of the character, plot, scene, and so forth.  For example, the grandmother's cry of "Oh, God" in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." 



Metafiction is a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction. It is the literary term describing fictional writing that self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in posing questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually, irony and self-reflection.
“Happy Endings” is metafiction



•  These are the major literary genres: lyric, narrative, drama

What is a genre?

•  A type of composition, be it literary, musical, cinematographic, etc.

How do we recognize a genre?

•  Stylistic conventions

•  Elicits a certain kind of reader expectations and response.

•  Poetry Sub-genres: sonnet, elegy, ballad

•  Narrative Sub-genres: novel, short story; essay

•  Drama Sub-genres: tragedy, comedy



A genre of fiction that explores the probable consequences of some improbable or impossible transformation of the basic conditions of human existence. 

It is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology upon society and persons as individuals.

Alternative history is another mark of the genre.  For example, what would the world be like if Hitler won WWII?



Satire conveys criticism with humour for the purpose of improving human institutions or humanity (n.b. satire is not a genre but a manner or mode).



A mocking imitation of a literary work or author's style, usually for comic effect.  A parody typically exaggerates distinctive features of the original for humorous purposes.



A narrative in which abstract concepts are represented as something concrete, typically major elements in the story, such as characters, objects, actions, or events. It possesses two parallel levels of meaning and understanding: a literal level, where a surface level story is recounted, and a symbolic level, which addresses abstract ideas. Allegories are often considered extended metaphors: the surface level story helps to convey moral, religious, political, or philosophical ideas. There are two major kinds of allegory: historical and political allegories, and allegories of ideas. Related to allegory are the parable and exemplum.  Parables are very short, realistic narratives about people that are meant to teach a moral or a religious lesson. Often they are used to emphasize a narrator's lesson or point. Exemplums are used in sermons to illustrate and validate a particular theme or idea.



•Intertextuality is often used to refer to literary relations of conscious influence. For example, you could say that there are echoes of Poe when you read O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

•Intertextuality should not be, but frequently is, used to refer to the intentional allusion (overt or covert) to, citation or quotation of previous texts in literary texts.

•However, there are more appropriate and exact definitions.  Specifically, one could say that meaning is not contained within the text itself but exists between texts.

A text’s meaning sometimes exists in the text’s relation to the numerous other texts which go to make up the multiple discourses of culture.  When we read texts intertextually, we immediately go outside of them in our search for meaning, since a text considered intertextually has no inside or, to be more specific, a text’s inside comes from the cultural discourses which exist on its outside

For example, in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” to understand truly the significance of the son’s name and his importance to the story, you need to have some knowledge of John Wesley, one of the early leader of the American Methodist movement.    

Or, to understand the despair and the seemingly destructive choices that Sonny makes, we need to have some understanding of jazz in the American cultural psyche. 



Example: The image of a pale Dracula who comes from Transylvania and sucks blood contributes to what we believe embodies the history Dracula and vampires.  It is a “story” or “narrative” that is difficult to alter.  Indeed, unconsciously, many people wish to maintain this characterization of Dracula, as it reflects a supposedly simpler, less complicated period when enemies were identifiable by race and citizenship.