Literary Terms

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Literary Terms Packet

The terms in this packet will be used throughout the semester in literature discussions and on exams. Please memorize and be able to use and identify all terms in papers and on exams.
Some information in this packet came from Modern English by Arnold Lazarus, and A Dictionary of Literary, Dramatic, and Cinematic Terms by Sylvan Barnet,

A reference to someone or something that is known from history, literature, religion, politics or some other branch of culture. An example is Sandra Cisneros' "Straw into Gold," which is an allusion to the folktale about Rumpelstiltskin.
Example: "I have seen my head . . . brought in upon a platter" is an allusion to the execution of St. John the
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The opposite is understatement, which is an assertion that states less than what is true or real ("Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse."--Swift). Understatement can be used to make an ironic point or to provide humor.

Examples of Hyperbole:

You know you're in Arizona when: --You notice your car overheating before you drive it. --You no longer associate bridges or rivers with water. --You actually burn your hand opening the car door. --No one would dream of using vinyl upholstery in a car.


Understatement examples:
"Ah, a little bedtime snack! (to describe a 7-course meal) Elie Wiesel says, "I was fifteen." (After he experiences the Holocaust and sees a young boy hung) "Yes, it hurts a bit." (A young man tries to be brave when he has sev ered one of his fingers)

Please write two examples of hyperbole: ___________________________________________________________




The use of language to evoke or create a picture or a concrete sensation of a person, thing, place, or experience. These words appeal to our senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell. Example: "There was an old Negro woman with her head tied in a red rag, coming along a path through the pinewoods." "Her eyes were blue with age." "The air was sweetened by the summer roses."

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