AP Lit Key Terms: Conceit-Flashback

Conceit
A comparison of two unlikely things that is drawn out within a piece of literature, in particular an extended metaphor within a poem. Conceits might be the idea of tracing a love affair as a flower growing, budding, coming to fruition, and dying, for example. Hair might be spun gold; teeth like stars or pearls, etc. The wall in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” is a conceit upon which Frost focuses the messages in his poem.

Connotation
What is suggested by a word, apart from what it explicitly describes, often referred to as the implied meaning of a word. For example, the words awesome or sweet or gay have undergone a series of connotative alterations in the last couple of decades.

Consonance
The repetition of a sequence of two or more consonants, but with a change in the intervening vowels, such as pitter-patter, pish-posh, clinging and clanging.

Couplet
Two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter that together present a single idea or connection. The last two lines of all Shakespeare’s sonnets are couplets.

Dactylic
A metrical foot in poetry that consists of two stressed syllables followed by one unstressed syllable //~//~//~//~. This beat can be seen in Phillip Brooks’ poem “Christmas Everywhere”.

Denotation
A direct and specific meaning, often referrred to as the dictionary meaning of a word.

Dialect
The language and speech idiosyncrasies of a specific area, region, or group of people. For example, Minnesotans say “you betcha”; Southerners say “you all.” Perhaps one of the best-known writers of dialect is Mark Twain, who captured the speech of the ordinary people as Huck Finn traveled down the Mississippi.

Diction
The specific word choice an author uses to persuade or convey tone, purpose, or effect. For example, Edgar A. Poe said, “I hadn’t so much forgot as I couldn’t bring myself to remember.” This has far more impact on the reader than just saying, “I chose not to remember.”

Dramatic monologue
A monologue set in a specific situation and spoken to an imaginary audience. Another term for this could be soliloquy. Two speeches are the “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet and the “Is this a dagger I see before me?” speech in Macbeth.

Elegy
A poetic lament upon the death of a particular person, usually ending in consolation. Perhaps the most famous elegy is Thomas Gray’s poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”

Enjambment
The continuation of a sentence from on line or couplet of a poem to the next. “The Choir Invisible” demonstrates enjambment.

Epic
A poem that celebrates, in a continuous narrative, the achievements of mighty heroes and heroines, often concerned with the founding of a nation or developing of a culture; it uses elevated language and grand, high style. Prime examples of epic poetry include, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Paradise Lost. A more contemporary example could be George Lucas’s Star Wars.

Exposition
That part of the structure that sets the scene, introduces and identifies characters, and establishes the situation at the beginning of a story or play.

Extended metaphor
A detailed and complex metaphor that extends over a long section of a work, also known as a conceit.

Fable
A legend or a short moral story often using animals as characters. Aesop is the best-known teller of fables. The “Uncle Remus Stories” by Joel Chandler Harris are cultural fables, and Animal Farm, by George Orwell is a political fable.

Falling action
That part of plot structure in which the complications of the rising action are untangled. This is also known as the denouement.

Farce
A play or scene in a play or book that is characterized by broad humor, wild antics, and often slapstick and physical humor. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream is filled with farce.

Foreshadowing
To hint at or to present an indication of the future beforehand. To Kill a Mockingbird opens with foreshadowing.

Formal diction
Language that is lofty, dignified, and impersonal. Such diction is often used in narrative epic poetry. You can readily see this diction in John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

Flashback
Retrospection, where an earlier event is inserted into the normal chronology of the narrative. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass uses free verse. The “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet is an excellent example.