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AP Exam Identifying Literary Devices
Alliteration • The repetition of initial consonant sounds
anadiplosis • Repetition of an important word from one phrase or clause (usually the last word) at the start of the next phrase or clause.
“the love of wicked men converts to fear,/That fear to hate, and hate turns one or both/ To worthy danger and deserved death”—Shakespeare, Richard II
anaphora • Repeated use of a word or phrase at the start of successive phrases or sentences for effect; also the use of a pronoun to refer to an antecedent (noun)
“We shall fight on the beaches, We shall fight on the landing grounds, We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, We shall fight in the hills.” • Winston Churchill
“As Caesar loved me, I weep for him. As he was fortunate, I rejoice at it. As he was valiant, I honor him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.” --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
anthimeria A type of pun in which one part of speech is substituted for another (in this case a noun for a verb)
“The thunder would not peace at my bidding.” --Shakespeare, King Lear
antithesis The contrasting of ideas by the use of parallel structure in phrases or clauses
“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” ---Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
aphorism A concise expression of insight or wisdom
“The vanity of others offends our taste only when it offends our vanity.” --Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
apostrophe A direct address to an absent or dead person, or to an object, quality, or idea
“Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness…” --John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
assonance The repetition of similar vowel sounds in a sequence of nearby words
“All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone.” ---Tennyson “The Lotos-Eaters”
asyndeton The omission of coordinating conjunctions, such as in a series.
“I came, I saw, I conquered.” attributed to Julius Caesar
Antanaclasis A type of pun in which one words is repeated in two different senses
“If we don’t hang together we’ll hang separately.” --Ben Franklin
Bathos A sudden and unexpected drop from the lofty to the trivial or excessively sentimental
“Ye Gods! Annihilate but Space and Time And make two lovers happy.” --Alexander Pope, Martinus Scriblerus on the Art of Sinking in Poetry
Cacophony (dissonance) The clash of discordant or harsh sounds within a sentence or phrase
“Anfractuous rocks” --T.S. Eliot, “Sweeney Erect”
Catalog A list of people or things
“The tropics at first-hand: the trumpet-vine, fox glove, giant snap-dragon, a salpiglossis that has spots and stripes.” --Marianne Moore, “The Steeple-Jack”
chiasmus Two phrases in which the syntax is the same but the placement of words is reversed
“To stop too fearful, and too faint to go.” --Oliver Goldsmith, “The Traveller”
Colliquialism An informal or slang expression, especially in the context of formal writing
“All the other lads there were Were itching to have a bash.” ---Philip Larkin, “Send No Money”
Consonance The repetition of consonants in a sequence of nearby words (“moth breath”), especially at the end of stressed syllables when there is no similar repetition of vowel sounds
“All night your moth breath Flickers among the flat pink roses” --Sylvia Plath, “Morning Song”
Epanalepsis • Repetition at the end of a clause of the word that appeared at the beginning of the clause
“Possessing what we were still unpossessed by Possessed by what we now no more possessed.” --Robert Frost, “The Gift Outright”
Epistrophe The repetition of a word or group of words at the end of successive phrases, clauses, verses, or sentences.
“Of the people, by the people, for the people” --Lincoln, Gettysbury Address
Epithet An adjective or phrase that describes a prominent or distinguishing feature of a person or thing.
“The wine-dark sea” --Homer, The Iliad
Epizeuxis Repetition of the same word with no other words in between for emphasis
“Words, words, words…” --Shakespeare, Hamlet
Hyperbaton A scheme of unusual or inverted word order
“I got, so far as the immediate moment was concerned, away.” --Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
Hard Evidence The use of empirical or factual data in support of an argument
The law should require seat belts because studeies show that they reduce the rate of fatalities in accidents (RFIA) by 80 percent.
Hamartia (tragic flaw) In the context of tragedy, a fatal flaw or error that brings about the downfall of someone of high status.
Othello’s jealousy, fueled by the false Iago, ultimately causes him to kill Desdemona, his wife.
Hyperbole Excessive overstatement or conscious exaggeration of fact