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DeMiero’s List of Terms



Rhetoric the art of effective or persuasive communication, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques and literary devices.

Want to watch a the presentation we saw in class? Click HERE.

Three key rhetorical types

Ethos is an appeal to ethics and morals; often based on the character or credibility of the source or persuader.

Pathos is an appeal to emotion; convincing an audience by creating in them an emotional response.

Logos is an appeal to logic; persuasion through reason.



Characterization is how a writer chooses to reveal a character to the reader.

Direct & Indirect characterization

Direct Characterization is information about a character the audience learns from the character himself/herself, or directly from the narrator.

Indirect Characterization is information about a character the audience learns from secondary characters.

Flat & Round Characters

Flat characters tend to be static, mono-dimensional and predictable.

Round characters tend to be dynamic, multi-dimensional and unpredictable.

Protagonist & Antagonist

The protagonist is the central character in a story. Without the protagonist there is no story. In classical literature, keep in mind that the protagonist usually experiences a moment of truth in which he or she recognizes and acknowledges his or her mistakes, failures, and/or sins. If the character you think might be the protagonist has not had this experience, be careful!

The antagonist is a character or entity who is in direct conflict with the protagonist.


A fixed, commonly held notion or image of a person or group, based on an oversimplification of some observed or imagined trait of behavior or appearance.


The reason behind a character’s action; what induces a character to act; the root cause of a character’s behavior. Here’s the psychoanalytical information we discussed in class: Psychoanalysis of Motivation.


Situational irony

When something happens that is in stark contrast to or opposite of what was normally expected.

Dramatic irony

When the audience knows more than the characters in the story know.

Verbal irony

When something is said, but the speaker actually means the opposite – intentionally or not.


The Oatmeal. Okay, this site is incredibly funny, but a bit profane. Still, this explanation of irony is a hoot!

Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.” Here’s the link to official YouTube video.

Parody of “Ironic.” Here’s a wonderful parody of Alanis Morissette’s song. And here’s a link to the lyrics of the parody.


An idea or conclusion that’s drawn from evidence and reasoning.



A symbol is anything that can stand for or signify something else. Often one of the two (or more) symbolic elements is concrete or literal while representing something that is figurative. For example, the American flag (a real object) may symbolize the concept of freedom (an idea).


A word or expression that in literal usage denotes one kind of thing is applied to a distinctly different kind of thing. The purpose of using a metaphor is to take an identity or concept that we understand clearly and use it to better understand the lesser known element. For example, in the phrase “my roller coaster life” I’m comparing the unsettling and often dramatic dips and climbs of a roller coaster ride to what my life is like right now. My life and a roller coaster do not, in fact, have anything in common in a literal sense, but in a figurative sense the comparison helps me explain how my life feels right now.


A simile is a subset of a metaphor. It’s essentially the exact same thing as a metaphor except that the comparison is made using either “like” or “as.” For example, instead of using a metaphor about my life (see above), I could have used a simile – “my life is like a roller coaster” or “my life is as settled as a roller coaster.”


Think FEELINGS or EMOTIONS. The emotions inherent in a scene/passage of a story. Sometimes the feeling that audience members experience are the same as those being experienced by the characters, but not always.


Think ATTITUDE. It’s the attitude that the author/writer/poet/director takes toward the subject matter or theme of a work.


A contradiction that seemingly rings true. An absurdity that expresses a kind of truth.


An expression that calls something to mind without mentioning explicitly, but rather through an indirect reference.


A term used to describe the key events of a story and usually the sequence or order in which they occur. The typical or classic plot sequence usually follows something like this: Introduction, Rising Action in which the Conflict is usually established, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution. Of course, this order can be manipulated to include all kinds of interesting variations, including the use of flashbacks, for example.

Point of View

A term used to describe the perspective of the narration of a story. Most literary works are in either First Person Point of View or Third Person Point of View.
First Person – The story is typically told from the perspective of a character in the story, although not always the main character. This point of view is subjective, limited in breadth, but deep in terms of this singular perspective. The narrator typically uses the pronouns I or me or we, for example.
Third Person – The story is typically told from the perspective of a omniscient (or limited omniscient) narrator. This point of view tends to be objective, broad, but limited in terms of the depth from any one character (although there are exceptions). The narrator typically uses the pronouns he, she, they, them or names, for example.


For lots of info about satire, please follow this link.


I’ve told you a million times that hyperbole is a term describing the use of exaggeration to make a point. Jeez.


The basic understanding of setting is the when and the where of any story. But it’s so much more than that if you want to fully understand a work of literature. Any good analysis of setting would also take into consideration the sensory information that is available, the mood and especially the context of the story. For additional information, check this out.


Without conflict, it’s pretty tough to have an interesting work of literature. A basic definition would be that the conflict is the key issue or tension in a story. Some describe it as the struggle between the main characters or elements in a work. We also have developed two main categories of conflict – internal and external – as well as any number of sub-categories, including person v. person, person v. self, person v. beliefs, person v. nature, person v. fate, person v. society, person v. technology, etc. In terms of the plot, the conflict is often introduced during the rising action of the storyline.


For the purposes of this class, let’s equate subject and topic. The topic of a story, film, poem, etc. is usually able to be summed up in one or two words that describe what the piece is about. There may be several topics in a story, but there usually are just one or two that are considered the key topics. (See how topic relates to theme below.)


The theme is almost always a phrase or sentence that more specifically describes what the author is saying about the topic (see above) of a piece. Try answering these questions when determining the theme:
• What is the author saying about the topic?
• What do you get from the topic as it was expressed in the story?
• What does the story invoke in you that you feel compelled to bring to the topic?
Want to dig deeper? Cool. Read Theme.


This isn’t a literary term, but a tool used to analyze literature. Here’s a link to a PDF that you may use for this type of analysis: SOAPSTone

Hero’s Journey

For the purposes of this class, we’re going to just get a brief introduction to the concept of the hero’s journey. Here’s a brief overview.