Guide to Literary Terms Introduction


How to Use This Guide
This guide is intended to help you absorb the essential terms and devices used by writers and poets in their works. By understanding these literary terms, you will gain a more thorough understanding of the work you are reading.

This guide has been designed to guide you to the terms you are looking for quickly and effectively. The use of this study guide will save you hours of preparation time that would ordinarily be required to arrive at a complete grasp of a work of literature.

For best results, this guide should be used as a companion when studying a work of literature. By identifying and understanding the literary devices used by authors, your performance on exams, homework, and in classroom discussions will improve greatly.

About This Guide
The entries are presented in alphabetical order. Each entry includes a definition; a history of the term’s usage and its origin; an example of the term’s use (if applicable); and specific references to texts in which the term has been used (if applicable).

Finally, a bibliography can be found at the end of the guide to point you in the right direction for any further study you may need.

The eNotes Guide to Literary Terms provides insightful explanations, examples, and references to any literary term you may encounter. Using this guide will dramatically raise your classroom and reading performance!

Example of an Entry
Oxymoron - a figure of speech in which two contradictory words or phrases are combined to produce a rhetorical effect by means of a concise paradox.

The term comes from the Greek oxumoros, meaning “pointedly foolish,” which was formed by combining oxus, meaning “sharp,” and moros, meaning “foolish.”

An example is the word sophomore, which is a combination of two Greek words: “sophos,” which means wise, and “moros,” which means foolish.

The use of oxymoron is a common poetic device. In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 142, the speaker declares:
“Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate.”

see: antithesis, paradox