AP English Literature Vocabulary List Letters Q-Z
For Kids and Teachers
AP English Literature Vocabulary List Letters Q-Z
*Refrain: A line or set of lines
repeated several times over a course of a poem.
*Repetition: a sound, a word, a
phrase, a sentence, or a verse that is repeated.
*Requiem: A song of prayer for the
*Rhapsody: An intensely passionate
verse or section of verse, usually of love or praise.
*Rhetorical Question: A question
that suggests an answer. In theory, the effect of a rhetorical question is that
it causes the listener to feel she has come up with the answer herself. Well, we
can fight it out, or we can run-so are we cowards? For example, "Why are you so
stupid?" is likely to be a statement regarding one's opinion of the person
addressed rather than a genuine request to know. Similarly, when someone
responds to a tragic event by saying, "Why me, God?!" it is more likely to be an
accusation or an expression of feeling than a realistic request for
*Satire: This is an important term
for the AP test. ETS is fond of satirical writing, again because it lends itself
well to multiple-choice questions. Satire exposes common character flaws to the
cold light of humor. In general, satire attempts to improve things by pointing
out people’s mistakes in hope that once exposed, such behavior will become less
common. The great satirical subjects are hypocrisy, vanity, and greed,
especially where those all to common characteristics have become
institutionalized in society.
*Setting: the time and place of a
*Simile: see metaphor
*Soliloquy: A speech spoken by a
character alone on stage. A soliloquy is meant to convey the impression that the
audience is listening to the character’s thoughts. Unlike an aside, a soliloquy
is not meant to imply that the actor acknowledges the audience’s presence.
*Sophistry: Plausible but
fallacious argumentation. A plausible but misleading or fallacious argument.
*Stanza: A group of lines roughly
analogous in function in verse to the paragraph’s function in prose.
*Stock characters: Standard or
clichéd character types: the drunk, the miser, the foolish girl, etc.
*Stream of consciousness: see
point of view
*Subjective: see objectivity
*Subjunctive Mood: If I were you,
I’d learn this one! That’s a small joke because the grammatical situation
involves the words “if” and “were.” What you do is set up a hypothetical
situation, a kind of wishful thing: if I were you, if he were honest, if she
were rich. You can also get away from the person and into the “it”: I wish it
were true, would it were so (that even sounds like Shakespeare and poetry).
*Suggest: To imply, infer,
indicate. This is another one of those basic tools of literature. It goes along
with the concept of implicit. As the reader, you have to do all the work to pull
out the meaning.
*Summary: A simple retelling of
what you’ve just read. It’s mechanical, superficial, and a step beyond the
paraphrase in that it covers much more material and is more general. You can
summarize a whole chapter or a whole story, whereas you paraphrase word-by-word
and line-by-line. Summary includes all the facts.
*Suspension of disbelief: The
demand made of a theater audience to accept the limitations of staging and
supply the details with their imagination. Also, the acceptance on an audience’s
or reader’s part of the incidents of plot in a play or story. If there are too
many coincidences or improbable occurrences, the viewer/reader can no longer
suspend disbelief and subsequently loses interest.
*Syllogistic reasoning: taking two
statements, which are assumed to be true, (i.e. syllogisms) and evaluating a
conclusion (also a syllogism).
*Symbolism: A device in literature
where an object represents an idea.
*Synecdoche: (si-NECK-de-key). a
figure of speech in which a part stands for a whole, or vice versa. “lend me
your ears.” In other words, give me your attention. “All hands on decks” means
all people. There were some “new faces” at the meeting (new people).
*Synesthesia: When two (or more)
sensory details are combined. Example: Keren had a "prickly laugh" (touch,
sound). Will wore a "loud shirt" (sight, sound).
*Syntax: see diction
*Technique: The methods, the
tools, the “how-she-does-it” ways of the author. The elements are not
techniques. In poetry, onomatopoeia is a technique within the element of rhythm.
In drama, blocking is a technique, and lighting. Concrete details are not
techniques, but tone is. Main idea is not a technique, but opposition is.
*Theme: The main idea of the
overall work; the central idea. It is the topic of discourse or discussion.
*Thesis: The main position of an
argument. The central contention that will be supported.
*Tone: the writer's attitude
toward his or her audience and subject. A writer can be formal or informal,
sarcastic or bitter or playful. Often confused with mood.
*Tragic flaw: In a tragedy, this
is the weakness of character in an otherwise good (or even great) individual
that ultimately leads to his demise.
*Travesty: A grotesque parody
*Truism: A way-too obvious truth
*Unreliable narrator: see point of
*Utopia: An idealized place.
Imaginary communities in which people are able to live in happiness, prosperity,
and peace. Several works of fiction have been written about utopias.
*Zeugma: The use of a word to modify two or more words but used for different meanings. He closed the door and his heart on his lost love.