AP English Literature Vocabulary List Letters D-F

 *Decorum: In order to observe decorum, a character’s speech must be styled according to her social station, and in accordance with the occasion. A bum should speak like a bum about bumly things, while a princess should speak only about higher topics (and in a delicate manner). In Neoclassical and Victorian literature the authors observe decorum, meaning they did not write about the indecorous. The bum wouldn’t even appear in this genre of literature. 

*Diction,syntax: The author’s choice of word. Whether to use wept or cried is a question of diction. Syntax refers to the ordering and structuring. Whether to say, The pizza was smothered in cheese and pepperoni. I devoured it greedily, or Greedily, I devoured the cheese and pepperoni smothered pizza, is a question of syntax. 

*Dirge: This is a song for the dead. Its tone is typically slow, heavy, depressed, and melancholy. 

*Dissonance: This refers to the grating of incompatible sounds. 

*Doggerel: Crude, simplistic verse, often in sing-song rhyme. Limericks are a kind of doggerel. 

*Double entendre: An expression or term liable to more than one interpretation: ambiguity, equivocality, equivocation.  Example:  "Beards, they grow on you." 

*Dramatic Irony: When the audience knows something that the characters in the drama do not. 

*Dramatic Monologue: When a single speaker in literature says something to a silent audience. 

*Dynamic character:  one who changes his/her beliefs, values, opinions in a story.  A static character's beliefs stay the same. 

*Elegy: A type of poem that meditates on death or mortality in a serious, thoughtful manner. Elegies often use the recent death of a noted person or loved one as a starting point. They also memorialize specific dead people. 

*Ellipsis:  the omission of a word or words understood in the context.  Example: If possible for if it is possible. 

*Enjambment: The continuation of a syntactic unit from one line or couplet of a poem to the next with no pause. 

*Epic: In a broad sense, an epic is simply a very long narrative poem on a serious theme in a dignified style. Epics typically deal with glorious or profound subject matter: a great war, a heroic journey, the fall of a man from Eden, a battle with supernatural forces, a trip to the underworld, etc. The mock-epic is a parody form that deals with mundane events and ironically treats them as worthy of epic poetry. 

*Epitaph: Lines that commemorate the dead at their burial place. An epitaph is usually a line or handful of lines, often serious or religious, but sometimes witty and even irreverent. 

*Equivocation: The same word is used with two different meanings. The sign said "fine for parking here," and since it was fine, I parked there. 

*Euphemism: A word or phrase that takes the place of a harsh, unpleasant, or impolite reality. The use of passed away for died, and let go for fired are two examples of euphemisms. 

*Euphony: When sounds blend harmoniously, the result in euphony. 

*Explicit: To say or write something directly and clearly (this is a rare happening in literature since the whole game is to be “implicit,” that, to suggest and imply). 

*Farce: Today we use this word to refer to extremely broad humor. Writers of earlier times used farce as a more neutral term, meaning simply a funny play; a comedy. (And you should know that for writers of centuries past, comedy was the generic term for any play; it did not imply humor.) 

*Feminine rhyme: Lines rhymed by their final two syllables. A pair of lines ending with running and gunning would be an example of feminine rhyme. Properly, in a feminine rhyme (and not simply a double rhyme) the penultimate syllables are stressed and the final syllables are unstressed. 

*First person narrator: See point of view . 

*Flashback: a section of a literary work that interrupts the sequence of events to relate an event from an earlier time. 

*Foil: A secondary character whose purpose is to highlight the characteristics of a main character, usually by contrast. For example, an author will often give a cynical, quick-witted character a docile, naďve, sweet-tempered friend to serve as a foil. 

*Foreshadowing: An event or statement in a narrative that in miniature suggests a larger event that comes later. 

*Free verse: Poetry written without a regular rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. 

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