GRE Literature in English Subject Test: Literary Terms & Verse Forms Flashcards

Terms Definitions
Buskin
Symbol of tragedy
Socks
Symbol of comedy
What's poetic inversion?
Exactly what it sounds like: inverting the customary order of words in poetry. i.e. putting an adjective that would usually go before a noun after it or the sake of rhyme or rhythm
What's the rhyme scheme of a ballad stanza?
abcb
What are heroic couplets?
Heroic couplets have an aabbcc rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter. Note that the name does not refer to the content of a poem, just the aabbcc rhyme scheme.
Which is written in heroic couplets?

A. "So passed thon, nor shunned the light
Of God or angel, for they thought no ill: So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair
That ever since in love's embraces met,
Adam the goodliest of good men since bo
C. It doesn't matter how heroic a poem is or what a poem's about. Heroic couplets have an aabbcc rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter. That's all the name means.
What is a tercet? What is a pair of tercets? What is a sestet? What kind of sonnet would this be in?
A tercet is exactly what is sounds like: a group of three lines. Both "a pair of tercets" and a "sestet" = a group of six lines. A rhyming pair of tercets goes: abc abc. If you see a sonnet that ends with a sestet, it will usually be an Italian (aka Petrarchan) sonnet.
What is rhyme royal?
A regularly rhymed 7-line stanza that goes: ababbcc.
What is ottava rima?
An 8-line stanza that goes: abababcc.
In Memoriam
Four lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming: abba. This is what Tennyson used in "In Memoriam A.H.H."
Spenserian Verse
9 line stanza Spencer created for "The Faerie Queene." The first 8 lines are iambic pentameter, the 9th, in iambicc hexameter, is an alexandrine. The rhyme scheme is interlocking and goes: ababbcbcc
Blank verse
Unrhymed verse in iambic pentameter.
Free verse
Unrhymed verse without a strict meter
Old English verse
Verse characterized by alliteration in each line and a mid-line pause called a caesura
What's a sonnet?
A 14 line poem in some kind of rhyming iambic pentameter
Italian Sonnet
14 line poem rhyming: abbaabba cdecde. The first 8 lines are called "the octave" and the last 6 lines are called "the sestet." Also known at the Petrachan Sonnet.
Petrachan Sonnet
14 line poem rhyming: abbaabba cdecde. The first 8 lines are called "the octave" and the last 6 lines are called "the sestet." Also known at an Italian Sonnet.
English Sonnet
Same as the Shakespearean Sonnet. 14 line poem that goes: abab cdcd efef gg.
Shakespearean Sonnet
Same as the English Sonnet.14 line poem that goes: abab cdcd efef gg.
Spenserian Sonnet
14 line poem that goes: abab bcbc cdcd ee.
Villanelle
19 line poem that goes: aba aba aba aba aba abaa. When you see the first and third lines rhyming repetitively, you have a villanelle
Sestina
39 line poem made up of six stanzas that have six lines each and then one last stanza made up three lines (called the "envoi"). One of six words is used as the end word of each of the poem's lines according to a fixed pattern. There is no rhyme scheme. If you see a poem made up of six-line stanzas, no rhyme scheme, and repeating words, you have a sestina.
Pastoral Elegy
A lament for the dead sung by a shepherd. The shepherd represents the poet, and the lament is usually sung for another poet who has died. Notable examples: Milton's Lycidas and Shelley's Adonais.
Pathetic Fallacy
Coined by John Ruskin. Refers to ascribing emotion or agency to inanimate objects. Ruskin's favorite example is "the cruel crawling foam." AKA personification
Picaresque
An episodic novel featuring a series of loosely connected adventures. Think: Huck Finn. Moll Flanders, by Defoe, is a rare example of a female picaresque.
Skeltonics
Humorous poetry that uses very short rhymed lines and a pronounced rhythm, made popular by John Skelton. The only difference between a skeltonic and a doggerel is the quality o thought expressed.
Sprung Rhythm
The rhythm created and used in the 19th century by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Like Old English Verse, sprung rhythm fits a varying number of unstressed syllables in a line--only the stresses count in scansion
Synaesthesia
Refers to phrases that suggest an interplay of the senses. "Hot pink" and "golden tones" for example.
Synecdoche/Metonymy
Using part of something (usually the most important part) to represent the whole. "All hands on deck," "If you're such a brain, why can't you figure it out?" "Let's get out of here before we get the chair."
Masculine Rhyme
A rhyme ending on the final stressed syllable, aka regular old rhyme
Feminine Rhyme
Lines rhymed by their final two syllables. A pair of lines ending "running" and "gunning" would be an example of feminine rhyme. The next to last syllable is stressed and the last syllable is unstressed.
Flat vs. Round Characters
E.M. Forester coined these words to describe characters built around a single dominant trait vs. those shaded and developed with greater psychological complexity
Georgic
A term derived from Virgil's "Georgics." A poem about the virtues of the farming life.
Hamartia
Aristotle's term for what is popularly known as "the tragic flaw." Hamartia implies fate, though.
Homeric Epithet
A repeated descriptive phrase, as found in Homer's epics. When he repeatedly calls the ocean "the wine-dark sea" and Odysseus "the ever-resourceful Odysseus." Think: Dickens and the way he always latches on to one characteristic to remind the reader who he's talking about, even when he doesn't give the person's name.
Hudibrastic
Name comes from Samual Butler's "Hudibras." Refers to any deliberate, humorous, ill-rhymed, ill-rythmed couplets. Butler had a genius for "bad" poetry.
Litotes
Understatement, using double negatives.
Caesura
The long pause in Old English poetry
Bildungsroman
Coming of age story, "a novel of education" literally in German.
Alexandrine
Iambic hexameter. The last line of a Spenserian stanza.
Apostrophe
A speech addressed to someone who's dead or isn't there, or to no one.
Decorum
One of the neo-classical principles of drama. The relation of style to content in the speech of dramatic characters. A character's speech should be appropriate to his or her social station.
Epithalamium
A work, especially a poem, written to celebrate a wedding. Spenser's Epithalamium is a notable example.
Euphuism
Comes from Lyly's "Euphues" (1580). Describes writing that is self-consciously laden with elaborate figures of speech. This was a popular and influential mode of speech and writing in the late 16th century.
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