allusion - a brief reference, either explicit or indirect, to a person, place or event from real life/history, or to other literature which may occur in any part of a literary work. Common allusions in literature are biblical, mythological, cultural or popular. The Rolling Stones album Through a Glass, Darkly and Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There are both allusions to the verse from I Corinthians (13:12) in the New Testament of the Bible: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.”
alliteration - the repetition of same sound at the beginning of words in close succession (e.g., "the blazing brightness of her beauties beam")
ambiguity - use of a word or expression or idea to signify two or more things and/or to express two or more diverse and even contradictory attitudes/feelings at the same time. For instance, the ending of short story may be ambiguous (i.e., the reader is not sure whether a character dies or not).
analogy - an extended comparison based on a partial resemblance between two different things. For example, a writer might make a comparison between a nation and a beehive, and then go on to explain the workings of the nation with reference to aspects of a beehive.
anaphora and epistrophe - anaphora is the repetition of a word or group of words at the beginning of successive sentences/clauses/lines. Epistrophe occurs when each sentence/clause/line ends with the same word.
apostrophe - addressing an absent or dead person, a thing, or an abstract idea as if it were alive or present (e.g., “Oh, love, where have you gone?”).
assonance - the close repetition of identical-sounding vowel sounds, especially in stressed syllables (e.g, "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure dome decree")
atmosphere - also referred to as mood, it is the prevailing or dominant feeling of a work, scene or event. It may establish a feeling that it sets up readers' expectations as to what will happen in the text. The opening scene of Macbeth, for instance, in which there are three witches on centre stage, sets a mood of doom and evil which hangs over the rest of the play.
black comedy - humorous treatment of horrific, shocking and macabre subjects.
carpe diem - in Latin this means “Seize the day.” This is a common motif which enjoins full enjoyment of the present time (e.g., “eat, drink and be merry”).
conceit - a complex metaphor which is usually part of a larger pattern of imagery that combines objects and concepts in unconventional ways. It may incorporate several other different literary devices as well (see John Donne’s compass conceit in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”). A metaphysical conceit is a typically conceit found in metaphysical poetry—chiefly the work of Donne, Carew, George Herbert, Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, Marvell, Cleveland or Cowley in 17th century Britain)—which shows a preoccupation with metaphysical (i.e., philosophical) imagery and ideas, particularly with analogies between macrocosm and microcosm.
consonance - close repetition of identical consonant sounds which occur after different vowel sounds (e.g., “I heard a creak and the track broke”).
denotation and connotation - the denotation of a word is the thing to which the word specifically (the dictionary definition of a word); its connotations of a word consist of the associated meanings it implies or suggests. For example, a home denotes the place where one lives, but a home also connotes shelter, food, family, comfort, privacy, etc.
diction - refers to the selection of words, the vocabulary used in a text.
didactic - any work of literature which teaches or instructs is called didactic (i.e., a didactic poem).
dramatic monologue - a single person speaking alone, with or without an audience. In theatre,…