Definition: Literary terms are technical devices used both in Prose and Poetry by an author or by the poet when appreciating works of art in order to communicate their thoughts and feelings to the reader, so as to enhance the readers understanding of the theme arid form of a piece of writing. There is a need for you to know them and they are treated below.


1. Stanza: In poetry, we have what is called stanza. A poem is usually written in divisions known as stanzas.

(i) Manometer – a line stanza

(ii) Couplet – a two-line stanza

(iii) Triplet – a three-line stanza

(iv) Quatrain – a four-line stanza

(v) Quintet – a five-line stanza

(vi) Sestet – a six-line stanza

(vii) Septet – a seven-line stanza

(viii) Octave – an eight-line stanza

2. Rhythm: This is the precise flow of metrical movement between sound and events. It most essentially synchronizes with Sound and through a good rhythmic pattern; a song- like effect is usually achieved.

3. Mood/Tone: This is the state of mind of the author when making his composition. It reflects the feeling of the writer which the reader cannot feel except through the words of the work.

4. Rhyme: This is correspondence in sound on word-endings, usually at the end of poetry lines. Rhyme is much of a poetic device whereby the final sound of words is similar. Example: He stumbled through the gate when I was having my date.

5. Enjambment: This is also known as run-on-lines. st occurs in poetry with the idea in a line running into another as a single line and may not complete the message until the next one.

6. Imagery: In the literary sense, it means the collection of images within a literary work or a unity of a literary work. Imagery in Literature could be based upon the physical world, upon the psychological state of the setting in which the work is produced and thus presenting pregnant work heavy-laden with meanings.

7. Allegory: This is an extended metaphor in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, either in prose or verse, are equated with meanings that lie outside the narrative itself.

8. Satire: Satire is a term used for a literary manner, blending a critical attitude with humour and wit for the purpose of improving human institutions or humanity

9. Rhetoric: This is the act of using words persuasively in speech and writing. It involves a manner in which the listener would be persuaded to respond in the way the speaker wants.

10. Rhetorical Question: As in the one above, rhetorical question is a leading question whereby the questioner subtly presents his question as if expecting to get the anticipated response.

11. Flashback: This is a narrative technique used by a novelist or a playwright to present in a recounting manner an event in the life of a particular character.

12. Dilemma: This is a situation whereby a person is faced with two dangerous situations between which he has to choose.

13. Humour: This is a way of presenting events in a way to induce laughter. It could be satirical or witty.

14. Fable: This is a short story (tale), told to teach a moral lesson. It is often told with animal representation of human beings.

15. Repetition: We use repetition as a style whereby for the purposes of emphasis and making impression, we repeat certain words or phrases. Example is Dennis Brutus’ poem titled “Sleep Well, My Love, Sleep Well”.

16. Metre: Metre occurs when a person’s voice goes up or down at regular intervals in pronunciation of a word

17. Atmosphere: This, is the prevailing mood, feelings and thought, of actions of people in a story. The feelings that stories or poems evoke in our hearts form the atmosphere of a work.

18. Elegy/Dirge: This is a song of sorrow, mourning. It is a song that mournfully celebrates an event like the death of a relation. An example is the “Songs of Sorrow by Kofi Awoonor.

19. Ballad: This is a sort of poem often handed down from generation to generation. This means that its largest part is preserved through memory. It has themes celebrating legends and great village heroes.

20. Didactic Poem: Just as its name suggests, a didactic poem is one that seeks to teach or instruct people on the essence of morality.

21. Epic: This is a long poem narrating the heroic deeds of a people or of some great men.

22. Ode: This is a poem written or spoken like a direct address to an object or to a person not present as if he were present. Sonnet: A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines. The fourteen lines could be divided into either six lines on top, eight lines below or four lines each in three places and the remaining two lines succeeding.

23. Setting: This is the physical periodic background in which a particular work of Literature is written.

24. Lyric: This is derived from the Greek word “Lyrikos” which means a poem to be sung on lyre.

25. Diction: This is the vocabulary, language, or choice of words of an author. It is the manner of expressing one’s ideas using words

26. Character and Characterization: A character means a participant in any work of art.

27. Plot: fl s the arrangement of events in a work of Art. It simply indicates the sequential manner in which one event leads to another.

28. Theme: This is the pre-occupation of the writer. It simply reveals what the writer had in mind before picking his or her pen to write.

29. Prologue/Epilogue: Prologue is a preface to a work of Art. It is the introductory speech made at the beginning of a text. Epilogue: This is the direct opposite of prologue. It is the speech made at the end of the play. It may also be the summary of the main action or a concluding section of a literary piece.

30. Syllable: This refers to a unit of sound. For example, the word to’ has a unit of sound when we pronounce it. It begins with letter ‘t’ and stops at letter ‘o’. Likewise the word ‘educate’. It can be syllabified into three as “e/du/cate”.

31. Allusion: This is a reference to something outside the immediate scope of what is being presented. It may be reference to characters, events in history, mythology and works of Literature.

32. Romance: This is a story written either in verse or prose about wild and improbable adventures. The story could also be about nature. Example is Gulliver’s Travels.

33. Verse: This is a metrical composition of a song or lines of poetry.

34. Rhyme Scheme: This is a pattern generally produced at the end of lines of poetry when a poet uses rhyme. Example: I consider how my life was spent — a In this dark world and wide — b The rhyme scheme of the above poem is ab


Literature has three major facets namely: prose, poetry and drama. These facets are often referred to as literary genres, categories or divisions.

Genre: Is a term used in literary criticism to designate the distinct categories into which literary works are grouped according to form or technique, or sometimes subject matter.



This term applies to all forms of written or spoken expression which do not have a regular rhythmic pattern. Prose is divided into FICTION and NONFICTION.

1. Fiction: This is the term used for narrative writing drawn from the imagination of the author rather than from history or fact. The term is mostly frequently associated with novels and stories, though drama and narrative poetry are also forms of fiction.

Examples of fiction are:

(i) Novel

(ii) Novelette

(iii) Epistolary Novel

(iv) Emotive Prose

(v) Scientific Prose

2. Non-fiction: This is the opposite of fiction. It deals with the true experiences and happenings. Non-fiction means prose writings that deal with facts. Examples of non-fictional prose are:

(i) Autobiography: This is the story of a person’s life as written by the person. Examples of autobiography are:

(a) My Early Life by Obafemi Awolowo

(b) Zambia Shall Be Free by Kenneth Kaunda

(c) My Odyssey by Nnamdi Azikiwe

(ii) Biography: This is a written account of a person’s life written by another person. For example, if A wrote a book about B’s life, such a book by A is a biography. Examples of biography are:

(a) Life and Death of Lenin by Robert Paine

(b) The Prince of the Niger by Chidi Amuta



(a) Epistolary Narrative Method

(b) Autobiographical Narrative Method

(C) Omniscient Narrative Method

(d) Stream of Consciousness Narrative Method

(e) Flashback Narrative Method

(f) Dialogue

(g) Assorted Narrative Method



Poetry has to do with the act of poem writing. Poem can be described as a literary composition characterized by the presence of imagination, emotion, truth, sense of impression and concrete language expressed rhythmically and with an orderly arrangement of parts and possessing within itself a unity.


(i) Lyrical poems

(ii) Narrative poems

(iii) Ballad

(iv) Epic

(v) Ode

(vi) Elegy/Dirge

(vii) Lullaby

(viii) Idyll

(ix) Pastoral

(x) Dramatic poetry

(xi) Sonnet

(xii) Epitaph



(i) Mood

(ii) Refrain

(iii) Poetic licence

(iv) Theme

(v) Prosody



According to Aristotle, drama is imitated human action. There are three necessary elements of drama viz.

(a) a story (b) told in action (C) by actors who impersonate the character of the story.



(i) Stage

(ii) Dialogue

(iii) Scripting

(iv) Audience

(v) Protagonist or hero/heroine

(vi) Mime

(vii) Costume

(viii) Antagonist

(ix) Playwright

(x) Conflict

(xi) Catharsis ‘.

(xii) Flaw



(i) TRAGEDY: This is a serious play with a sad ending. An example is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

(ii) COMEDY: This type of play aims at provoking smiles and laughter.

(iii) TRAGICOMEDY: This is a play which employs a plot suitable to tragedy but which ends happily like a comedy.

(iv) FARCE: This is a play provoking excessive laughter or in other words funny play for the theatre based on unlikely situations.

(v) BURLESQUE: This is a form of comedy characterized by ridiculous exaggeration.



What is Appreciation? Appreciation is a conscious attempt to read and understand a literary work and find out whether it is good or bad. The opposite of appreciation is criticism. Criticism is a noun form of the verb criticise’ which is an act of fault-finding.

Purpose of Appreciation: The purpose of appreciating work of Art is to enter the world of a literary artist successfully to integrate and involve oneself in his thought or feelings and to be able to read his mind impartially as presented in his work so as to understand and arrive at a just assessment or better evaluation of his work.

Three basic questions usually come into focus when a piece of literary work is to be appreciated. These are:

(i) What is the writer telling the reader? (Theme)

(ii) How is the writer expressing himself or herself? (Style)

(iii) What is the relationship between the subject matter and style?

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