A Useful Glossary of Literary Terms


An incomplete but workable glossary for anyone pursuing an interest in literature:

Adventure novel: A novel where exciting events are more important than character development and sometimes theme. Examples: Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo and Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel

Allegory: A fictional work in which a narrative carries a secondary, symbolic or metaphorical meaning. Good examples of fully allegorical works are George Orwell’s Animal Farm or Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. Many works contain allegories or are allegorical in part, but not many are completely allegorical.

Apologue: A moral fable, usually featuring personified animals or inanimate objects which act like people to allow the author to comment on the human condition -for example, Aesop’s fables, or Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Autobiographical novel: A novel based on the author's own life. Many novelists include in their books people and events from their own lives because remembrance is easier than creation from scratch. For example, James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Blank Verse: Unrhymed iambic pentameter.

Caesura: A pause, metrical or rhetorical, occurring somewhere in a line of poetry. The pause may or may not be indicated.

Christian novel: A novel either explicitly or implicitly informed by Christian faith and often containing a plot revolving around the Christian life, evangelism, or conversion stories, with plots that are directly religious, or sometimes allegorical or symbolic. For example, Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis, C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra or G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who was Thursday.

Coming-of-age story: A novel in which the protagonist is initiated into adulthood through knowledge, experience, or both, usually through a loss of innocence. For example, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.