Literary Glossary: S

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Satire

A story or argument that brings folly to light through the use of sarcasm and wit.

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Setting

The location of a story’s action.

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Simile

A comparison of two seemingly dissimilar things using "like" or "as."

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Slave Narrative

An account of a slave’s experience, usually told as a memoir, biography, or oral history.

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Shakespeare

A prominent playwright and poet (1564-1616) generally considered to be one of the finest contributors to literature in the English language.

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Sonnet

Popularized by the 14th-century Italian poet Petrarch, who established the custom of presenting a problem, situation, or incident in the octave, followed by a resolution in the sestet. In Petrarch's work, these were usually problems, situations, and incidents arising from his love for the unattainable Laura. When English poets began imitating Petrarch's sonnets in the early 16th century, they continued this thematic focus on the pleasures and frustrations of love. But English poets eventually developed a more flexible sonnet form which could be divided into octave and sestet, in the manner of Petrarch, or into three quatrain-length variations on a theme followed by an epigrammatic couplet. More information about the Petrarchan and English sonnet forms (and other varients) is provided in "Poetic Form: Sonnet" via the EDSITEment-reviewed Academy of American Poets.

For practice with the two popular forms, use the EDSITEment Parts of a Sonnet worksheet to test your knowledge [PDF - Acrobat reader required].

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Stream-of-consciousness

A literary technique in which the character’s thoughts are revealed in a free-associative manner intended to replicate as closely as possibly the free range of an individual’s thought process.

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Symbol

An object or other entity used to represent or suggest something else that is either implicitly or explicitly associated with it. Symbols take the form of visual images, words, and gestures used to convey an idea or belief. All human cultures use symbols to express underlying ideals and structures.

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Symbolism

An offshoot of Romanticism that originated with a group of French poets in the late 19th century and spread across the arts. Formed as a reaction against Realism, Symbolism centered on individual emotional experience and a belief that truth could be obtained through the poet’s rendering of individually significant symbols in metaphorical language. Symbolist poets include Charles Baudelaire and are identified with the Decadent movement.

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