Glossary of Literary Terms

Here are some terms that you might come across in your reading. The definitions given below are not meant to be exhaustive. Indeed, whole books have been written to explain some of these terms, such as archetypeherorealism, and symbolism. These notes are meant to provide basic definitions of frequently used literary terms; I hope these definitions will establish common ground for book discussions. Most of the examples given are works reviewed on this Web site.


Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, 4th ed., ed. Bruce Murphy (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 1996).

DeAndrea, William L. Encyclopedia Mysteriosa: A Comprehensive Guide to the Art of Detection in Print, Film, Radio, and Television (N.Y.: Prentice Hall, 1994).

Harmon, William and C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall., 1996).

The New York Public Library Literature Companion [abbreviated NYPL], ed. Anne Skillion (N.Y.: Free Press, 2001).

All material on these pages is © as indicated by Mary Daniels Brown