Literary technique

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A literary technique, literary method, literary device, or literary motif is an identifiable rule of thumb, convention or structure that is employed in literature and storytelling.[citation needed] setting and theme. "Literary techniques" is a catch-all term that may be distinguished from the term "Devices".



The term "literary techniques" refers to specific aspects of literature, in the sense of its universal function as an art form that expresses ideas through language, which we can recognize, identify, interpret and analyze. Literary techniques collectively comprise the art form’s components - the means authors use to create meaning through language, and that readers use to understand and appreciate their works. They also provide a conceptual framework for comparing individual literary works to others, within and across genres.

"Literary techniques" is a catch-all term that may be distinguished from the term "devices". Literary techniques are literary moves a writer might make that are defined not so much by functional or descriptive actions as by imitation and repeated use by many authors at times. Instances of literary techniques tend to be harder to identify than instances of devices, and identification of techniques tends to be more dependent upon citing literary precedent; nevertheless, there is considerable overlap between the territory of devices and techniques. Irony, for example, challenges the distinction between a device and a technique because it refers to a handful of more-or-less easily identifiable literary actions, but also describes a recognizable but elusively complex attitude toward the subject of a whole or a part of a work of literature. It is debatable whether literary techniques or literary devices is the larger category.

The term "literary elements" is partly analogous to these two terms; but it tends to be invoked to describe the most universal literary techniques or devices—those that least mark out the work as an example of a particular, recognizable tradition or literary lineage. Genres are defined by literary elements, schools of literature are defined by literary techniques. Literary devices are not determinate of either of these categories, although certain devices predominate traditionally in, e.g., tragedy vs. comedy. Noted works of literature often result when an author successfully takes on the challenge of using a specific literary device or technique in a type of work where, historically, it has been uncommon.

Annotated list of literary techniques

Note: In the context of a play, literary devices are referred to as dramatic devices.

See also

See also figure of speech (such as alliteration, simile, metaphor, metonymy), that is a use of words or phrases that departs from straightforward, literal language. Figures of speech are often used and crafted for emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use. Many poems, short stories, and novels use figures of speech.

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