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34 votes
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What is the opposite of deus ex machina?

The terms Chekhov's gun and foreshadowing may fit the bill. In the above example, you could say the eventual solution of the problem had been foreshadowed throughout the story, or that it was set up ...
J. D. 's user avatar
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22 votes
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Was pretending to be an abridgement of a made-up work invented by William Goldman?

Much of J.R.R. Tolkien's work is presented as an abridgment/translation of the "original", usually in Elvish. Much of The Silmarillion is presented as a gloss of epic poems, some of which Tolkien ...
Joshua Engel's user avatar
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21 votes

Did Borges invent the idea of writing reviews/summaries of imaginary literary works?

No he did not! The process can be traced back at least to Thomas Carlyle, who in Sartor Resartus (1833–34) publishes a summary and a critique, à la Borges, of the fictional book Clothes, Their Origin ...
VicAche's user avatar
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19 votes

Is there a name for the literary device in the expression "Thanks, I hate it."?

The word “thanks” is not intended sincerely, so this is irony: irony, n. 1.a. The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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15 votes
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What is the "YOU LED THEM TO US??!!!" plot device called?

TV Tropes calls it a Trick-and-Follow Ploy Princess Leia: They let us go. It was the only reason for the ease of our escape. Han Solo: Easy? You call that easy? Princess Leia: They're tracking us. — ...
Pete's user avatar
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14 votes
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To what effect does Goldman claim The Princess Bride is an abridgement?

The abridgment is part of the overall frame story. The frame story is very different in the book than in the film. The book's frame story is very cynical. It's about the disillusionment of children ...
Joshua Engel's user avatar
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13 votes
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Are there earlier incidences than Merchant of Venice of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other?

Yes, the device of the good and the bad angel had definitely been used before, for example by Christopher Marlowe in The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus. Marlowe's plays are generally hard to date and ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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13 votes

Is there a name for the literary device in the expression "Thanks, I hate it."?

I'd say "sarcasm", rather than "irony", though perhaps the language has drifted since I was younger.
paul garrett's user avatar
10 votes
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Is alliteration adjacent words and/or close together words starting with the same letter? If words between are permitted then how many?

Dr. L. Kip Wheeler's glossary of literary terms defines alliteration as Repeating a consonant sound in close proximity to others, or beginning several words with the same vowel sound. The glossary ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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10 votes

What is the opposite of deus ex machina?

The closest literary term for this is most likely anagnorisis. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms by Chris Baldick (Second edition. Oxford University Press, 2001) defines the term as ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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10 votes

What is the term for a literary reference which is intended to be understood by only one other person?

Unless there's a more specific term that I'm not aware of, you might be thinking of shibboleth: A shibboleth is any custom or tradition, usually a choice of phrasing or even a single word, that ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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9 votes
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What is the narrative device that involves using inconsequential elements in the story?

I think what you are looking for is Literary Naturalism. This began as a reaction to the prevailing mode of Romanticism (and later aestheticism and Decadence) of the nineteenth-century period and was ...
Fabjaja's user avatar
  • 2,176
9 votes

Was Mark Twain actually almost a millionaire twice over, before he became famous?

He really did engage in silver mine prospecting while he lived in Nevada, though he wasn't one to really pick up a shovel and pick and do much actual work. Almost a millionaire twice. In the first ...
Jack B Nimble's user avatar
8 votes

Does "The Soul selects her own Society" by Emily Dickinson have a simile?

Taking the elements of style in turn: (A) Almost every concrete noun in the poem is used metaphorically, including door, chariots, gate, emperor, mat, nation, valve. (B) You are right that “I’ve known ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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7 votes

What effect does an epistolary format have on our understanding of the book as a reader?

Epistolary novels should help increase reader identification with the writer-protagonists. The format shifts our sense of the weight of the "invisible hand of the author" from the words being written ...
russ ull's user avatar
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7 votes
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Name of this lyrical device comparing oneself to something that's described by the same word, but in another sense of the word?

That rhetorical device is called zeugma. Merriam-Webster defines zeugma as follows: the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a ...
verbose's user avatar
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6 votes
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Did Borges invent the idea of writing reviews/summaries of imaginary literary works?

Sartor Resartus was written in 1836. There are examples of earlier imaginaries dating back to John Donne and Rabelais. Donne's The Courtier's Library (1650), is a catalogue of 34 apocryphal works ...
DJohnson's user avatar
  • 406
6 votes

Are photographs in Harry Potter a device for characterizing subjects?

In Chamber of Secrets (p. 106) we read as follows: Harry looked bemusedly at the photograph Colin was brandishing under his nose. A moving, black-and-white Lockhart was tugging on an arm ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 3,439
6 votes

The name of a device by which an author reports the use of coarse language without quoting it?

In TV Tropes terms, this is called the Narrative Profanity Filter. So, you're writing a book, and one of your characters, for whatever reason, has to swear. Not a problem - unless your intended ...
Kitkat's user avatar
  • 794
6 votes

What figure of speech is "transient feet" in "A Photograph" by Shirley Toulson?

There are a few ways to read this phrase: The feet are transient because the girls did not stay on the beach for long: the holiday came to an end and they went home and back to school. (This is the ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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6 votes

What is the "YOU LED THEM TO US??!!!" plot device called?

I don't think there is a "real" name for that, except the one mentioned by another answer, which is that web site's name for it. While that's ok, and a great example, I wouldn't have ...
Dronz's user avatar
  • 161
5 votes
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What's the name of the literary device used by Sheymov to refer to himself in 3rd person?

This is simply known as third-person narration. This technique is far from new. A notable user of third-person narration was Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico / Commentaries on the ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
  • 45.6k
5 votes

Why the capitalization of "Heavens" in Rudyard Kipling's "The Secret of the Machines"?

This poem seems to have two meanings here, a literal one and a metaphorical one. Let's look at the last eight lines: We are greater than the Peoples or the Kings—    Be humble, as ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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5 votes
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What is the "uncanny" element of Gothic Literature?

I'm going to use a character well-known in the gothic for this answer: Dracula. Count Dracula is uncanny because he reminds us of a human, yet something is amiss in his appearance. He is ...
Hui Wong's user avatar
  • 116
5 votes

Term for intentionally impressing different meanings on different audiences

It is unlikely there is such a term. The twentieth century has produced various theories about readers' responses to literary works and what I have read about them does not seem to suggest that ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
  • 45.6k
5 votes

Why are some metaphors not similes?

According to dictionaries of literary terms, both similes and metaphors are figures of speech, but similes are usually not considered a subset of metaphors. The difference is that similes make an ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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5 votes
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What form of figurative language is this in Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"?

The text also includes the explanation. Spirits always addressed humans as ‘bodies’. From this my interpretation is that the language is intended to be literal, underlining the difference between ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
5 votes

Is there a word for the device where an adjective or descriptive verb is applied to a nearby word rather than the word it actually describes?

An exchange of the relationship between words or phrases is known as hypallage. hypallage, n. A figure of speech in which there is an interchange of two elements of a proposition, the natural ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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