Exploring the patterns created by the formal elements of literature—alliteration, image, tone, and metaphor, for example—helps us to understand more deeply a text’s meaning and the nuances that enrich that meaning. This kind of formal close reading of the text is fundamental to any analysis of literature.

For definitions of literary elements, click on one of the choices on the left. There are interactive exercises following each description, as well as examples of how each element functions in the context of a poem.

Contributing author: Quentin Miller, Suffolk University

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