Lit Terms In Modern Media

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Aug
  • 05
  • 2008

I’ve been thinking about this page for quite a while, but I really only had two or three terms to post with links. Once I sat down to write this, though, I found a few others (Updated 10.19.08).

This list provides examples of literary terms, primarily in videos and images, though there are a few written texts here for now. Page updates will happen. Hopefully this helps define, work with, teach, and learn these terms.

If I’ve posted your content here, please don’t sue me! To download: Left click on “D/L” and select “Save As…” to download a copy to your computer so you can use these files when you’re not connected to the internet.

  1. allegory – none
  2. alliteration – The Office: “People Person’s Paper People” [D/L]
  3. allusion – Roommate Confessions: LOTF
  4. anachronism – Bearskinrug: Pharaoh and Caesar
  5. analogy – Radiohead: All I Need [D/L]
  6. antagonist – Something from Jake And Amir Dot Com, but it’s tough to find one appropriate for classroom use (could be used for “foil” as well)
  7. archetype – Miss Teen USA: Miss South Carolina [D/L], Barats and Bereta: Mother’s Day [D/L]
  8. climax – Does-Nothing-o-Matic (an anti example!)
  9. conflict – Igor trailer, Why you should never drive and text
  10. connotation – Fairly Reliable Bob’s (maybe)
  11. denotation – Fool’s Gold as a “tedious” movie (maybe)
  12. dynamic character – Living My Life Faster, 9 months of gestation (I’m waiting for one of these where the person doesn’t change at all to add to “static character”)
  13. flashback – none (I’m thinking of Lost as food for a video clip of this)
  14. foreshadowing – none
  15. hyperbole – Jake And Amir: Elevator [edited for the classroom: D/L]
  16. irony – Human Giant: Camping Weekend [D/L], Foresight
  17. metaphor – Mac vs. PC – Home Movie, Ellen Page Hitler PSA
  18. mood – VW Night Drive [D/L], The Strangers trailer, “More” [D/L], Saturn Outlook commercial (anything by David Lynch or any instrumental by Nine Inch Nails would work well here, too)
  19. onomatopoeia – Batman opening credits or fight scene
  20. parody – Obama as celebrity: Paris Hilton parody (you may want to edit her one curse word), Talk to your parents about voting McCain (I can’t find one of the original commercials on talking to your kids about drugs, can you?)
  21. personification – Comcast: Stop Worrying About Time [D/L], Epuron: His Potential Is Ours [D/L], CMS FOREX currency battle
  22. protagonist – Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay trailer, WALL•E trailer
  23. pun – Comcast: Stupid Fast (only because I couldn’t find the El Moolah one) [D/L]
  24. satire – Shards O Glass Freeze Pops [D/L]
  25. simile – Think Before You Post (posting online is like putting something on a bulletin board at school — pretty weak)
  26. soliloquy – none (Stewie Griffin gives a ton of these on Family Guy, so I hope to find a clip)
  27. static character – none (I haven’t seen it enough, but would Talladega Nights work? Isn’t Ricky Bobby static?)
  28. symbol – none
  29. theme – none
  30. tone – (see “mood”)
  31. understatement – “…only rolled once…”, Ben Stein: Clear Eyes

Update: 08.08.08 – added videos for “parody”
Update: 08.11.08 – added image for “irony”
Update: 09.19.08 – added videos for “onomatopoeia” and “dynamic character”
Update: 10.19.08 – added videos for “mood,” “parody,” and “personification”
Update: 04.12.09 – added videos for “metaphor” and “understatement” (thanks, Ms. Chow)

Other Resources


1. Kate says:

[8/8/2008 - 4:56 am]

Nice work! This is the only thing I’ve ever seen that made me want to teach English.

For “flashback”, I would think it would be relatively easy to find a good clip from “How I Met Your Mother” (they do them all the time).

2. Christian Long says:

[8/8/2008 - 11:14 am]

Followed the breadcrumb trail from over at the the dy/dan end of the forest. Gotta say that this single post of yours has me eager to read everything you’ve written.

As a fellow HS English teacher, I’m definitely going to be picking daisies for my kiddos from your field of literary/editing ideas. Brilliant stuff, to say the least. Makes me want to shut my own blog down and just redirect everyone over here.

Love to grab some time with you on the phone or via Skype to pick your brain a bit. Let me know if that’s kosher with you. In the meantime, thanks for your list and the instincts that it nudges out into the open for all of us.

Good stuff. Cheers, C

3. Todd says:

[8/8/2008 - 3:19 pm]

Christian, whenever you want, drop me a line. We’ll exchange numbers and I’d love to chat about the possibilities and ideas we have. That’s the inspiration that keeps me going. You too, I’ve gathered (I’ve been reading your blog for a while now).

Kate, that is the comment I could only hope for! Thank you. I’ll look into HIMYM. Any other suggestions? Can you think of mathematical concepts displayed in modern media?

4. Kate says:

[8/9/2008 - 4:22 am]

Hm, for parody, I think I’d show anything by Stephen Colbert.

Interesting you ask about math…when I show video clips in class, they tend to be very literal. Tom Hanks calculating the search area (of a circle) in Survivor. The Mad Hatter and Dormouse explaining that a statement and its converse are not logically equivalent. But your post is making me wonder how much better I could do if I sat down with an Algebra 1 glossary, YouTube, and a great slab of time. I’ll certainly post the results when I do.

5. Nate Stearns says:

[8/9/2008 - 1:32 pm]

Um…wow! That’s a great list. I haven’t had time to go through them, but I love it when other people do the work for me.

I was thinking this video ( from American Beauty might work for symbol.

If you’re interested in doing some joint English class to English class work, email me.

6. Kate says:

[8/11/2008 - 12:37 pm]

Hi – Your trackback link does not seem to be working properly, just wanted to point you to my version of a list for math, in progress.

7. Todd says:

[8/11/2008 - 3:55 pm]

I’m completely excited that you’ve started to piece together your own list because of what I did here, Kate. It’s looking good, too! I’ll keep an eye on it and see how it grows this year.

Weird about the trackbacking; usually, if you simply include a link to my blog, I’ll get a trackback but I haven’t been getting them the last few links. Oh well.

Nate, expect an email soon (or just hit me up yourself). It’s always nice to have possibilities.

8. Damian says:

[8/13/2008 - 1:29 pm]

Found another one for anachronism.

10. Pam says:

[9/12/2008 - 6:30 pm]

Thanks a great site for pre-service teachers

11. Diane Main says:

[9/13/2008 - 8:56 am]

Idea for a dynamic character: The Truman Show? That part where he realizes he’s in a show?

12. Next Vista Learning | BlogWalker says:

[9/13/2008 - 11:01 am]

[…] Lit Terms in Modern Media – And for students needing more than a textbook explanation of literary terms, Todd Seal’s site should be helpful. “The idea is not simply to help define the term, but to explain why to use the technique.” […]

13. Valerie says:

[9/16/2008 - 1:51 pm]

Great idea to illustrate these terms!
The movie “Holes” has myriad examples of flashbacks. One scene (when the kids are on “God’s Thumb”) would be good.

When Luke Skywalker sees his Darth Vader in the cave might be good for foreshadowing at least a future conflict if not the familial connection.

For “aside” (not on your list) I use “Saved by the Bell” because Zack frequently stops the action and directly addresses the audience.

How about Homer Simpson as a static character? Or the main character in “Futurama?” They never seem to learn…

Thanks for putting this together :)

14. John Borland says:

[9/18/2008 - 4:27 am]

dynamic Character – A character that undergoes a change, physical or psychological, in the course of events in a work of fiction.
this video of a transforming face might serve as a prompt to remember the term

15. John Borland says:

[9/18/2008 - 4:31 am]

I immediately think of the old Batman TV show for this term here is a short clip that illustrates the term well.

16. RBB says:

[9/19/2008 - 10:18 am]

For allegory, you can use the movie Matrix for one’s psychoanalytical journey, with Morpheus as psychiatrist/psychoanalytical therapist, or you can use the Allegory of the Cave vs. the media itself. There was a bunch of stuff on the website (to read) on both of these; you would have to make it more “student friendly”.

17. Todd says:

[9/19/2008 - 6:13 pm]

Thanks for all the ideas, Valerie. To you and Diane, the trouble here is that I can’t pick something that requires extensive background to understand. In order to know that Homer is a static character, you have to have seen several episodes. Otherwise, he’s simply funny. The same applies to realizations in films (like The Truman Show): they don’t mean much if you haven’t watched the entire thing. Good thoughts, though, and will very likely lead to the videos that will work well here.

I’m up for showing Star Wars to all freshmen. There’s a lot you can do with it and surprising how few students now have seen the flick. With that as required viewing, all kinds of references later would make all kinds of techniques clear.

I think I’d go Ferris Bueller for aside, but you make a good point. I can’t seem to find a decent clip of any of his asides online, though. The first twenty-four seconds of this fan trailer is the closest I’ve found so far.

John, of course. What was I thinking not adding that Batman stuff? And your video reminded me of one I added to dynamic character.

RBB, I was way into The Matrix, so I know the stuff on the site you’re talking about. The trouble there is similar to what I point out above: it needs to be a self-contained clip. I’m trying to find short bits that capture the essence of the terms. I’ll keep that film in mind, though.

18. Tom Krawczewicz says:

[12/23/2008 - 11:36 am]

The list is great. For understatement, how about the Black Knight scene (“I’ve had worse!”) from Monty Python the Holy Grail or the scene from Jaws were Chief is throwing bait in the water and the shark pops up and he tells Quint “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

19. dy/dan » Blog Archive » Where Is Your List? says:

[12/23/2008 - 2:53 pm]

[…] love this. Todd has quietly collated 26 video files and mapped them to a list of 30 literary terms. 20. personification – Comcast: Stop […]

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[2/17/2009 - 1:58 pm]

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22. The Winsome Scholar » Blog Archive » YouTube as Literature, or VidLit Devices says:

[5/11/2009 - 12:26 am]

[…] idea for this assignment came from this post on Todd Seal’s blog.  If you click on the link, you can view his examples for most of […]

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24. sandrar says:

[9/10/2009 - 1:27 pm]

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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