Let’s study the list of literary devices that start with B.
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century. They were used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many ballads were written and sold as single sheet broadsides.
The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads. In the later 19th century it took on the meaning of a slow form of popular love song. The term is now often used as synonymous with any love song, particularly the pop or rock power ballad.
Example: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The ballade is a verse form typically consisting of three eight-line stanzas, each with a consistent metre and rhyme scheme. The last line in each stanza is a refrain, and the stanzas are followed by a four-line concluding stanza (an envoi) usually addressed to a prince.
The rhyme scheme is usually ‘ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC’, where the capital ‘C’ is the refrain.
Example: Ballade of Lost Lovers by Dorothy Parker
In poetry, a ballad stanza is the four-line stanza, known as a quatrain, most often found in folk ballads. This form consists of alternating four- and three-stress lines, usually with only the second and fourth lines rhyming in an a/b/c/b pattern.
Assonance often replaces rhyme, as in many old Scottish and English ballads.
Example: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In medieval Gaelic and British culture, a bard was a professional poet, employed by a patron to commemorate ancestors and praise the patron’s activities. Originally contrasting with fili in Ireland and Highland Scotland, the term acquired generic meanings for an epic author/singer after the decline of living bardic tradition.
Example: William Shakespeare known as The Bard
Baroque is an artistic style prevalent from the late 16th to early 18th century in Europe. It is characterized by dynamic movement, overt emotion, and self-confident rhetoric.
Example: Much Baroque art and architecture, like St Paul’s Cathedral in London
Bathos refers to the discovery of humor in a phrase through an ironic combination of ideas, done deliberately or unintentionally. It is now used broadly to cover any ridiculous, failed artwork or performance.
Example: The abrupt transition from JFK’s assassination to a cereal commercial in the film Natural Born Killers
A beast fable is a short story or poem where animals talk and human behavior is scrutinized through reflection into the animal kingdom. Important traditions include Panchatantra, Kalila and Dimna, Aesop, Arabian Nights, and West African and Native American trickster tales.
Example: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Beast poetry refers to a corpus of Latin poems from the 8th to 11th century featuring anthropomorphic animals, building on the ancient tradition seen in Aesop and providing the foundation for 12th century Reynard literature.
Example: Ecbasis Captivi by the 10th century monk Hucbald, featuring talking animals.
The Beat Generation refers to the 1950s American post-WWII writers who rejected materialism and celebrated experimental arts, Eastern religion, and alternative sexuality/feminism. Key figures include Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs.
Example: On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Belles-lettres means “beautiful” or “fine” writing, referring to valued literary works of fiction, poetry, drama, and essays appreciated for aesthetic qualities rather than informative ends.
Example: The essays of Charles Lamb
A bestiary is a medieval compendium of beasts describing animals, birds, rocks, etc. Each entry has a moral lesson, seeing the world as the Word of God with everything having symbolic meaning.
Example: The Aberdeen Bestiary from 12th century England
A beta reader provides feedback on a written work prior to publication, helping identify issues with style, grammar, plot, characterisation and flow. The beta reader offers suggestions to the author for improvement.
Example: An author providing advanced copies to friends before publication.
A bibliography is a systematic list of books and other works like journal articles. Bibliographies range from “works cited” lists to extensive independent publications cataloguing the book as a physical object.
Example: A book’s list of cited references or a library’s comprehensive catalogue.
A bildungsroman is a coming-of-age novel that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of a protagonist from childhood to maturity. Change is very important in this genre.
Example: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A biography is a detailed account of someone’s life story, portraying intimate experiences and analyzing the subject’s personality, beyond just basic facts and dates.
Example: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Black comedy is humor arising from cynicism, skepticism, and satirizing disturbing or taboo subjects like death. It highlights the absurdity in painful or tragic events.
Example: Arrested Development TV series
Blank verse is poetry with a regular meter but no rhyme. In English, blank verse typically uses iambic pentameter, as in Shakespearean plays.
Example: Paradise Lost by John Milton
The Bloomsbury Group was 20th century English intellectuals including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and E.M. Forster who lived in the Bloomsbury area of London and influenced literature, economics, feminism, and more.
Example: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Bombast refers to speech or writing that is pretentious, inflated, and extravagant. The term comes from padding added to clothes.
Example: Over the top, too elaborate political speeches
Boulevard theatre is a theatrical aesthetic emerging from 19th century Parisian boulevards, known for melodramas.
Example: Many plays starring Sarah Bernhardt
Bouts-rimés is a poetic game where one person provides rhyming words and another composes a poem using them in that order.
Example: A writer using the rhymes “love, shove, above, dove” to craft a poem.
To bowdlerize means to censor and expurgate literature perceived as inappropriate, especially for women and children. It is named after Thomas Bowdler who published cleaned-up Shakespeare plays.
Example: Mark Twain’s novels have frequently been bowdlerized to remove offensive language.
A broadside is the side of a ship where cannon are positioned. Figuratively, it also refers to simultaneous firing of these cannons in naval warfare.
Example: Pirates firing a broadside attack on a merchant ship.
Burlesque is humorous theatrical entertainment achieved through exaggerated parody.
Example: Comedy skits in variety shows.
A burletta is a brief, comic opera from Italy or England, often interspersed between acts in a longer work.
Example: Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona
The Burns stanza is a verse form invented by Scottish poet Robert Burns consisting of six lines – two in iambic tetrameter followed by two in iambic dimeter and finishing with two more lines in iambic trimeter. The rhyme scheme is AABABB.
Example: “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns
A buskin is a knee- or calf-length laced boot worn in ancient Greek and Roman theatre, particularly by tragic actors playing high-status characters.
Example: An actor wearing buskins and a mask while performing a Greek tragedy.
A Byronic hero is a charismatic but flawed protagonist exemplified by the characters of Lord Byron, typically proud, passionate, and defiant of society.
Example: Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
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