Literary Devices that Start with C

Here is the list of literary devices that start with C:


A caesura is a complete pause or break within a line of poetry that divides the line into two parts. It adds rhythm and drama by interrupting the regular flow. Caesuras are frequently used in Old English poetry as well as more modern verse. An example is the pause in the middle of this line from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”:

“But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep.”

The caesura divides the line after the word “keep”, allowing the reader to pause and reflect.


The literary canon refers to works considered to be established classics and representing the very best of literature or art. Canonical works have been widely accepted over time as being superior in quality, excellence, and influence. The Western canon tends to emphasize European male authors, so the canon has been critiqued for lack of diversity. However, canon formation and revision is an ongoing process, not fixed forever. Shakespeare is definitely part of the firm literary canon.


A capriccio in the arts refers to a work that is unpredictable, fanciful, and eccentric. The term implies something wildly imaginative that completely disregards rules. Capriccios emerged during the Italian Renaissance as quirky, humorous pieces. In music, a capriccio is a freestyle composition. In visual art, capriccios feature fantastical imagery like architectural absurdities. They celebrate creative freedom and experimentation. Examples are the capriccios created by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.


A caricature is a portrait that deliberately exaggerates specific facial features, habits, or characteristics of a well-known person in order to create a humorously distorted representation. The aim is often to poke fun at or mock the subject. Political cartoons in newspapers and magazines frequently use caricatures of prominent politicians to satirize or criticize them in an amusing way. Honore Daumier created famous caricatures in 19th century France.

Carpe Diem

Carpe diem is a Latin phrase that means “seize the day”. It encourages people to make the most of the present moment and take advantage of current pleasures rather than deferring enjoyment. The carpe diem theme is very common in literature and poetry, particularly during the Renaissance. Robert Herrick’s poem “To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time” includes the famous line “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” expressing the carpe diem sentiment.

Classical Unities

The classical unities are a set of three dramatic principles or rules that were derived from Aristotle’s work Poetics. They state that a play should have unity of action (one main plot), unity of time (taking place over one day), and unity of place (same location). These unities were influential in neoclassical French and English drama starting in the 17th century. Playwrights like Racine adhered to them strictly for works like Phaedra, while later Romantic playwrights reacted against them.


In scansion and meter, catalexis refers to a truncated or incomplete poetic line where one or more unstressed syllables have been dropped from the end of the line. For example, in the opening line “Once upon a midnight dreary” the final weak syllable that would make it a complete iambic tetrameter line is missing, making the line catalectic.


Catharsis is the effect of releasing and purging strong emotions through art. Aristotle coined the term in reference to tragedy, which he believed evoked pity and fear in audiences and then imaginatively purged those feelings through the dramatic experience. This purgation results in catharsis, leaving viewers feeling cleansed and uplifted. The tragic hero’s downfall enables audiences to experience catharsis.


A causerie is an informal, conversational monologue, essay, or article written in an intimate, chatty style. Causeries became popular in French literature, creating the impression of an author just rambling casually to the reader about whatever topic happens to come to mind. They are full of witty digressions, opinions, and observations. The familiar essays of Michel de Montaigne pioneered the causerie style.


A cenotaph is an empty grave, tomb, or monument created to honor someone who is buried elsewhere. It is a symbolic architectural structure, not an actual burial place. The term can also reference a literary work mourning or eulogizing a deceased person. For example, Percy Shelley’s poem “Adonais” is considered a cenotaph in honor of John Keats. Many war memorials are essentially cenotaphs.


A cento is a literary work composed entirely of lines and passages borrowed from other written works and arranged in a new order to create a separate meaning independent of the original context. The Roman poet Ausonius was famous for creating centos, crafting new poems from lines taken from Homer’s epics. Modern examples are books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that remix a classic text.


Chanson simply means “song” in French. It refers to the tradition of French lyric-driven songs from medieval troubadour ballads to modern pop songs. Chansons vary widely in subject matter from love songs to protest music to folk ballads. Stylistically they emphasize the vocal melodic line and evocative lyrics. Well-known examples are Edith Piaf’s iconic song “La Vie en Rose” or Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas”.

Chanson de Geste

The chanson de geste is a Medieval French epic poem or narrative focused on heroic deeds or adventures known as “gestes.” They celebrated valor and chivalric combat in subjects based on history or legend. Chansons de geste were performed orally by traveling poet-musicians known as jongleurs. The most famous example is the Song of Roland about Charlemagne’s knight Roland and his battle against the Saracens.


Characterization in literature refers to the wide variety of techniques and methods that writers use to convey information about characters and their various traits, motives, backgrounds, behaviors, and inner lives. This characterization can be direct through exposition or dialogue, or indirect through characters’ thoughts, actions, speech patterns, and interactions with others. Round vs flat characters, static vs dynamic characters, protagonists vs antagonists are important character types.


Chiasmus is a figure of speech and rhetorical device that employs inverted parallelism, reversing the order of corresponding words or clauses. For example, “You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl” is a chiasmus. The repetition highlights contrast and lends emphasis through its reversal. Chiasmus examples: “Easy come, easy go.” “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Chivalric Romance

The chivalric romance is a type of medieval prose or poetic story that celebrated knightly adventures and glorified ideals of chivalry and courtly love. Popular from the 12th to 15th centuries, chivalric romances focus on epic quests or spiritual allegories of a knightly hero. They feature moral tests, challenges, and fantasy elements. Sir Gawain embarks on adventures and battles to uphold his chivalric duties in the classic example Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


A cinquain is a short five-line poetic form often used in elementary schools to teach poetry. Modern cinquains consist of the following structure: 2 syllables, 4 syllables, 6 syllables, 8 syllables, 2 syllables. The result is a concise poem similar to Japanese haiku in its brevity:

Crickets / Chirping in the grass at dusk / A chorus of sound / Filling the night with music / Peace.

So in summary, literary devices starting with C cover key terms related to poetry, drama, essays, and narrative fiction. Let me know if you need any examples or more information on a particular device!

More to read

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *