Literary Devices that Start with K

There are several literary devices that start with the letter ‘K’. These literary devices include, Kairos, Kenning, Kigo, etc. Here are some of the most common ones along with examples:

1- Kairos

Kairos is the opportune moment for decision or action. It often relates to timing and the right moment for persuasion or making a point in an argument.

examples in Literature

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Mark Antony skillfully uses the concept of kairos through his oration to persuade the crowd:

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.”

In the aforesaid passage, Antony seizes the opportunity after Brutus speech to address the crowd. He first appears to agree with Brutus, which presents him as a reasonable and humble speaker, however it is a strategic move to disarm any hostility. Thereafter, he gradually introduces doubt and raises questions about Caesar’s ambition while using repetition and rhetorical devices. This strategic use of kairos or the right moment allows him to turn the crowd against the conspirators as he progresses in his speech.

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s

Jay Gatsby uses the concept of kairos in his attempt to reunite with Daisy Buchanan: He says,

“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can! I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before. She’ll see. She’ll see.”

In the above context, Gatsby is convinced that he can recreate the past particularly his romantic relationship with Daisy. He is still hopeful despite the passage of time and the changes that have occurred. He believes that he can take hold of the moment to turn back the clock and make things right. This shows that Gatsby is determined to seize the right moment to try to bring back the past with Daisy even if it is a nearly impossible dream.

2- Kenning

A kenning is a figurative phrase or compound word used instead of a simple noun. Kennings are often found in Old English and Norse poetry. Here are some examples of kennings:

  • Whale road = the sea
  • Battle sweat = blood
  • Sky candle = the sun

Kennings were used in Old English poetry like Beowulf to refer to people, places, and things in poetic and indirect ways.

Examples in Literature

Here’s an example from the Old English epic poem “Beowulf,” where the sea is referred to as a “whale-road”:

“…Gúðgeatwa sēlester, / wīgendra hyrde. Hī hyne dōðon, / sēléðendes mǣste;..”

Here, the “whale-road” is used as a kenning for the sea. This metaphorical expression conjures an image of the sea as a vast, expansive and often treacherous pathway for warriors, which emphasizes the perils and challenges they face when sailing it.

“The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

“The earth is covered with wooden covers”

The above line is a kenning for coffins. It indirectly alludes to the burial of the dead. The kenning adds a layer of symbolism, which suggests that the earth is a final resting place for the deceased and is concealed by wooden coffins.

“A Route of Evanescence” by Emily Dickinson

“A route of evanescence / With a revolving wheel”

Emily uses kenning for a hummingbird. The phrase conveys the fleeting and dynamic nature of the hummingbird’s flight. The “revolving wheel” suggests the rapid and continuous movement of the bird’s wings.

3- Kigo

Kigo is a word or phrase associated with a particular season, used in traditional Japanese poetry like haiku. For example:

  • Spring – cherry blossoms, meadows
  • Summer – cicadas, beaches
  • Autumn – moon, harvest
  • Winter – snow, fireplace

The kigo helps create an imagery and seasonal context in a haiku poem.

Examples in Literature

Matsuo Basho’s Haiku

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond—
Splash! Silence again.

In this haiku, the kigo “furu ike ya” (an old silent pond) indicates the season of early spring. It evokes the image of a still and tranquil pond, which is a common sight in early spring when nature is beginning to awaken. The sudden appearance of a frog jumping into the pond punctuates the stillness and the splash sound is a vivid reminder of the seasonal transformation.

“To Autumn” by John Keats

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close-bosom friend of the maturing sun…”

Although the poem has not been structured as traditional kigo like Japanese haiku, however it captures the spirit of the season and its associations. The poem is a Western example of poetry that employs seasonal imagery. It evokes a sense of time and place. The poem conveys the essence of autumn and its unique qualities, which celebrates the season’s mists and mellow fruitfulness.

4- Kyrielle

A kyrielle is a French form of poetry consisting of quatrains with repeated lines. The rhyme scheme is AABB and lines 1, 2, and 4 repeat in each stanza. For example:

The light of dawn emerging new,
The light of dawn emerging new,
Darkness and shadows fading through,
The light of dawn emerging new.

In a kyrielle, the repetitions create a chant-like effect in the poem.

Examples in Literature

“Remember” by Christina Rossetti

“Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning, stay.”

The poem structure is similar to the kyrielle with an exact repetition of a line in each stanza. The repeated phrase is “Remember me” or variations of it. The poem explores themes of love, parting and memory in a structured and rhythmic manner, which is a characteristic of kyrielle-like forms.

“The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

“So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around.”

In the aforesaid stanza, the repeated phrase is “So little cause”. It appears at the beginning of each stanza of the poem. It is not a traditional kyrielle, however has a similar structure, which emphasizes a recurring idea or sentiment throughout the poem. Hardy’s poem conveys a sense of desolation and contrasts it with the unexpected almost miraculous and song of a thrush on a bleak winter evening.

5- Kitsch

Kitsch refers to art or objects that appeal to popular rather than high art tastes. Kitsch art aims to be sentimental, melodramatic, clichéd or pretentious. Some examples of kitsch include:

  • Mass produced art prints
  • Souvenirs with cheesy phrases
  • Velvet paintings
  • Garden gnomes
  • Gaudy decorations

Kitsch often relies on cultural clichés and nostalgia rather than originality. It is seen as low-brow or tacky by art critics.

Examples in literature

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera

“The grand kitsch is that of the dream about the Grand March, a march that would lead people from oppression to freedom, from violence to truth, from untruth to truth.”

In the passage, Milan Kundera uses the term “kitsch” to describe a utopian and idealized concept of a “Grand March”. It is a melodramatic vision of progress and liberation. Kundera employs ‘kitsch’ as a critique of overly simplistic and sentimental views of social and political change.

6- Kaleidoscope

It is not a common literary device. A kaleidoscope is often used metaphorically to describe the ever changing and colorful nature of a narrative or the human experience.

Examples in Literature

“The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars… On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before. Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York—every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.”

In the aforesaid passage, the term “kaleidoscope” has not been used directly. However, the vivid description of Gatsby’s extravagant parties and the constant movement of people and events evokes the idea of a kaleidoscope. The ever changing and colorful atmosphere at Gatsby’s parties, which reflects the kaleidoscopic nature of the social world as portrayed in the novel.

7- Kettle Logic

Kettle logic is a rhetorical device in which contradictory arguments are used in an attempt to support a single conclusion. It’s often used for humor or to illustrate flawed reasoning.

Examples in Literature

“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

In the novella, Gregor Samsa, who has transformed into a giant insect faces a dilemma. His father, Mr. Samsa attempts to address the situation with a mixture of rational and contradictory arguments. He says,

“But of course, Gregor, you do understand that we must get rid of it. But people will not believe me. Perhaps you can help me explain it to them.”

He starts by acknowledging the need to get rid of the transformed Gregor but then contradicts himself by seeking Gregor’s help in explaining the situation to others. This flawed reasoning is used to highlight the absurdity and dysfunction within the Samsa family as they grapple with Gregor’s transformation.

“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

“I would like to keep on living. If I have any choice, I would like to keep on living.”

In the novel, Orr’s kettle logic is evident. He claims that he wants to keep on living but then contradicts himself by explaining his preference for crashing his plane. The absurdity of the situation and the illogical reasoning of the character is a central theme in it.

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