Literary Allusion

By Kristy Littlehale

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Allusions, while important to helping readers understand themes and characters on a deeper level, can sometimes be hard for students to grasp. Some allusions are often remote to the modern student’s knowledge cache, who might not necessarily know many ancient Greek or Roman references. In addition, many allusions are religious or culturally-specific, and this can often alienate students of different cultural or religious backgrounds. However, it is important to point out these allusions, explain their significance, and then analyze how their meaning enhances our understanding of the point the author is trying to make.

Allusion Definition:

Allusions are references to well-known

  • Events
  • People or Characters
  • Works of Art or Literature
  • Places
  • Religions

Allusions in Literature

Allusion Examples

Many authors utilize the titles of their works to be their allusive references; poetry also utilizes allusions to enhance themes and evoke emotions. They can also be used to establish mood, setting, and significance. Allusions are not just limited to literature: they can be found in music, TV, movies, and art. Some common allusion examples students might be able to recognize include:

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Example Project for Tracking Allusions

Create a Literary Allusion Storyboard  

Common Core State Standards

Although this activity can be used for multiple grade levels, below are Common Core State Standards for Grades 11-12. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.

One challenge many students face is keeping track of the many literary allusions they come across in a work, including their meanings and how the allusions enhance the work as a whole. A great and easy way to streamline this process is by having students keep track of the allusions in a visual and descriptive way using storyboards! Using the example and template below, have students track the allusions and their context in the work, and then after researching or class discussions, have them integrate a new cell that explains how that allusion enhances the meaning or the events of the work.

Create a Literary Allusion Storyboard  

Example Rubric

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Image Attributions

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•   (English) Literary Allusions   •   (Español) Alusiones Literarias   •   (Français) Allusions Littéraires   •   (Deutsch) Literarische Anspielungen   •   (Italiana) Allusioni Letterarie   •   (Nederlands) Literaire Toespelingen   •   (Português) Alusões Literárias   •   (עברית) רמזים ספרותיים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) التلميحات الأدبية   •   (हिन्दी) साहित्यिक गठबंधन   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Литературные Аллюзии   •   (Dansk) Literære Allusioner   •   (Svenska) Litterära Allusioner   •   (Suomi) Kirjalliset Viittaukset   •   (Norsk) Litterære Allusjoner   •   (Türkçe) Edebi İfadeler   •   (Polski) Literackie Aluzje   •   (Româna) Aluzii Literare   •   (Ceština) Literární Narážky   •   (Slovenský) Literárne Narážky   •   (Magyar) Irodalmi Utalások   •   (Hrvatski) Literarne Aluzije   •   (български) Литературни Намеци   •   (Lietuvos) Literatūriniai Pranešimai   •   (Slovenščina) Literarne Aluzije   •   (Latvijas) Literatūras Norādes   •   (eesti) Kirjanduslikud Vihjed