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In rhetoric, an anaphora (Greek: ἀναφορά, "carrying back") is a rhetorical device that consists of repeating a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses, thereby lending them emphasis. In contrast, an epistrophe (or epiphora) is repeating words at the clauses' ends. The combination of anaphora and epistrophe results in symploce.
One author well known for his use of anaphora is Charles Dickens (seen in quotation below). Some of his best-known works constantly portray their themes through use of this literary tool.
Other than the function of emphasizing ideas, the use of anaphora as a rhetorical device adds rhythm to a work as well as making it more pleasurable to read and easier to remember. Anaphora serves the purpose of delivering an artistic effect to a passage. It is also used to appeal to the emotions of the audience in order to persuade, inspire, motivate and encourage them (1). In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he uses anaphora by repeating “I have a dream” eight times throughout the speech (2). Dr. MLK Jr.’s use of repetition calls to the audience and persuades them to be the change.
Anaphora is used to repeat what a rhetor wants to emphasize and is possibly the oldest rhetorical device, dating back to biblical Psalms. Over time, Elizabethan and Romantic rhetors began to use this device as well (1).
- The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
- the God of glory thunders,
- the Lord, over many waters.
- The voice of the Lord is powerful;
- the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
- The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
- the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
- He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
- and Sirion like a young wild ox.
- The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
- The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
- the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
- The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
- and strips the forests bare,
- and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
- —Psalm 29:3–9
Today, anaphora is seen in many different contexts including: songs, movies, television, political speeches, poetry, and prose.
An anaphora is the intended use of repetition that is applied to secure emphasis, emphasis, emphasis.
- In time the savage bull sustains the yoke,
- In time all haggard hawks will stoop to lure,
- In time small wedges cleave the hardest oak,
- In time the flint is pierced with softest shower.
- For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
- For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
- For want of a horse the rider was lost.
- For want of a rider the message was lost.
- For want of a message the battle was lost.
- For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
- And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
- —14th century proverb
- What the hammer? what the chain?
- In what furnace was thy brain?
- What the anvil? what dread grasp
- Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
- In every cry of every man,
- In every infant's cry of fear,
- In every voice, in every ban,
- The mind-forged manacles I hear:
- Strike as I struck the foe! Strike as I would
- Have struck those tyrants! Strike deep as my curse!
- Strike!—and but once!
- With malice toward none;
- with charity for all;
- with firmness in the right,...
- — Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address
- Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
- Out of the mock-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
- Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
- Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander'd alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
- Down from the shower'd halo,
- Up from the mystic play of shadows twining and twisting as if they were alive,
- Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
- From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
- From your memories, sad brother, from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
- From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen as if with tears,
- From those beginning notes of yearning and love, there in the transparent mist,
- From the thousand responses of my heart never to cease,
- From the myriad thence-arous'd words,
- From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
- From such as now they start the scene revisiting,...
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...
- We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.
- Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
- I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
- I am the worker sold to the machine.
- I am the Negro, servant to you all.
- I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
- Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment,
- I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
- I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
- I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
- I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state, sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
- I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
- I have a dream today.
- Where is the Life we have lost in living?
- Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
- Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
- — T.S. Eliot, Chorus from "The Rock"
- Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (ed.). "Songs of Innocence and of Experience, object 46 (Bentley 46, Erdman 46, Keynes 46) "LONDON"". William Blake Archive. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- Xiuguo Zhang (2005). English Rhetoric. 清华大学出版社有限公司. p. 121. ISBN 978-7-81082-377-7. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
1) "Anaphora - Examples and Definition of Anaphora." Literary Devices. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. 2) Dlugan, Andrew. "Speech Analysis: I Have a Dream–Martin Luther King Jr." (2009).
- Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. p. 673. ISBN 0-674-36250-0.
- http://www.uky.edu/AS/Classics/rhetoric.html#4. University of Kentucky Division of Classics, "A Glossary of Rhetorical Terms with Examples."
- http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/51/4/406.pdf. "Key concepts in ELT [English Language Teaching]: Anaphora." ELT Journal Volume 51/4, October 1997
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