Epigraph (literature)

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Not to be confused with epitaph, epigram, or epithet.
Facsimile of the original title page for William Congreve's The Way of the World published in 1700, on which the epigraph from Horace's Satires can be seen in the bottom quarter.

In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or component.[1] The epigraph may serve as a preface, as a summary, as a counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon,[2] either to invite comparison or to enlist a conventional context.[3]


Epigraph and dedication page, The Waste Land
Epigraph, consisting of an excerpt from the book itself, William Morris's The House of the Wolfings

Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together - what do you get? The sum of their fears.

Fictional quotations[edit]

Some authors use fictional quotations that purport to be related to the fiction of the work itself.

Examples include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Epigraph". University of Michigan. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Definition of Epigraph". Literary Devices. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Bridgeman, Teresa. Negotiating the New in the French Novel: Building Contexts for Fictional Worlds. Page No-129: Psychology Press, 1998. ISBN 0415131251. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Tom Clancy, The Sum of All Fears, 1991, Harper Collins Publishing, London
  5. ^ Dean Koontz. Podcast Episode 25: Book of Counted Sorrows 1 (Podcast). Retrieved July 9, 2011. 


External links[edit]

  • Epigraphic: an ever-growing, searchable collection of literary epigraphs
  • Epigraph at Literary Devices