Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes

Anaphora &


Rhetoric. The repetition of the same word or phrase in several successive clauses. (OED)

Figure of repetition that occurs when the first word or set of words in one sentence, clause, or phrase is/are repeated at or very near the beginning of successive sentences, clauses, or phrases; repetition of the initial word(s) over successive phrases or clauses.

(American Rhetoric:

The term "anaphora" comes from the Greek for "a carrying up or back," and refers to a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany. The repetition can be as simple as a single word or as long as an entire phrase. As one of the world’s oldest poetic techniques, anaphora is used in much of the world’s religious and devotional poetry, including numerous Biblical Psalms.


This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as [a] moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings [. . .]
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leas'd out — I die pronouncing it —
Like to a tenement or pelting farm.

—John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's Richard II (2.1.40-51; 57-60)

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. -- Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons, June 4, 1940


"It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

"Hope--hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!" [varies by inversion or reversal]
(Barack Obama, "The Audacity of Hope," July 27, 2004)



From A Handbook to Literature. Ed. C. Hugh Holman, 3rd edn. Indianapolis: Odyssey, 1972.

A structural arrangement of parts of a sentence, sentences, paragraphs, and larger units of composition by which one element of equal importance with another is similarly developed and phrased. . . . Parallelism is characteristic of Oriental [i.e., Middle Eastern] poetry, being notably present in the Psalms, as in

The Heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament sheweth his handywork.

It is also characteristic of the songs and chants of the American Indians. Parallelism seems to be the controlling principle of the poetry of Walt Whitman. . . .

from Walt Whitman, "A Child Went Forth" (1855)

There was a child went forth every day
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter, and the mare's foal and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there, and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part of him.
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him,


From The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Ed. Alex Preminger. Princeton UP, 1975.

Parallelism [Gk. "side by side"] In poetry a state of correspondence between one phrase, line, or verse with another. Parallelism seems to be the basic aesthetic principle of poetic utterance. . . . Parallelism of clauses is the central principle of biblical verse . . . . [T]he poet who has certainly made the most use of this device in English is Walt Whitman. . . .

Examples of stylistic parallelism in Western and American discourse

From The Bible (King James Version), Ecclesiastes, Ch. 3

  1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
  2. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
  3. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
  4. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
  5. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
  6. A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
  7. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
  8. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. . . .

Abraham Lincoln, from "Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863."

            . . . But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate--we can not consecrate--we can not hallow--this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little not, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget wheat they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

John F. Kennedy, from Inaugural Address, 20 Jan. 1961, the Capitol, Washington DC

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge - and more. To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do . . . .

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. . . .

(Thanks to Titan Publishing.


Martin Luther King, "I Have a Dream," 28 August 1963 [March on Washington, D. C., delivered at the Lincoln Memorial] (from A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. J. M. Washington [SF: Harper & Row, 1986], pp. 217-220]

             . . . So I say to you, my friends, that even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American 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, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the 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 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!

            I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama . . . .

            I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. . . . [biblical paraphrase]

            So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

            Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

            Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

            Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

            Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

            But not only that.

            Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

            Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

            Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. . . .