Epanalepsis? A Literary Term that Causes Seizures?

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From Russ McDonald’s “Reading the Tempest”:

“I leave it to the reader to note the poetic and rhetorical details, the instances of assonance, alliteration, epanalepsis…” (103).

Here I have listed out of McDonald’s list of eight literary devices, three of them.  I will be dealing with epanalepsis.  If you would like to read more about assonance or alliteration, just click on the links of the words to some of my classmates’ pages about them.

Sadly, when I flipped to the glossary at the back of Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms, epanalepsis was not to be found.  I suppose that means it doesn’t hold a spot on the coveted list of essential literary terms.  Therefore, I turned to the next best thing.  I opened a web browser and headed to Wikipedia.  According to Wikipedia:

“The epanalepsis is a figure of speech defined by the repetition of the initial word or words of a clause or sentence at the end. The beginning and the end are the two positions of stronger emphasis in a sentence; so, by having the same phrase in both places, the speaker calls special attention to it.”


Some examples Wikipedia lists of epanalepsis are:

  • The king is dead, long live the king.
  • Severe to his servants, to his children severe.

  • Beloved is mine; she is Beloved.

And for your reading pleasure, my own example that I made up:

  • Literary Criticism doesn’t like me, and I don’t like Literary Criticism.


(Disclaimer: I do no profess to necessarily agree with the feelings expressed in my example; I just thought it would be an amusing example). 

Click here to learn more literary terms. 

8 Comments

lol. Are you sure there is not a hint of truth in that one? I made one up too just for the fun of it. Sleep is necessary for me to do work, but work retards my ability to sleep.

That is a great entry Greta. Thanks for the laugh. And thank you for finding one of the impossible words to find. It was bothering me. I was beginning to think McDonald made the words up just to drive us crazy. I love your example!

james lohr said:

I read in other blogs that people were having the same troubles finding words. Guess i picked the right one. Great title by the way. And ive been wondering who was on the list of people who got to choose the list of essential literary terms, and who was on the list to come up with our literary canon, i would like to meet them.

Jenna said:

Greta, those are great examples! This is a term that is not often used. I think that it will be beneficial to know if you plan on taking the Praxis test.

Katie Vann said:

Haha Greta. I especially liked your own example, how original and true!!

Michelle Tantlinger said:

Wow, great entry and I find it very annoying that Hamilton doesn't have many definitions in his glossary.

rooster said:

Isn't Kennedy's quote a chiasmus, with the repetition of words in reverse order? Darn my small brain!

Greta Carroll said:

Actually, rooster, you are right. I guess that’s what I get for blindly trusting Wikipedia. Actually, when I went back to the Wikipedia article my examples of: “ I got my mind on my money, and my money on my mind,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country,” have all been removed from it. Chiasmus are “nested double-epanalepses.” So I suppose, in a sense, chiasmus are a more complicated form of epanalepsis. But, epanalepses are simpler and restricted to just the repetition of a word or two, while chiasmus are for two or more clauses. So thanks for pointing that and helping me perceive the difference, I will fix my blog so that it is accurate : )

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