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Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Anaphora

Definition:

You've probably heard this one before:

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…

Oh you get the idea.

That's just ol' Dickens, droppin' some anaphora on you in A Tale of Two Cities. He really loved him some anaphora. And from reading that, you can probably guess what anaphora is. Yep, it's the repetition of phrases at the beginning of clauses.

But it doesn't just pop up in neverending Victorian novels. In fact, it's just about everywhere in literature, especially in poetry. Want proof? Check out Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself":

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Well have you, Shmoopers?

Anaphora is a handy little tool that writers use to build emphasis, rhythm, cadence in poetry and prose. See how both the Dickens and the Whitman create a kind of music with their repetition? Pretty nifty, huh?