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25 Literary Techniques of Repetition With Poetic Examples

Updated on April 30, 2020
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I read and analyze poems in a psychological POV. Check out my poetry book on Amazon Store: "Piece of Mind-Everyone has an Untold Story."

This is a simple guideline regarding literary techniques of repetition. I have used examples from poems written by famous poets like Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, and John Milton.

After reading this article, you will be able to identify specific types of repetition in poetry, novels, short stories, and daily speech.

Defining the Literary Device of Repetition

Repetition in poetry (and literature) is a rhetorical device of using ideas, words, sounds, lines, or stanzas more than once in one poem. The above factors are repeated again and again.

In literature, repetition is a collective term for many types of repetitive use of language. Some forms of repetition are so close that one is often mistakenly identified as the other. For instance, chiasmus and antimetabole.

You may be surprised to find out that the various forms of repetition you have used in your naturally in conversations, poems and writing already have specific names.

The Purpose of Repetition

Most writers use repetition to:

  • emphasize
  • enhance rhythm
  • deepen meaning
  • produce a powerful sound effect
  • increase memorability

A List: Types of Literary Repetition

Types of stylistic devices of repetition vary depending on what is repeated. You may repeat sounds, words, lines, stanzas, or abstract concepts in a poem.

The following is an alphabetical list of various forms of literary devices of repetition:

  1. alliteration
  2. amplification
  3. anadiplosis
  4. anaphora
  5. antanaclasis
  6. antistasis
  7. assonance
  8. chiasmus
  9. consonance
  10. diacope
  11. diaphora
  12. envelope
  13. epanalepsis
  14. epimone
  15. epiphora
  16. epistrophe
  17. epizeuxis
  18. mesarchia
  19. mesodiplosis
  20. negative positive restatement
  21. polyptoton
  22. refrain
  23. rhyme
  24. parallelism
  25. symploce

Let's look at them one by one with relevant examples.

Warning: I have used bold letters to point out the specific stylistic device discussed. The original poems do not have bold letters.

What is Repetition?

Repetition in poetry (and literature) is a rhetorical device of using ideas, words, sounds, lines, or stanzas more than once in one poem.

A list of 25 types of literary repetition techniques
A list of 25 types of literary repetition techniques

Amplification

This literary technique involves repeating a statement or idea, intending to describe it or give more details about it. Amplification is used to clarify an idea and for emphasis.

Example

In lines 31 through 33 of the poem “Daddy” by Sylivia Plath:

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

The poet repeats both “an engine” and "a Jew" with the intention to give more details.

Anadiplosis (Also, Gradatio)

Anadisplosis is a common literary technique whereby poets repeat the last word or phrase in a line at the beginning of the next line. It is used for emphasis, rhythm enhancement, and to produce an aesthetic effect.

Example

In lines 32 and 33 of the poem “Daddy” by Sylivia Plath:

Chuffing me off like a Jew.

A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

Anaphora

The literary device in which a phrase or word is repeated at the beginning of consecutive lines or clauses is known as anaphora. Apart from adding emphasis to the selected words, it contributes to the rhythm of a poem. The opposite of anaphora is epiphora.


Example:

In lines lines 43 and 44 of the poem “Daddy” by Sylivia Plath:

And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

Antanaclasis (or Antistasis)

Antanaclasis is wordplay characterized by the repetition of the same word in a poem or specific line, but having a different meaning each time. For instance, the repeated word may be used as a verb in the first usage and the next time it appears, it’s used as a noun.

Example

Lines 49 and 50 in the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

The boot in the face, the brute

Brute heart of a brute like you.

See the way the word “brute” is repeated, but each time it refers to a different meaning.

Antimetabole

Antimetabole involves repeating words or phrases inversely to emphasize, show differences, or present alternatives. The place of the first word is substituted with the second word in the next line. Antimetabole is a form of chiasmus but is more specific to a single pair of words.

Example

In the poem "Paradise Lost" by John Milton line 255 states:

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

Note that the words are repeated in abba rhyme structure Heav’n (a) Hell (b) Hell (b) Heav’n (b.)

Antimetabole Example

Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

Chiasmus

Chiasmus is a type of literary repetition where the same words, phrases, or ideas are reversed and repeated possibly giving a different meaning. Chiasmus is a broad device which can occur in an entire poem, beyond the repetition of words or phrases.

See the example given above in Antimetabole, which is a form of chiasmus.

Example

Have a look at another example from “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost

I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

Diacope

Diacope is a literary technique in poetry that involves repeating the same words or phrases separated by other words in the middle. It emphasizes an idea and creates rhythm.

Example

See line 39 in “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack

Diaphora

This repetition device occurs when a common name or title is assigned to somebody. Furthermore, the name suggests the qualities of that person.

Example

Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" the persona addresses the father using "Daddy" repeatedly in the poem.

Daddy, I have had to kill you. (line 6)

So daddy, I’m finally through (line 68)

Daddy, you can lie back now. (line 75)

Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through. (line 80)

Envelope

The envelope is a literary device typical of poetry in which the repetition of a line or stanza encloses other lines or stanzas.

Example

In “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost:

“I have been one acquainted with the night” which is the first line, is repeated as the last line of the poem. Thus, it envelopes the stanzas in between.

Epanalepsis

A form of literary repetition in which the first word of the line is also the last word of the same line. Epanalepsis is common in poetry and gives an "enveloping" effect.

Example

See the following line (36) in Sylvia Plath's poem "The Applicant"

It works, there is nothing wrong with it

Epimone

Repetition of a phrase for emphasis especially if it’s a question.

Example

In Sylvia Plath’s “The Applicant”:

Line 14 “Will you marry it?” is repeated again in line 22 and the last line.

Epiphora (Epistrophe)

The poetic device in which a phrase or word is repeated at the end of consecutive lines or clauses is known as epiphora. It creates rhyme and emphasis. It’s the inverse of anaphora.

Example

See lines 34 and 35 of the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath:

I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew

Epizeuxis (Ploce)

It’s a common type of repetition device and very easy to spot. Words or phrases repeat following each other consecutively within a line. Epizeuxis creates rhythm and emphasis.

Example

Line 18 in the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath:

Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.

Mesarchia

It’s a technique of repetition where the same word or group of words occur at the beginning and again in the middle of consecutive clauses.

Example

Here is a form of mesarchia found in line 66 of "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath:

(I call this a "mild example" because it just appears in one line.)

And a love of the rack and the screw.

Mesodiplosis

It’s a technique of repetition where the same word or phrase occurs in the middle of successive lines. Mesodiplosis enhances sound effect, rhythm and emphasis. It also creates parallelism.

Example

See lines 42 through 44 in the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.

And your neat mustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

Negative-positive restatement

A literary technique characterized by first stating an idea in a negative form, and then in a positive way. As in what is not the case then what is. The inverse also applies, that is, from positive statement first then to it's negative.

Example

An excerpt from "Paradise Lost" by John Milton, lines 253 an 254:

A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self

Repetition of "mind" first using the verb "to be" in a negative form (depicted by the word 'not'), and the next in positive form.

Polyptoton

Polyptoton occurs when a poem has repetitive words with the same root although the endings of the word are different. Mostly, when poets use this, it’s the same verb but in different verb forms or as another part of speech like an adverb or noun.

Example

Line 6 in the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

Daddy, I have had to kill you.

Refrain

When a line is repeated in a poem, it’s a technique called refrain. Some poems have a regular refrain whereby a line is repeated at the end of each stanza. Refrains contribute to the rhythm and beauty of a poem. As other types of repetition, the refrain emphasizes an idea and gives the poem a persuasive tone.

Example

In “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe:

The poet repeats variations of the line “this and nothing more” at the end of every stanza.

"Only this and nothing more"

"This it is and nothing more."

"Darkness there and nothing more."

— Edgar Allan Poe, from "The Raven," (lines 6,18, and 24)

Parallelism

Parallelism is the repetition of structure in adjacent lines or phrases within a poem. It can involve parallel meter, word order, or patterns. Parallelism is used to emphasize the meaning of the poem or the specific parallel words. Also, it emphasizes sounds and improves the rhythm of a poem. When parallelism is consistent throughout the poem, it can give it a regular rhythm.

Example

An excerpt from the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, lines 38 and 39:

With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack

Check the repetitive structure in the way the above lines are constructed.
“And my weird luck,” and my Taroc pack” are parallel. In fact, the repetition of and my Taroc pack in line 39 seems intentional to maintain the parallelism.
Anaphora and epiphora are also good examples of parallelism.

Symploce

Symploce is a stylistic literary device of repetition whereby anaphora and epiphora occur in the same lines. Consecutive lines begin with the same word or phrase (anaphora). Then, the same consecutive lines end with the same word or phrase (epiphora.)

Example

Lines 106 and 107 in “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Repetition of sounds

There's another group of repetition which can be classified as literary devices of sound. They are characterized by the repetition of various similar sounds. Let's examine them one by one with relevant examples.

Rhyme

Rhyme is the repetition of words that end with the same syllable sounds.

Example

Line 1 and 2 in the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath rhyme:

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe

Note that line 1 above has internal rhymes.

Alliteration

Alliteration is a poetic device involving repetition of the same sound at the beginning of words close to each other in a line.

Example

The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, line 47:

So black no sky could squeak through

Consonance

Consonance is a poetic device containing repetitive consonant sounds in a line.

Example

The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, lines 23 and 47:

Put your foot, your root,

Notice the repetition of “t” sounds above?

So black no sky could squeak through

Here the “k” sound is repeated.

Assonance

Assonance is a stylistic device in poetry involving repetition vowel sounds in a line.

Example

The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath:

You do not do, you do not do (line 1)

See the repetitive “oo” and "o" sounds.

So black no sky could squeak through (line 47)

See the repetitive “o” and “oo” sounds respectively

References

Greene, R., Cushman, S., Cavanagh, C., Ramazani, J., Rouzer, P., Feinsod, H., ... & Slessarev, A. (Eds.). (2012). The Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics. Princeton University Press.

Kane, T. S. (1994). The new Oxford guide to writing. Oxford University Press, USA.

Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Brigham Young University, 2007. Retrieved from http://rhetoric.byu.edu/

P.S: I source poems from the Poetry Foundation


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Centfie

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    • centfie profile imageAUTHOR

      Centfie 

      7 weeks ago from Kenya

      Thank you Jamie.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      7 weeks ago from Reno NV

      Excellent resource. Flagged for later use. Jamie

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