polysyndeton

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STYLISTIC FEATURE OF THE WEEK (…AND HOW TO WRITE ABOUT IT)

polysyndeton – not a small town in wales, but rather a well-used writing technique! 

first, let’s talk fanboys:

no. not fanboys. – f.a.n.b.o.y.s.

for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

words that are otherwise known as conjunctions 

so, what have these words got to do with this week’s stylistic feature, polysnydeton?

polysyndeton is the repetiTion of conjuNctions in a phrase

this stylistic feature can be used to create a range of characteristics in writing, including:

– a “childlike” tone (…and an ice cream and a bar of chocolate and a kite and a see-saw…)

– emphasising individual items in a list 

– creating a highly distinctive rhythm in writing  

for example, in hemingway’s “after the storm”, polysyndeton is used by the author to create a sense of overwhelming emotion upon the discovery of a dead body:

“I said, ‘Who killed him?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know who killed him but he’s dead all right,’ and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was all right only she was full of water.”

the use of polysnydeton creates a sense of stream of consciousness, that the character’s mental state has been affected by what has been seen. 

polysndeton is also used to elevate the tone of importance in prose: 

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers.”

[this is the creed of the u.s. postal service, a very famous example of polysyndeton]

polysyndeton can also be found in non-fiction text such as speeches, such as this speech from steve jobs in 2o07:

“It’s got awesome security. And the right apps. It’s got everything from Cocoa and the graphics and it’s got core animation built in and it’s got the audio and video that OSX is famous for. It’s got all the stuff we want.” 

the opposite of polysyndeton is asyndeton, when  punctuation is used instead of conjunctions:

“I CAME. I SAW. I CONQUERED.” 

(NOTICE HOW JULIUS CAESAR LEAVES OUT THE CONJUNCTION “and”; emphasising a sense of strength.)

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR POLYSYNDETON (OR ASYNEDTON) THE NEXT TIME YOU ARE EXPLORING A FICTION OR NON-FICTION TEXT, AND CONSIDER:

  • WHY HAS THIS STYLISTIC FEATURE BEEN USED…HOW IS THIS LINKED TO THE TEXT’S PURPOSE?
  • WHAT TONE HAS BEEN CREATED?
  • HOW DOES THIS AUTHORIAL CHOICE HELP TO SHAPE MEANING?

*IN ANCIENT GREEK, POLY MEANS “MANY” AND “SNYDETON” MEANS “BOUND TOGETHER WITH”

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