Epithet (162 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Note

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  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume : WORLD HISTORY AND IDEAS: A CROSS-CULTURAL VOLUME.


From Latin epitheton, from Greek, from epitithenai meaning “to add”, an adjective or adjectival cluster that is associated with a particular person or thing and that usually seems to capture their prominent characteristics. For example, “Ethelred the unready”, or “fleet-footed Achilles” in Pope's version of The Iliad. The “transferred epithet” is a special category where the adjective cannot normally be applied to the noun but where its use becomes justified by the added effect thus achieved. For example, in his “Ode to a Nightingale” Keats brilliantly transfers the sense of embalming to darkness:

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense …

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Editors. "Epithet". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 November 2001
[https://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=353, accessed 21 October 2017.]

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