Hello everyone. Welcome back to #theorythursday.
Today I am going to talk about what an epigraph is.
Let’s dive in.
What is an epigraph?
Have you ever opened a book to find a phrase or a quote at the beginning of the story?
Most people have probably read many epigraphs without realising that there is a term for that quote that was at the beginning of a book.
That quote at the start of the book wasn’t just a quote, it was an epigraph.
An epigraph is a quote, phrase, or sometimes even a paragraph, found at the beginning of a book, article, or document.
Why do authors include epigraphs?
An epigraph can set the tone for what the text is about. Usually an epigraph can help establish the theme and tone of a text, and sometimes the epigraph can even help to contextualise the work.
Why is this important?
I personally love when a text has an epigraph, particularly if the author has used a quote at the beginning of their work because in my opinion, this gives readers some insights into the author. When we see that an author has chosen to quote someone, this tells me that this quote has resonated with the author somehow, enough that they chose to use it in their own work. There is something about seeing who someone chooses to quote that can tell us a lot about them, it tells us what kind of writers that the author admires, and it can also give hints about what the style of the work might be like, or whose style of writing the author enjoys.
I think that knowing the term epigraph simply expands one’s knowledge of literary terms.
If you are ever at a pub quiz, and one of the questions asks, “What is the quote at the beginning of a novel called?”, now you know the answer. You’d be amazed by what might come up in a pub quiz, the last time I participated in one, the theme was horror and my knowledge of gothic literature certainly got us a few points.
One of my favourite epigraphs can be found in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.
Gaiman begins his novel with a quote from G.K. Chesterton.
Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.G.K. Chesterton.
This has been Theory Thursday. I hope you enjoyed it.
If you were writing a novel, what would your epigraph be? I’d love to know.