Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes


Employing many conjunctions between clauses, often slowing the tempo or rhythm.

Figure of addition and emphasis which intentionally employs a series of conjunctions (and, or, but, for, nor, so, yet) not normally found in successive words, phrases, or clauses; the deliberate and excessive use of conjunctions in successive words or clauses.

from Hunter Stephenson:

"a sentence style that employs many conjunctions”

This is a general term for it—the definition assumes that there is no purposeful repetition (of words, sounds, concepts, etc.) across the clauses.  If there is such repetition, well, there are other terms depending on what is repeated.  From the Greek for “bound together.”

Polysyndeton is contrasted with syndeton (one conjunction) and asyndeton (no conjunctions.)


  • And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. Genesis 7:22-24

Writers of modern times have also used the scheme:

  • "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 or 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 right only she was full of water." Ernest Hemingway, After the Storm

from "Goodbye to All That"* (1968)

by Joan Didion

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was. When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already, even in the old Idlewild temporary terminal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever heard sung and all the stories I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was. Some time later there was a song on all the jukeboxes on the Upper East Side that went "but where is the schoolgirl who used to be me," and if it was late enough at night I used to wonder that. I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air-conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a bad cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those three days was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.



Mark 4 (King James Version of Bible)

 1And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

 2And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

 3Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

 4And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

 5And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

 6But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

 8And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

 9And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

 10And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

 11And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

 12That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

 13And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

 14The sower soweth the word.

 15And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

 16And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

 17And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.

 18And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

 19And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

 20And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

 21And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

 22For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

 23If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

 24And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

 25For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

 26And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

 27And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

 28For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

 29But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

 30And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

 31It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:

 32But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

 33And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

 34But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

 35And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

 36And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

 37And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

 38And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

 39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

 41And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?


from Robinson Crusoe, 1719, describing a storm at sea:

We worked on; but the water increasing in the hold, it was apparent that the ship would founder; and though the storm began to abate a little, yet it was not possible she could swim till we might run into any port; so the master continued firing guns for help; and a light ship, who had rid it out just ahead of us, ventured a boat out to help us. It was with the utmost hazard the boat came near us; but it was impossible for us to get on board, or for the boat to lie near the ship's side, till at last the men rowing very heartily, and venturing their lives to save ours, our men cast them a rope over the stern with a buoy to it, and then veered it out a great length, which they, after much labor and hazard, took hold of, and we hauled them close under our stern, and got all into their boat. It was to no purpose for them or us, after we were in the boat, to think of reaching their own ship; so all agreed to let her drive, and only to pull her in towards shore as much as we could; and our master promised them, that if the boat was staved upon shore, he would make it good to their master: so partly rowing and partly driving, our boat went away to the northward, sloping towards the shore almost as far as Winterton Ness [foreland on Norwich coast].

We were not much more than a quarter of an hour out of our ship till we saw her sink, and then I understood for the first time what was meant by a ship foundering in the sea. I must acknowledge I had hardly eyes to look up when the seamen told me she was sinking; for from the moment that they rather put me into the boat than that I might be said to go in, my heart was, as it were, dead within me, partly with fright, partly with horror of mind, and the thoughts of what was yet before me.

While we were in this conditionthe men yet laboring at the oar to bring the boat near the shore-we could see (when, our boat mounting the waves, we were able to see the shore) a great many people running along the strand to assist us when we should come near; but we made but slow way towards the shore; nor were we able to reach the shore till, being past the lighthouse at Winterton, the shore falls off to the westward towards Cromer, and so the land broke off a little the violence of the wind. . . .


from Hunter Stephenson

“polysyndeton” – “a sentence style that employs many conjunctions”


This is a general term for it—the definition assumes that there is no purposeful repetition (of words, sounds, concepts, etc.) across the clauses.  If there is such repetition, well, there are other terms depending on what is repeated.  From the Greek for “bound together.”


Polysyndeton is contrasted with syndeton (one conjunction) and asyndeton (no conjunctions.)