Use of the Epigraph in George Eliot's Middlemarch Essay

Use of the Epigraph in George Eliot's Middlemarch Essay

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Use of the Epigraph in George Eliot's Middlemarch


The epigraph is an unusual, though not uncommon, form of citation. It is a part of the text yet distinct from it. White space and specialized formatting, such as italics, separate the epigraph from the main text, thereby challenging the reader to determine the relationship between the two. Unlike a typical quotation, which dwells in the midst of the text, illuminating one point in the argument, the epigraph's unique positioning prior to the body of the text highlights particular ideas, words, or images and thereby guides the reading of the entire argument. In essence, its shadow falls across and affects the reading of the text it precedes. This shadow looms large because it is formed not only by the body of the epigraph but also by the scholar, philosopher, or poet, and textual source from which it is taken. Like all citations, the epigraph creates an intertextuality and a dialogue with another author.

The heuristic function of the epigraph may seem relatively simple when looking at a journal article that begins w...

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