Polysyndeton: Many conjunctions

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Polysyndeton: Many conjunctions

From Rhetoric by Thomas Gibbons; The Might and Mirth of Literature, by John Walker Vilant Macbeth; The Outlines of Rhetoric for Schools and Colleges, by Joseph Henry Gilmore

Polysyndeton (Greek poly, ‘many,’ + syndetos, ‘bound together’) is a figure of rhetoric in which conjunctions are repeated in close succession for the sake of emphasis:
“The African bears with him all his wealth,
And house, and household-gods, and armed force,
And trusty dog, and quiver fledg'd with darts.” -- Virgil

Greek rhetoricians used this figure often.

I. Excessive use of conjunctions

The excessive use of conjunctions serves to keep attention focused on the items enumerated. For example, Livy, describing the pleasure and luxury which corrupted and softened the army of Hannibal, says,
“For sleep, and wine, and feasts, and strumpets, and bagnios, and sloth, that through custom grows every day more bewitching, had so enervated their minds and bodies, that the reputation of their past victories protected them more than their present strength.”

 

II. Adds weight and gravity

Polysyndeton appears to be laid in the speaker's desire that every one of his weighty and important ideas may be fully comprehended; and therefore he gives time, by the reduplication of conjunctions, for the leisurely infusion of his sentiments, that they may thereby make the more forcible and lasting impression. It makes what is said to appear with an air of solemnity; and, by retarding the course of the sentence, gives the mind an opportunity to consider and reflect upon every part distinctly.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?-- St. Paul

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