Epigraphs

Authors sometimes wish to include an epigraph (a short quotation) at the beginning of a volume, a chapter, or a chapter section. Such epigraphs serve primarily as decoration; they are related to the content of a book or chapter but stand apart from the main text in terms of content and formatting.

According to CMS 1.37, book epigraphs generally cite only the author and the title, usually on a separate line preceded by an em dash.

To blow the colonial world to smithereens is henceforth a clear image within the grasp and imagination of every colonized subject.

—Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth

Note that the epigraph is not surrounded by quotation marks.

 CMS 1.49 recommends a similar treatment for chapter epigraphs, although it states that chapter epigraphs may include a numbered or unnumbered note reference with full bibliographic information.

To blow the colonial world to smithereens is henceforth a clear image within the grasp and imagination of every colonized subject.

—Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth

Unnumbered footnote: Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove Press, 2004), 4.

SBL follows these guidelines, although we recommend omitting the bibliographical note from chapter epigraphs. Although epigraphs can refer to modern academic works, they frequently draw upon a variety ancient and modern literary works (see examples below). In such cases, a full bibliographic citation is often unnecessary as the exact page on which a citation occurs is less important than the verse, act, or title in which it occurs. Moreover, an unnumbered note accompanying epigraphs in the middle of a chapter (i.e., at the beginning of each new chapter section) can disrupt the flow of the numbered footnotes and confuse readers. For a consistent, clean look, we recommend that epigraphs at the beginning of a book, chapter, and chapter sections include only the full name of the author and title on a separate line preceded by an em dash. Full bibliographic information, if needed, can be included in the bibliography.

Below are additional examples of epigraphs using our recommended format.

Biblical Citation:

Then two great dragons came forward, both ready to fight, and they roared terribly. At their roaring every nation prepared for war, to fight against the righteous nation. It was a day of darkness and gloom, of tribulation and distress, affliction and great tumult on the earth!

—LXX Esther 11:6–8

Play:

To be, or not to be: that is the question.

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

Song:

There will be an answer, let it be.

—The Beatles, “Let It Be”

Poem:

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom

of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand

us enslave something in us.

—Kahlil Gibran, “The Madman”

Dictionary Entry:

religion noun

  1. the service and worship of God or the supernatural; commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
  2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Speech:

Not by the forces of civil war can you govern the very weakest woman. You can kill that woman, but she escapes you then; you cannot govern her. No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent.

—Emmeline Pankhurst, “Freedom or Death”

Novel:

To blow the colonial world to smithereens is henceforth a clear image within the grasp and imagination of every colonized subject.

—Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth

Academic Monograph:

Most of the time, defence of the patriarchal order does not require an explicit masculinity politics. Given that the heterosexual men socially selected for hegemonic masculinity run the corporations and the state, the routine maintenance of these institutions will normally do the job.… Yet crisis tendencies in the gender order do emerge, and in response to them hegemonic masculinity is likely to be thematized and a “gun lobby” type of politics arises.

—R. W. Connell, Masculinities

Academic Article:

Power relations imply acceptance on the part of those subject to them. They also imply resistance.

—J. M. Barbalet, “Power and Resistance”

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