Epicrisis


Epicrisis (e-pi-cri’-sis): When a speaker quotes a certain passage and makes comment upon it.

Related figures: anamenesis–calling to memory past matters. More specifically, citing a past author from memory–and chreia (from the Greek chreiodes, “useful”) . . . “a brief reminiscence referring to some person in a pithy form for the purpose of edification.” It takes the form of an anecdotethat reports either a saying, an edifying action, or both.


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” Charles Dickens

This passage from “A Tale of Two Cities” reminds me of the first time I took acid, seeing the inextricable link between opposites, always existing begging for our allegiance to one, but never both at the same time. We live as victims of a dialectically opposed opposed calculus—in the throes of ‘either or’ as Kierkegaard wrote. We are set up by opposition, the foundation of choice. The choice must be made when we are faced with the dictum that something can’t be and not be it’s opposite at the same time under the same circumstances. Being “the best of times and the worst of times” can be at different times and places, under different circumstances, and perhaps, framed such that they appear best and worst simultaneously, but this not possible for consciousness to perceive—in succession, yes, but not at once while simultaneously discriminating between them. In a way, the perception of opposites takes turns, or they may synthesize into a new whole.

I had a golf club that I had inherited from my uncle. It was beautiful— it’s leather wrapped grip, straight tight grained hickory shaft, and a hand forged iron head. In it’s time, it was the best that money could buy. Now, it was eclipsed by every golf club on the market. Still, I used it. I played all nine holes with it. I was torn between my uncle’s legacy and the new model golf clubs that enabled greater accuracy and distance. I had become a laughing stock among my golf playing peers. It was painful, but my uncle’s club wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t know what to do. My heart was breaking. I wanted to play better. I wanted to honor my uncle’s legacy. I was torn.

Then, somebody stole my golf club. We found out that it was among the first golf clubs ever made, and it was worth at least $1,000,000. They caught the crook—one of my golf playing “friends.” The club was returned. I decided the best way to honor my uncle’s legacy was to sell the club so it would be displayed somewhere for everybody to see—perhaps at the PGA museum.

I’m not sure how this relates to a “A Tale of Two Cities” opening lines. I was lucky. If not, I would’ve been the main character in “A Tale of Endless Bogies.” If the club had not been stolen and returned, I never would have realized it’s value. Good came of bad. A sequence of opposites we all hope for.


Definitions courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)

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