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March 2018



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What is a trope?

I just discovered that the word trope has meanings I was not aware of and moreover the meaning I was aware of is not in the dictionary (yet).

I first encountered the word trope in studies of folklore. A literary trope is an element of narrative (a theme or plot point) the occurs in multiple examples of the genre. Examples of tropes are: youngest of three sons in fairy tales, the handsome stranger in romance novels, the time travel paradox in science fiction, the hardbitten detective in mystery novels.

Hey Wikipedia has heard of it.

Looking at what other people have written:

The rhetorical meaning:
Tropes by Bill Long
"For example, one of the leading works on rhetoric today, P.J. Corbett's Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (OUP, 1971), isolates two basic words from which the streams of rhetorical terms flow: trope and scheme. The former is defined as a deviation from the ordinary and principal signification of a word, while the latter supposedly denotes a deviation from the ordinary pattern or arrangement of words."

Catholic liturgical meaning
Trope: Definition and Description
"Trope, in the liturgico-hymnological sense, is a collective name which, since about the close of the Middle Ages or a little later, has been applied to texts of great variety (in both poetry and prose) written for the purpose of amplifying and embellishing an independently complete liturgical text (e.g. the Introit, the Kyrie, Gloria, Gradual, or other parts of the Mass or of the Office sung by the choir). These additions are closely attached to the official liturgical text, but in no way do they change the essential character of it; they are entwined in it, augmenting and elucidating it; they are, as it were, a more or less poetical commentary that is woven into the liturgical text, forming with it a complete unit."

"The most accurate definition, applicable to all the different kinds of Tropes, might be the following: A Trope is an interpolation in a liturgical text, or the embellishment brought about by interpolation (i.e. by introductions, insertions, or additions). Herein lies the difference between the Trope and the closely- related Sequence or Prose. The Sequence also is an embellishment of the liturgy, an insertion between liturgical chants (the Gradual and the Gospel), originating about the eighth century; the Sequence is thus an interpolation in the liturgy, but it is not an interpolation in a liturgical text. The Sequence is an independent unit, complete in itself; the Trope, however, forms a unit only in connection with a liturgical text, and when separated from the latter is often devoid of any meaning."

It looks like the literary meaning is closer to the liturgical usage than the rhetorical usage. The idea of trope as an narrative embellishment that is entwined in the larger narrative, it exists independently from any particular narrative but is not complete in itself. It requires a larger work to give it meaning.


Re: trope

Are you familiar with The TV Tropes Wiki? For someone like me that doesn't participate in motion media, it's rather useful...

Re: trope

Thanks. I was not familiar with that.
trope to me has the musical definition...i.e. i had to learn the trope to go along with the Hebrew bible reading that I did as a kid. This article was interesting to learn the other meanings.