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Another meaning of 'Trope' is Jewish cantillation.


Linguistic usage

A trope is a play on words, a word used in something other than what is considered its literal or normal form. It comes from the Greek word, tropos, which means a "turn", as in heliotrope, a flower which turns toward the sun. We can imagine a trope as a way of turning a word away from its normal meaning, or turning it into something else.

There are four kinds of tropes:

Literary usage

In literature, a trope is a familiar and repeated symbol, style, character or thing that permeates a particular type of literature. They are usually tied heavily to genre. For example, tropes in horror literature and film include the mad scientist or a dark and stormy night. Tropes can also be plots or events, such as the science fiction trope of an alien invasion that is deterred at the last minute.

Authors that rely on tropes are often seen as unimaginative and dull. However, many authors have twisted tropes into new forms to great success. Stephen King has been noteworthy for taking older horror tropes and reworking them into the modern world to great effect.

Tropes in philosophy of history

The use of tropes has been extended from a linguistic usage to the field of philosophy of history by, among other theoricists, Hayden White in his Metahistory (1973). Tropes are generally understood to be styles of discourse - rather than figures of style - underlying the historian's writing of history. They are historically determined in as much as the historiography of every period is defined by a specific type of trope.

For Hayden White, tropes historically unfolded in this sequence: metonymy, metaphor, synecdoche and, finally, irony.

Tropes in music

In music, a trope is an unordered collection of six different pitches, what is now called an unordered hexachord, of which there are two in twelve tone equal temperament. Tropes were used by Josef Matthias Hauer in his twelve-tone technique developed just before but overshadowed by Arnold Schoenberg's.

See also

Figure of speech

Last updated: 02-27-2005 18:47:33