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A literary trope is the use of "figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect[1] such as using a "figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring "literary and "rhetorical devices,[2] "motifs or "clichés in creative works.[3][4]



The term trope derives from the Greek τρόπος (tropos), "turn, direction, way", derived from the verb τρέπειν (trepein), "to turn, to direct, to alter, to change".[3] Tropes and their classification were an important field in "classical rhetoric. The study of tropes has been taken up again in modern criticism, especially in "deconstruction.[5] Tropological criticism (not to be confused with "tropological reading, a type of biblical "exegesis) is the historical study of tropes, which aims to "define the dominant tropes of an epoch" and to "find those tropes in literary and non-literary texts", an interdisciplinary investigation of which "Michel Foucault was an "important exemplar".[5]

In medieval writing[edit]

A specialized use is the medieval "amplification of texts from the liturgy, such as in the "Kyrie Eleison (Kyrie, / magnae Deus potentia, / liberator hominis, / transgressoris mandati, / eleison). The most important example of such a trope is the "Quem quaeritis?, an amplification before the "Introit of the "Easter Sunday service and the source for "liturgical drama.[2][6] This particular practice came to an end with the "Tridentine Mass, the unification of the liturgy in 1570 promulgated by "Pope Pius V.[5]


"Kenneth Burke has called metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony the "four master tropes".[7]


"Rhetoricians have closely analyzed the great variety of "twists and turns" used in "poetry and "literature and have provided an extensive list of precise labels for these poetic devices. Examples include:

For a longer list, see "Figure of speech: Tropes.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Miller (1990). Tropes, Parables, and Performatives. Duke University Press. p. 9. "ISBN "0822311119. 
  2. ^ a b Cuddon, J. A.; Preston, C. E. (1998). "Trope". The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4 ed.). London: Penguin. p. 948. "ISBN "9780140513639. 
  3. ^ a b "trope", Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, "Springfield, Massachusetts: "Merriam-Webster, 2009, retrieved 2009-10-16 
  4. ^ "trope (revised entry)". "Oxford English Dictionary. "Oxford University Press. 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Childers, Joseph; Hentzi, Gary (1995). "Trope". The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism. New York: Columbia UP. p. 309. "ISBN "9780231072434. 
  6. ^ Cuddon, J. A.; Preston, C. E. (1998). "Quem quaeritis trope". The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4 ed.). London: Penguin. p. 721. "ISBN "9780140513639. 
  7. ^ "Burke, K. (1969). A grammar of motives. Berkeley: University of California Press. 


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