qu'est-ce que c'est qu'un trope?

I've had some questions as to what I meant by "troping" in my last entry. Here's what the American Heritage Dictionary says:

1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.
2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies.

Latin tropus, from Greek tropos, turn, figure of speech. See trep-.

Basically, a trope is a motif, a theme, an idea, something which gets repeated and re-represented in different contexts. To use it as a verb, "to trope," is to fall into the kind of academic jargon that separates academic criticism from mainstream criticism; very unlikely you'll ever hear Michiko Kakutani use it as a verb, but a Google search of "troping" turned up essays like "Troping the Body: Gender, Etiquette and Performance," "Troping History: Modernist Residue in Frederic Jameson's Pastiche and Linda Hutcheon's Parody," and "Troping Toussaint, Reading Revolution."

On Paris Breakfasts, Carol picked up on what a range of seemingly unrelated objects had in common-- color or form-- and brought them into a kind of coherence by creating relationships between them. It's very obvious when she's working with something like cherries, but more subtle when, in this entry for instance, we see the troping of circular metal, industrial but shown always in a soft Paris morning light-- in which there is something almost metallic.

I don't know-- it's something that announces itself to me on a very intuitive level and it can be difficult to get it into (non-jargon) words.


ParisBreakfasts said...

So interesting Laurie..I didn't really "see" the shape connections in that kitchen but now I do. And I am drawn to round shapes - it's why I love to paint cups and saucers and tea pots. Hmmm..I have to think about this more

lafashionista said...

Tropes. I remember the first time I encountered the word was in undergrad in my lit. theory class, and it blew me away. Enough so that I wrote my final paper on one of my favorite movies, "A Bronx Tale," discussing the tropes that were present in it.

I remember citing Bakhtin, Saussure, and Gates in the paper. Got an A, which made me happy 'cause, I mean, I wrote a paper about a movie!

maitresse said...

I do find you can rationalize writing on just about any topic (or "text") by bringing in a little Bakhtin. :)

I remember having the word "trope" in the writing assignment for my first undergraduate theory class and raising my hand to ask what it was... all the other barnard girls looked at me disdainfully, but hey, sorry, I went to a public HS, it's amazing I even know how to read.