About Wikitropes

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Wikitropes is a new way to connect with information.


WHAT IS A TROPE!?

Wikitropes defines the word trope as, "a significant or recurrent theme, feature, device, or motif." Applying the word in this way, tropes can be found not only in various forms of art, but in just about every aspect of life that one can think of. Trope is not a new word, and like most, it has been used to mean a lot of different things. In English class, you may have learned that a trope is a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression. If your English teacher was slightly less stodgy, you may have also been taught the more modern use of the word, which is to refer to any commonly used narrative or literary theme, feature, character type, device, plot twist, etc. Some examples of this second type of trope would be: beginning a story in medias res (in the middle of the action), having characters get stranded on a desert island, or featuring a hero with a tragic flaw such as hubris or jealousy. Within any given subject or genre, the tropes are the things we see over and over again. In that sense, there is clearly some overlap between tropes and cliches. The difference is that tropes don't have to come off as cliched. In fact, if used right, they can be the building blocks of great achievement. For instance, all of the literary tropes listed above were, at some time or another, used to great effect by none other than William Shakespeare! (And, in case you're wondering, they all had a long and well documented history of use long before Shakespeare breathed new life into them).

Tropes can be found everywhere: in the music we listen to, the languages and dialects we speak, the situations we find ourselves in, the movies and shows we watch, and the paintings, sculptures, and other works of art we love.

Here are some examples of tropes:

Swing note - Swing is an extremely significant feature of jazz music. Jazz would not be jazz without it. As the great Duke Ellington put it, "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." The swing note is hard to pin down, but to put it as simply as possible, it is that lilting, slightly uneven, syncopated rhythm that is ubiquitous in jazz music. Here's a video example: Duke Ellington C Jam Blues

Sibling rivalry - Sibling rivalry can definitely be seen as a literary trope. It is a very common plot device, and can be found in all kinds of literature from all over the world. Examples are the story of Cain and Abel in The Old Testament, the daughters in Shakespeare's King Lear, The sisters in Cinderella, and countless others. This trope is a good illustration of how tropes often overlap with real life. Like anything else, our lives can also have significant or recurrent themes, features, devices, and motifs...

You betcha! - Human Language also has its tropes. Linguistic tropes are often regional or cultural. For instance, a hearty "you betcha!" is a figure of speech especially common in the Midwest. Note that this last example of tropes brings us right back to the original definition that your stodgy old English teacher first taught you: "Trope: a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression." See, we haven't strayed so far from the original meaning after all...

So what do all these things have in common? They are all common features of their given subject. Swing is a common feature of jazz, sibling rivalry is a common feature of literature, and "you betcha!" is a common feature of, well... being Midwestern. If you still feel uncomfortable with the word "trope" at this point, you may replace it with the word "convention." For all intents and purposes the meaning is the same, but you will come to find that, while all conventions are tropes, not all tropes are conventions. OK. Moving on.


WHY WIKITROPES!?

The goal of Wikitropes is to form a comprehensive reference tool for finding the tropes of any given subject. The information is out there already, it's just not always very easy to find. Entries here will often be brief, with lots of links to sites like wikipedia and youtube. The goal is simply to provide a new way to search for information, one geared towards seeking out the tropes of any given subject. One reason this is valuable is that learning tropes is a huge part of learning any subject or skill. For instance, if one wants to learn how to play jazz music, it will be helpful to became familiar with the tropes of jazz: swing note, blue notes, melismatic singing, etc. If one wants to become a science fiction author, one had better familiarize oneself with the tropes of science fiction: dystopian futures, the moral and philosophical questions surrounding the creation of artificial intelligence, alien worlds, etc. Conversely, if one wishes to do something completely original, identifying tropes becomes a way of knowing what to avoid.

Above, we used the examples of jazz and science fiction. This is because they are easily recognizable and the tropes of their respective genres are fairly well established, but there is a whole world of tropes out there that are far less scrutable or well defined than the swinging rhythm of jazz music, or the self-aware computers of sci-fi. Up to now, much of the world of tropes has remained surprisingly uncharted, and it is a fertile ground for exploration. There are countless tropes out there, many of which we have never even tried to name or describe. We have taken them for granted. The mission at Wikitropes is to take them for granted no longer! Learning about tropes can help us to understand the world around us, to communicate and relate with one another, and to be better at the things we do. Besides, it's fun!

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