Literary topos  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Topos (literally "a place"; pl. topoi) referred in the context of classical Greek rhetoric to a standardised method of constructing or treating an argument. See topos in classical rhetoric.

Ernst Robert Curtius expanded this concept in studying topoi as commonplaces: reworkings of traditional material, particularly the descriptions of standardised settings, but extended to almost any literary meme. Critics have traced the use and re-use of such topoi from the literature of classical antiquity to the 18th century and beyond into postmodern literature. This is illustrated in the study of archetypal heroes and in the theory of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces ," also the name of a book written by modern theorist Joseph Campbell.

For example, oral histories passed down from pre-historic societies contain literary aspects, characters, or settings which appear again and again in stories from ancient civilizations, religious texts, and even more modern stories. The biblical creation myths and of "the flood" are two examples, as they are repeated in other civilizations' earliest texts (see Epic of Gilgamesh or Deluge (mythology)) and are seen again and again in historical texts and references.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Literary topos" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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