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[Topoi] are intellectual themes, suitable for development and modification at the orator’s pleasure. In Greek they are called κoινoí τóπoι; in Latin, loci communes; in earlier German, Gemeinörter. Lessing and Kant still use the word. About 1770, Gemeinplatz was formed after the English “commonplace.” We cannot use the word, since it has lost its original application. We shall therefore retain the Greek topos [...] the topoi too acquire a new function. They become clichés, which can be used in any form of literature, they spread to all spheres of life with which literature deals and to which it gives form."--European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1948) by Ernst Robert Curtius

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Topos (From Ancient Greek τόπος) means place. In literary theory it refers to a literary theme or motif; a rhetorical convention or formula.

Literary topos

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 in European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1948) 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.

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.

Particular topia

See also

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