Literary topos

Under a topos (pl. topoi of ancient Greek τόπος topos " place, topic, truism" ) is defined as a truism, a stereotyped phrase, have a pre- figure of speech, an example or pattern ( eg vitae navigatio, the "life boat" ).

Rhetoric and Literature

In classical rhetoric topoi are as part of the inventio general points from which one can draw arguments. ( Quintilian: " sedes argumentorum, latent in quibus, ex quibus sunt petenda "). The origin of a person or the time of an action are topoi, if they say something typical about them. Aristotle summarizes the concept of topos as a spectrum of functions: both heuristically (as the search location ), argumentative ( as an impetus to an argument ) and rhetorical ( as part of the speech itself ). His little systematic instructions for finding the topos went to the late antique and medieval Latin rhetorics one ( Matthew of Vendôme, Johannes de Garlandia ) and acquired a special meaning in the age of humanism ( Erasmus, Philip Melanchthon ) and their popularity in the Baroque. Latin as the vernacular rhetorics (about Harsdorffer Poetic funnel) made ​​the discovery of topoi and her poetic execution to its genuine issue. Collections of such topoi emerged and led to its solidification to entrenched stereotypes to set pieces to conventional platitudes.

Examples include the topos of the " wicked stepmother " or the " sweet spot " (Latin locus amoenus ) in nature, on which the action temporarily pauses (see Motif ( literature) ). These negatively occupied position of the topoi led to contempt for the rhetoric of the Enlightenment.

The field of rhetoric and literature, which deals with the topos, Topik is called. Among its founders Ernst Robert Curtius counts.

Humanities and Cultural Studies

In the humanities and cultural studies, the term topos is used for both categories, as well as for ( Perception ) images. For example, the category " definition " a topos dar. Like other Greek terms ( as myth ), the term topos today, in contrast to the sober ancient meaning, a melodramatic connotation: One speaks of the " topos of God's punishment " or the " topos of music city Vienna " and sees it as a kind of wax called collective memory.


The term topos or place plays an important role in Japanese philosophy. Beginning of the 20th century Nishida Kitaro tries to go against the dominant subject-object dualism of Western philosophy and an alternative philosophical concept as bashoron (Doctrine of the place, topology) introduce the term basho ( for topos, place). This approach was taken up by other philosophers by Nishida and led to a " topological turn" in philosophy, but also in neighboring humanities, such as sociology or cultural studies.