Definition of Theme (literature)
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Theme (literature) Definition from Encyclopedia Dictionaries & Glossaries
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In contemporary literary studies, a theme is the central topic, subject, or concept the author is trying to point out, not to be confused with whatever message, moral, or commentary it may send or be interpreted as sending regarding said concept (i.e., its inferred "thesis"). While the term "theme" was for a period used to reference "message" or "moral," literary critics now rarely employ it in this fashion, namely due to the confusion it causes regarding the common denotation of theme: "[t]he subject of discourse, discussion, conversation, meditation, or composition; a topic." One historic problem with the previous usage was that readers would frequently conflate "subject" and "theme" as similar concepts, a confusion that the new terminology helps prevent in both scholarship and the classroom. Thus, according to recent scholarship and pedagogy, identifying a story's theme—for example, "death"—does not inherently involve identifying the story's thesis or claims about "death's" definitions, properties, values, or significance. Like morals or messages, themes often explore historically common or cross-culturally recognizable ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.
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