chapter  5
31 Pages

Tropes and the Concept of Genre

WithRitva Jacobsson, Leo Treitler

The genre concept has been in use since classical times—then with its companion concept, propriety or decorum. The latter stood for the idea that particular conventions, which could be spelled out in the form of rules, were appropriate to particular genres in the light of their objectives or functions. Artists working in a genre are conscious of a tradition; they imitate, parody, transform what their predecessors have done. They work to carry forward a standard that constitutes the core of the genre. One of the most intriguing problems of medieval studies is that of the origin of medieval drama and hence of the birth of modern theatre. The question about the "trope" genre lies at the heart of that problem. The oldest manuscripts make no clear distinction between tropes, sequences, fraction antiphons, hymns, etc.—there is simply some sort of liturgical bulk in a manuscript whose main contents are non-liturgical.