The UVic Writer's Guide


A motif, or topos is a recurring concept or story element in literature.

It includes concepts such as types of incidents or situations, such as the aubade aubade or parting of lovers at dawn; plot devices, such as the lady's love token, which inspires courage in her lover, or the recognition tokens in plots of mistaken identity; or plot formulas,) such as the "loathly lady" who later becomes a beautiful princess, or the "femme fatale" whose attraction proves deadly; and character types, such as the despairing lover, conquering hero, or wicked stepmother.

In a more narrow sense, "motif" is also used to describe recurring elements within particular works, such as phrases, descriptions, or patterns of imagery.

Literary Terms (By Category)
Literary Terms (Alphabetized)
Table of Contents
Start Over

Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995