From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A theme is the subject matter of a narrative or a work of art; a topic; a recurring idea; a motif. In music it refers to the main melody of a piece of music, especially one that is the source of variations.
From Old French tesme (French: thème), from Latin thema, from Ancient Greek θέμα (théma), from τίθημι (tithemi, “I put, place”), reduplicative from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeh₁- (“to put, place, do”) (whence also English do).
The most common contemporary understanding of theme is an idea or concept that is central to a story, which can often be summed in a single word (e.g. love, death, betrayal). Typical examples of themes of this type are conflict between the individual and society; coming of age; humans in conflict with technology; nostalgia; and the dangers of unchecked ambition. A theme may be exemplified by the actions, utterances, or thoughts of a character in a novel. An example of this would be the theme loneliness in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, wherein many of the characters seem to be lonely. It may differ from the thesis—the text's or author's implied worldview.
Thematic literary criticism
Thematic literary criticism is the study of literature categorized or classified by theme. Examples include Mario Praz’s Romantic Agony, which investigates the morbid and sexual tendencies in Romantic literature, Tzvetan Todorov's The Fantastic, which is a survey of fantastic strains in European literature, Colin Wilson's The Misfits and The Outsider which highlights authors considered perverse or out of the mainstream respectively, Ludwig Marcuse’s Obscene: The History of an Indignation, a survey of obscenity trials in European literature, André Breton’s Anthology of Black Humor, a compendium of authors considered practitioners of black humor and Patrick J. Kearney's A History of Erotic Literature which is a history of erotic fiction.
In visual art
In the visual arts, a theme is a broad idea or a message conveyed by work done in a visual experience, such as a performance, a painting, or a motion picture. This message is usually about life, society or human nature. Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a work. Themes are usually implied rather than explicitly stated. Deep thematic content is not required in a visual work; however, some observers would say that all visual work inherently projects some kind of outlook on life that can be taken as a theme, regardless of whether or not this is the intent of the author.
The phrase theme music usually refers to that of a radio program, television program, or movie. It is a piece that is often written specifically for that show, and usually played during the title sequence and/or end credits. If it is accompanied by lyrics, most often associated with the show, it is a theme song.
Themes and sensibilities
Themes of the Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia:
absurd - abnormal - alternative - anti - avant-garde - banned - bizarre - camp - canonical - clandestine - classic - common - controversial - counterculture - cult - decadent - eccentric - eclectic - ephemeral - elitist - erotic - esoteric - excessive - extravagant - exotic - experimental - everyday - fantastic - forbidden - gay - gothic - gratuitous - grotesque - hermetic - hidden - horror - illegal - incongruous - independent - intellectual - irrational - kinky - kitsch - libertine - macabre - meta- - modern - monstrous - natural - nobrow - obscure - occult - odd - offbeat - offensive - original - outsider - perverse - postmodern - queer - radical - rare - revolutionary - scatological - sensational - snob - strange - subculture - subversive - supernatural - surreal - taboo - taste - transgressive - travesty - ugly - uncanny - unconventional - underground - unusual - weird - wild
- Aarne–Thompson classification system
- Figurative art
- Theme (music)