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motif(mōtēf`), in literature, term that denotes the recurrent presence of certain character types, objects, settings, or situations in diverse genres and periods of folklore and literature. Examples of motifs include swords, money, food, jewels, forests, oceans, castles, dungeons, tests of skill or wisdom, journeys, separations and reunions, chaos brought to order. Motifs are not restricted to literature. Hans von Wolzogen coined the term leitmotiv [Ger.,=guiding motive] to describe Richard Wagner's use of a recurring musical phrase to reinforce the emotional impact of characters, situations, and themes in his operas. The visual arts often rely on motifs to communicate deeper levels of meaning: The bison and deer painted on the walls of the caves at Lascaux represent both threat and survival, superior strength or speed, and food supply; the endlessly rocking cradle in D. W. Griffith's film Intolerance suggests rebirth and the inescapable frailties of the human condition (see symbolsymbol,
sign representing something that has an independent existence. The most important use of symbols is in language. To say so, however, does not solve the perennial philosophical questions as to the nature of the linguistic sign.
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[Gr. arch=first, typos=mold], term whose earlier meaning, "original model," or "prototype," has been enlarged by C. G. Jung and by several contemporary literary critics.
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motif,in music: see motivemotive
, in music, a short phrase or passage of two or more notes and repeated or elaborated throughout the composition. The term is usually used synonymously with figure.
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in literature, the simplest unit of meaning in myths and tales, which cannot be further divided, for example, the motif of the abduction of the bride. A combination of several motifs constitutes the plot (fabula) or story (siuzhet). There are often similar motifs in the epics of different nations. Folklore motifs may also be used in later periods.
In modern literature, motifs are the simplest units of story (siuzhet) development: they may be dynamic, moving the plot (fabula) forward, or static and descriptive but indispensable for the story (siuzhet). The significance of a motif depends not on its own meaning but rather on its role in the artistic structure.
MotifThe graphical user interface (GUI) endorsed by the Open Software Foundation. Motif became the standard graphical interface for Unix workstations. Although it is still used, numerous other graphical interfaces have become more popular (see KDE and GNOME). See Open Group.
|The Motif GUI|
|For several years, Motif was the de facto standard graphical interface in the Unix world. (Screen shot courtesy of The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc.)|