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an object of artistic treatment; the range of phenomena in life selected by a writer or artist and fashioned into a whole by the author’s concept.
To an extent, the relation between the theme and the author’s intellectual concept also permits the theme to be viewed as the work’s principal problem or idea (hence the concepts of an intellectual and thematic basis or interpretation of a work). While noting the role of the artist’s world view in the choice and development of a theme, one must bear in mind that an artistic theme does not exist outside of an artistic image or, in particular, outside of a plot structure (in a narrative or dramatic work), even though it is more accessible than other components of an artistic work. Therefore, the theme cannot be treated as if it were circumscribed by a single meaning. Every work tends to have a multiplicity of themes. A theme exists in images, causing different works on one common theme, such as the superfluous man or the lost generation, to acquire different spiritual and intellectual meanings. Poetry recognizes the existence of “eternal themes,” such as love, death, and freedom.
Soviet criticism has developed the concept of the “thematic picture” (tematicheskaia kartina), which constitutes an artistic work on a significant theme, such as a military-historical work or a work that takes man’s labor or daily life as its subject. In representational art, theme forms its own genre, for example, genre art, historical painting, and portraiture; this is also seen in literature, for example, science fiction and the detective story.
In music, the theme is a structure that expresses a specific musical idea and represents an important element in the musical work. Usually a musical theme is not merely expounded, but developed. In polyphonic music the theme is monophonic and is taken by different voices in turn; in homophonic music the theme usually unites the leading melody and accompanying voices, which provide the melody with a harmonic interpretation. In many cases, two, three, or more contrasting themes are found in relatively long and complex musical works; the most complex structures in instrumental music are characteristic of the sonata form. In other instances, a work may be built on more or less free transformations of a single theme; such transformations may even result in a change of genre within the work. Sometimes, particularly in operatic music, very short musical phrases or figures (leitmotifs) are raised to the level of a theme.
the first element in a sentence; one of the two basic concepts in the functional analysis of a sentence, whereby a spoken sentence is divided according to meaning into an initial part—the given—and that which is said about the given—the new. The theme usually coincides with the grammatical subject, but any other expression of it is possible: lablokl—uima (“Apples/—lots of them,” where “apples” is the theme) and Na vtoroel podali bifshteks (“For the second course they served beef cutlets,” where “for the second course” is the theme).
In writing, the theme may be separated by a dash or left unsep-arated from the rest of the sentence. In the speech of many languages, it is marked by intonation, as in Russian Okhotal zapreshchena (“Hunting is prohibited,” where “hunting” is the theme). In Russian the theme is most often situated at the beginning of an utterance. In many languages, such as Japanese and the Hamito-Semitic languages, the theme has special morphological or syntactic markers. In some sentences expressing existence or a statement of fact, it is not separable from the rest of the sentence: Idet sneg (“It is snowing”) and Net deneg (“There is no money”).
REFERENCESRaspopov, I. P. Aktual’noe chlenenie predlozheniia. Ufa, 1961.
Adamets, P. Poriadok slov v sovremennom russkom iazyke. Prague, 1966.
Grammatika sovremennogo russkogo literaturnogo iazyka. Moscow, 1970.
a military and administrative district in the Byzantine Empire.
The theme system emerged in response to the breakdown of the late Roman provincial structure, in which military and civil authority were strictly separated. The themes, which succeeded the exarchates, first appeared in the seventh century. The first themes in Asia Minor—Anatolikon, Armeniakon, and Opsikion—were large districts in which sizable military units, also called themes, were deployed. The districts were ruled by the commanding officers of the units, the strategoi, who exercised military and judicial powers and controlled taxation.
The themes were broken up into smaller units as the power of the state increased; by the 11th century, the themes had been replaced by small military districts, which were united into larger units known as ducatae and catapanates. Only the Nicaean Empire retained the division into themes, which took the form of districts of moderate size governed by vicegerents, who were frequently replaced. In the 14th century the theme system gave way to a system of independent principalities, such as the Despotate of Morea, in the hereditary possession of great feudal families.
REFERENCESLitavrin, G. G. Bolgariia i vizantiia v XI-XII vv. Moscow, 1960.
Angelov, D. “K voprosu o praviteliakh fern v Epirskom despotate i Nikeiskoi imperii.” Byzantinoslavica, 1951, vol. 12.
Pertusi, A. “La Formation des themes byzantins.” In Berichte zum XI. internationalen Byzantinisten-Kongress. Munich, 1958.
Karayannopulos, J. Die Entstehung der byzantinischen Themenordnung. Munich, 1959.