"Save Where..." The Trope of Exceptionality

Gray, Erik I.

The trope of exceptionality is a poetic device popularized by Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751): the poet describes a scene of total darkness and silence, interrupted by a single, vivid exception ("Save where . . ."). The trope was introduced into English poetry by John Milton, became ubiquitous in descriptive poetry after Gray, and was notably employed by major Romantic poets, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. The device is important not only for its prominence in literary history but for the way it reflects upon literature itself, which creates meaning by establishing normative patterns and introducing exceptions; in this sense exceptionality could be seen as the poetic trope par excellence.


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English and Comparative Literature
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April 9, 2015