Exposition III.

Note: This is a revision of the second article on 'exposition'.

I reread the article half a dozen times before I began to make edits. Most of the revisions come from the research within the first two sections and the parts that needed no revision remain the same from the previous article. I struggled a lot with if and how I should change the format of this piece.1 Part of my new strategy for editing was to write and then return later to reread with fresh eyes.2 In the end, most of the changes I brainstormed regarding structure did not seem to benefit the content.


This is a revision of the previous article I wrote on 'exposition'. That article is seriously lacking in quite a few areas. My intent was for this article to focus on processing more than presentation so I structured it in the following way: the first section is etymology research, the second section is definition research, and the third section is my thoughts on the collected information and a formation of a new definition of the word exposition. I structured the article in this way, so that I could measure how much thought I was putting into processing the research and keep my ideas focused.

1. Etymology of the word exposition:

- Etymonline provides multiple words (with their definitions) which are associated with the etymology of the word exposition.

Their entry on exposition begins with the 'old' French word esposicion meaning explanation and narration. Following esposicion is the Latin word expositionem (nominative expositio) and the provided definition is explanation and interpretation. Lastly referenced is a setting or showing forth, narration, and explanation which comes from a noun of action from the past participle stem of exponere. The meaning of exponere being to put forth, explain, and expose.

Also mentioned is that the earliest record of the word being used as a term to mean public display was in 1851 for the Crystal Palace 'Exposition' and in 1963 the abbreviation expo appeared.

- Wiktionary provides us that the etymology of the word comes from (middle English) exposicioun, (old French) esposicion, and (Latin) expositio from exponere (meaning to put forth).

- Findwords.info used Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary as the provider of their paragraph on exposition. Upon further research, 'Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary' is in fact just Etymonline.3 Therefore, I am not going to repeat what has already been said.

- Dictonary.com tells us that the origin of exposition comes from the following words: (middle English) exposicioun, (Latin) exposition - stem of expositio, which is stated to be equivalent to the word exposit(us).

- Collinsdictonary provides that the American English usage of exposition comes from: (middle English) exposicioun, (old French) exposition, (Latin) expositio, and expositus (the past participle of exponere). The British English usage of exposition is rooted from (Latin) expositio which means a setting forth, and also exponere meaning to display.

I find it annoying that other than etymonline, the websites listed above don't actually provide definitions for the words being cited as a source for exposition. Two websites chose to each define one of the words listed. I tried to look up each of the words provided by wikitonary individually and still found that esposicion isn't listed on their website. I struggled to find multiple sources for the etymology of exposition and had to change the search terms multiple times to find the list that I did. That being said and despite doing the work, honestly it feels as though I am still using only one source for this portion of the task. Although its the best source I can find, it is still weak sauce.

2. Definitions of the word exposition:

- Merriam Webster gives multiple definitions for word exposition. The first being related to writing and is stated as a setting forth of the meaning or purpose. The second definition is a discourse or an example of it, designed to convey information or explain whats difficult to understand. The third definition relates to music and is the first part of a musical composition in sonata form in which the thematic material of the movement is presented and the opening section of a fugue. The last definition for exposition is a public exhibition or show.

- Lexico tells us that exposition is a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory. As the word relates to music it is the part of a movement (especially in sonata form) in which the principal themes are first presented. An exposition can also be a large public exhibition of art or trade goods. Possibly it can also be the action of making something public.

- Macmillan dictionary defines an exposition as: a public event or show of industrial products or technology, a detailed explanation of something such as an idea or process, and the action of giving such an explanation.

- The Cambridge dictionary defines exposition as a clear and full explanation of an idea or theory. Pertaining to literature, exposition can be the passages which explain where events take place, what happened before the story begins, and the background of the characters. Exposition can also be a show in which industrial goods, works of art, etc. are shown to the public.

- Dictionary.com gives the definitions of exposition being: a large-scale public exhibition or show (as of art or manufactured products). The act of expounding, setting forth, or explaining, and in writing or speech it is primarily intended to convey information or to explain a detailed statement, explanation, or explanatory treatise. It may also be the act of presenting to view, display, or the state of being uncovered, revealed, or otherwise exposed. As it relates to music it is the first section of a fugue or a sonata form, in which the principal themes normally are introduced. Also listed is that for dialogue, description, etc., in a play or novel, etc., exposition gives the audience or reader the background of the characters and the present situation.

Based off of the etymology of the word exposition, I would think that the definition from the above list which is most accurate is: a setting forth of the meaning or purpose, discourse or an example of it designed to convey information and explain what is difficult to understand.

The definition follows the lineage of the word (esposicion, expositionem, expositio, exponere) whereby it tells us that the word is a given explanation that exposes something to the audience through narration. Necessarily, if something is being explained then it is not easy to understand so I agree with that portion as well (although it's redundant). If you are showing something to the reader then I can also follow the bastardization of the word into the meaning of putting something physical on show/display. I think an essential component of the etymology of this word are the phrases 'to put forth' and 'show forth'. In my mind, this is important as it eliminates the possibility of the reader needing to guess what may be going on. You are quite literally giving them the required information.

I think its worth mentioning that when defining words it can be confusing when the definition includes examples of the word being defined. Take the Cambridge dictionary definition for example: relating to literature - the passages which explain where events take place, what happened before the story begins, and the background of the characters. This at first and without proper examination seems like a definition but it's really just examples of what an exposition can be, which is enraging and eye opening. This is how people get into the position of thinking they know what a word means but then when questioned can't produce an actual definition. The Cambridge dictionary had the worst definition of all that I researched. Either it's an example as a definition or a definition that is so far from the actual origin of the word.

What I really don't follow are the definitions that are in reference to music. 'The first section of a fugue or a sonata form, in which the principal themes normally are introduced' With my admittedly limited knowledge of music, it seems as though the themes would become self apparent as the music plays and therefore wouldn't need an exposition. If you are exposing the audience to characters, dialogue, or some necessary information then that is not the theme of the writing (although the theme may be found in the dialogue or description of characters...etc). Following the etymology, a theme also is not purely an explanation nor a setting. I may be missing something but I can't follow the crossover of this word into its musical meaning.

Now, the second definition I provided in channel is closer to the definition of a theme than an exposition:

nicoleci: im struggling a little bit but what i have for exposition is - the purpose of the writing that may not be easily inferred by the reader
nicoleci: also yes! re to entertain, sell,...etc.

Let's look at The differences between my definition and the actual definition. if you are providing an exposition then you do not want the reader inferring their own meaning from that portion of the writing, as the exposition is the author providing clear information for the reader. Also, the definition of exposition is unrelated to the overall purpose of the writing.

My first definition was much closer than the second and I'm not sure why or how I developed the second one to be so far from the first. I think possibly I had little confidence in my answer and then changed multiple things that I thought were wrong as opposed to tweaking the definition in a systematic way.

nicoleci: an exposition is an explanation or showing of something

The 'or' part of this statement really changes the definition. I would have been better (still wrong) to say that an exposition is the explanation being shown. Although 'show' really doesn't fit here - does it? The phrase showing of something fits much more with the definition of exposition (expo) that relates to physical items.

Let's try to work through defining this word a third time and start with how to properly define a word:

'A definition consists of the proximate genus and
its specific difference within the same.'

Now keeping the parameters of a definition in mind, I started the creation of my definition with this - a given explanation that exposes something to the audience. I then modified that to - an explanation which is put forth in order to expose the audience to information that is relevant to the rest of the writing. I don't really like how 'the rest of the writing' sounds and I think relevant is sort of meaningless used this way. With those changes, this is the final definition that I am proposing for exposition -

An explanation which is put forth to expose the audience to information that is required to make sense of the writing.

With all of that being said, my guess from the previous
article remains as is:

My guess is that she asked for the meaning of exposition (at the start of our conversation), to expose if I knew the information required to understand what will follow.

Kinda like how you may need an exposition at the beginning of a piece of writing in order to make sense of the story that's being told. What do you think? Am I way off? It wouldn't be the first time.

It was challenging for me to decide on the structure of this article. Was creating a list of the etymology and definitions that I found helpful to thinking about the word? It certainly helped me compare and contrast between the different information that the resources provided but it's also very structured thinking. Editing is also a problem in that I rush and thereby take a rough draft as final.

All of that being said, the hardest part of writing this article was coming up with a definition that fits the form of how a definition should go. I think this is because not knowing many words makes it challenging when one is trying to define a word. Before I started writing, my thoughts were self defeating in that I thought whatever definition is given in the internet dictionaries would be better than something I could come up with due to my lack of knowledge. However, since doing this assignment I can clearly see the flaws of those very definitions and I'm interested in seeing what flaws may be in mine.

  1. More specifically, how to report on the research of the etymology and definitions. I decided to keep the format of reporting the same but focus on the many errors in my research and writing. []
  2. My biggest criticism is that I make use of the same few words too many times. This is part of what took the revision so long to complete and I'm afraid I could sit with it for another week and not produce a much better result. I'm hoping time and reading helps with this ignorance of vocabulary. []
  3. It's anyone's guess as to why they would not refer to the website by its actual name and also with a link. []

Leave a Reply