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9

The curse of originality

A common critique of any new movie, book, tv show or anything, a common criqitue of any new story in the written medium, (whether script writing or otherwise) is the lack of originality. Originality is defined as 1) existing from the beginning, 2) created personally by someone or 3) not dependent on other ideas. But is anything at all independent of ideas, or ‘original?’ One can now start to argue that everything’s been done before, from new world with strange creatures, to magical schools, to a climactic battle between good and evil. I pose three question: Does originality exist any longer? Does originality need to be redefined? Or do we need to change the way we criticize storytelling?

  • The book 'Reality Hunger' by David Shields is exactly about this, him claiming that everything comes from somewhere and is a type of collage. For this, you need to define originality. Everything we have everseen, heard or lived does influence us. There are tales of people thinking that they've written something original and then being told that their original story is almost identical to another from a long time ago; usually they have just forgotten being subjected to that original story. – heath 7 months ago
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  • I think storytelling should be defined by the depth of the narrative, not strictly the originality of the idea. – BVIS97 5 months ago
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  • in the jacobean era (and probably other periods) people would bring 'commonplace books' to the theatre with them and just write down what they liked so they could use it themselves. obviously there are some plagiarism problems there but it might be interesting to examine how our views on originality has changed – lizawood 5 months ago
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  • I think it’s also possible for works to poorly received precisely for their originality. An Australian writer Michael Winkler was unable to find a publisher for his novel Grimmish, so self-published. But the book got great critical reviews, has since been picked up by a traditional publisher, and has now been long listed for the Miles Franklin award. It is dfefinitely original, but that’s what put it off in the beginning from being published. Writers and artists will often follow their passion to strange places, and publishers may take ‘risks’ and get their work out there. But often work that’s original is also misunderstood, or doesn’t quite find its readership. – MelHall 5 months ago
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  • As far as I can tell, successful art and originality need not be mutually exclusive. You rightly suggest that many that many themes, many topics have already been expressed by brilliant minds. Nearly all great literature could be distilled into variations on a few themes, if one wanted to be so minute. But, just to stimulate some thought, I'll pose you a question: is anything at all NOT original? If art is, as Marcel Proust contended, a reconfiguration of our experiences, and no two people experience life identically (or, at least, no two people have the same frame of reference), then how could a work of art fail to be original, since it is gestated from a particular consciousness which has contents that will never again take shape in a similar way? How could the expression of one's vitality, one's essence, be anything but original when seen in this light? Just a thought. – ethanwatts 5 months ago
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  • This is definitely a topic that is so relevant today because creators lack "originality". Especially since a lot has been written over time, we can never be too sure if a so called, "original," idea that we have had is actually original or if it is something we've been inspired by through the subconscious after having read/watched/heard it already. Originality is so hard to come by these days and is something that is so craved in the media. It really is a sink or swim situation, and, as most have said here, originality should be defined by depth and how the story is actually told. One concept could have so many different ideas and meanings behind it, so therefore each concept can have different means of originality. – saskiawodarczak 5 months ago
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  • One could wonder if a piece's originality must be [pure originality]. Does anything like that even exist? However, every piece has the potential to be original in at least one or more aspects. If it follows the collage format - think about the collage technique used in painting: Are all of these paintings unoriginal? Such a claim is contested by anyone. But what makes them unique in that case? It is not the elements; it is the structure! How the various, unoriginal, little components are put together to create a fresh picture, new system, or unique narrative. A different structure might also imply that the new collection has a different endpoint and objective. That's one scenario! So, to discuss originality, we should slightly alter our understanding. There might not be such a thing as 100% originality. It's conceivable that there isn't such a thing as ultimate originality, yet there is originality in response to one or more aspects alone. Originality is not absolute; rather, it is relative. – Samer Darwich 5 months ago
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  • What's additionally interesting about this topic is an evaluation of whether originality in entertainment is really so different today than it's ever been. I see a note above that repeats a currently popular idea, that right now entertainment is particularly unoriginal. But when I think of movies from 90 years ago, there were countless remakes. Just look at how many Robin Hood and Little Women movies were made! Plus, when we think of really original storytelling from back in the day right now, how much of it struck audiences at the time as original as well? Star Wars or The Matrix might come to many fans minds as original, but there's strong arguments that neither is. All three questions are good, and in particular with the last one, just how useful is criteria of originality? – ronannar 4 months ago
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  • I believe that all new ideas sprout from an inspiration taken from the real world in some way or another. In that sense, I understand how you believe that nothing is "original" by the definition you provided. Therefore, when critiquing another story that definition should not be applied. – Aathi 4 months ago
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  • While arguably every piece of media is a derivative of some earlier piece of media, there is still plenty of originality out there to be had. Look at recent films such as Nope, which very explicitly shows its influences from films like Jaws and Close Encounters, or Everything Everywhere All At Once, a fresh take on the multiverse craze. Nope is highly original in its message and structure. Everything Everywhere is highly original in its world-building and story. I think that there is a big difference between these films and the constant sequels and prequels being spat out by Marvel or the remakes of old films. Sequels and remakes may offer some fresh perspectives--and the ones that do are often the best of these categories, but they do come from the same nucleus of an idea. Nope borrows heavily from Spielberg and others but creates a brand new way of displaying those influences and in some ways critiques them. But perhaps the criteria for originality is also based on how audiences feel. Personally, I am sick and tired of the constant trailers for new Marvel films and I do feel that the movie arena has been saturated. Does that just make the original films more novel or does it mean that originality is shrinking? Keep in mind much of this phenomenon is based on money and the fears of producers and studios that people no longer care for going to the movie theater or watching films in general. The sequels and cinematic universes pump out the most films because they work--they are a known quantity. Especially after the pandemic, it takes a brave studio or producer to splash out on originality. – zrynhold 4 months ago
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The Accuracy of Book-To-Movie Adaptations

Book-to-movie films (and—more regularly, now—shows) are especially common in young adult franchises such as The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, and Divergent. The first three Harry Potter films are some of the most beloved book-to-movie adaptations in history. The latter movies, while successful in other regards, were criticised (especially by book purists) for cutting out, altering, or ignoring large chunks of the source material. I have heard several fans say that they would watch a Harry Potter reboot if it was a high-budget streaming show that adapted each chapter into an episode, with the dialogue and plots and sub-plots remaining exactly the same as the books. Whether this would ever be done remains to be seen,

Movies face an issue in that they are limited in run-time. While there are long movie adaptations out there (The Lord of the Rings is a prime example), more commonly, they are cut to fit at a little over 2 hours. They prioritise entertainment and a streamlined story. Books can vary in length to a great degree—the first Harry Potter book was around 77,000 words while the fifth (the longest) was around 257,000. Yet the fifth movie (2hrs and 18 minutes long) was actually shorter than the first (2 hours and 32 minutes long). The movie arguably benefited from cutting much of the meat of the book, at least from an entertainment perspective, if not from a story and world perspective.

How important is it for the plot to be accurately represented in films, given that they are, indeed, adaptations of the source material and not direct translations? Is it enough for the characters and world to be represented with care and detail? Are fans right in complaining about inaccuracy and missing scenes in book-to-movie adaptations? What are some examples of book-to-movie adaptations done well, and done poorly?

  • The different approaches to book adaptations and the merits or detriments of shifting the medium of a story would definitely be an interesting topic. Another possible aspect of the topic would be the question of whether a movie or an episodic show is the most effective format, whether this is case specific, and what sort of plots and subplots lend themselves to short or long form cinema. – Quodlibet 2 days ago
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  • Movies and books are two extremely different mediums with unique characteristics, potential benefits, and potential barriers. Consider this example: In the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, there are several significant internal monologues. In my opinion, one of the most substantial ones is Alice's internal monologue while questioning her own identity (inside the rabbit hole); however, I was unable to locate a single movie that featured this internal monologue. In a novel, a character could typically have an internal monologue for a whole chapter, or even more, but in a movie, it would be disastrous. In light of this, I believe the questions to be asked are: Which elements should be removed in order to make room for the new medium? What elements need to be modified to take advantage of the new medium's potential? etc. The issue is not whether there should or shouldn't be disparities between the two - because there will always be disparities between the two; rather, it is how to implement these contrasts without compromising the book's basic concepts and takeaways. – Samer Darwich 2 days ago
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  • The benefits of a series format compared with that of a film would definitely be an interesting topic. In my opinion one of the interesting examples to explore would be the adaptation of philip pulman's series 'his dark materials' and how the movie compares to the HBO series. Whils both effectively translate the novels into another format, both fail where the other succeeds. For example the HBO series is more detailed and has better pacing whereas the movie has a tone that is similar to that of the books. Another example is all quiet on the western front which has been adapted into a television sereis and two different movies, the most recent havign been released this year. I'm sure some interesting comparisons can be drawn between the different adaptations that would help furthere develop this topic. – Matilda 6 hours ago
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The Religious Subtext of The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil is a middle grade fantasy series that received a film adaptation earlier in the year. Beyond the occasional reference to various faiths, the series does not incorporate explicit religious subject matter, but I would like to analyse the unintentional religious subtext I have interpreted from the narrative. I believe there is scope for a discussion of how the series inadvertently engages with concepts such as predestination and the existence of a supreme being.

“Predestination” is the idea that God chooses which people will receive salvation and which will receive damnation prior to their creation. As the title “The School for Good and Evil” suggests, the books are set in a world where some people are similarly designated as “Good” and others as “Evil”. Within the story, membership to “Good” or “Evil” is not determined by a character’s actions, but instead, is determined by one’s soul at birth. By presenting a person as intrinsically “Evil” or “Good”, the book echoes the religious idea that a soul is predestined to Heaven or Hell.

The School for Good and Evil also inadvertently presents the idea of a supreme being through the “character” of the Storian. This may sound strange to those unfamiliar with the books, but the Storian is a sentient, omnipotent, and powerful magic pen that preserves the balance between “Good” and “Evil” and chooses people in the world to write about in real time. Characters do not explicitly worship the Storian, but it is treated as an ultimate authority. Two of series’ antagonists – one with an “Evil” soul, and one with a “Good” soul – are defined not only by villainous actions (eg. hurting others) but by their efforts to to replace the Storian as the supreme authority within the world. Through this, it can be suggested that the series engages with the existence of a supreme being and humans’ relationship to that god.

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    The Prediction of the Future Through Art

    In the 19th century, Oscar Wilde wrote in ‘The Decay of Lying’ that, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life… results not merely from life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of life is to find expression, and that art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy." According to Wilde, what people find in life and nature is actually not there, but what people find is what artists have taught them to find through art. So, does life imitate art or does art imitate life? In light of these questions, is it possible for art to predict the future? Which artwork by which artist do you think predicted the future?

    • The writer can choose any artwork from any artist, from any era to analyze. For example, Amalia Ulman masterpiece, “Excellences & Perfections”, which was dubbed by art critics as the “first Instagram masterpiece” could be an artwork worth the analysis. – Laurika Nxumalo 5 days ago
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    • People tend to idealise life, paint a picture based on their consumption of art, even in mediums like film (especially romantic films). So many people build mannerisms, plan events, do activities, based on what they see in films, what they read in books... I don't think that art predicts the future, but rather it manifests conditions for people to build experiences very similar to what they see in art, because that's what they idealise and strive towards. Does NASA continue to fund space research because of science fiction films like '2001: A Space Odyssey'? Maybe, maybe not (and if they did we'd never know). Will the events in those films actually occur? Who knows—but if they do, you might bet the people reacting to them will have seen those circumstances in art they have consumed, and respond accordingly. – Patrick 4 days ago
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    'Beauty and the Beast' - A Tale That Foretold The Life Of Today

    ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a tale that is different from the popular fairy tales; it has a peculiar take on psychological, socio-historical, religious and feminist approaches. Unlike other well-known fairy tales that were written or told by an unknown storyteller, the tale of Beauty and the Beast is an original literary story written in a specific historical and political moment by a female writer, Madame Leprince De Beaumont who was also a governess.

    The story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ has been interpreted in different ways. Some claim that it is a love story that teaches us modesty and introduces the healing power of love. Others claim that it is a tale about female empowerment growing – the awakening of a woman and her psychological and sexual maturation. Some see abuse in a romanticized hostage situation – the Beast is seen as an egocentric sociopath who keeps Beauty as his hostage while she loses touch with reality and falls in love with him; an example of Stockholm syndrome. Oftentimes, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is interpreted as a story about a conflict of genders and a fight for domination.

    Like in all narratives involving love – any objectivity is lost; bad becomes good, ugly turns into beautiful, violence becomes tenderness and kindness, etc. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and its motives appeals to modern society; it narrates our hidden wild side to us. Societal norms have civilized our wildness, but this suppressed wildness constantly finds a way of coming out in our social and intimate relationships. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ also speaks about ‘otherness’. How hard is it be different?

    What does it mean to be a beast – is it something that one becomes while living or is one born with it? What is beauty? What is pure and what is dirty? What is pleasure and does it have more value in the society or should it be punishable?

    Can beauty and wildness co-exist?

    • You are right Madame Leprince De Beaumont was the first (or, at very least, earliest) author of the story of Beauty and the Beast and it has spawned so many iterations since then. Each version contemplates a different aspect of the story, but I was always most interested in Angela Carter's "The Tiger's Bride". I think the general plot of Beauty and the Beast explores areas beyond the social binaries we have become accustomed to: purity versus perversion, beauty versus ugliness, pleasure versus continence, femininity versus masculinity, etc. To answer your question, I believe beauty and wildness are not entirely opposites and can co-exist. We could make the argument wildness is beautiful or beauty is to be unrestrained, but we can explore a bit further. Beauty and the Beast is timeless because these issues pervade society since civilized society was established, or perhaps even before then. I suspect we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but Beauty and the Beast allows us to explore these taboo experiences in such a way that we are safe to contemplate but left to continue participating in civilized society (hopefully with a new outlook). – iresendiz 1 week ago
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    Are radio edits a necessary evil or detrimental to artistic integrity?

    Occasionally, a music artist will release a song that is deemed unsuitable for radio play in its current form. It might contain profanity or profane subject material, have undesired instrumentation, or simply be too long for the radio to play. A new version of the song will be created as a "radio edit" that alters the original to meet governmental standards. These changes can range from inconsequential, like replacing one profane word with a sound effect, to substantial, such as replacement lyrics that completely change the original meaning of the song. Famous radio edits include Cee Lo Green’s "Forget You," d-12’s "Purple Hills," and Everlast’s "What’s It Like."

    Usually these edits are not made by the artists themselves but by their record labels, broadcasters at the corporate level, or even individual radio stations. Whether minor or major, these changes produce a product that is not what the artist envisioned without the artists’ input. Without these changes, these songs would not play on the radio or in spaces that must abide by government guidelines relating to content standards. Is the radio edit process a necessary evil to becoming a successful artist? Or is the act of altering art in order to conform to public sensibilities harmful to the role of art in our contemporary culture that constantly encourages us to "express yourself?" Especially in the era of the internet and the seemingly endless ways to create and distribute art outside traditional distribution institutions, should corporations compromising an artist’s intended vision to please the masses be considered a malicious act? Or should this new-found freedom provided by the internet encourage society to support art as the artist creates it, even if it offends?

    • This is a fascinating point in the process of musical production that not many people consider. Much like the Hayes code of early Hollywood, such censorship can seem extreme and archaic in a modern society that no longer requires major industries to support success. The examples you give are telling ones since it's easy to classify which genres are more censored compared to others, which could be an interesting aspect to explore. This practice of radio edits may be a hangover of a previous era since tiktok seems to be the predominant platform dominating the music market today. Exploring the alternatives (youtube, tiktok, instagram etc.), which genres or artists are targeted, and the origins for WHY such edits were made, could be a good division of the topic. – LadyAcademia 8 months ago
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    • This is such an interesting thought! As a lifelong hater of radio edits, I’ve never thought of it this way - I would look into which artists get censored the most and their similarities (if any). – kelleykilgore 8 months ago
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    • It's also interesting to think of what music never lent itself to radio edits to begin with, and what music was particularly pushed into it. The metro area I'm from has a radio station which used to have a motto "All the best hits, without the rap." For the most part it was true, the station played pop music by all sorts of artists. But when Macklemore's Thrift Shop became big, the station played it, despite the song featuring rap... Race and politics clearly play a role in determining what music is deemed "appropriate", a role that for the most part likely goes unseen and unacknowledged, just as many people observe never thinking of the impact of radio edits. On a somewhat different note, I only recently discovered the song "I Dig Rock and Roll" by Peter, Paul, and Mary. For those unfamiliar with it, it seems to celebrate Rock and Roll while actually mocking it. It has a lyric incredibly relevant to this topic - "I think I could say something if you know what I mean/But if I really say it, the radio won't play it/Unless I lay it between the lines!" Very interesting lyric, it's stuck with me! – ronannar 4 months ago
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    • I agree that this topic is fascinating. I have never really thought about it, but just reading through the idea and the comments has me thinking of different ways things are edited and how heavily (and how times we might not know it because at some point we'd only ever heard it on the radio). Could be arguments that it's helped in cases, as well? Something like Let's Get It Started? How would that have been played in so many places without an edit? (And I suppose, is that right or wrong?) – rieder21 2 months ago
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    Explicit content in Euphoria: glorification or necessary depiction?

    HBO’s hit show Euphoria depicts the journeys of teenage characters as they navigate a complicated social landscape of sex, drugs, and overall delinquency. It follows the main character, Rue, as she becomes more and more entrenched in a drug addiction. Side plots depict such storylines as Rue’s friends becoming entangled in sexual affairs with adults, threatening each other with guns, and above all, sneaking around behind their parents’ backs.

    Sexual and graphic content in regards to teenagers is nothing new in media. We’ve seen it in the past with shows such as Skins, DeGrassi, and Beverly Hills, 90201. However, Euphoria has stirred up a unique controversy in that it revolves almost entirely around drug usage as a plot point, as well as depicts teenage characters (portrayed by adult actors) in explicit sexual positions with full-frontal nudity. In certain scenes, drug addiction almost looks enjoyable: attractive, thin, and happy-looking teens are all too happy to be high at any moment they can.

    This has been the topic of many an argument among viewers: is it dangerous to depict teenagers engaging in such behavior, as it may be read as inspiring or encouraging to a young audience? Conversely, is it important to depict the realities of these issues and not to shy away from tough topics, thus cementing their taboo within society? There certainly are teenagers today that deal with and engage in such activities. Should we be thinking of them and providing media with a representation of the struggles they face, or will such a show encourage straight-edged teens to move in a different direction?

    • Glorification or necessary depiction? I think this is a really interesting topic for discussion in relation to Euphoria, but also other shows (those already mentioned but also many others such as 13 Reasons Why) as well as in literature. Is art imitating life or is it the other way around? And, how much responsibility does a director/writer/artist have to take for how their work is perceived or responded to? – Userpays 5 days ago
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    Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Music?

    Ever since Schubert abandoned his 8th Symphony in 1822, six years before his death, after writing the first two movements, composers, musicologists, and general lovers of classical music, have wondered why the symphony was left unfinished – was Schubert ill? Was he distracted with other compositions? But mostly we have wondered about what the final two movements would have sounded like.

    In 2019, Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, answered this conundrum by completing the famous "Unfinished" Symphony by feeding thousands of Schubert’s works into the software that would hopefully produce material in the style of Schubert – as he would have thought it himself. This process was guided by the film composer Lucas Cantor, but still the result was heavily criticised.

    AI has since been used in music to generate pop songs, many of which are indistinguishable from human-made hits we hear on the radio. Is the use of AI in musical composition just like any other technological innovation in that it aids the composer in their process, automating tedious tasks, and so on? Or are we facing a real fear of being stuck in a ‘loop’ of the same musical tastes, without the extra push of human creativity and invention, since AI runs on analysing pre-existing examples?

    The author could further discuss the differences and similarities between AI software recognising patterns, and how humans often compose from well-studied patterns also.

    • It is critical to consider: Even if you ultimately develop fresh, surprising things, everytime you strive to create something new, you always generate it from what you already know. Everything you perceive, comprehend, hold dear, or do always springs from information your brain has already gathered or processed. Your brain is continuously collecting the past for use in a variety of ways, such as putting the sounds you've stored in new settings. Therefore, it shouldn't be any different from the human situation when we state that "since AI runs on analyzing pre-existing examples". – Samer Darwich 2 weeks ago
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    • I don't know enough about this topic to really comment in depth, but I just want to say I would find this extremely interesting to read about! – Caylee 2 weeks ago
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    Film

    Disney, The Little Mermaid, and the Politics of “Woke” in a Polarized World
    Disney, The Little Mermaid, and the Politics of “Woke” in a Polarized World
    Clerks, and the value of the “Downer Ending”
    The Northman and Cycles of Violence
    Misogynoir: The Silent Backbone of Hollywood

    TV

    Bridgerton’s Reimagining of Regency Society
    Bridgerton’s Reimagining of Regency Society
    How Stranger Things’ Most Important Licensed Songs Compliment Its Story
    The Mandalorian’s Response to the Western Genre
    Stranger Things: Mental Health and Bullying

    Animation

    Disney Heroines and Gaslighting
    Disney Heroines and Gaslighting
    Celebrating, Analyzing, and Resurrecting Fillmore!
    Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Story of Growing Up
    Ren & Stimpy’s History: 30 Years Later

    Anime

    Spirited Away as Social Criticism
    Spirited Away as Social Criticism
    The Legacies of the Atomic Bomb in Anime
    Anime Versus Cancel Culture
    Perfect Blue: A Genre Study

    Manga

    Marketing vs. Genre in Manga – How They Can Get Confused
    Marketing vs. Genre in Manga – How They Can Get Confused
    Elfen Lied’s Eugenic Underpinnings
    The Horrifying Appeal of Junji Ito
    One Punch Man vs. My Hero Academia: Reconstructing the Silver Age of Comics

    Comics

    Why Don’t Superheroes Change the World?
    Why Don’t Superheroes Change the World?
    Continuity and Connectivity in Comic Book Movies
    Comics in Education: Benefits and attitudes
    How Gwenpool Knows the Unknowable (And Can We Do the Same?)

    Literature

    Iago – The Perfect Villain
    Iago – The Perfect Villain
    YA Book Series That Never End
    Preservation, Insight and Growth Through Literary Modernizations
    BookTok Influencers and Their Impact on the Publishing Industry

    Arts

    Inside America’s Fascination with Witches
    Inside America’s Fascination with Witches
    The Mystery Behind the Influence of Instagram and The Popular Culture Industry
    “National Anthem” by Lana Del Rey as a Commentary on American Nationalism and Political Structures
    Are Immersive Exhibitions Ruining Art?

    Writing

    Writing About Place
    Writing About Place
    NaNoWriMo and the Art of Eating the Elephant
    Writing in Isolation during a global pandemic
    Fantasy Writing in the Age of Reason to Today