Janice Vis-Gitzel is a PhD Student in English & Cultural Studies. She works as a teaching assistant and writing tutor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Latest Articles

Latest Topics


Horizon Zero Dawn and the End of the/our World

The narrative of Horizon Zero Dawn is fascinating, and while there are many potential themes to be examined, I keep coming back to how it handles apocalypse and the end of the/our world. In the game’s past, the Earth faces annellation. When all seems lost, the solution is not to cling to some far-fetch hope for salvation, but instead to for pave the way for something new. Obviously, the crises facing Elisabet Sobeck, Aloy, and today’s humans are all very different. Nonetheless, I think this game offers some food for thought as we face our own climate crises: do we accept coming devastation and focus our energies on creating the conditions for a new, better world to emerge? Or do we cling to what we have and try to save the world we know? Where do we locate hope for the future? Do we have to chose between what we have and what might be? Is it possible to have hope for the emergence of something new without total destruction (as happens in the game)?

  • This could be a great topic, though I think HZD is a bit too rosy in terms of imagining alternatives for humans. I think a post-human or even anti-humanistic reading on HZD might provide nuance. – ProfRichards 3 years ago
  • This could a great topic to explore especially with the optimistic way HZD looks at the future. – SunnyAgo 2 years ago

Black, White, & Colour in Star Wars Visions

"The Duel" is the first episode of Disney ‘s new of Star Wars-anime series. In this short 15-minute story, most of the world (including the village, characters, most objects) are animated in black and white. Lightsabers, blaster shots, and a few other "light" technologies are the only pops of color on the screen. This aesthetic decision is worth further analysis. An article could dig into this use of color more deeply by considering "The Duel" within the history of black-and-white Samurai movies and/or discussing how this episode’s use of color supports or challenges color-coding in previous Star Wars stories. For example, red lightsabers have always represented the Sith and the dark side, while blue and green usually indicate the presence of a Jedi. Thus, colors play a role in telling the audience who is "good" or "bad," and it could be argued that this reinforces a moral binary. How does "The Duel" challenge, complicate, or draw attention to this binary through its use of color?

  • If I were to write this topic, I would definitely focus on the Star Wars Universe, and I've included a few more sentences in the prompt to suggest how someone might approach the topic from that angle. That said, when I first watched the episode, I was with a friend who was much more familiar with the history of Japanese cinema and animation than I am, and he had a lot to say about Samurai movies. It might be an option for someone who knows that history. – JaniceElaine 3 years ago
  • This sounds like an exciting topic. Star Wars Visions was an incredible project. – Sean Gadus 3 years ago
  • You could also mention how the binary of using black and white reflects the two sides of those in the Star Wars Universe with Jedi being the light and the with being referred to as the dark side. – Maddie872 3 years ago

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Latest Comments

Absolutely. During my second year of my undergrad, I had a professor explain writing as a conversation between many writers and readers. We can use writing to connect with each other, share our thoughts, and explain how other people’s thoughts have helped us. I think it helps to focus on the relationships we develop through writing, because it helps us remember that we aren’t working in a vacuum. We’ve all be inspired by other writers and are always working in tandem with our fellow writers and readers.

A Short Guide to a Writer's Imaginary Critics

Thank you! I think it can be hard to talk about the fears we face when writing, and (at least for me) thinking of them as little inner critics makes it easer for me to be honest about these challenges.

I also completely relate to your comment about writing as a child VS writing today. I filled up so many notebooks with silly stories and wonderous worlds when I was young! I wish I still had that confidence and wonder. But we keep trying, I guess!

A Short Guide to a Writer's Imaginary Critics

“What is success”? is such a great question for writers to ask themselves, and I think we need more metrics for “success.” There have been times when I’ve written things that didn’t really end up as I’d hoped (and would never be considered publishable), but the process of writing helped me think about topics in a new light, and so those pieces helped me grow as a person even if I didn’t end up with a shiny finished product. I also completely relate to your statement that writing makes me who I am, and so I’ll keep doing it regardless of “success.”

A Short Guide to a Writer's Imaginary Critics

Thanks for sharing these lovely thoughts! I’m a writing tutor, and I often find students have attached so much fear to the process of writing. Journaling can be a wonderful way to alleviate the pressures of writing to someone else’s standards and re-encounter our own creativity.

The Impact of Writing on Well-Being and Self-Development

Thanks for these thoughts! It’s definitely an interesting question. Genres are always practices of labelling and categorizing, and to an extent, the popularity of a genre relates to how much exposure it receives. As you point out, there are often utopic elements is dystopic works, so how do texts get shuffled under these different umbrellas? Because more readers have heard of dystopia, publishers might be more likely to market work under that label to attract readers.

Why Is Utopian Literature Less Popular Than Dystopian Literature?

I’m super late to this post, but it was a lovely read, so thank you for the work you’ve done here. I think there’s an important nuance you begin to pull at in the end, and that so many of our stories “about” the environment miss: the difference between having characters act on the environment or to “save” the environment and acknowledging that we are all characters in the environment, and that the environment itself is made up of characters who deserve our respect. When well-written, animal protagonists help portray this message, because they don’t just tell us that “humans” need to “save” something abstract called “the environment,” but they make us love and care about those with whom we share our more-than-human environment.

The Complex Lessons of Environmentally-Motivated Animation