James Polk

Recent Undergrad in History Aspiring Writer and Artist

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Latest Articles

Latest Topics


Fetishizing Pain: Suffering as a Gateway to Artistic Expression on Film

Examine the vein in various film media (especially Black Swan and Whiplash) suggesting pronounced suffering to produce great art. Both films, to this writer, state or otherwise imply that our protagonists must suffer under harsh instructors (especially in the case of Whiplash) to be successful in their respective fields. This ideology comes off as very unsettling, especially in an era where mental health and personal agency (especially for women) are becoming more recognized. A potential goal for the topic is to examine how movies of this sort condition young artists to burn themselves out in the pursuit of making art. Another film to examine could be “Lust For Life,” on the life of infamous tortured artist Van Gogh.

The goal in proposing this topic is not to condemn any movie mentioned wholesale, but to, instead, offer examination of less than wholesome implications in media that have not been fully explored for those purposes.

It will be necessary to explore mental health expertise to give structure to the topic. An important video to the formulation of this topic was the YouTube video “‘Rise and Grind’ Film Culture: A Rant” from content creator coldcrashpictures. Potential writers may find material for additional definition for this topic in said video.

  • The common trope of suffering as an obligatory driving force of creativity is purposeful implication by gatekeepers of media to ensure creative production remains under-compensated and under-appreciated. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when creatives/artists feel a creative writer's block and can only be escaped by artistic success which is further aided by capitalism and ends in eventual demise and consequent 'fetishization' of pain. It's why mental health is becoming an increasingly discussed, but not acted upon, topic. – gemstokes 5 years ago
  • Great topic. I really want to read this. It would interesting if you could find examples of "healthy" creatives who are able to create/follow their passions successfully and without a mentality of no-pain, no-gain. If you have access, I highly recommend the Netflix original series Abstract: The Art of Design, which highlights creators/artists and their creative process, and showcases both healthy and toxic relationships with the creative process and productivity. – Eden 5 years ago
  • This is a topic that I've had in the back of my head. There's a lot to dissect here. You can go into the psychology of art, the philosophy of art, art theory,and art history. One can also write their opinion from a shared experience being an artist themselves. The fetishizing of pain might be an exaggerated form of representing how passionate people are about their art medium. This would be a great read, there's so many possibilities to go about this. – lfmejia 5 years ago
  • I’d like to write this. Regarding the pain of others by Susan Sontag and on Photography analysed the imagery of pain and suffering. They would both be a good text to use for this article should someone snap it up 😬 – Lousands 4 years ago
  • This topic has a lot of potential to impact the lives of younger musicians (my daughter is a percussionist) in a positive way if written from the standpoint of a "compare/contrast." Looking at artists who "kill" themselves to become the best, vs. those who become the best without the personal torture. – mjwright 4 years ago
  • Great topic!! Examining the conditioning of young artists to burn themselves out in the pursuit of making art is something really interesting, I would love to read it. – allan reis 12 months ago
  • Great topic and lots to explore in several different mediums. – Anna Samson 12 months ago

Identity and Loss: Beloved

Explore the nature of personal identity in Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved.” This could include the nature of the character Beloved, notably in her relationships with other characters (most importantly Sethe) and her opaque origins. Additionally, the book can be examined for commentary on the dehumanizing effect of American slavery on African American identity, and how this effect lingers, thus making “Beloved” resonant.

  • I love this topic! There's an older (but still relevant) article that could be helpful for research. The author discusses identity but also "a desire for subjectivity." The author even summarizes other scholars' interpretations of Beloved's identity, as the dead daughter's spirit, as the reincarnation of the two-year-old, as both the daughter and Sethe's mother, as not a spirit but just a young woman, and others. Holden-Kirwan, Jennifer L. “Looking into the Self That Is No Self: An Examination of Subjectivity in Beloved.” African American Review, vol. 32, no. 3, 1998, pp. 415–426. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3042242. Accessed 26 Apr. 2020. – Morgan Dancy 4 years ago

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Latest Comments

A nice dissection on a well-known work. Genre is a knotted topic, and it’s interesting to see how different people see one tale through different lenses. It might be interesting to look at how different adaptations of Wuthering Heights highlight the different genre touches of its publication era. Having only recently watched a live TV staging of the story from the early 1950s, it seems common to cast the story as purely tragic, with impetus being given to Heathcliff’s quest for vengeance.

Wuthering Heights and its Many Genres

Much of the impression of Moomin evokes two American comic strips: Peanuts and Pogo Possum. Peanuts, among the most famous strips in the world, shares with Jansson’s creation a tone of measured cynicism. Both strips embrace humor than often deprecates one or more characters while offering both the promises and treacheries of life. Pogo Possum, like Moomin, has cutesy character designs that offset the political and social critique at their respective cores. Pogo had many plots that addressed the political issues of the 1950s and 60s (notably the Red Scare), while you’ve shown how, though in more subtle ways, Moomin encapsulates sentiments of being aware of one’s environment, a very pertinent issue in this era of accelerated climate change.
If make sense to me how Moomin never took off in the States the way it has in its native home and Japan. Aside from aesthetic differences in design, the American media landscape doesn’t embrace cartooning and animation that avoids superficialities and embraces a greyer tone. Thank you for your insightful article!

Moomins and the Finnish Culture

That’s awesome! It’s truly a testament, to both Poe’s appeal and young people’s palette for taste.

Edgar Allan Poe: Unknown Horrors

Yes, I have read Pym. It features as a big influence on modern cosmic and existential horror, as codified by Lovecraft. However, something I didn’t touch on is the novel’s possible influence on Melville’s “Moby Dick,” What with the question of human hubris and large, pale-white creatures. It’s a bit of a slog at times, and Poe himself often avoided longer prose after the ill-reception of an early poem “Al Aaraff,” but it’s a fascinating read.

Thanks for your kind words!

Edgar Allan Poe: Unknown Horrors

A very nice breakdown of how pernicious creators can be contextualized.

Applying death of the author can be difficult, not just regarding long-deceased authors from half a century ago. Many contemporary authors are respected beyond the aesthetic appeal of their works. Would Toni Morrison be as respected without knowledge of the insurmountable odds she and er works faced in publishing? Would the Harry Potter franchise (as a literary work) found success without Rowling’s life story accompanying? It’s hard to say, because many readers crave identifying with the creators of works they love.

Regardless, I appreciate your article.

Problematic Creators: How Do We Interact With Their Work?

Your aren’t off-mark on the mystery element of Poe’s Dupin tales. They fall more into a separate category from his horror tales—his detective works (the first in the English language) are more dedicated to confounding his audience’s deductive skills than evoking fear. Dupin is the first in a line of genius detectives, but, being the first, he is also among the more coarse in effect for modern eyes. Disdain isn’t unbelievable. In fact, Poe’s second Dupin work was not well-received in his day and isn’t well known today for that reason, I believe.

Edgar Allan Poe: Unknown Horrors

You make an excellent point! If since lost account of it, but one author wrote in forwarding a Poe anthology that most of his work has potential for comic satire. He argued how even the works regarded as peak horror (The Tell-Tale Heart) can be read as effective trolling of the high-brows or his day. Another case of how Poe’s choice of words and omissions allow a world of interpretive interest.

Edgar Allan Poe: Unknown Horrors

Poe’s poetry has a distinctive stylistic genome compared to his tales. That’s partly why I focus on his short stories—his poems were made with a different intent and style. That being said, I can take different poems over others. Poe wrote poetry like most people change socks: some almost seem written in “stream of consciousness.” If you want a textbook case of overlong and too opaque, read “Al Aaraaf,” which even Poe himself dismissed as amateurish later in his life.

Edgar Allan Poe: Unknown Horrors