Samantha Leersen

Samantha Leersen

Postgraduate journalism student from Australia. Lover of all things literary.

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    Latest Articles

    Latest Topics


    The Outsiders' Impact on YA

    Young adult fiction (YA) is immensely popular today, for both teenagers and adults. But the category itself is only very young. S.E. Hinton’s 1967 novel, The Outsiders, is popularly considered the first ever work of YA fiction.

    So, what precedent did this novel set for the rest of this category of fiction? What aspects of Hinton’s novel are now staples in YA?

    An example is the discussion of weighted and important topics in a manner that is consumable by teenagers (The Outsiders discusses the harsh realities of every day class divisions). Or, like many YA books nowadays, Hinton’s protagonist is characterised as an outcast, or ‘special’ (he even has an unusual name, Ponyboy, something many other YA protagonists have).

    Discussing a few YA texts that share similarities with The Outsiders will help to show the aspects of the original text that have become commonplace in the young adult category.

    • You do have themes that seem to have been popular in this particular time and a bit beyond outside of literature too. See the television series The Brady Bunch (c. 1966-69) – J.D. Jankowski 3 years ago
    • The Outsiders is a tremendous book and had a huge influence on many writers and readers. – Sean Gadus 3 years ago

    The Novella, a forgotten medium?

    I propose an article that looks at novellas. The article could describe first what they are, explaining the length and conventions, explore how they differ from both a novel and a short story.

    It could be worth looking into the history of this medium, when were they most popular and why? What were the first texts classified as novellas and what purposes did they serve? Perhaps offer suggestion as to why they are not big in the literary scene today.
    Then, the article could offer analysis of some famous novellas, The Metamorphosis, Heart of Darkness, Jekyll and Hyde, Of Mice and Men, just to name a few.
    Offer suggestion as to why these in particular were popular, was it their content? Context? Were their authors already published writers so fans would read anything of theirs?

    If so desired, contrast the good by offering examples of novellas that are perceived as not good and offer reasons as to why. Are they not given the space to be fully developed? Does its brevity mean it is missing something?

    Use this analysis to draw conclusions regarding the novella’s place in literature including, if possible, whether this medium is likely to regain popularity or merely survive as a medium at all.

    • Cool topic! I very much prefer long novels, but I have read some wonderful novellas, including Jekyll and Hyde and Of Mice and Men (although I have mixed feelings there b/c of outdated disability representation). Do you think serialized novels might fit the topic as well? – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
    • Serialised novels could absolutely fit the topic, if they can be logically incorporated into the discussion. Perhaps, they could be used to substantiate the length argument. Are novella-length texts enjoyed more when the reader knows there'll be one or two more instalments to follow? – Samantha Leersen 3 years ago
    • I love novellas, they have the detail of the novel with the accessibility (almost) of a short story. I think it would be useful in this prospective essay to acknowledge that a lot of the novels we associate with this time period (early 1900s) were originally serialised and were not necessarily released in the form we know them today. – hlewsley 3 years ago
    • One novella that could be analyzed here would be Hemingway’s last major work, The Old Man and the Sea (1962). Notably it is not serialized. – J.D. Jankowski 3 years ago

    Narrative Distance in Life Writing

    Life writing (memoirs, essays, autobiographies and biographies, auto-theory, etc.) is inherently personal in nature. These writings focus on personal stories that can be confronting for the reader to read, AND for the writer to write. They intend to communicate some form of personal, human truth.

    But what role does narrative distance play in these works? Does life writing have to be first-person perspective that recounts events exactly as they transpired? Or, can a writer distance themselves from the writing and still achieve the same intimacy of life writing?

    A range of texts could be discussed here; texts that approach life writing very differently.

    Some examples could include clear-cut autobiographies written in the first-person (of which there are many), or works of fiction where a made-up character represents a real person (semi-autobiographical works, like Jane Eyre or Frost in May). A more out-there example could be cook books — these often express personal stories under the guise of recipes. Travel writing, too, can often be an inadvertent style of writing about the self whilst maintaining some narrative distance.

    • Good topic! If I may, The Essays, of Michel de Montaigne could, perhaps, be a relevant example. Indeed, the goal of Montaigne was to depict himself in such a way every reader could find a bit of himself through the pages. In the preface, he wrote: “I am myself the matter of this book […] Every man has within himself the entire human condition”. Montaigne, under the cover of an autobiographical work, tackles, however, many subjects, whether it is social analysis ("Of Cannibals", for instance) or philosophical thoughts, through references to many ancient thinkers. The fact that it is a rather old book (1570-1592) and a French one, may also stress another aspect of narrative distance. – Gavroche 3 years ago

    The Morals of Video Game Violence

    Video games that require or encourage violence are prolific. There have been countless studies on whether the violence of such games has psychological impacts.
    But, what are the moral implications?

    Using a selection of games that involve violence, consider whether it is morally wrong to ‘physically’ harm a virtual character. Explain why.

    You could argue either side of this argument, or argue that the moral implications differ depending on the situation. For example, perhaps some forms of violence are more acceptable than others (e.g. fighting vs. murder). Or, maybe there’s a difference between harm the game tells you to inflict to complete an objective, and the harm you choose to inflict but has no bearing on your completion of the game.

    Ensure sound justifications are provided for whichever stance you take. Relevant philosophical discussion would complement this topic well.

    • Dealing with morality in anything encapsulates a very broad landscape, so I think the focus should be on video games where violence is so easily accessible or even promoted. Some franchises that come off the top of my mind would be Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, Elder Scrolls/Fallout, or even Infamous because these games have built-in consequences for committing morally "wrong" actions. There could also be an inclusion of games with multiple endings that rely on a player's "good" or "bad" choices such as any of the Telltale Games, but even then that might require an entirely different essay. Personally, I believe this topic could be made into 2 essays: one about games with easy ability to commit violently "wrong" acts and how they punish players who commit them, and games that embed the moral and ethical dilemmas of violent situations through its storyline. – Daniel Ibarra 3 years ago

    What in the world was Roland Barthes on about in 'A Lover's Discourse'?

    In 1977, Professor Roland Barthes released his book ‘A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments’.
    Over 200 pages long, this text is dense, lengthy, and at times incoherent.
    Therefore, an article deconstructing and analysing this text would be an insightful read.
    What is Barthes trying to say? How does he say it? Are his ideas accepted and approved of, or disagreed with?

    One point he seems to be making is that our own experiences of love are dictated to us by the discourse of love within our culture. It is through this language that our expectations of what love should feel like are formed.

    Therefore, after breaking down Barthes’ text and some key fragments/ideas, this article could look into examples of popular culture and how they have influenced modern ideas of love. The romance genre in film, tv, literature, and even music are prevalent. Everything from Shakespeare’s plays to Romantic Comedies to Disney movies.

    If, indeed, you deduce other claims worth discussing in the text, find popular or contemporary examples to suit that also!


      The Monk Vs. The Italian

      In 1796, Matthew Lewis published the novel ‘The Monk’. An early example of ‘masculine’, or horror gothic, it covers many shocking and depraved themes.
      In 1797, Ann Radcliffe published her ‘feminine’, or terror gothic novel, ‘The Italian’. It is viewed as a reaction or response to Lewis’ novel. It discusses some similar themes, but in a milder way.
      An article could compare and contrast these texts. Worth noting is the things they do the same, such as offering commentary on Catholicism or exploring issues of love and sexuality.
      They also differ in several ways, from opposing treatments of women and the use of supernatural occurrences.
      Overall, the article should conclude the ways in which Radcliffe has used the original to build her own story, and also where she has deliberately chosen to deviate from Lewis’ text. Potentially offer insight into how the two authors’ differing approaches reflect the society at the time. An in depth understanding of horror vs. terror gothic would be worthwhile in building a substantial argument.

      • I've only read The Monk and I found it quite shocking and entertaining. Great gothic novel. I would be interested in reading more about it and the comparison to another gothic book would be something quite compelling and thought-provoking. Looking forward to learning more about it. Don't forget to present these novels in the context of their time and to sketch out the wider landscape in literature in the 18th century. – Dani CouCou 3 years ago

      Film Adaptations Better than the Book

      In almost every ‘which is better, book or movie?’ debate, the book wins. For a plethora of reasons, from intense detail to unique character-building, books are almost always dubbed better than their adaptations.

      But what about the film adaptations that are better than their original book?
      Offer several examples of adaptations better than their original. Discuss what they do so correctly that allows them to win this battle.

      Do they take away the difficult language of a book to make an important story more accessible? Are the characters better rounded and more realistic? Does the film cut out unnecessary details that are included in the book? Is there a changed detail that improves a film — different setting, different main character, different conclusion, perhaps. Is it simply a case of visuals portraying the content better than words can (say, an intense action sequence for example).

      There could be ANY number of reasons and ANY number of films to be discussed.
      This topic does run the risk of coming across as too subjective though, so ensure that sound analysis is offered to justify your claims.

      • I like this topic, but I would hesitate to characterize any movie or book as "better" than the other adaptation, because that's strictly a matter of opinion. What I would do instead is, focus on how books and films are completely different mediums, as well as how and why certain books lend themselves better to film adaptations. I might start with longer-form books, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The books are great, but as someone who read them, I'd say they're also a slog. The movies definitely communicate the books' messages more clearly, and leave more room for discussion/exploration. – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
      • I'm so glad you brought up this topic! I don't believe books are always automatically better than their film counterparts. Perhaps it is also a matter of upholding whatever came first. As you mention, there are many films which are based off of an initial written text. What about the case, though far less common, of films where a book was written in conjunction with or second to the film? For example, one of my favorite films is The Third Man. The screenplay was written by Graham Greene, who also developed a novella version. The book does a good job of illustrating certain details one might miss in the film, but the film is a masterpiece when it comes to "underplaying." It only says what it needs to, which makes it so memorable and striking. I also prefer the film adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's to Truman Capote's novella, despite the fact that the film departs quite a bit from the source material. One of the reasons is I found Audrey Hepburn's version of Holly Golightly far more vulnerable and sympathetic a character. Truman Capote lingered on the superficiality of his characters, which left me feeling uninterested by comparison. – aprosaicpintofpisces 3 years ago
      • You managed to rehash a contentious issue among art lovers. As has been stated in prior posts, adaptations are analyzed ad infinitum. Yet in terms of this topic, I think you could argue slightly different, for a change of pace. All writing goes through drafting phases and all authors go through periods of productivity and delay or self-doubt. That said, how can we destroy a film adaptation that is merely going through a rough phase, on its merry way to the final version? Doesn't sound fair to the director. As far as adaptation goes, an author that is true to his craft and steadfast to the theme will inevitably produce the elusive masterpiece,followed by an equally acclaimed film adaptation, one may argue. Another incumbent will fumble the narrative by second-guessing the motive and the medium, failing to strike a vital chord with the audience in the process. Nevertheless, it's a valid concern. There is a documentary on The Virgin Suicides that makes the case for inclusion of the writer within the filming process. Of course, Sofia Coppola has the ultimate say over the characterization of the narrative. But the author of that novel, Jeffrey Eugenides, was a vital component behind the dialogue, the mood, and the setting. Also, it is not uncommon for the reverse to occur and achieve rather successfully. For instance, the Star Trek TV episode "All the Yesterdays" made a seamless foray into a series of acclaimed novel tie-ins by A.C. Crispin. The onscreen romance between Spock and Zarabeth translated into two compelling novels on time travel and a supposed offspring between the pair. A compelling factor in this debate is circumstances. The ancient Greeks wrote dramatic recollections of events that moved audiences of the time and to this day in practically every discipline that has emerged since then. But, in those times there were no motion pictures to reclaim those texts. Then, Shakespeare entered the picture with an equal fervor for shining light on the pressing matters of his day. Presently, we submit to the same appetite for literary escape with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, probably as eagerly as the Greeks and the British did in the early days of the art. In those times as is today, the stage was the medium for the written script. I venture to guess that audiences had their preferences for certain actors and theatres when reading the written play was not a viable option nor a preference. Perhaps, it may be that reading the plot in the comfort of a familiar setting with pleasant music or refreshment is the reason why some people opt for this method of entertainment. Indeed, the pace of a book or the flash of color and splash of sound in a film is what draws fans to each particular venue. So, an author's style or an actor's appeal may be the reasons why people turn to different sources of entertainment, including the online variety. I suppose radio producers had the same challenges in their respective field that could be incorporated into this topic. – L:Freire 3 years ago
      • I feel like this topic has been discussed over and over again over the past year. I believe there may be an article about this topic on the site over the past year. – Sean Gadus 3 years ago
      • I feel like we have almost moved past the "which is better?" question. Growing up it was always comparing the film to the source text, but as I become older I find myself comparing the media less often. I focus on if the adaptation did the source text justice, and if the changes that were made were justifiable. The film version of Gone Girl, for example, sticks to the novel pretty nicely, but with some detail changes that both enhance and take away from the book. While films like Annihilation and I'm Thinking of Ending Things are different visions from the source texts, and I respect them both for what they are. They almost become separate stories, but so long as the intent of the source text is respected, then I can happily enjoy the film versions. – Benedetto 3 years ago
      • I think this is an awesome topic. I recently took a literature and cinematic adaptations course and it was probably one of the best classes I've ever taken. The plethora of subject choices for this topic leaves the submission possibilities endless. Seeing some of the other comments in regards to the 'what's better' stance, I think having an opinion, as long as you provide your reasoning, makes for great reading/ writing. However, I do think an interesting twist to that line of thought would be s to examine whether or not the written work complements the cinematic version, are they sisters or do they seem to be unrelated whatsoever? Awesome topic! – megantheninja 3 years ago

      Historical Texts that Captivate Readers

      Writers of history usually receive the bad reputation of being boring and uninspired storytellers, for the events of history aren’t designed to be page-turners. On the other hand, there are histories that embellish for the sake of storytelling but compromise accuracy. This is also criticised.

      Thus, an article exploring histories that are both accurate and educational whilst still captivating audiences would be a great read.

      Offer examples of good histories, and give reasons as to why they are effective as both works of popular literature AND educational history resources. Jung Chang’s Wild Swans or Ten Days That Shook The World by John Reed are two good examples.
      Some factors that make history writing ‘good’ include: the inclusion of personal stories (not mere objective facts), prose that is accessible to all, not just academics, and the formation of a chronological narrative that, while remaining accurate, sparks interest and excitement.

      There are some wonderful examples of written history that tend to get lost amongst the ‘boring’ stuff. So an article highlighting examples of good history, and analysing why that is, would be interesting and perhaps even helpful for those looking to write public history.

      • Seeing this topic has reminded me of Lucy Worsley's recent PBS documentary series Royal Myths & Secrets. In it, she explores how the public images of famous figures such as Elizabeth I, Queen Anne, and Marie Antoinette have been heavily distorted from their flesh-and-blood counterparts. Details such as when these historical accounts were written, the relationship between writer and subject, differences between national propaganda/mythical storytelling and textual evidence/alternative accounts, etc. all play a role. Like you said, it raises ethical questions over what "the truth" is in the pursuit of a good story. Do the ends ever justify the means? – aprosaicpintofpisces 3 years ago
      • This something that I struggle with as a student of history; what is a historian's vocation? Is it just writing just what happened as Leopold von Ranke put it so long ago? Or is it telling a tale about what happened as Herodotus did in his masterful work? Or should a historian try to craft laws of history in the vein of the early and post-War Annales School? Is he/she a scientist, a writer or a philosopher? I'd think it was a mix of all three. – RedFlame2000 3 years ago
      • I read an interesting essay once that noted that whilst it is a common truism that history is written by the victor, it is a less-acknowledged truth that any account of history is victorious. This is fascinating. I think the value of historical fiction lies in its ability to deviate from the established norms of historical acccounts that are at best insufficient and at worse, misleading. Historical novels allow a depth of exploration that traditional historical accounts rarely achieve. Furthermore, they allow a experiential response in consequence to what is inevitably a personal perspective of events of the past. – hlewsley 3 years ago

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      Latest Comments

      Samantha Leersen

      That is exactly right! I think that was a really beautiful point for the saga to end on.

      Apex and Abyss: A Thematic Analysis
      Samantha Leersen

      It did take a while, but it also gave me an excuse to listen to the albums over and over and that is nothing to complain about!

      Apex and Abyss: A Thematic Analysis
      Samantha Leersen

      I’m yet to listen to anything else by them that isn’t these two albums, but each of these lists are making me think I should!

      Apex and Abyss: A Thematic Analysis
      Samantha Leersen

      Thank you! I enjoy the albums on their own, but I agree, listening to them back to back is necessary to really appreciate the storytelling!

      Apex and Abyss: A Thematic Analysis
      Samantha Leersen

      I appreciate literary criticism that is unafraid to point out how unlikeable and not at all admirable literally every character in this book is. The fact that Fitzgerald was able to impress that Gatsby idealises Daisy whilst simultaneously making sure readers do not idealise her is talent I don’t think I could fathom having. Interesting article!

      Daisy Buchanan: Love, Folly and Money in The Great Gatsby
      Samantha Leersen

      Firstly, I just want to say that I really like this article! The way you have written it is wonderful and engaging. The accompanying images are fun and light. Truly good work.
      But also, oh boy, each of these voices have made a home in my brain, and I don’t think I even realised it. I’m doing my master’s degree at the moment so all I have been writing recently is lengthy academic essays and I have struggled with each of the things you outline here.
      In my experience, the only way to beat those voices is to be under so much pressure that you have no choice. Writing upwards 7,500 words in the span of a week teaches you to ignore those voices. Admittedly, that may not be the most sustainable coping mechanism, though.
      This piece, I’m sure, has resonated with many, if not all, of our writers here at The Artifice. Great work!

      A Short Guide to a Writer's Imaginary Critics
      Samantha Leersen

      I spent a bit of time studying Frankenstein during my degree, and this is an angle I have not explored. Great read!

      Victor Frankenstein and his Daemon: A Study of their Dialogue
      Samantha Leersen

      @abba I agree with the point you make here completely! The tastes of women, especially if they are young, are dismissed as inherently less valid. That is why the “not like other girls” mentality has become something so many girls try to adopt, because we have to in order to be taken seriously.
      I mean, labelling literature targeted towards women as “chick-lit” is a pretty good example, the name in and of itself is dismissive.
      Good observation, it is a topic that (clearly) gets me riled up.

      @Michel Sabbagh, good writing as always.

      The Storytelling Layers of Literary Merit