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Is Originality Dead?

Many people say nowadays that "nothing is original anymore." And they don’t mean it in a negative connotation, necessarily, just as fact. Has everything been done by Homer and Shakespeare? Is everything now simply a variation on what’s been done? And if so, is that a bad thing?

  • Yes. And it's slowly becoming common knowledge that there is no such thing as "original" anymore. But then again, everything is always based in part on something that has come before: some sort of concept, some sort of theory, some sort of tradition or practice, but taking it in a new or varied or mixed and combined direction. – Jonathan Leiter 2 years ago
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  • Sorry. Yes to "is everything now simply a variation on what's been done?" But No on "and if so, is that a bad thing?" Because even if it's a bad thing, there's nothing we can possibly do. Everything has already been done or thought of or theorized before in some form, and everything we will do now for the rest of time will be based on the creations and concepts of others that have come before us. – Jonathan Leiter 2 years ago
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  • It depends on your definition of original, but yes I do think there is still original content, even if it has influences. For example, I find Orphan Black and Legend of Korra to be very original works, but they certainly have influence. There are also different levels of originality; do you mean in concept, excecution, characters? Also, a note: Shakespeare was not original in most of his works. – IndiLeigh 2 years ago
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  • I do not think originality is dead at all. Sure, there are so many stories written from so many people, and it seems like everything has been said, which is true to an extent. Not to get too corny, but as long as there's new humans being born, there will always be something new to say. You could also argue that the fear of being unoriginal creates a perfect setting for creativity. – nancymoncada 2 years ago
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  • An interesting analysis could be between some creative writing contributors, such as Aristotle's "Poetics," Northrop Frye's "Anatomy of Criticism", or John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction." Aristotle discusses the history of writing, where it derives, while the others discuss the standardizations of writing. To analyze whether or not "novelty" still applies to today's times, I feel that you must first understand where it started. These sources could help begin a credible argument. – AutamnDarling 2 years ago
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  • I recently read Austin Kleone's "Steal Like an Artist". You might want to check it out! He is essentially laying out a guide for artists that encourages people to understand and embrace the lacking originality of art. It shows how people have always been essentially taking ideas from many sources and just adding their own flare, thus making their own new creation. – ChrissyCroft 2 years ago
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  • I wouldn't say it is "dead," because just as there is innovation in say technology or online media, there are a lot of new, original ideas ways to tell a story. I think stories aren't always original in content, but rather HOW they are told. For example, it is common to see a revenge story told through the eyes of the person enacting the revenge. But consider if the story, despite having many cliches found in the genre, was told through the perspective of the initial wrongdoer and they know someone is out to enact revenge upon them. Maybe address the idea of how stories can be told in new ways, despite having other "unoriginal" content. – Filippo 2 years ago
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  • "The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories" is a book by Christopher Booker, and explores the academic belief that there are only 7 types of stories ever told (The Quest, The Voyage, Comedy, Tragedy, Rags to Riches, Overcoming the Monster, and Rebirth). It sparked a lot of controversy, but for the most part was a successful publication and is a very entertaining read. Additionally, prior to this, Arthur Quiller-Couch is usually credited with coming up with the seven plots as a series of conflicts: Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, Man vs. God, Man vs. Woman, and Man in the Middle. Thinking about this topic from the viewpoint of "There will never again be another original thought" is depressing, but exploring it from these specific angles is really interesting. It might be fun to further refine your topic by investigating one of these lists. – Katheryn 2 years ago
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  • Trying not to step on the toes of the previous notes, I'll take this from a different angle: I think in recent decades we've seen a proliferation of work from marginalized view points (ie. Black, Feminist, Third World/postcolonial, etc) that have never been seen before from the literary canon of predominantly old white dudes. There's a greater accessibility for that now that's encouraging a great deal of originality. So I think this topic could be really interesting, but maybe specify what form we're analyzing: melodrama? fiction? academia? And are we including things like folklore/mythology, popular media? Or just literature? – Tiffany 2 years ago
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  • The glorification of originality may be a notion influenced more by romantic notions than that of the medieval era, which viewed originality as a non issue and instead viewed the purpose of the author or artist to build upon a pre-existing bedrock of cultural motifs and topoi. So perhaps instead an article could explore current motifs? – SawyerBullock 1 year ago
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