Literature

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The Fictional Towns of Literature

R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi, Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, and of course, L. Frank Baum’s enchanting Oz. These fictional places imagined by prolific writers possess great character, and ultimately reflect the author’s mindset, intention and desires. A greater understanding of each of these places is pieced together bit by bit through every engaging story written, and eventually come to represent different things in the ways that they are perceived by us, the readers. Interesting questions to perhaps ask would then be: what was the intention of the author in creating such an intricate or elaborate world (all three are depicted beautifully drawn maps) and how did people perceive such fictional towns at the time, as well as what these towns eventually came to represent.

  • I love this. It'd be great to add Harry Potter and The Hobbit/LOTR into the mix! – Jaye Freeland 4 years ago
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  • I would also add, for Latin-American literature, Garcia Marquez' Macondo and Onetti's Santa María. It's quite a wide topic once you are familiar with it; and very interesting. – Felipe Mancheno 4 years ago
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What can we learn from existential philosophy in today's epidemic climate?

How do famous works of existential philosophy: particularly those published in the late 19th/early 20th century fit into the role of human extant today? Specifically to the younger generations that are experiencing a deep uncertainty and fear towards the future? This can be drawn from works by Hermann Hesse, Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre, etc.

  • This is an interesting topic. I do think history repeats itself and that there is a lot to learn from philosophy. Also, learning from how humanity survived other hardships and catastrophes is a good thing for people today as well. – birdienumnum17 2 months ago
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  • I also hope someone will write about this topic. But to me, the more interesting perspective is how older people feel about their value and relation to the society given that the pandemic hits them the hardest and there is a growing sense that we may scarify the old and weak so that we can reopen the society for younger people, who are eager to work and socialize. – ctshng 2 months ago
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The state of "too good for this sinful earth" characters nowadays

Throughout history, many stories have featured characters who are depicted as being "too good for this sinful earth" and therefore dying young. Charles Dickens, for instance, wrote many such characters into his stories; and Uncle Tom’s Cabin also depicts its most famous characters in this way. Such an idea, of course, has explicitly religious connotations, with the idea being that the character is so pure that they belong in heaven and not on earth. Do such characters still exist in modern, secular media? If so, what are some examples? How can a story that lacks a religious bent portray a character as too good for the world (if indeed it’s possible)?

  • Oh yeah, they exist. A lot of times, they're disabled, which smacks of ableism (or they have cancer, which is not the same thing but is in the neighborhood). A lot of Christian-based movies have these, and what's interesting is that the characters come across as too good for earth even if they ultimately survive (inspiration porn). But sometimes you'll find them in non-religious literature, too. The key is, "too good for this sinful earth" in itself implies the character has some kind of faith or at least a belief in heaven, so there is some overlap. – Stephanie M. 5 days ago
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The Relationship Between Odysseus and Telemakos

Analyze the relationship between Odysseus and Telemakos of “The Odyssey”. Specifically, look at the characters at their start (Telemakos being more passive, Odysseus being more hot-blooded). How do they develop? How do they influence each other in their development? How is this relevant in driving out 108 suitors from Odysseus’ home, all vying for Penelope’s hand? How does Athena influence both of them?

  • Cool topic. I missed out on The Odyssey in school because I was in honors/advanced English, and they for some reason thought we "nerds" (hardy har) didn't need to read it. So, I'll look forward to this one. – Stephanie M. 4 months ago
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  • There was recently another essay that previously touched on parts of this topic.https://the-artifice.com/odyssey/ – Sean Gadus 2 weeks ago
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What is Literary Merit, Exactly?

To a certain extent, genre fiction like fantasy, science fiction and romance are disparaged as being "lesser" than literary fiction. Like Margaret Atwood’s "The Handmaid’s Tale" however, the line between genre and literary fiction can often be blurred.

It begs the question: what is literary merit, exactly?

Is literary merit purely contingent on thematic complexity? Is it the author’s mastery of prose? Can purely "feel-good" works be considered as literarily meritious?

  • This is a good point. Perhaps the way to approach this topic is look at several classics in literature and how they were accepted or not accepted when they were first released--not every classic now was a classic the moment it was released. – Joseph Cernik 2 weeks ago
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Toxic Love in Literature

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Catherine and Heathcliff. Lily Evans and Severus Snape. Besides the obvious examples of unhealthy relationships in literature, there are also some that are commonly contested, like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy or Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Despite the toxicity of these relationships though, and despite the fact that from a twenty-first century mindset, they could be called manipulative or abusive, people still love them. People still read the stories of these characters and enjoy them.

Do toxic relationships in literature have a particular pull? If so, what is it? What makes a relationship toxic, and are any of these, or others, redeemable? Is the woman always the "victim," or can men be victimized by toxicity as well? Are toxic relationships more "accepted" with white couples (you’ll notice none of these examples contain people of color or minorities)? Why is that? What about LGBTQ examples? Discuss.

  • I feel like it's in large measure of the potential for abusive relationships to function as narcissist's fantasies, even regardless of gender. For example, in a story like Twilight a woman gets to imagine herself being the object of affections of a man who's so infatuated with her he's willing to cater to her every desire (even if he also treats her quite badly). Whereas men get to fantasize about having a weak, passive woman who loves having them in control and being their willing slave. Part of it might also be that some people really are so desperate for a partner that they're willing to do anything for one, no matter how degrading. – Debs 5 months ago
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  • I should also add that, if anything, I think toxic relationships are more common in media with LGBT characters than without them, and that a big part of this is that something that anyone could recognize as creepy and awful if a man were doing it to a woman (i.e., rape, kidnapping, etc.), is more likely to be perceived as not that bad when it's a man doing it to another man, or a woman doing it to another woman. – Debs 5 months ago
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  • This is a very rich topic. If you plan to write this topic, I suggest reflecting upon subtopics. In my opinion, the meaning of toxic relationship also differ from period to period, so pay attention to that, as well! – Crisia 2 weeks ago
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  • A very interesting topic and at the same time a good question! These relationships are so timeless and have been attractive for generations. In my opinion, to desire someone and being desired by someone is a deep wish and / or a fantasy that has nothing to do with age or gender. – Guinevere 1 week ago
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Narnia Versus Fillory: Compare, Contrast, Critique?

Lev Grossman, author of The Magician’s trilogy, has stated that in the series— which is also clear as day for readers— he recreates a version of C.S. Lewis’ world, Narnia. Many readers grew angry, believing that Grossman was not creative enough to create his own world. However, the author expresses (in multiple interviews) that he’s trying to create a grown up version of Narnia, as he himself grew up loving the series.

Additionally, Grossman further expounds that he intended to integrate the magician aspect of the beloved Harry Potter series into his books.

For those who have not read The Magicians, the series circulates around Quentin Coldwater, an eighteen-year-old who discovers magic after finding Brakebills, a school for magicians. Quentin was obsessed with the fantastical Fillory books— Grossman’s version of the Narnia books— and soon learns that Fillory is, in fact, real.

Grossman references and creates allusions to the pop-culture works of Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Rowling, Lewis and many more throughout the series.

With all of that said, I think a real discussion and comparison of every allusion/reference to Lewis throughout The Magicians trilogy would be interesting in opening up an in-depth conversation. Not only would this help readers see that Grossman is not plagiarizing, but it would display specifically how Grossman took Narnia (and Harry Potter) and made such a captivating grown-up version.

To conclude, I’ll leave with a comment made by the New York Times, “if the Narnia books were like catnip for a certain kind of kid, these books are like crack for a certain kind of adult.”

  • This would be a very interesting article. However, I don't think all of the books should be compared/contrasted. Maybe just The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Dawn Treader, as those already have their own film adaptations. – OkaNaimo0819 1 month ago
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  • I definitely agree! It would be tedious to do one book alone, and so I welcome any discussion about similarities, parallels, critiques on how it could have been improved in either series, etc. (: Thank you for adding that. – Abie Dee 1 month ago
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  • I feel like you could focus on the religious politics as well. CS Lewis, of course, was a Christian writer and wrote many Christian themes into the Narnia series. It could be said, as well, that Harry Potter has some Christian themes, albeit less obvious ones. Yet, judging by Lev Grossman's name he's almost certainly Jewish. It might be really interesting to explore how the different religious backgrounds of the authors impact the stories they tell. – Debs 4 weeks ago
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  • LOVE this topic! – Stephanie M. 4 weeks ago
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Stories of Creation

Analyze and compare the various stories of creation through various parts of the world. The stories examined will include Genesis, Aztec Mythology , Norse Mythology, Greek Mythology, Eastern Mythology, African Mythologies, et cetera. Specifically how are they similar? How do they differ? What sort of message do they impart?

  • This is a very interesting topic that would involve a lot of scholarly research! This could be an extensive article so perhaps picking three to four mythologies would allow the most room for detailed research and reflection. – Scharina 3 months ago
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  • I agree that is might be good to narrow it a bit. For example, comparing the flood in Gilgamesh to Moses with the Great Flood of Gun-Yu.Instead of contrasting several of these religions, could one perhaps write it on the religious commonalities? – ruegrey 3 months ago
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