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Fragmented Literature: What Does It Achieve?

Modernist texts are often heavily fragmented – the plot is jumbled and does not follow a simple beginning to end chronology. This can be off-putting for many readers as it can make a story hard to follow and less immersive.

However, what are the benefits and what does writing in fragments achieve? An article could look at a selection of texts that are fragmented and offer an analysis of what this particular structure is doing.

For example, in Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertesz, the plot keeps circling back to the same line, its repetition representing the repetitive trauma it has caused the protagonist. Or, in The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon, the plot is broken up by page long chapters detailing the nightmares had by the protagonist which can show how they interject in his life just as they have interjected into the plot.
There are many works of literature that fragment the narrative and do so for thoughtful and strategic reasons. Thus, exploring texts that do this meaningfully could be an interesting read!

  • I suppose in literature that would be food for thought. But, I can emphatically say that it occurs in film as well. Take for instance the film Raging Bull. To the untrained eye or first time viewer, the boxing scenes appear fragmented, or improperly edited. In fact, it is a deliberate technique known as image collision. Effectively what it does is arrange a sequence of scene cuts with no apparent flow between them. The viewer is left to fill in the gaps or smooth over the perforations in the actor's activity and the camera movement. In the process, the audience is drawn into the cinematic spectacle before them. I would be interested in knowing if this a common practice in literature as well. (Aside from the obvious example, Alice in Wonderland.) – L:Freire 4 days ago
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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. 2 months ago
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  • 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 2 months ago
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The Portrayal of Women in Gothic Literature

Look at the portrayal of women in Gothic literature. What tropes do they often fulfil?

There’s the shrieking heroine of The Monk or The Italian (written by Matthew Lewis and Ann Radcliffe respectively). Even modern day Twilight has this.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula shifted things by having Mina as the ‘new’ woman – the only reason she was respected is because she supposedly had the brain of a man. Even then, she was viewed as someone who needed protecting.
Even texts like Jekyll and Hyde make a statement about women’s place in society by simply NOT including women in the narrative.
Modern Gothic texts tend to favour the cool and powerful female protagonist, which in theory seems empowering, but can also be problematic.

What is the effect of each portrayal of women? Are the women in each given text empowered or powerless? Is historical/social context important in how the female characters are portrayed? Do any texts defy their time period? Is there a difference between texts written by men and texts written by women?
An article on this should analyse a wide variation of texts, from different time periods.

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    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 1 month ago
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    • 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 1 month ago
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    “Dropping the Story” in Fiction

    Buddhism teaches that we can let go of illusion by letting go of “our story,” i.e. letting go of our insistence on seeing reality our way. Many literary classics teach us the same lesson, sometimes through characters metamorphosing by undergoing evolutionary cycles including tragic moments. We see this struggle and more or less successful letting go performed by protagonists such as the Buddha, Oedipus, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Henry James’ Maisie, Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome,” Ishiguro’s characters in The Remains of the Day, Toni Morrison’s Sethe in Beloved, and Murakami’s un-hero in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle who learns to let go of all his stories by sitting in a dark well for a long time.

    The common theme in these fictions as well as in many others is letting go of illusion by letting go of one’s story, all unfolded in fiction. What sort of fiction must one invent to not add to the world of illusions? Does something distinguish these fictions in addition to the theme, something that makes them resist becoming part of our illusions? Or is it impossible not to add to the illusory? Where do commonalities between letting go of one’s story end and differences in consequences thereof open up, according to whatever works of fiction we decide to look at? What do these fictions have to say about what stories we rarely let go of? How does this theme of letting go of story in story speak to the story-telling during the global pandemic in 2020, specifically about the stories we tell of the “before-the-pandemic” world? Are we, like Murakami’s character, in the well, or are we emerging? How can we tell? Tell us.

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      The New Classics

      What can be considered a new classic? Writers like John Green and Stephan King boast quite a large fan base (and literary output), but will they go down in history? Does fame equate to immortalization in literature? After all, many writers were unbeknownst while they lived, but others (such as Shakespeare) received wide fame amid their careers. Whose work can be considered literary? Are they losing ground in the shadow of these modern, famed "genre writers"?

      • Genre shouldn't matter re: enduring quality of a piece of literature.It's a little risible to suggest the likes of Shakespeare might be losing ground in the shadow of John Green!Fame doesn't equate to immortality in history, but obscurity tends to mean you're not even in the mix for future consideration.One of the biggest problems nowadays is the general disconnect with "things past", losing touch with history i.e. self-censoring art and literature and creative content based on its date of creation. It not only makes it harder to source new classics but means - for most - the canon of older classics is shrinking. Contemporary fame matters but originality and lineage and breadth of vision should matter more.Also there's a growing parochialism, especially in the Anglosphere - facilitated in part by the net and social media bringing together 'communities' in large enough numbers so they satisfy the 'interaction' instinct most of us possess. If people don't feel the need to step outside their echo chambers, their horizons narrow and their creative output follows suit, eventually becoming mere placebo. All this is a path of least resistance and any book worthy of "new classic" should either transcend this reductionism by scope or scale; or burst the bubble of whatever tribal boundaries might seem to appropriate or contain it.John Green is a sweet guy with a nice turn of phrase but none of his novels yet will be "classics" except maybe for future social historians; and not for the literary merit of the books themselves. Stephen King is different. He's a Balzac type: quantity over quality to such an extent the sheer quantity actually becomes a quality. – magisterludi 2 years ago
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      • Terry Eagleton (literary critic) wrote in his book 'Literary Theory: An Introduction' that if something is deemed to be 'literature' it is done so because the text is highly valued by society, and those value judgements are made based upon societal ideologies and historical context. I think the same could apply here - what do we value in a classic text? That is at the crux of this. – Samantha Leersen 1 month ago
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      • the original and well known authors or artists such as Shakespear, Mozart etc, will likely never be replaced. However many consider people like Charles Bukowski and his poetry as 'classic' and exquisite. A more modern example could be someone such as Billie Eilish. she is known her her originialy and voice. ultimately, its the people who negate societal expectations within their generations that tend to become more well-known. – annaegan 1 week ago
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      Locked

      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!

      • I'm currently writing an article on this (leaving this note here just in case the topic gets unlocked again). – aprosaicpintofpisces 2 hours ago
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      Taken by aprosaicpintofpisces (PM) 2 months ago.
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      Books by Black Authors and Why You Should Read Them

      In the wake of recent global uprisings on the Black Lives Matter movement, people have turned to books about and written by black people to further educate themselves on the subject. Perhaps the article could talk about a list of books that sheds light on the topic, and why the book is relevant today. While I can think of a list of authors such as Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and a few others, it might be interesting to see a list of both classic and contemporary books that are worth reading and why. It might also be interesting to do a research on lesser known authors or books/short stories published by anonymous sources and look into why you think they were anonymously published or why you think the author/the work did not recieve as much attention as it should have.

      • Good topic! I'd add some recent YA offerings by black authors or featuring black characters. Actually, you could probably write a whole article on that genre alone. – Stephanie M. 2 months ago
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      • As a Black writer, especially of speculative fiction, I would love for a piece like this to shed some light on some of the hidden gems of Black speculative fiction that would be of particular value in this historical moment. I'm sure just exploring this singular angle would be more than enough for a piece on its own. – therisingtithes 2 months ago
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      • Great topic! I love Zora Neale Hurston's writing, but her strengths lie in how she depicts folk culture and daily life, not in her politics. (Hurston has been soundly criticized from her time to our present time for an apparent lack of political awareness, in fact.) She's nowhere near as relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement as, say, James Baldwin. – JamesBKelley 6 days ago
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