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Novels with complex structures

Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves is probably the most famous oddly structured book. For the most part there’s two separate narratives; the narrator’s own story is told in footnotes, the main body of the text being the discovered critical analysis by Zampano of a non-existent documentary film about an ever-changing house. Zampano’s also blind, btw.

It’s a little bit gimmicky, but at times the Zampano essay is stunning, with some of the most memorable sinister moments in modern literature.

Beside House of Leaves, I was surprised by the twist of the plot and development in these books:

Abraham Verghese: Cutting for Stone.

Orhan Pamuk: Museeum of Innocence. (This is a love novel, and you may not like this genre.)

Benito Perez Galdos: Fortunata and Jacinta.

Theodor Kallifatides: In her Gaze. (First written in Swedish, but it is translated into some other languages. I do not know if English belongs to them.)

Selma Lagerlöf: The Story of Gösta Berling. Repeatedly some one will predict an event that is easily seen to be impossible, unless supranatural phenomena are included. And then the event does occur, but because of perfectly natural causes.

Arnold Zweig: The Fight Over Sergeant Gruschka. (In WWI Gruschka is a deserter from the Russian army and had been living in a German P.O.W. camp. He had escaped. What he is most eager to avoid is to be send back to this camp. A woman eventually advises him how to avoid that – but he will actually suffer worse outcomes.)

  • Really interesting topic! I would add The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Different narrative voices intertwine and the font plays a really important role too. The Dick and Jane story at the beginning of the novel is written 3 times - one normally, one without punctuation and one without any spaces between letters. Worth reflecting on what that is supposed to mean. And the book is structured by seasons, comparing the Dick and Jane vision of spring, all nice and pretty, and the afro-american's reality of spring in the 1960s - rape and violence. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez' A hundred Years of Solitude. – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 6 years ago
  • What about Faulkner? I'm thinking The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. – Kristian Wilson 6 years ago
  • I'm thinking Scandinavian crime/mystery-thrillers and their impact on modern fiction (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). – Thomas Munday 6 years ago
  • The structure and themes of Cloud Atlas could be another book to consider for this topic. I find the puzzling feature of the structure of linked stories or novel-in-stories to be intriguing and feel it could be inserted into this topic. Some other linked story novels include: Circus in Winter by Cathy Day. Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, and Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. – BethanyS 6 years ago

Plato's Cave and the Construction of Reality in Post-Modern Texts

Analyse post-modern texts according to Plato’s cave and suggest how reality is constructed, commenting on its relevance and need in our modern era. Compare to classic texts where reality wasn’t as much of an issue. Why is it so important for us to have a constructed reality presented to us? Why can’t we go out and explore our own reality?

Suggestions of texts:
Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
The Matrix
James Dashner – the Maze Runner
Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

Or any texts that have a constructed reality within.


    What Makes a Scientist

    Dr. Henry Jekyll, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Doc Emmet Brown, Dr. Walter Bishop from Fringe, and characters like them throughout literature and film are categorized as "mad scientists." Sometimes it’s because their science is taboo or outside what society believes is even possible; sometimes they’re suspected of madness or some other kind of mental illness; sometimes it’s both. Why are these characters appealing to audiences, even if they’re not well-liked by the fictional societies they live in.

    An analysis could include comparing them to real-life scientists like Galileo and Copernicus who were considered "kooks" but turned out to be right. Also, consider how driven these characters are to prove their theories, even pushing moral and societal boundaries – if they weren’t actually mad before, they can more easily be perceived that way by the end of their story.


      The Legacy and Influence of Juan Rulfo

      This article explores the life and writings of a reclusive giant in twentieth century literature, Juan Rulfo. While authoring only one novel, _Pedro Páramo_, and one short story collection , _El llano en llamas_, Rulfo achieved extreme fame and admiration from other writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and established himself as a pivotal influence on Gabriel García Márquez. This text will address and analyze the basic plot and themes of Rulfo’s work, and educate readers on a lesser known great Mexican author.

      Aspects of Rulflo’s Pedro Paramo to consider,

      1.)environment where the story takes place. A brief overview of Mexican geography, culture, literary history, Catholicism/purgatory, and the Day of the Dead.

      2.)disjointed and fragmentary nature of time which adds to the dreamlike quality of the novel.

      3.) lack of chapters and signifiers of who is speaking, forcing the reader to fill in the missing information on their own.

      While reading the novel, you will probably see how all of these themes intersect and amplify each other.

      Regarding the influence of Rulfo on García Márquez, it would be good to look into what García Márquez himself said about Rulfo and his writings. There are also parallels that can be drawn between Rulfo’s town of Comala and Marquez’ town Mercado.
      These are just recommendations and are by no means definitive guidelines. It would be best for you to use your own discretion and aesthetic discrimination while exploring and contemplating these great texts.

      • Hi, J.D. thank you for the feedback. I think MLA style guide says to use _ in digital environments where italics are unavailable. I attached a link as an example of this advice: – kurtz 1 month ago

      Literature as an 'empathy machine'?

      The phrase ’empathy machine’ was first used to describe the way that watching films can give the viewer an understanding of what it is like to be someone different (different age, gender, nationality, etc.). More recently, it has been used in reference to virtual reality technologies and their ability to allow users to ’embody’ someone else. The claims of both of these mediums as empathy machines rests upon their alleged ability to allow the viewer/player to understand and feel what others feel. This empathy is, of course, something they cannot get from their own life as they do not have the same shared experiences that the machine is allowing them to have. Thus, these tools as empathy machines are profound.

      But, to what extent can literature be seen as a so-called empathy machine? Using a selection of texts, discuss how they can provide the reader with the knowledge necessary to empathise with those depicted in the texts. This could include fiction, where the reader is learning about the life of someone unreal. Or, it could be non-fiction, where the reader is learning of the life of a real person. Ensure that the specific empathetic qualities of literature are discussed. This might include literature’s reliance on imagination, or the way that written texts allow for lengthy and in-depth first-hand accounts.

      The potential writer of this topic could provide an overall assessment; is literature more or less effective than film or V.R. in creating empathy? Why/why not?

      • Excellent topic. The writer may also may want to look into the potentialities of visual novels in creating this form of empathy. – Sathyajith Shaji Manthanth 2 months ago
      Taken by (PM) 2 months ago.

      The death of Romanticism

      The emphasis today is on getting through the day and we forget to romanticize life. Why have human beings lost connections with nature and self?

      • Discussing literary critic John Ruskin's ideas of the pathetic fallacy could work when building an argument around the emotional connection between nature and self. He noticed that the people in art (including poetry) had disappeared. As in, people were less frequently being depicted in art during this time. And so instead, human emotions were being assigned to aspects of nature. More than this though, he proffered that it was the emotional state of the human reflected into the natural aspects of the artwork. You can find this practice in the poetry of Keats, Wordsworth, and most of the big six. (This is a very rough summary of his argument, of course, Ruskin's book Modern Painters would be the text to refer to for the far more eloquent expression of his idea). – Samantha Leersen 2 months ago
      • Romanticism isn’t necessarily dead, but rather it’s bland and not as interesting anymore. – kyeferreira 2 months ago
      • The contemporary man is rejecting romanticism objectively. Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau has not emphasized that there would be a day when we lose our connection with naturalism, but they have glorified romanticism enough to imply that. – metamorphicrock 2 months ago
      • This is a particular kind of Romanticism called Naturalist Romanticism. This narrows this topic somewhat in its own right but whoever decides to write this may benefit from further narrowing. I would recommend looking at a particular nation’s naturalist literature of the Era. The richest would be the United States (c. 1820-1900), the United Kingdom (1798-1837), and France (1789-1914). – J.D. Jankowski 2 months ago

      The Evolution of Frankenstein's Monster: The intelligent, the brainless, and back again

      When first written by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein’s Monster was an intelligent, eloquent, and even sympathetic-in-some-lights character. The character underwent an evolution in popular culture to become an easily recognizable horror monster – a big, green, lumbering, incapable of speech or intelligence brute. Recently though, there has been a shift back to depicting Frankenstein’s monster as a misunderstood character who is equal to humans with emotions, intelligent thought, and a desire to belong. Why and how has this evolution has happened?

      • Covering the movies, Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein may prove helpful. – J.D. Jankowski 2 months ago
      • I like this idea. It might be interesting to approach it through the scope of the ever-evolving social stigmas/beliefs surrounding mental health, trauma, and/or identity. More so than in generations past, modern society tends to discuss such issues more openly, and therefore, modern readers may feel more inclined to identify with monster and less inclined to demonize him. Of course, the focus will need to be narrowed (mental health, trauma, and identity are all huge topics to tackle), but these are just some ideas to consider. – JCBohn 1 month ago

      The Desire for Fame in Dante Allegheri’s “Il Inferno”

      In Dante’s fictional journey to hell with Virgil the poet as his guide, the vast majority of the damned that are encountered want Dante to tell of them back in the temporal world. Examples of this are Dido, Queen of Carthage (ironically written about in real life by Dante’s guide) and Ciacco the Glutton (blatantly so considering that “ciacco” is the Italian word for pig, and he behaves and looks as such).

      Analyze why those in Inferno want to be remembered. Is it because this is the only joy that they have left in their horrid states (to be remembered and with the possibility of being remembered fondly)? Indeed those that do not want to be told of (mainly in the 9th Circle) did things so horrid that no fondness would be drawn in being remembered. Or is it for a more selfish reason? Does this express subtlety that pride both goes before the fall and is at the root of all evil and feeds all other evils?