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All Quiet on the Western Front: The Greatest War Novel of All Time?

Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is considered the greatest war novel ever written. Why is this book singled out? What makes it so different from other literature about war? This article would examine themes, setting, and characters and look at why the book has remained so timeless. (Comparisons to the movie/s can also be made.)

  • It is indeed a great novel, and I think exploring what sets it apart is a marvelous idea. However, be careful with phrases like "the greatest novel of all time" because realistically, there's no way to quantify that. – Stephanie M. 2 weeks 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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    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 1 month ago
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    • The Outsiders is a tremendous book and had a huge influence on many writers and readers. – Sean Gadus 1 month 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. 6 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 6 months ago
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    • 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 2 months ago
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    • 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 1 month 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 7 months ago
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    • Fascinating topic! As Joseph pointed out, you can't answer this question without looking at historical context: Dickens wrote lowbrow serials and was paid by the word, Shakespeare's plays entertained the masses with bawdy jokes, and in the 18C, novels were thought to be immoral and foolish. How did these come to be considered "literarily meritous"? Could part of it be the way they represent the literary movements of their times? I think Atwood's prose is divine, but I wouldn't say the same of Godwin's Caleb Williams (and I read that in multiple college-level English courses) so could it be that it earned merit by standing up to the test of time (and immortalizing a contemporary way of thinking)? I wonder about Jane Austen, too, whose novels some people see as merely "feel-good," while others read her as a witty social commentator. Then perhaps literary merit has more to do with how the majority of people interpret a work over time than its content necessarily? – rosebo 6 months ago
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    • This could make for a neat article that closely analyzes the specific criteria that have formed the basis (and biases) for judging the literary worth of books. A historical analysis—e.g. a chronological look at specific authors who did(n't) achieve literary recognition in their heyday, particularly those who blend literary and genre fiction—could work, which can be supplemented with propositions for new criteria that judge books against the context of modern times and sensibilities. – Michel Sabbagh 6 months ago
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    • Jane Eyre is a good example of contextual differences. Today, we place it high on the literary merit shelf. But, when it was first published it was dismissed when it was discovered that the writer was a woman. I think, perhaps, you could find numerous examples of texts that have similar histories. – Samantha Leersen 1 month ago
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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 months ago
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    • Interesting. Modernism was a reaction against the inflexible confines of Victorian literature that preceded it. The motif of the circle, as in Kertesz's text, is an alternative to the traditionally linear conception of experience. The Modernist's realised that individual experience is not as simple as a traditional linear narrative with one major point of conflict; we think back, we reconsider, we hypothesise. The Modernists simply reflected this reality in the forms of their works. – hlewsley 2 months ago
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    Taken by Hannan Lewsley (PM) 4 weeks ago.
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    What Will Pandemic Fiction Look Like?

    I’m a writer, and right now, publishers and agents are warning fellow writers not to craft pandemic plotlines yet because it’s too soon and we are too close to the event. However, what might pandemic-centered fiction look like when the crisis is safely past and we are able to examine it with a distant, critical eye? Discuss the elements of the pandemic that might make the best fiction. What kind of characters might be most compelling? Are there certain tropes or plot twists that would lend themselves well to pandemic fiction? Also, consider whether pandemic fiction could fit into already-established genres or sets of titles (i.e., Camus’ The Plague, Love in the Time of Cholera, young adult titles like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, etc.)

      Taken by iamdharmesh1 (PM) 1 month ago.
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      The Best and Worst Epistolary Novels

      I recently read Things We Didn’t Say, a World War II epistolary novel by Amy Lynn Green, and enjoyed it immensely. However, it reminded me I had not encountered a good epistolary novel in several years. This led me to ask some questions about this sub-genre. Namely, what are some of the best epistolary novels? Are they classics or contemporary novels, and what are some differences between those two? Are there some things epistolary authors do that make their works less than enjoyable, and what are some of the "worst" or lowly-regarded epistolary novels? Discuss.

      • This sounds really interesting, but I think going down the good/bad road could perhaps be a little limiting. I'm more drawn to the latter part of your proposal which looks at the different ways in which various epistolary novels work. I think the nuance that this approach would allow would be more engaging and allow the author to dig a bit deeper into how they work from a literary perspective. – Hannan Lewsley 2 months ago
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      • Interesting topic! Dangerous Liaison, by Choderlos de Laclos, is a French epistolary novel (published in 1782) that may be be interesting to tackle, or mention, in an article such as the one you’re suggesting! – Gavroche 2 months ago
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