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Is Postmodern Literature Dead, or Simply Out of Fashion?

Many considered the encyclopaedic novels of the late ’90s and early 2000’s such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and most prominently, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest to be, variously, postmodernist, or post-postmodernist – ‘New Sincerity," being a label applied to the latter. In the case of DFW, the abandonment of irony in place of sincerity was defined as the source of the departure from the genre or movement, while Danielewski’s act of essentially drawing out postmodern literature and all its tropes and threads to their logical conclusions was, essentially, concluding it there and then.
I read House of Leaves in my first year of university, and some years later, it is now the subject of my doctoral thesis. As I studied my way through the university, and particularly in grad school, I found very few scholars wanting to discuss postmodern literature or philosophy. In classes I took on Modernism, postmodernism was included in a one-lecture session where it was deemed to have been subsumed into "New Modernist Studies," as essentially, a subgenre of modernism rather than (depending on who was writing it) an elaboration on or even ar reaction to Modernism.
While there were stragglers throughout the ’80s, ’90s and naughties, many consider the heyday of postmodern literature to have taken place during the late sixties and throughout the seventies. Even Raymond Federman who wrote extensively on the self-reflexivity that defined these novels concluded during the ’90s that this era of self-reflexive experimentation was essentially, over. It is worth noting that while these essays were collected, many were written at the time before the term "postmodernism," had even been applied to this kind of literature (a term that was first applied to architecture before carrying over into the other arts; many of the seminal writers like Vonnegut and DeLillo were often called black humorists in their present tense). While Federman perhaps made that call prematurely in 1992, given the popularity of the first two novels I mentioned for this topic, the fact remains that whether or not the movement is "dead," it has fallen terribly out of favour. A professor confessed to me once, that it was very trendy at a time before I’d been born, or perhaps even when I was very young and as a grad student in their 20’s in the ’10s I had missed out Is postmodernism dead because it’s out of fashion? Or will it return, much like the mullet?

  • A good topic, but it may be better to try to frame the topic in third-person because too much personal experience when discussing the topic may feel more like opinion than media analysis. – Emily Deibler 4 months ago
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  • Oh certainly Emily; but I'm not the one who's going to write it.Here's a couple of contextual articles for whoever does; I shouldn't have perhaps leaned on an anecdotal example when essentially, my professor was just echoing what a lot of people have now been saying for decades. Here's a couple of recent takes:https://sydneyreviewofbooks.com/theoretical-cool/https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/postmodernism-is-dead-va-exhibition-age-of-authenticismhttps://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/postmodernism-dead-comes-next/https://philosophynow.org/issues/58/The_Death_of_Postmodernism_And_Beyond (personally not a fan of this one; feel like it misses the point but it's valid to consider)https://areomagazine.com/2018/01/08/postmodernism-isnt-playing-around-anymore/https://areomagazine.com/2018/02/07/no-postmodernism-is-not-dead-and-other-misconceptions/ – benjamindmuir 4 months ago
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  • Ooooo boy, this is one tasty topic (personally). I mean this might come down to how post modernism is defined (good luck to whomever takes that on!) and, also, how you measure the deadness-to-passéness of post modernism; if it's by reader popularity then probably deadish, if it's by author output then it's arguably very alive (Zadie Smith, Jim Gauer, George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, Marlon James...). My main thought is: Is an either/or framing of this piece the best approach to reflect a topic that might benefit from a more exploratory flavour?. There are SO many options with this piece. I approve. – JM 4 months ago
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  • Ah! Thank you for the article lists. I think that'll be very helpful for whoever writes this. :) It's a good topic. – Emily Deibler 4 months ago
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  • I think the postmodern novel will eventually be "in fashion" again. It's strange to think of something as timeless as literature being subjected to trends but there is an ebb and flow. It would be interesting to consider the impact of how we've become accustomed to absorbing information in soundbites--tweets, Instagram and Snapchat stories in relation to lengthier post-modern texts from David Foster Wallace and Haruki Marukami. – Loie89 1 month ago
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How the Past and Present Are Closer Than We Think

Analyze how gender issues in the writings of the past and present are similar to how things are now. For example, look at The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and explore something like The Golden Girls, or a play like A Raisin In The Sun. What do they say about womanhood? How have things changed? How is there still relevance from the past? What does this say about women’s role in society today?

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How Andre Aciman's "Find Me" - "Call Me By Your Name" sequel compares to its prequel

Call Me By Your Name – the book version, ends with Elio and Oliver’s separation, but their longings for each other last for what seems like an eternity. Find Me – the sequel, picks up the storyline a few years later, and, spoiler alert, slowly leads the two star-crossed lovers back together in the end. However, the perspective has changed as the Find Me is in the POV of Elio’s father, now divorced, and his journey of finding new love with a woman much younger than himself. If Call Me, under Elio’s POV, was so successful critically and commercially, why did the author switch to his father’s, whose outlook on life may not be on who was responsible for some of the most soul-touching, sentimental and inspiring dialogues in the prequel

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    The increasing popularity of Royal Fantasy Fiction

    Analyse the texts that surround the current royal fantasy trend within young adult books. Worth noting Sarah J. Maas’s contribution and how texts such as Red Queen and others compare. Are there any archetypes concerning the female hero within?

    • Could also mention Amy Tintera's series. – Andi 9 months ago
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    • I have a game app on my phone that's basically reading different books, and a lot of them are royal fantasy fiction. I never thought about it before now, but that's a really cool observation! – csquie00 9 months ago
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    • ^ I believe you are talking about the app called Choices! They make visual novels, following various trends, such as royal fantasy. Specifically, one of the series is called The Royal Romance, which details a girl adventuring to the fictional kingdom of Cordonia with its prince. – EJSmall 2 weeks ago
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    The Appeal of Nonsense Literature: A Remedy for a Mad, Mad World?

    For many of us, our first exposure to nonsense literature in general came in the form of nonsense poetry. Authors such as Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss and Spike Milligan used non-sensical verse to subvert the power of language to label and own the world. Oxford scholars now suggest the origins of nonsense literature may be found in the 11th century, although there is circumstantial evidence to suggest an even older origin, possibly as far back as Aristophanes.

    Nonsense poetry (and, by extension, nonsense literature in general) is now an officially recognised subset of the international language of literature, and elements have even crept into everyday usage. For instance, few people know that the oft-used word ‘nerd’ was invented by Dr. Suess.

    In addition to the names listed above, Ivor Cutler, James Joyce, Rudyard Kipling, Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, François Rabelais, Flann O’Brien, Velimir Khlebnikov and Sukumar Ray (to name but a few) have all used either nonsense or nonsensical structure in their works, as have Bob Dylan, David Byrne (Talking Heads) and Syd Barret (Co-founder of Pink Floyd).

    Discuss how the anarchic power of nonsense writing can be liberating, both to the author/writer and to the reader/audience. Choose whatever examples you wish and show how, by breaking the established rules of grammar, punctuation and capitalisation, nonsense can also sometimes even act as a remedy for a mad, mad world.

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      Evil plants

      Numerous stories have featured plants in the role of villains. These plants range from minor nuisances (like the mandrakes in Harry Potter) to central antagonists (as in the musical Little Shop of Horrors). Why are people so fascinated by the idea of plants as villains? What are some examples of real-life dangerous plants? Are there any particular real-life plants that seem to get used as models for evil plants more often, and if so, why?

      • Maybe people get tired of pruning and they start blaming plants for their health problems? Or maybe get traumatized by them? The Venus fly-trap and poison ivy are used a lot (from what I've seen). Interesting topic. – OkaNaimo0819 2 months ago
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      • I think to explore this as a use of flora in science-fiction and fantasy would be thought provoking considering the ongoing discussions surrounding climate change. Some of these stories have evolved from the "plants taking earth back" perspective and could be viewed as the motive. Others, in the case of The Last Of Us and the Cordyceps, are more of an inspirational note where ideas from nature have informed designs and creative solutions – CAntonyBaker 2 months ago
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      The Significance of the Power of Flight in Comics

      Since humanity’s earliest days the ability to fly has long been one of the most innate yearnings of our species. This is reflected heavily in our fictional works, perhaps most noticeably in superhero comic books and films. However, not all heroes can fly (Besides the story’s internal reasoning for their powers) what does this indicate about heroes who do have this ability and why? What does it say about those that don’t? Comparison of multiple works may yield the most interesting results.

      • I think this is an interesting topic to look at in film/television/comics. There are so many times where Flight is a critical moment of growth or triumph for characters. – Sean Gadus 3 months ago
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      • It would be interesting to look back at historical myth and legend as well to see where these ideas stem from, imagery in popular culture and how this reflects upon our own image of aspiration and success. Icarus' father crafting the fateful wings, angels ascending to heaven, transhumanist imagery in the likes of Deus Ex Human Revolution etc. – CAntonyBaker 3 months ago
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      Value in Texts with Antiquated Ideas?

      There is a vast array of literature that, in its time, was written with the intention of some form of social justice. An example of this is the much-cited "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," by Harriet Beecher Stowe. However, as modern ideas progress and the willingness to allow every human their basic rights grows, we look back on texts like this and realize that the philosophy within it is antiquated and that its ideas on how to overcome racism simply don’t suffice.

      This in mind, how should we deal with texts like hers? Should we look at them graciously and say that, given the lack of understanding about true social justice, the author did the best she could based on limited knowledge? Or should we stop circulating and supporting texts like those because they do not go far enough in their attempts at fighting the social injustices of our day? Is there a middle ground?

      The writer does not have to choose "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" as their example–any older text with out-of-date social justice views would suffice.

      • I think these old texts could be used to demonstrate how far we've come in addressing these issues. Yes, they may not be relevant or even entirely accurate in today's society, but they should be presented as a marker on the road to more awareness, and they should (with discretion) be circulated. – OkaNaimo0819 3 months ago
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      • I think it helps to keep in mind as well that the reason why a lot of these old texts are still read is because they were extremely influential. They may contain views that don't fit modern ideas of social justice, but it's still necessary to understand the contributions they made to literature and society, both in their own day and since. In the case of Uncle Tom's Cabin, while its views might be outdated, it contained a lot of archetypes and viewpoints that were extremely influential in their own day and that have continued to influence the culture in more indirect ways ever since (including the expression "Uncle Tom"). – Debs 3 months ago
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      • I think it's important to understand the context these works exist in. Uncle Tom's Cabin is antiquated, but it did help the movement for abolition of slavery. It's understandable to be offended by old texts, but their value in understanding the history of the time is crucial, even if their ideas can sometimes be unpleasant. – ruthyf 2 months ago
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