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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) 1 month 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) 2 months 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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    The Possibilities of Narrative

    The problem of representation has persisted since antiquity. Literature had long opposed the writer’s ability to tell a story on one side, and to represent reality accurately on the other. The twentieth century has shown that both are concurrently achievable and modern literature, in particular the novel, is the product of the confluence of these two ideas.

    An essay that explored how narrative has developed the capacity overcome this binary and to both tell a story and represent our experiences of reality would be a poignant contribution.

    This is particularly pertinent in a cultural climate that continues to move away from homogenous conceptualisations of existence. In a cultural climate where language continues to lose authority it would be interesting to explore how language can adapt (as it always has) to overcome the severe destabilisation of what is (I use the term hesitantly) a Post-Truth world.

    • There are A LOT of ideas here, this could easily achieve PhD length given the scope! Which isn't a bad thing, I'd read it. To keep this article length though I'd keep the idea of 'The Possibilities of Narrative' as the focus and perhaps go into a couple of current narrative forms that meld your core concepts of literary narrative, on the one hand, and fidelity to representing reality on the other. Mixed-media ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) jump to mind. – JM 2 months ago
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    Riddley Walker: The Myths and Sense of Self-Denial Humankind Perpetuates In The Face Of Discovery And Change

    From the use of mythical stories to drive groupthink regarding the leveraging of forbidden knowledge, to the characters’ struggle with suppressing their innate desire for progress of any kind, Riddley Walker minced no words when it came to exposing humankind’s willingness to live in ignorance of their past and inner selves, with the lead character exploring and trying to make sense of a post-apocalyptic England instead of staying put in his settlement and abiding by orthodoxy.

    An article on Riddley Walker would break down the through-line that guides the book. That through-line being how humankind can falsely equate knowledge (i.e. the insight one possesses) with wisdom (i.e. how one uses the insight they possess in their interest and that of society), and how the devastating consequences of such an equation can drive folks to fence themselves in instead of trying to discover and use knowledge more carefully. The article could also take a look at one of the novel’s foremost inspirations—St. Eustace and the Legend that epitomizes the Christian martyr—and detail the ways in which said inspiration contextualizes the novel’s backstory.

    The main line of inquiry to be pursued could be as follows: How should one keep up with the inner drive to seek and implement knowledge without getting ahead of themselves? Should one fully trust fate to guide them on the path to knowledge, even if taking said path can potentially mean running afoul of one’s community and repeating the mistakes of the past?

    • What an exciting topic!In hindsight - trusting fate fully is both a blessing and a curse! I think eventually, after a certain number of what I call 'initiations', seekers learn to navigate and pace themselves through the labyrinths of experience, more easily done by surrendering control. Yes you will run afoul of one's community as it's an essential stage of the journey ;)...Ah but...the more I know the less I know. It's quite the paradox. Do we use knowledge or does knowledge use us? I have a theory about that. – RozeeCutrone 2 months ago
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    The Politics of the Shire

    The author of the Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien was a traditionalist conservative shaped by both his Catholic beliefs as well as the Anglo-American tradition of conservatism, often traced back to Edmund Burke. Analyze the impacts of his worldview on the polities of the Free Peoples in general and the Shire in particular. A focus on the traditional order of the Shire and its transformation into a planned economy under "Sharkey" would be a good starting point for an article.

    • I've always found the Shire a fascinating place. Tolkien's image of a lush, peaceful, and unmechanized countryside is very fitting for his story, where the industry/mechanization of war threatens much of middle-earth . It also benefit to look at Tolkien's own experience in WW1 at the brutal Battle of the Somme. Tolkien had a brutal/horrible experience, confronting the terrors of modern mechanized warfare. – Sean Gadus 3 months ago
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    • His interaction with linguistics of Germano-Nordic languages may be a topic worth pursuing here too, as he was studying this while writing Lord of the Rings. – J.D. Jankowski 2 months ago
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    A Canticle For Leibowitz: The Cycles Of Unearthing And Using Knowledge That Can Enhance and Undo Civilization

    Between the sense of historical recurrence that ends in nuclear annihilation, and the preservation of knowledge in a world initially hostile to education, A Canticle for Leibowitz looked at the issue of the human mentality never easily catching up with rapidly evolving technology or understanding its proper use, the Catholic Church acting as a gatekeeper for knowledge that can prove dangerous in the wrong hands. Especially those of states bearing the same ambition and sense of tribalism that destroyed civilization beforehand.

    An article on this topic would take a look at how A Canticle for Leibowitz tackles humankind’s relationship with knowledge, particularly sizable discoveries such as electricity and atomic energy. This topic could also explore backstory events such as the Simplification that saw the persecution of the literate and how this ingrained culture of mass ignorance resulted in the rising state forgetting the mistakes of the past and heading toward the same nuclear conclusion that undid the Earth in the first place.

    The primary line of inquiry to be pursued could be the following: How should we handle knowledge that can both (re)build and destroy life, particularly when we’re aware of how it was wrongly employed beforehand?

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      Dragons - East vs. West

      Dragons are known to be creatures of immense power and destruction and can be found in folklore across the globe. However, there is a difference in the way dragons are depicted as symbols of power between eastern and western culture. Eastern culture depicts power through embodying a dragon i.e. an aspiration to become like a dragon whereas western culture depicts power through slaying a dragon i.e. overcoming a foe who is as powerful as a dragon.

      • I think that you've already established some broad values that are commonly associated with Eastern culture vs Western culture that might be a bit too leading. I would love to see how these norms and attitudes have been challenged by more recent depictions of dragons (i.e. how dragons are of the East in Game of Thrones but were brought over to Western culture multiple times). – kickingupanacho 2 years ago
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      • I like the angle you chose--embodying or becoming a dragon (East) vs. slaying it (West). It's different from the more typical discussions about European dragons being associated with fire and destruction while East Asian dragons are associated with nature/weather and benevolence or one has wings and the other is pretty much a flying serpent. It'd be imperative to look at cultural sources, especially with Eastern culture as dragons are almost always (and exclusively) associated with kings/emperors. – snowycarousel 2 years ago
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      • Very interesting! I cant help but find the Western interpretation all the more inspiring. In spite of the vast difference in size and strength between a human and a dragon, the human still prevails, through courage and intelligence. The Western interpretation seems very applicable as a parallel to many of the problems that humanity faces, whereas the Eastern interpretation.. I can understand to a degree.. I've noticed many therianthropic themes in Eastern culture (humans turning into animals).. I wonder where this cultural focus stems from.. – Dstoll25 2 years ago
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