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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 3 months ago
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  • 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 3 months ago
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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?

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    The Transition from Literature to Film

    For decades, audiences have witnessed pieces of text translated into film adaptations, such as Dracula, Murder on the Orient Express, etc. Writer participation within the film making is usually nonexistent or very minimal, which is found to be strange considering they are the ones who have created the story, characters, etc. Literature translating to film will most likely continue but should the writer be more involved within film making?

    • Note: there are quite a few films where the author of the literature serves in a consultative role. Examples of this are the author of Inspector Morse in the eponymously-named series and the author of the Twilight series. – J.D. Jankowski 4 months ago
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    • Three thoughts: 1) There is quite literally an entire field of academic study -- Adaptation Studies -- devoted to this exact premise. I'm having a hard time picturing what a short article with such a general scope might be able to add to the discussion that hasn't already been well-trodden territory in that field's many journals and monographs. If you're interested in reading some introductory material on the subject, I'd strongly recommend either "A Theory of Adaptation" by Linda Hutcheon or "Film Adaptation and Its Discontents" by Thomas Leitch. 2) If the intended focus of this article is the question of authorship, and particularly the lack of creative involvement the authors of source texts typically have in the creation of adaptations, then why do you only mention long-deceased authors (i.e. Bram Stoker and Agatha Christie)? It doesn't seem very likely/possible that either of them will have much input in contemporary film adaptations of their novels. Living authors by contrast, retain copyright over their works, meaning they get some degree of choice over who is given film-rights to their books. Even when they don't have screenwriter or consultant credits on the finished film, the fact that they sold the rights to such-and-such studio and/or filmmaker arguably acts as somewhat of a tacit endorsement, no? 3) J.D.'s suggestions are certainly more instructive, and there are no lack of similar examples. A few that immediately come to mind are GRRM's consultant role on Game of Thrones, Mario Puzo co-writing the screenplay for The Godfather, John Patrick Shanley writing and directing the film version of Doubt, etc. The list can go on and on. However, what I think might be more compelling -- and perhaps more relevant to the issue you seem to be raising -- are instances wherein the original authors are famously displeased with the films made out of their books. I believe this to have been the case with Milan Kundera's reaction to the adaptation of Unbearable Lightness of Being, as was Umberto Eco's to that of The Name of the Rose. (Interesting that both of these cases concern quintessentially postmodern novels, in which the form and content are inextricably linked; that said, Vonnegut apparently really liked the Slaughterhouse-Five movie, so who knows?) If you want to go even further back, prior to copyright restrictions, Dickens was famously displeased with stage adaptors in his own time writing and producing theatrical versions of his novels. What especially concerned him was when they did so prior to the novel's completion in monthly serialized publication, forcing these playwrights to make wild guesses at the endings … sometimes correctly, sometimes not (see Karen Laird's "The Art of Adapting Victorian Literature, 1848-1920" for more details). Anyway, hope some of that helps. – ProtoCanon 4 months ago
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    • I'd suggest doing a lot more research on what is actually done when adapting films from literature. Generally the author may not be in a consulting role (for instance when not alive) but there are always organisations that have copyright over the text. A great example of this is the Tolkien Society that has to approve any pitches relating to any films or series that are based on Tolkien's plethora of literature. – cjvisser 4 months ago
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    The Sins of Œdipus

    Upon Œdipus’s self-imposed exile from Thebes for being the reason the city held a divine curse (on account of his marriage—unwittingly—to his mother Iocaste), his sons fight a civil war (Œdipus at Collonus) to determine who will rule Thebes. The result is that both sons kill each other by each other’s hand in battle. Creon becomes king (Antigone) and refuses burial of the rebellious son, and orders that anyone who would bury him to be executed. Antigone, the sister of the brothers, assisted by their sister Ismene, buries the body. Creon initially orders her imprisonment and execution. He vacillated at this decision but too late as Antigone and Ismene committed suicide to highlight Creon’s unjust actions.

    Analyze how much of this is the result of Œdipus and why this is the result. Is it the result of Œdipus’ union with his mother? Or is it his curiosity (See Œdipus Rex)? In these plays, do the children suffer from the father’s sins, or are they the authors of their own tragedy? Bear in mind that the mindset of Ancient Greece held that any wrongdoing any person committed was under strict liability (intent does not matter; the act itself is good or evil). What kind of critique, if any, does the author Sophocles (a citizen of the Athenian Republic, which held the heart of Hellenic democracy) make of the rule of kings. Could this be a critique on the rule of the Spartans (Athens’s historic rival; a monarchy)?

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      The Most Pervasive Personality Types in Literature

      Today, it’s common for writers to use Meyers-Briggs, Kiersey, Enneagram, or another personality test metric to type their characters, or at least to determine how characters might act in certain situations. Even if writers don’t consciously do this, their characters can often be "typed." For instance, many people discuss the Meyers-Briggs or other types of characters in popular series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and so on.

      In exploring literature, what personality types do you think come up most or least, and why? For instance, do you think authors tend to create characters based on their own personalities? Are you attracted or repelled by certain types of characters–say, a bookish yet adventure-seeking character like Jane Eyre, vs. a "trickster," street smart character like the Artful Dodger?

      • By the way, the ISFJ is definitely in the realist camp. In general it would be the N-types gravitate toward the idealism. – J.D. Jankowski 4 months ago
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      • I've found that especially in YA literature, the main character is the clichéd portrayal of 'nerd' or 'introvert' - i.e. shy, wallflower, bookworm, etc. In some literature that starts out this way, this character often turns out to be more confident and outgoing than previously believed, thus becoming more likeable in the subjective eye of the reader. While it seems to be quite popular in modern fiction, I lean towards liking the characters that appear to be introverts and bookish and actually are. – MishaniK 4 months ago
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      • I feel like sensory (Se and Si) types tend to show up more in YA stories because the narrators often describe their immediate surroundings without getting too big into abstractions or making elaborate connections out of vague ideas (like someone with Ni would do). – Emily Deibler 4 months ago
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      What is the difference between Bildungsroman and Coming-of-Age?

      The word Bildungsroman is often used interchangeably with the term coming-of-age when describing growth-oriented literature. However, they are not necessarily the same. A Bildungsroman text is one that focuses on the psychological growth of a character. It follows said character from youth to adulthood, especially as they find themselves in difficult situations. Coming-of-age, however, is more of a broad umbrella term for any story about growing up.

      Through using one or more Bildungsroman and coming-of-age texts, the writer of this article could explore this difference. Some points to consider are the way a Bildungsroman is structured in four sections (loss, journey, conflict/growth, and maturity). Also, the way a Bildungsroman focuses on the entirety of youth, not just a small portion of it.

      Conversely, the coming of age text chosen should be used to show the ways that it is different from a Bildungsroman (such as, for example, focusing on only a month or year of youth). An article explaining these differences, with examples, could be an informative and educational read.

      • I was always kind of under the impression that a Bildungsroman was a subset within coming-of-age stories. As in, every Bildungsroman is a coming-of-age story, but not every coming-of-age story is a Bildungsroman. – Debs 4 months 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 9 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 7 months ago
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      • I find fragmented writing to be very confusing, but very intriguing as well. A reader following a straight line can get tiring and boring. Putting in fragments adds not only a timeline to a story, but also adds depth to characters, settings, and plot. The reader is able to tie things together themselves rather than have someone tell them which is more entertaining. – devdroses 4 months ago
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      • I don't really see "fragmented" stories as innately more confusing than linear ones. If you think about it, any story that starts in medias res or uses flashbacks--especially more than a couple of times--is making use of non-linear storytelling. That being said, probably one of the most infamous "fragmented" stories is The Trial, a novel by Franz Kafka. In that case, the reason why it's so fragmented is because the story was discovered after the author's death, and he hadn't managed to complete the story or put the pieces in order in the first place. Another interesting example of non-linear storytelling is in the movie Memento. The protagonist of that movie suffers from an inability to make new memories, and so the entire story is told in reverse, with the later events being shown first and the earlier events shown later, so that the audience can realize how confusing and misleading it would be to live in such a way. – Debs 4 months ago
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      • What an interesting topic! This could be a hard one to write because temporal shifts and fragmented plots work to “achieve” different purposes for different Modernists. Perhaps a thesis that explores a few common effects of the narrative style within a particular subset of Modernist writing would work well. One might consider narrowing to the early Modernists or even just the early female Modernists, for instance. Or, contrarily, a broader survey of Modernists using the style over time to achieve the same purpose would be super interesting, too. Again, keeping the focus narrow will be difficult, but I think it would produce a rewarding piece. – JCBohn 3 months ago
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      Taken by JCBohn (PM) 4 weeks ago.
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      Good "Fat" and Bad "Fat" in Fiction

      Fiction loves a fat character…if that character is antagonistic and held up for ridicule or villainizing, that is. Antagonistic and fat characters can be found in all kinds of fiction, from Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, to Dudley Dursley in Harry Potter, to the sea witch in almost any form of The Little Mermaid, to (occasionally) the witch in Hansel and Gretel. To twist the knife further, these characters are often juxtaposed against "good," but malnourished and pitiable, characters from whom they take even the basic necessities (food).

      Of course, there are some fat protagonists in classic literature or myths and fairytales, as well. Santa Claus, typically portrayed as fat, is a personification of goodness and charity. The Ghost of Christmas Present, when juxtaposed with the gaunt yet greedy Scrooge, is a reminder that "fat" can also be healthy, prosperous, and joyful. However, most fat characters tend to be either 100% good or 100% bad in "older" forms of literature.

      In the last few years, authors have become more aware of these issues, and there are now more body-positive books, especially geared toward young women. However, some of them are not as positive as they seem. Dumplin’, for example, stars Willowdean, a fat girl who competes in a beauty pageant to show she’s worthy to…but then has to watch a "typical" contestant win. Watch Us Rise has Jasmine, a black girl who is put down and demonized for being both black and big. One Fat Summer has Bobby, who begins to find inner peace and acceptance by his social circle…after losing weight.

      How has "fat phobia" in fiction evolved and changed? How is it influenced by how our modern society views body size? Throughout the article, you might explore questions such as, what size constitutes fatness, how fat characters could be represented as more three-dimensional, and whether stories about body size lend themselves to fat phobia or pigeonholing fatness by default.

      • This is a fascinating point. Often times the representation of fat characters are sidelined to serve the interests of the main character. Their stories are underdeveloped or nonexistent, they are allowed little to no dimension as a character, and are mainly there to act as props. The reason behind having "bad" fat characters could serve multiple purposes. Firstly their size could be a representation of gluttony such as the mayor in City of Ember. It could act as an abuse of the representation of fat individuals, specifically men, as being perverse, unkempt, or sexually undesirable. Or their fat bodies could act as a juxtaposition of their malnourished moral state, with the "weak" physique being representative of a "weak" character. The "good" Fat character needs to have the subcategory of the fat funny friend. This trope is rampant in 2000s comedies, using fat characters as throw away people used for laughs. Though some claim it is progressive, since they are taking control of it and taking ownership of their representation, it is still regressive in nature. More often than not they are laughing AT the character not WITH them, and they are still only used as a parallel to the thinner main character. This subcategory also feeds into the "always jolly" characteristic which can be damaging in its own right. Rather than allowing the character their own pains, struggles, and complexity, they are denied the ability to exist in their own right. This kind of representation says that their whole identity is found in their physical appearance and weight, not their personality. Though flawed, a more progressive representation of the "fat" best friend can be seen in Sookie from Gilmore Girls. Though the main character is still a slim white woman with sexual magnetism, Sookie's weight is never addressed even in passing, she is allowed developed storylines and has a discernible personality that grows over time. She is allowed to exist as a person, not just according to her physical appearance. – LadyAcademia 4 months ago
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