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The New Classics

What can be considered a new classic? Writers like John Green and Stephan King boast quite a large fan base (and literary output), but will they go down in history? Does fame equate to immortalization in literature? After all, many writers were unbeknownst while they lived, but others (such as Shakespeare) received wide fame amid their careers. Whose work can be considered literary? Are they losing ground in the shadow of these modern, famed "genre writers"?

  • Genre shouldn't matter re: enduring quality of a piece of literature.It's a little risible to suggest the likes of Shakespeare might be losing ground in the shadow of John Green!Fame doesn't equate to immortality in history, but obscurity tends to mean you're not even in the mix for future consideration.One of the biggest problems nowadays is the general disconnect with "things past", losing touch with history i.e. self-censoring art and literature and creative content based on its date of creation. It not only makes it harder to source new classics but means - for most - the canon of older classics is shrinking. Contemporary fame matters but originality and lineage and breadth of vision should matter more.Also there's a growing parochialism, especially in the Anglosphere - facilitated in part by the net and social media bringing together 'communities' in large enough numbers so they satisfy the 'interaction' instinct most of us possess. If people don't feel the need to step outside their echo chambers, their horizons narrow and their creative output follows suit, eventually becoming mere placebo. All this is a path of least resistance and any book worthy of "new classic" should either transcend this reductionism by scope or scale; or burst the bubble of whatever tribal boundaries might seem to appropriate or contain it.John Green is a sweet guy with a nice turn of phrase but none of his novels yet will be "classics" except maybe for future social historians; and not for the literary merit of the books themselves. Stephen King is different. He's a Balzac type: quantity over quality to such an extent the sheer quantity actually becomes a quality. – magisterludi 2 years ago
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Taken by Sophia Tone (PM) 1 month ago.
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Fan Fiction: Credible Art Form or 'Kind of Lame'?

Fan fiction seems to be a bit like Marmite: fans of original fiction either love it or hate it.

When I took my ‘first foray’ into the realms of fan fiction, I was surprised to encounter a wider range of sub-genres, tropes and terminology than I had realised…

Sequels and prequels to other authors’ narratives, along with spin-off texts, new characters and ‘non cannon’ rewrites can prove contentious–especially when fans feel that the new text undermines or distorts aspects of the original work.

Yet, for some people, it extends the enjoyment gained from the original text and adds dimensions to the fictional universe in question. It can prove satisfying to read (or write) a character’s backstory or find out what happens next–even if these events and characters were created by someone else and/or not generally considered to be ‘cannon.’

In some cases, prequels, sequels and rewrites by different writers–without the approval or authorisation of the original author-have become published or otherwise firmly established in mainstream culture. Examples include Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ (a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’), and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage adaption (and rewrite) of Gaston Leroux’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and a sequel, ‘Love Never Dies.’

In the case of the latter, Lloyd Webber’s narrative is arguably better known than the story it was based on.

Does this mean that, what essentially began as a form of fan fiction has now entered the literary/cultural ‘cannon’? If so, at what point does this happen and how do we decide which ‘fan fictions’ become ‘cannon’?

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the topic of fan fiction, particularly with regards to ‘intertextuality’ and Barthes’ theories on ‘The Death of the Author.’

  • I love the subject matter being explored here, and I think it would make a great article. Another random "fan fiction" of sorts that was adopted into the literary cannon would be John Gardner's Grendel from 1971 that built on the story of Beowulf from the antagonist's perspective. I hope someone picks this up! – Aaron 11 months ago
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  • The mind is a entity that knows no bounds. More often than not we see people through a third eye, imagining what they would do if they were faced by different circumstances. We need to live and let live, let people create their own worlds. – MsLinguista 11 months ago
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  • I gave up writing fan fiction years ago after three of my sub-plots for Star Trek Voyager mysteriously appeared in the next season. I wrote a novelette titled 'Thursday's Child' in which Ensign Kim assumed the (temporary) captaincy of Voyager and a member of the crew became pregnant, later giving birth to Voyager's first baby. Both ideas were roundly slammed by other fans, stating that they would never happen - but they did, in the very next season. A scene I wrote had Torres and Paris stuck on a desert planet, trying to survive long enough for Voyager to find them. A very similar scene, only set on a frozen planet, which even had very, very, similar dialogue between the two appeared in a later Voyager episode. Now I'm not accusing anyone of plagiarism (I can't afford the legal fees! LOL), but I began to wonder if the writers for Voyager (and other shows) occasionally scanned fan fiction for ideas they could use? Why not? It's cheaper than hiring a new writer. – Amyus 4 months ago
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  • The music for "Love Never Dies" is absolutely stunning, and was actual rather controversial around my circle. However, this example makes me wonder if a re-adaption counts as fanfiction in some cases or not. R.R Martin said about A Game of Thrones that the show could not do the same things the books could do, and so they were in essence their own thing.However, one's creative efforts in fanfiction can teach plot driving and story mechanics. It can build community. Although I am not a fanfiction writer, or common reader, I admire the community for its ability to come together.PBS' Storied actually did a Youtube video on a similar topic. It might have some more interesting ideas on the subject. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdDIMOehLm8 – ruegrey 3 months ago
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Twenty-first century English Curriculum

High school English curricula are filled with classics from centuries past. But, in a hypothetical high school curriculum that could ONLY include novels published in the twenty-first century, what would you choose? What considerations would need to be taken into account? What purpose would each text serve? Which genres are best/to be avoided? Is it possible to give a comprehensive education of literature without studying past texts? If so, why/why not?

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    Which antagonists deserve their own book and which do not?

    When Suzanne Collins announced that her new book would follow President Snow, the antagonist of the original Hunger Game series, there was uproar from select fans who had no trouble expressing their distaste for a prequel story that followed this character.

    However, there are books that follow villains or antagonists that people enjoy without fail – Game of Thrones has a huge cast of people that you wouldn’t call ‘good’ necessarily, Vicious by V.E. Shwab protagonist is a ‘villain’. Dexter and Breaking Bad were highly popular television series following characters that, in anyone else’s story, would be the antagonist.

    What is it about an antagonist, a villain, that encourages an audience to want to hear their story? What is about the antagonist that has audiences not wanting to hear their story?

    I would argue its to do with how they became a villain themselves. Is it the world? Is it a privilege that has afforded them a certain belief system? Is it because the character is attractive?

    • Really interesting topic! I love v. e. schwab's "Villains" book. Victor is a fascinating antihero.I would say characters like Walter White fit into the antihero model as well.Remember that antagonist have specific story level specifications that they have to meet. Their role in a story is different than that of anti-hero. – Sean Gadus 1 month ago
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    • No character is evil for the sake of being evil. Everyone has their own motivations and reasoning, albeit sometimes flawed, behind the choices they make and the actions they take. Antagonists are often times more interesting than the altruistic heroes of most stories and it is due to this that makes them enticing to learn more about. Explore character motivation. You'll find that each antagonist probably started out with good intentions and were the heroes of their own stories before something forces their hand. Think of Walter White, started out so that he could support his family and his power corrupted him. – FarPlanet 1 month ago
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    Stephen King's Best Work Is Not Horror

    Stephen King has built his career being the foremost prolific and successful horror storyteller of our generation. Or has he?

    In his almost fifty years of publishing stories, he has a tendency to repeat the tales and tropes he finds interesting again and again because if there’s one thing King is not afraid of, it’s putting out his first draft while he hones in the story. "Here’s my story about a murderous car. No, wait. Here is my story about a murderous car. Okay, hang on. This is my story about a murderous car."

    Controversially, King’s best work is when he branches away from the supernatural, the ghostly, and the otherworldly and steps into the realm of ordinary people in real situations. An author who after a car accident is taken in by a crazed fan only to be brutalized, a man wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his wife succumbing to life behind bars but secretly plotting his escape, or an author is murdered and his killer stashes his unpublished works before being sent to prison but after his release goes in search of his hidden treasure only to find a child has stumbled upon his prize and the lengths he is prepared to go to get back what is his. All of these scenarios are horrifying, but in a wholly different way than utilizing some fantastical element like telekinesis or inter-dimensional monsters.

    It is at the core of stories like these that we find real characters that we can relate and connect to and it is there that we find the heart and capability of Stephen King’s true storytelling abilities.

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      Race: C.S. Lewis' Portrayal of Narnia and Calormen

      Analyze CS Lewis’ portrayal of Calormen and Narnia, focusing on the fact that the Calormenes are the only people of colour in that world. There seems to be a fair bit of racism (and seemingly some references to Islamophobia) in the way he writes the characters from Calormen.
      Since ‘The Horse and His Boy’ is set almost entirely in Calormen and has Narnians and Calormenes directly interacting with each other (Susan and Edmund visiting Tashbaan, Shasta’s identity as a Narnian/Archenlander who grew up in Calormen, etc.), it would likely be one of the main focuses. In terms of religion/spirituality, The Last Battle has the conflict of the two ‘gods’ of the two countries, Tash and Aslan.

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        The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Prequels

        Suzanne Collins’ newest book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, is set to release May 19th, 2020. This prompts the question: What benefits do prequels provide for a story? The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes supposedly takes place in Panem 64 years before the original trilogy. By backtracking, not only do audiences lose favorite and well known characters, but any world-building that existed needs to be restructured and changed. On the other hand, it does provide significant details to the history, as well as the opportunity to flesh out backstories. Collins isn’t the only author to do this; J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, and then Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, going back 70 years in her timeline. So, analyze the potential benefits and possible drawbacks to prequels for beloved novel series.

        • I think this is a great topic for modern books and films, which have seemed to embrace the prequel. – Sean Gadus 2 months ago
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        Taken by kerrybaps (PM) 1 month ago.
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        Has there ever been a truly faithful adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft story?

        Adaptations of Lovecraft’s tales are, of course, rife in modern society. Just last year, the film adaptation of Color Out of Space (2019), attempted to visually recreate the cosmic horror of the original text. However, when the original story made it very explicit that the ‘color’ is indescribable by human standards, is it faithful to attempt to visually represent it and, more generally, can any visual adaptation of Lovecraft’s work be truly faithful?

          Taken by FarPlanet (PM) 2 months ago.