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Tolkien's Legendarium and Literature as a Living Body

While the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings have gained their well-earned places in western literature, Tolkien’s published works were only a small scrap of the material he created and wrote about Middle-Earth over a span of 60 years. Tolkien’s ideas of Middle-Earth’s languages, history, and cultures changed time and time again, even in the span of writing a single short story. Tolkien’s ‘Legendarium’ evolved so frequently that it took a life of its own.

What does Tolkien’s Legendarium teach us about the creative process? Most of the work he created violently contradicted itself, does that impact what we view as ‘canon’? Can having this outside body of work flavor how we read the Lord of the Rings? Do the works published after his death, such as the Simarillion and the Children of Hurin count as Middle-Earth ‘canon’? Was it acceptable for Christopher Tolkien to compile these new books from his father’s works? Since new Tolkien work is being published to this very day, can we say that Tolkien’s stories are still evolving even in the post-Peter Jackson age?

  • Great topic. I'm not a big fan of Tolkien (I tried, but couldn't get into the whole LOTR franchise). That said, I'd be the first to say he is a freaking genius when it comes to creating fantasy worlds. Fantasy authors, IMHO, face unique challenges because along with characters and settings, they have to create the rules and standards for an entire fictitious society, and keep them consistent. Very few can do that. This is also a timely topic, considering how big fantasy still is (Harry Potter, Twilight, Once Upon a Time, Emerald City, you name it). I personally have former colleagues who'd love this article. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
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  • This is a great topic. I would recommend reading what Christopher Tolkien has written about publishing his father's work. If you own some of the works mentioned, you already have access to his introductions. – C8lin 1 month ago
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Young Adult Literature: The Escape

What is it about YAL that makes the genre so popular. Despite its name and set ‘age range’ young adult books are making waves and gathering attention to those of many ages allowing us to escape into the words created. Is it simply because we find the characters, situations, or world relatable? Are we living vicariously through the lives of characters we wish we could have been or been? What is it about YAL that is so captivating? Don’t believe me? Just look at all the book to screen adaptations chosen to live on the big screen. How do you Escape into the fantasy world of dystopian or YAL. Young adults and teens alike choose to lose themselves in the words living and learning vicariously through the characters.

  • Something that would be interesting would be to compare YA lit to other kinds of niche/'genre' fiction like mystery or sci-fi/fantasy-- both YA and traditional genre fiction are extraordinarily popular, but don't get the kind of respect that more traditional "literary" fiction gets. – Sadie 2 months ago
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  • I've found that, often, classes on YA argue that the reason people read so much YA is the "reliability" factor, though I don't know if that's necessarily all of it. I also think that there is an aspect of YA that lets topics that may not necessarily be as accessible in other genres come through in subtle interesting ways. But that may just be my own thoughts on the thing. Interesting topic! I'd love to see it written! – Mariel Tishma 2 months ago
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  • I think part of the pull toward YA novels is that they are generally easy to read and fun. For the most part, I know what I'm going to get with a YA book, hence the appeal (for me, at least). – itsverity 3 weeks ago
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Romanticism and Hippie Culture

It can be argued that Romanticism has continued to persist past the 1800s and continued on one form or another. With this in mind, it would be interesting to see a comparison between Romanticism and Hippie culture. Is Hippie culture a continuation of Romanticism? What are the similarities and differences between these ideals? How does it show up in literature?

    Taken by DKWeber (PM) 2 months ago.
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    Why Do People Not Like To Read Anymore?

    Why is it that people find it so difficult and unsavory to read? Very few people actually enjoy and take it upon themselves to read anything from literature, modern works, the news, or frankly anything that consists of many words that require analytical thought to understand. Has this become too much for people? Literacy should never be compromised.

    • Who are these people?! And also what makes you think we read less? I guess I don't know either way, but do you have some statistics saying that book sales are lower? Or libraries are empty? I know print is going away, but I think people still read news on line. Or read magazines. – Tatijana 1 year ago
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    • I can personally vouch for some of your sentiments. Despite my best intentions, it takes a lot of personal coaxing to get myself to sit down and read instead of doing something else. Because when I like to relax, I like to use my eyes and my hands or my ears rather than sit in the same position letting my eyes roll over a page. Although to be honest, I've had this inkling lately that I would get much more satisfaction from reading a book than watching a film, because often, the stories in some of the books I remember enjoying in the past were more engaging and dynamic than a lot of the films I enjoy. So I have plenty of reason to return to reading books. I just don't find myself doing it much, if at all, on a day to day, week to week, and month to month basis. I DO, however, read plenty of articles and stuff online, including here on the Artifice. It's just when it comes to books, especially thick or heavy ones, I have less of a tendency to pick one up. – Jonathan Leiter 1 year ago
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    • I think you would find it very difficult to argue that no-one reads when they would have to read your article to see your argument..? It could certainly be said that people's reading habits have changed: Online content tends to have shorter paragraphs to keep attention; short stories and poetry are starting to be more popular again because they can more easily be devoured in a short amount of time; if you really wanted to argue that people don't read at all, you could potentially look at the re-emergence of spoken-word poetry (such as Polarbear or Kate Tempest) and how people are listening to poetry because of podcasts, commutes etc. rather than buying poetry books and reading them (this can be proven with the poetry book sales vrs views on youtube etc. for said artists.) – Francesca Turauskis 1 year ago
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    • If you Google "people reading less" like I did, you may find more concrete examples to support the topic, as others have suggested. In an October 2015 study, to paraphrase, American people in general read less, but women and young adults read the most. I'd be curious to see why that is. Here's a link: http://electricliterature.com/survey-shows-americans-are-reading-less-but-women-and-young-people-read-the-most/ – emilydeibler 1 year ago
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    • This is very interesting. I would like to see some psychological articles interact with this reading into our culture, and possibly the implications of the dominance of social media. – emilyinmannyc 1 year ago
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    • Others above have questioned the general statement about 'people not liking reading'. But could it be asked, "What has happened to society's attention span?" Someone once said he reads the first paragraph of a book and if it doesn't interest him, he moves on. Really? I also heard someone say they won't watch any movie from the 70's or before because they are too slow. Where is the public's patience? I attended a lecture by a successful screenwriter and he said there is a golden rule in the biz that no one camera shot lasts longer than 8 seconds. I didn't believe him until I started counting at the movie theater and sure enough, the camera changes every 8 seconds. Does the 'fast' changes of camera shots, the high paced video games and instant chat of texting influence our attention span? Are we no longer satisfied with Fast Food and now demand Faster Food? This could be a relevant take on the subject. - Dr. T – DrTestani 1 year ago
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    • I this topic could be taken in the direction that people don't read as much as they used to. To support this idea, things such as the decline in business success of bookstores, or the rise of flash fiction as a popular form of literature can be examined. Is it that people no longer like to read, or that they would rather pull up a piece of flash fiction on their phone rather than lug a copy of Anna Karenina around with them? – MichelleAjodah 1 year ago
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    • I have to question such an absolute statement as literacy should never be compromised. I am not sure if you mean literary appreciation, which I definitely think can and should be compromised. I think that literacy is irrelevant and a completely different issue than what you are discussing before. Whether or not one can read does not mean that they will want to read, and I think that the causes for someone being illiterate are different for those who are less passionate to read. Anyway, I think this is an interesting topic, but the writer needs to have a wider view of the media landscape than saying that something should not be compromised. Perhaps, look at some of the benefits/harms of straying from normal reading activity, the changes in how people consume literature, and definitely why these changes have occurred, and perhaps where we are moving towards, whether it be some post-physical or post-social landscape of reading, or so on. – Matthew Sims 1 year ago
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    • I think this could also discuss increasing visual and other literacies that have taken primacy in a more visual culture. "Reading" itself has changed, and is no longer viewed as one person interacting with a text -> an author -> an idea, in a vacuum. Instead, reading has social elements (Oprah's bookclub, for example) and there are other motivations to read instead of just for literary learning. – belindahuang18 2 months ago
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    • I think this should also cover the use of audio and e-books which have seemed to replace "regular" reading. Are people possibly just getting too lazy to pick up a book or are they too busy to sit down and read? – kspart 2 months ago
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    • Something should be said about the new culture we live in when it comes to books. There is a reason why the argument on 'if we need libraries any more' even exist, or why Borders went out of business? I don't necessarily think people aren't reading anymore I just think how people are reading is changing... – cousinsa2 2 months ago
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    • I understand where you're coming from, but I also believe that, as technology continues to advance, people tend to read in a different setting or capacity. It's not necessarily that people are reading any less or are straying away from it as a whole, it just varies from person to person, what technologies they immerse themselves in, how it affects their time/motivation to read, etc. – caitlynmorral 2 months ago
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    • This could easily be an interesting article to explore with some substantial evidence. Instead of going in with the assumption that nobody reads anymore, try focusing more on the how; how people read. It's ridiculous to assume nobody reads, it's not to assume that people read differently than traditionally thought. – Shipwright 2 months ago
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    Taken by Vchelle (PM) 2 months ago.
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    Lack of Mothers in Fairy Tales

    Cinderella, Snow White, Belle. These are just a few of the heroines from traditional fairy tales that lack a maternal figure. Most often, the mother is deceased and the heroine must navigate the world without her guidance. What is the significance of this maternal absence? How has the lack of a loving, nurturing mother in traditional fairy tales enabled the story to progress? Or has the lack of maternal figure hindered the development of the heroine?

      Taken by Stephanie M. (PM) 2 months ago.
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      The influence of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison on African American art

      Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison has been called a "master text," a revolutionary work which changed the nature of African American literature in the 1950s. How did Invisible Man reach more than just African American literature? Where can you see its influence in later works – not only in literature, but painting, poetry, photography, etc?

      • Looking at the race issues as well as the Marxist bent of the text would likely be a solid starting ground for evaluating how this novel has influenced other disciplines and how it speaks to other racial issues. Would make for a great interdisciplinary exploration. – mazzamura 2 months ago
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      How pop culture such as facebook and other social media influences young adult's self esteem

      Discuss why social media negative or positive influence young adult’s self esteem

      • What examples of pop culture do you mean? Could this include YA films like Divergent and Star Wars and how this affects the psyche of YA? – Kevin 5 months ago
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      • This is a good line of inquiry, but really broad. Narrow in on some particular aspect of pop culture so you can build a better argument with solid analysis. – albee 5 months ago
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      • Hmm...interesting question. I'm now trying to think of any songs, movies, or shows that have impacted my self-esteem...I automatically think of "in a negative way" but I realize that there are probably a lot of things that have impacted me positively. I think focusing on one of these sides would be very interesting and much more effective. – skohan 5 months ago
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      • It seems like there is a distinction between pop culture and social media. You might want to pick one or the other. If you want to focus on self-esteem, social media might be a good one, and think about the idea of cyber bullying. It could come in several forms, but people on the internet are notorious for saying things that they wouldn't in person. – AbeRamirez 5 months ago
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      • I agree with AbeRamirez, the writer should consider selecting either pop culture or social media. If they choose the former, it would be worthwhile to discuss how role models, fictional characters, uplifting songs and films inspire people and make them feel more confident. However, these same things might also create an impossible standard, which most people are unable to attain thus making them feel inferior and less confident. If you go the social media route, you could talk about interpersonal connections fostering a sense of community that makes someone feel loved and/or respected in a way that's beneficial to self esteem. However, as AbeRamirez suggests, you could talk about cyberbullying. – IsidoreIsou 5 months ago
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      • I agree with the latter two comments. Targeting pop culture as it is would be too broad a topic. Since you've already funneled it down by using social media as an example, I suggest you just stick with that one aspect.My input on this is pretty much stating the obvious: more often than not, the effect is negative. More young people tend to compare themselves to others, resulting to low self-esteem and newfound frustrations. – Elizabeth Ruth Deyro 5 months ago
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      • This is a GREAT topic that is very prevalent in today's society. It seems as if one's self-confidence is becoming more dependent on the number of likes they receive. Bullying is also a growing issue here. – hmccraw 5 months ago
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      • I think social media is distinct from pop culture because the user is more directly involved with the former. When your post gets a like or a hit, it's a dose of dopamine, and when you go ignored, there's a sense of sadness, like you haven't been accepted. – ScottyGJ 2 months ago
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      • It sounds to me that you are blending social media and pop culture. Although they intertwine, there is a distinct difference. i think that you should talk about social media in reference, but focus on pop culture. – SamLuckert 2 months ago
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      • I agree with the former comments that pop culture and social media should be separated. In regards to the latter, I believe social media in today's society is largely tied to an individual's self-worth, which can be incredibly harmful. In measuring ourselves based on how many likes and comments we receive, we measure our worth based on others' opinions of us or attention to us. However, Isidorelsou raised a positive use of social media, which is when we can form friendships online that we might not form in real life, and how we build our real-life friendships through interaction on the internet. – melmollyrose 2 months ago
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      The Impact of Fitzgerald's Personal Life on His Writing

      F. Scott Fitzgerald lived a relatively hard life plagued by alcoholism and depression, yet was a powerful writer. Characters in his novels, such as Jay Gatsby from "The Great Gatsby" and Dick Diver from "Tender is the Night" seem to experience similar troubles. We know what Fitzgerald struggled with throughout his life; to what extent did he give his characters the same struggles? Was it a conscious decision, or a way of coping? In many cases the characters don’t find peace, just as Fitzgerald didn’t. How did Fitzgerald use his personal life, whether willingly or not, to influence his writing?

      • I think it is undeniable that Fitzgerald largely reflects upon his own life through the trials and tribulations of his fictional characters. Some of the parallels he draws are uncanny, however whether this was a conscious decision, or merely a demonstration of the artist's tendency to draw upon his own experiences, is difficult to ascertain. It would be interesting to look at essays written by Fitzgerald and critiques written about his works, as well as taking a closer look at his characters in order to craft a more solid perspective on the matter. – arhaydu 2 months ago
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      • I would love to read an article like this. To piggy-back off arhaydu a bit, looking at the wealth of Fitzgerald's different works, from the best-known novels to essays, as well as his short stories, is a must. Additionally, there is actually a slim volume out there titled On Booze. Relevant, and it is a quick, enjoyable read--shouldn't put too much more stress time-wise on the writing process for this article. – KatharineBooth 2 months ago
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      • That's quite interesting. In Stephen King's book "On Writing" he mentions having a connection with Jack Torrance form "The shining". Both Stephen King and Jack Torrance were struggling writers who had sunk into alcoholism. Writing characters similar to yourself is something that comes naturally. without having the intention of creating yourself on the page your are drawn to writing what you know. We can find many examples of this and it can easily be applied to Fitzgerald and his works. – ReidaBookman 1 week ago
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