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The Politics of a Single Photograph

Often, major historical events are retrospectively represented by a single photograph. Some examples that come to mind are Tank Man at Tiananmen Square, the numerous and harrowing photos that arose from the Vietnam War, or the photograph of the symbolic gesture of Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring a handful of red dirt into Indigenous Australian man Vincent Lingiari’s hand.
These photos, arguably, sum up the historical events from which they arose, despite only depicting one split second of them. An article on this could explore many factors. Why is it photographs specifically that garner the most attention? Is it due to an artistic preference, over that of reading, or is photography a better medium to depict history? Then, with the specific photographs in discussion, why them? What do they represent about each event that is so important? Is there a problem with using a single photograph to represent an entire event? For example, does it exclude details? Are they framed in a way that is self-serving for a party that is involved? If they are posed, rather than candid, does this further complicate them as historically accurate?
Or, conversely, is the use of photography in this way a good thing? Does it allow important and poignant moments in history to be recognisable and remembered?

  • When considering the recent exposure of several low-ranking 'celebrities' and 'news' personalities who have been caught posing for photo opportunities amongst the post-riot clean-ups in American cities, this is an apt topic suggestion. A photograph may well speak a thousand words, but it may equally reveal a thousand lies. – Amyus 12 hours ago
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Modern Literary Language

I’m really interested in the evolution of language across literary movements. We saw the quickening and shortening of literary language during the Beat era, and I’d argue the lengthening of language in the decades before. How are we writing today? What will become of modern-day style? I think it’s interesting to try and interpret our tendencies in real-time, rather than decades after they’ve happened. Have we even further shortened words/sentences as a result of the fast-paced digital moment we live in? Is there a niche that has done the opposite (ie. tend toward longer, flowing sentences as a kind of reaction to memes and media)? Have we changed the way we speak and write in some other fundamental way?

  • I think this is a really interesting topic to explore. Modern language is definitely interesting, though I think an article on this topic would definitely need to look at where we have come from. Explore (if only briefly) the history of the development of the English language, earlier eras/movements that saw the way we use language change dramatically. It is easier to see change retrospectively than while it is occurring, so having some previous point of reference would help with accessibility to this topic. Also - clearly defining what is considered 'modern' is crucial. – leersens 18 hours ago
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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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Police Propaganda in Cop Shows

I think it would be incredibly insightful to fully delve into the propaganda that is commonly shown on our favourite cop shows so that they can be watched and enjoyed critically. I am not saying that cop shows are bad, I enjoy Brooklyn 99 and a few others. But it is really common to see tropes such as "good" cops breaking the law on a hunch because they really need to get the criminal but the bureaucracy in place to keep them accountable stops them. There is also a common theme of framing the police officers in charge of keeping other cops in line as the "bad guys" (e.g. The Vulture from b99). Always framing defense attorneys as evil, even though they are the only thing stopping cops from just arresting anyone on no evidence. And especially the theme of citizens invoking their rights (their right to counsel and their right not to speak to them without a lawyer, etc.) as things that are only done if you are guilty. All of these things are specifically framed to manipulate the audience into mindsets that would actively harm them if they actually were to interact with cops in real life. There is a lot of sources to back these sorts of things up but I don’t think I am the best at fully articulating the ways this is done subtly and pervasively in every cop show.

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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 10 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 10 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 2 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 2 months ago
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    Who Will Be The Face of The MCU After The Departure of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark

    While the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an ongoing, expanding film series, the original characters from Phase I remained key characters throughout the past ten years of film. In Avengers: Endgame, some of the major original characters completed their narrative arcs including Iron Man and Captain America. With the departure of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers, the MCU will need other characters to play a larger role in the overall narrative. Which new or existing characters will serve as the narrative focus for future phases of Marvel films? This article could discuss potential candidates for new corner stones of the MCU, as well as which characters have the most pressing character arcs that need to be resolved.

    • This is a really interesting topic to discuss considering the fact that Phase II is still nascent. With MCU being the biggest money churning franchise in history, an exploration of the possible future direction the universe may take and how it copes with audience fatigue while managing to still keep things fresh and interesting would make for an intriguing read. – Dr. Vishnu Unnithan 6 days ago
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    The Portrayal of Small Towns in TV Shows

    I’ve been watching That 70s Show recently and noticed that their small town has a bad reputation, the after-graduation goal is to get out of the dead-end town. ‘Being someone’ means moving away from home. Then, I got to thinking, there are elements of this thinking in many other shows I have seen, Daria, Gilmore Girls, Community.
    Is this prolific enough in TV shows to be considered a trend? Is there reason for this? Does the same ‘I need to get away from here’ thinking occur in characters born and raised in the city? Is this specific to American TV shows, or other countries’ shows too? Perhaps an article on this topic could offer a suggestion as to why the city is so romanticised?

    • "I'm gettin' out of this hick town!" Yes, I think this is an interesting phenomenon in film and TV. That 70s Show is a good example because I think it was much more prevalent to make those statements back in the 70s, 80s etc. The forces of urbanization meant that better jobs could be found in cities, but also there were lots more cultural waves going on that were focused in cities. If you wanted to be a punk or a hippie or anti-establishment like Hyde for example, that was something that you couldn't find many like-minded people for in small town America. Many high school and college movies of the last few decades had a dynamic that set the "interesting, alternative" type main characters against the jocks and cheerleaders of small town life. (Juxtapose this with something like Riverdale which only slightly criticizes jocks and cheerleaders, and ultimately upholds them as kind of the social rulers of high school). I think the 21st century has maybe seen a re-romanticization of small town life, in contrast to urban life which isn't idolized so much anymore. – Claire 4 days ago
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    • Another tidbit: I think, to make this a more recognizable-sounding topic, you should frame it as something like "Leaving Small Towns as a Coming-of-age Milestone for American Youth." – Claire 4 days ago
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    • Not sure how far back you want to go with this, but you could also do some research on the Industrial revolution as well since it caused one of the first big population shifts in history. It might be worth looking into as a short paragraph before you get into everything else as it frames the mindset a little. – MaeveM 3 days ago
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    • I feel like some of this has to do with the cultural biases of the content creators, who usually live in big cities like Los Angeles and NYC. People in those kinds of places tend to look down on small towns and consider them "boring" or "old-fashioned" and that comes through in the stories. – Debs 1 day ago
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    • I feel like everyone has the American Dream to some extent, and probably especially those in small towns. Boredom, bad entertainment, dull nightlife... of course they'd want to escape and live it up somewhere culturally (and literally!!) rich. Cities are centers of progress and wealth. Maybe it's easier for people in small towns to believe that that wealth is accessible/available to everyone. – Sophia Tone 19 hours ago
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    Shudder: All Horror All the Time

    Discuss the merits of the new streaming platform "Shudder," which is essentially the Netflix of the horror and psychological thriller genre. There are many positive sides to the platform such as custom curated collections put together by famous horror movie buffs. There are also some limitations to the site and unexplored possibilities. This is a topic for the horror movie buff and perhaps the Shudder fan.

    • Be careful so this doesn't end up being an advert for the streaming service. – Misagh 3 years 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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      Could Manhwa become the main source for anime adaptions?

      Manhwa is a Korean term for comics, generally considered to be of lower quality than a manga, manhwa is starting to gain in popularity. Recently manhwa has become a source for adaption, with Tower of God being released and the God of High School coming up July (Both by Crunchyroll/MAPPA). Research and analyze the rise of manhwa as a source for anime adaptation. Can manhwa compete with manga? Is manhwa going to become a source primarily for American companies like Crunchyroll? Does the general quality of manhwa compare to manga matter?

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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 week 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 week ago
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        The phenomenon of seven-second videos.

        Whilst video platform Vine has closed down, its legacy of short Internet videos has remained. Investigate the popularity of these short videos. Why are they so popular? What makes them popular? How can a short video reach success – what needs to be included within the short video to make it successful? Is this medium preferred over longer YouTube videos, for example?

        • A good topic to think about. I think it's worth putting some attention on how the popularity has informed modern humor. – kerrybaps 1 week ago
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        • I agree. I've always wondered why short videos has been popular lately. Not just videos, they have different challenges too. I'd love to explore. – bp2020 1 week ago
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        Analyze the Evolution of the DOOM Franchise

        The release of Bethesda Softworks’ DOOM Eternal this year marks another milestone in what has become almost three decades of video game history for the franchise. For 27 years, the franchise has been a pioneer in FPS multiplayer games, and their fan base has witnessed an ongoing evolution of characters, graphics, and narratives. But this begs the question, why has a game that began as shareware endured with such longevity, outliving other games from the ’90s? So, analyze this evolution of the DOOM franchise, from the original DOOM (1993) to the recent 2020 release. Look specifically at the graphics, gameplay mechanics, lore, and storytelling. Question what exactly makes the franchise so popular, and what has maintained this popularity through the decades. Although the franchise includes films, comics, novels, and more, this article would seek to analyze the video games specifically.

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          The Role of Social Media in Contemporary Politics

          Recently, there has been a boom in social media coverage of political events. Politicians have been using social media to their advantage to build an image for themselves during campaigns. Analyze the role social media plays in influencing audience perception. How is this trope being harnessed by politicians today all over the world? What are the moral/ ethical dilemmas (if any) associated with this free and easily accessible tool for shaping public perception?

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            New Season: When should it end?

            Various TV series are loved and enjoyed for different factors that lead to producers investing more as time passes and ratings rise. It’s good for the show, the production, and the fans as more seasons get made. But when is the limit of stretching a story? Especially when lead actors decide to leave the cast?

            Helpful examples are long running shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, the CW Arrowverse, Once Upon A Time, etc., and even more recent hit shows like Stranger Things. Also, a good comparison are with shows that did well with just one season, particularly “limited series”, a current television trend that includes Netflix’s Maniac and HBO’s Sharp Objects.

            • This is a really cool topic, I actually think about this a lot. For example, Dexter is my favourite show, but I do think they should have ended sooner than they did, since the story felt stretched. What do you think is a good gauge for knowing when to end a show? – priyashashri 1 week ago
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            • Any good show should end when they run out of stories to tell or when the narration should obviously conclude. The order should be story>show. With so many shows, it is the other way around- They decide there should be more seasons because ratings are good or whatever and come up with a clearly forced narrative. – abky 6 days ago
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            Does the "Snyder Cut" Set A Good or Bad Precedent for Move Studios Going Forward

            The 2017 film Justice League had a troubled production history, with the film undergoing major changes before and during production. This resulted in the theatrical release being very different from how the film had been envisioned by its original director Zack Snyder. For more than two years many fans (and some of the film’s stars) have campaigned for Snyder (using #ReleaseTheSnyderCut) to create a version of the film that more closely aligned with his original vision which include unused villains like Darkseid. In May 2020, HBO and Warner Bros. announced that "The "Snyder Cut" would be an exclusive to the new HBO Max streaming service and the project will launch sometime in 2021. This version will reportedly cost $20–30 million to complete with special effects, editing, and other revisions. Is the Snyder cut a positive thing, allowing a creator to finally realize his true vision in some way and an admittance that the studio made a mistake with the original. In contrast, could the Snyder Cut demonstrate that movie studios are listening too much to a vocal group of fans about a film that even with significant revisions may not fully satisfy its audience? Lastly, would Warner Bros. have allowed the Snyder Cut to be created in a time period where they didn’t have a massive streaming service (HBO Max) to promote/sell to consumers.

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              Should Conventional Theater Change to Accommodate Diverse Actors?

              Musical theater is a huge and well-loved medium, and in recent years has given us some cutting-edge hits (Legally Blonde, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, etc.) Yet there are some accepted "rules" of theater culture that still feel like stereotypes or "boxing in" actors. For instance: sopranos get the leads; mezzos and altos play "witches and britches." Tenors play romantic leads; basses play villains. Actresses past the age of 30 can expect to play mothers and grandmothers, but not love interests for their own sake. If you are a white male, you cannot convincingly play a male or female of any color (although I have conversely seen white women tapped to play WOCs). Actors with disabilities can only really expect casting in disabled roles.

              Most theater aficionados will tell you there are solid reasons behind this thinking, even truth. Then again, in 2019, should conventional theater change more to suit the needs and desires of actors? Could or should a musical be written to give an ingenue role to an alto or a hero role to a bass? Is it pushing the envelope to allow actors of certain orientations to play outside of them, or for a white actor to play a POC (outside of a historical context)? In short, what would and should truly "diverse," "inclusive" theater look like?

              • I think that, in some respects, it's easier for theatre to accommodate diversity than other media because, moreso than in any other medium, any actor who's qualified can take a particular role regardless of race, gender, or background. This is especially true of school performances, which have to work with the available students. I've seen a rendition of one of Shakespeare's history plays that featured Black actors, for example; and on YouTube I've found versions of Little Shop of Horrors where Seymour was biracial and the dentist was Asian. I've even found a theatrical version of the Screwtape Letters where Screwtape was played (really expertly, I might add) by a woman. – Debs 6 months ago
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              • Hi, Debs,That sounds really cool. I'm glad your theater experience was more inclusive than mine. My schools (high and college) had GREAT theater programs I so wanted to be a part of. But, esp. in the case of my high school director, I was not given that chance and I think it was because of cerebral palsy (couldn't prove it, and if I'd said something it would've been, "Oh, you just think everybody's picking on you.") But the truth was, even after calling my acting phenomenal on more than one occasion, that director in particular would only assign me chorus or walk-on roles. The justification was, "Well, the leads have to dance," but chorus lines are basically there to *dance*, at least in my productions. There were other examples of non-diversity there too, such as the lead *always* went to a first soprano--and the year it went to a mezzo, of course, I wasn't in the running. But, this director was *also* willing to cast a white girl as a Hispanic lead (but not a girl of color as a white lead) ??????Anyway, it's only been recently that I realized the full lack of inclusivity and diversity in the world at large and the theater world, so...there you go. Again, we need more stories like yours. – Stephanie M. 6 months 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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                New Old Horror: An Introspective Look Into How Old Horror Tropes Are Revitalizing The Current Horror Genre

                Since the introduction of the horror genre, our love for being terrified has only grown. What is it about being frightened to death that makes us feel alive? Is the rush of being able to view others in horrifying situations from the safety of our homes a voyeuristic thrill? Oh, you better believe it.

                The trouble is, what happens when the familiar tropes stop scaring us and the over saturation of horror films reaches critical mass and we can no longer reach the same euphoric terror we once had? Unfortunately, the same ideas from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s have been rehashed and repackaged so many times over to the point where the things that should scare us couldn’t even frighten a small child.

                Hollywood’s peddling of mediocre films has flooded the genre into a frail, shambling corpse of its former glory. The lumbering serial killer pursuing its victims at a pace never exceeding that of a brisk walk, the family wronged by a group of depraved lunatics to the point where the only justice is bloody vengeance, a small group surviving the never-ending onslaught against an insurmountable force, and the supernatural/demonic force that wants to inhabit our heroes has been driven into the ground so deep that you’d think Jason Vorhees had his undead boot pressing on the back of its skull.

                However, there are some directors that exist today that are able to take the old, outdated tropes from these bygone eras and bring them up to date in refreshingly gruesome ways. Directors like Robert Eggers, Leigh Whannel, Jennifer Kent, David Robert Mitchell, Panos Cosmatos, and Jeremy Saulnier have all contributed to the revitalization of modern horror by taking what made the previous generation’s horror movies that we loved great and updated them to fit into our current world.

                Taking an introspective look into new films, what they’ve adapted from earlier cinema, and how they’ve redefined tropes to make them stand among the best of what modern horror has to offer.

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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.