Historiographical Metafiction Historiographical metafiction is a literary genre derived from the post-modern literature movement. Post-modern literature posits that there is no singular absolute truth, but instead only the existence of multiple truths. The post-modern movement emphasized the subjective experience
While walking through a grid of aisles encasing stacks of literature, the covers of certain books may quickly catch a reader’s attention, especially if a book is donned with a coveted stamp of approval. Occasionally, a circular golden emblem will symbolize a novel’s great literary achievement. However, it is Oprah Winfrey’s stamp of approval currently validating works of literature.
Labeled the biggest book club in the world, Oprah’s Book Club has captivated an elusive segment of America’s population, an audience generally known to tune into reality television, dramatic hour-long television shows and common thirty-minute sitcoms rather than open a book.
Oprah, arguably the most popular television figure in the world and one of the wealthiest women across the globe, chose a mixture of literary classics and contemporary best-sellers to become inaugurated into her elite book club. Over the span of its 10-year duration, Oprah’s Book Club has popularized reading within her audience demographic.
In 1996, the talk-show host’s loyal audience of mainly female viewers was introduced to Oprah’s Book Club. In its first year, Oprah’s Book Club assigned three books: Jane Hamilton’s “The Book of Ruth,” Jacquelyn Mitchard’s “The Deep End of the Ocean” and Toni Morrison’s critically praised and highly symbolic “Song of Solomon.”
An acclaimed novelist, Morrison is a favorite in Oprah’s Book Club; Oprah has selected four of Morrison’s novels. Other notable selections in the club’s early years include “White Oleander” by Janet Finch, “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb, “Black and Blue” by Anna Quindlen and “House of Sand and Fog” by Andres Dubus III.
The primary focus of Oprah’s Book Club’s selection switched from contemporary to classic novels in 2003. Oprah’s widespread reading group delved into John Steinbeck’s American classic, “East of Eden,” as well as Alan Paton’s work about the apartheid in South Africa, “Cry, Beloved Country. ” In 2004, the talk-show host assigned Leo Tolstoy’s Russian classic “Anna Karenina” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s groundbreaking work of magical realism, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
A year later, Oprah’s Book Club ambitiously chose three William Faulkner works, including “The Sound and the Fury,” which is commonly considered the most complicated work of American fiction. Readers soon grew tired of Oprah’s elevation of classic novels over contemporary works. After fans and writers sent a petition to Oprah’s Book Club, it began re-exploring contemporary works.
When Oprah selected James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” in 2005, the sobering and stunning memoir about overcoming drug addiction catapulted to the top of readers’ lists. After initially supporting Frey despite an aggressive attack on the author’s credibility, Oprah invited Frey to her show several months later and chastised the author for inventing many of the significant details of his memoir. Though the talk-show host revoked her support for the now-infamous author, the hour-long show served as a catalyst for an important discussion on the definition of memoir and the authority of memoirists and autobiographers.
While Oprah has been criticized for choosing only sentimental works, Oprah’s Book Club continues to keep the country moving their eyes across the pages of many quality books. The most recent book, Elie Wiesel’s award-winning biography “Night,” reached the top spot in non-fiction paperbacks segment of the New York Times Bestseller’s List in February 2006. Clearly, Oprah not only holds the eyes of millions of television viewers, but also thousands of consumers’ eyes at the bookshop.
The Life of Dead Paper
In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, an interior decoration color symbolizes the revolt against gender oppression and sparks a wave of early literary feminism.
Gilman wrote the academically-popular short story to show her utter disappointment with a medically-prescribed lifestyle which she claims came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin.
Gilman was given the professional medical advice in 1887 to live as domestic life as possible and to have but two hours’ intellectual life a day…never to touch a pen, brush, or pencil again as she openly admits in a brief epilogue called Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.
Gilman’s literary approach to feminism became a proclamation against discriminating medical assessments and would become crucial in the subsequent feminism movements. Its undercurrents forcefully aimed to level the intellectual and creative playing field between men and women. Gilman’s seemingly unbearable and currently unthinkable lifestyle prescription is the silent antagonist at the heart of her plot.
Written in the form of seamless journal entries, the short story begins with Gilman’s narrator indicating it is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John [her husband] and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer. The reader eventually becomes aware of John’s typical 20th century oppressive behavior toward women. John, a physician and thus archetypically a man of only reason and scientific evidence, hardly lets [her] stir without special direction. Simply put, he deflates intellectual productivity and deters her from any individuality or self-reliance.
The narrator is sentenced to a torturing and repellant yellow-colored room constantly described as a grotesque. By the end of the story, Gilman’s intellectually numb protagonist has fallen stricken to the 19th century illness of hysteria, and began seeing an image of a woman inside the hideous wall’s binding pattern.
However, the repercussions of Gilman’s classic text go well-beyond bashing certain interior designs, into the traditional gender relations in the 19th century and sparking early literary feminism.
Gilman’s story was a defiantly honest manifesto representing the voice of many American women during this period, who were labeled as atypically emotional and deemed to be suffering from hysteria. The Yellow Wallpaper is an artistically-effective attempt to refute these sexually-biased, medical and cultural accusations of American women’s emotional and psychological conditions.
Gilman’s nameless protagonist calls her journal entries dead paper since they are not supposed to exist and because there is only one intended reader, the writer. Her prescription had the opposite effect of its intentions; it fostered critical thinking and creative intellectualism. A century later, The Yellow Wallpaper is far from flat-lining; its cultural relevance continues to breathe, keeping the importance of gender equality alive.
In effect, Gilman’s work is one of the first American texts on feminism, although the term ‘feminism’ had yet to be coined. Since The Yellow Wallpaper arrived, feminism has evolved within American society. Its fluctuating purpose continues to develop. Many American women during the mid-20th century continued to identify with Gilman’s secluded protagonist. Social commentaries like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and the photography of Cindy Sherman continued to shed the light on the oppression of women and their domestic prisons, paving the way for feminism’s ideals.
In her famous sociological and historical text, Friedan discusses the intellectual and psychological confinement many American females suffered from during the 1950s and 1960s.
Using a plethora of phallic symbols representing the male’s undying presence in every aspect of the female’s life, Cindy Sherman’s photography artistically and, occasionally scarily, portrays the American woman subdued by the dull monotony of kitchen life in male-dominated America. Unafraid of the topic of sexuality, just like Friedan explicitly takes on and Gilman subtly exposes, Sherman paints a sexually-charged, but repressed reality via film exploring the power struggle between man and woman.
Art aims to move. It is thoughtfully constructed to pull emotions and ultimately inspire some kind of kinesis, whether physical, emotional or psychological. Simple artistic forms can yield complicated, historical social change.
Literature belongs in this artistic class since it often aims for social change. Race, gender and religion are three cultural powerhouses scrutinized by the writer’s pen and its investigative ink.
In American history, race may be the most addressed issue within the realm of literature, especially the institution of slavery, an issue Mark Twain feverishly undertook in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” With his memorable American wit, Twain’s novel forced readers to consider the brotherhood which could exist between two seemingly polarized races. Scholars and critics continue to analyze the relationship between Huck and Jim, who unite two cultures on an epic and symbolic adventure. While Twain displayed the social stratification of a black man and a white adolescent boy, the American satirist wove a heartfelt relationship between two Americans who society thought should never have shared a moment together outside the plantation fields. Twain made this friendship possible based purely on colorblind characters. Later literary works expanded on this topic, such as Martin Luther King’s historically rich epistle “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and John Howard Griffin’s non-fiction expose “Black Like Me,” where the journalist underwent skin treatments to darken his skin, living in the segregated South as a black man.
Race relations in the United States are not the only fight for equality urging American writers to action. In the early 20th century, the oppression of women raced to the cultural forefront, especially after World War II and its subsequent geographical introduction of the suburbs.
Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” chastised the domestic repression of American women, who were prisoners in their own suburban households.
Friedan was not the first female author in the U.S. to encourage social change. Kate Chopin’s classic short novel “The Awakening” awoke many female readers and stunned most of her male audience. Written in the late 19th century, Chopin explored the female sexuality of a southern belle. Her work still has relevance in the 21st century as it is marked with temptations of adultery, the attractions of individual freedom and the imprisoning social expectations women. Other pieces of literature tackling this issue for social change include Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Hurston’s work, which Oprah Winfrey adapted for a television movie starring Halle Berry, focuses on the sexual independence of a Southern black woman.
Uncivil behavior homosexuality marks the repression of the 21st century. It is not yet determined which literature will push for this social change. Writers such as E. Annie Proulx, author of “Brokeback Mountain,” and Z.Z. Packer, author of “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” have represented legitimate authors giving this issue momentum in American culture.
Not all socially-charged works require a controversial war or historical rift between two or more American subcultures. Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” has sparked movements in Catholicism. While Brown’s best-seller is far from a classic piece of literature, it undoubtedly questioned which cultural values and traditions will prevail.
A book’s physical simplicity may seem unremarkable, but within the seemingly-bland columns of words lies the possibility for social change. A single page of literature can ultimately change the dimensions of any society. These typed words have ignited revolutions, stormed over oppressive institutions and altered the constantly-shifting shape of the world.
While perusing through the collection of books at your favorite book store, you may notice a metallic-colored imprint on the cover of certain works. It is a sign of quality fiction with arresting plot lines, complex characters and culturally-pertinent themes. These book awards are literary badges of honor denoting masterpieces of literature which showcase an author’s fascinating, socially-relevant voice.
With fiction being the largest genre of books, a vast amount of book awards comes with the territory.
Administered by Columbia University, The Pulitzer Prize is often considered the greatest book award an author can receive. The first Pulitzer awards were given in 1917 with the fiction category introduced in 1948. Winners of this prestigious honor include Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Norman Mailer’s “The Executioner’s Song,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of short stories, “The Interpreter of Maladies.”
While most consider the Pulitzer to be the highest honor, the Nobel Prize for Literature does not fall short of prestige and historical achievement. With past winners including J.M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow and Jean-Paul Sartre, the list is complete with a dream team of artistic and philosophical writers. According to Alfred Nobel’s will, the Nobel Prize for Literature is selected by a committee of three to five people and receives $10 million for producing the most outstanding work in a chosen field.
The Man Booker Prize, or the Booker Award, is awarded in Britain to the best work of contemporary fiction.
As of 2006, The Man Booker Prize is entering its 38th year and has crowned authors such as Ian McEwan, Alan Hollinghurst, Margaret Atwood and J.M. Coetzee. According to its website, any novel can win this particular book award, but the work cannot be self-published and must be written in the English language.
In America, the PEN Faulkner Award is highly regarded. Sponsored by PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Editors and Novelists), the Faulkner Award, named after the classic American author of “The Sound and the Fury” and “As I Lay Dying,” acknowledges an exceptional work of fiction and is selected by a committee of fiction writers. Winners of this book award include Don DeLillo, E. Annie Proulx and Philip Roth.
While authors write the books, critics have the power to sustain or strangle the work’s legacy. The National Book Critics Circle Award is one of the ways to solidify certain works’ deserved recognition. The National Book Critics Circle is composed of 700 book reviewers promoting great works and recognizing literary excellence via its book award. Past winners include Ian McEwan, Ernest J. Gaines, Cormac McCarthy and John Updike.
With an understanding of some of the most significant book awards, you can select your next read with more precision and passion, arriving at your own conclusion as to whether the work deserves critical acclaim. After reading the book, award yourself for pursuing a quality piece of printed art.
Though books, including classic works of literature, drama and satire, can introduce readers to different emotional spaces and inspire fresh and seemingly-transcendent perspectives, they ultimately are a product. As consumers in the 21st century, people never completely leave the marketplace. Books are as involved in the overwhelming traffic of the marketplace as gold, cars and real estate.
If a literary product fails to sell and make profit, then the publisher will terminate any future publication of the work, leaving the book out-of-print and left to a limited population.
For example, Madonna’s infamous and promiscuous book Sex was published by Warner Brothers in 1992. Besides the loyal Madonna worshippers able to recite verbatim every lyric from the Immaculate Collection, this provocative take on 20th century sex was a poor seller. Consequently, Warner Brothers, the all-encompassing media mogul, decided to permanently shelve the work and halt any future publication. Since it reached the publication graveyard, Madonna’s Sex has been resurrected to become highly valued as an out-of-print book; the cheapest listing on www.amazon.com is $68.
Besides the Material Girl’s photographic thesis on the highest form of physical intimacy, other famous out-of-print books include Winston Churchill’s World Crisis, a personal history on World War I by the famous British Prime Minister.
Even the work of literary giants, such as Hunter S. Thompson’s Curse of Lono and Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, made the list of popular out-of-print books. Evidently, no author, no matter the extent of his or her critical acclaim, is immune to succumbing to the terminal disease of being out-of-print.
As in the case of Madonna’s book, many rare and out-of-print books can experience a resurrection; however, this will not happen though its original publisher. This revitalization is ironically due to the same powerful, abstract entity responsible for kicking it to the curb years before: the marketplace.
With Web sites like E-Bay and Amazon, no book is ever off of the market and no reader is ever left wondering if their beloved, out-of-print text has disappeared forever. The Internet is the unlikely savior of initial literary failures and has resuscitated the lives of thousands of books, ranging from topics like Irish-knitting to letterpress printing. Other sites to uncover rare and out-of-print books include Bookfinder.com, Alibris.com and abebooks.com. Also, local used bookshops frequently shelve written diamonds in the rough within their dusty, but textually-fertile shelves.
An afterlife does exist within the marketplace of literary products. With the likes of the Internet and quaint vintage bookstores, finding a rare or out-of-print book is a possibility. All it requires is access to the Internet, eager persistence and an ironic sense of gratitude to the marketplace of books.
You probably could have predicted its eventual movement to the ubiquitous, all-encompassing Internet. You can buy groceries, pay bills and even purchase three-bedroom homes online. So, of course, reading an online book or e-book, or downloading and audio version onto an iPod, may not seem as outlandish as it did more than a decade ago.
Reading books has an established place in American normalcy. Readers can peruse their Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer versions of “The Da Vinci Code,” “A Million Little Pieces” and “A Purpose Driven Life” on planes or public transportation, without minor annoyances like torn pages, lost bookmarks and bent covers. You can essentially find any of your favorite books in the form of an online book or audio e-book.
Finding online books and e-books is easy. The simplest way is to use your favorite search engine, or you can visit some of the most popular e-book stores like www.bartleby.com and www.blish.com. To download the audio book onto your Blackberry or iPod, you can visit most music Web sites and download the audio books just as you would an mp3 file.
However, traditionalists and lovers of books may argue against the inherent worth of an online book. While convenience and the quick gratification elements of the Internet are often the arguments supporting the implementation of Web technology, the questions frequently following these assertions are the same for books.
Some believe the Internet is taking away from the most genuine aspects of reading—holding the text itself. Just as some musicians find the power in grasping the album cover, fervent readers and writers find the philosophical, emotional and revolutionary power in possession. Many also find reading online books can create physical discomfort. Researchers have found sitting at a computer screen for an extended amount of time can harm eye sight or create neck and back pain.
Does the design of a computer, its architectural layout—like the one you are currently reading from—affect how one reads? Or does the lack of physically turning a page affect how the reader progresses through and understands the work?
A novel is a long fictional narrative prose that is typically more than 50,000 words and contains characters, action, and a plot. Novels are written for various purposes and can be used as a form of entertainment, propaganda, personal expression, and social critique. It is essentially a work of imagination that is grounded in reality.
The novel is a fairly recent genre of fiction that has existed for only the past 300 years.
The word novel comes from the Italian word novella which refers to a prose tale that was popular during the Renaissance. The novel has its roots in past forms of short story prose such as Elizabethan prose fiction, French heroic romance, and Spanish picaresque tales. Cervantes Don Quixote written in 1605 is considered the most important precursor to the novel. The format evolved form the desire to realistically depict and interpret the human character in a social situation. The official emergence came with the appearance of Daniel Defoe’s Robin Crusoe written in 1719. The novel then quickly began to thrive during the 18th century in Europe.
There are several elements that make up a novel: plot, character, setting, and scope. The plot is a story line depicting a series of events involving both the characters and their actions. In order for the plot of a novel to be effective it must have context in the form of character, action, and setting. The characters are personalities in the story with unique qualities. Novels differ from other types of literature in that it places more emphasis on character. The setting is the environment of the novel. Setting not only includes geographic location but also the social climate, historical period, atmosphere, and social traditions. The final element is the scope or length. A novel differs from a short story in that it is longer, more complex, and deals with multiple issues that affect its characters.
There are many different types of novels. Genres range from romance, historical fiction, science fiction, to mystery, thriller, and satire. Novels are also categorized by the literary periods in which they were written in. Although novels contain essential elements, many authors have exercised artistic license by experimenting with certain styles. Authors have experimented with point of view, word play, the passage of time, and other literary techniques. Different forms of literary criticism have evolved to better understand the complexities that make up novels.
An epic poem is a long narrative poem documenting the exploits of a hero in relation to the beliefs and culture of his or her society. An epic poem serves as a tool to summarize, express, and preserve the ideals and mythical and historical traditions of a nation during a critical period of its history.
Epic poetry always deals with persons and events that are considered to be historically real by the poet and the poet’s audience. The emphasis of an epic poem is national rather than individual in that the quest of the hero serves to gratify a sense of national pride.
For a poem to be considered an epic poem it must contain certain elements. An epic poem is written in a long narrative form that differs from a narrative poem in terms of scale. Epic poems are written in a high style that avoids popular meter and verse patterns and makes wide use of similes. The heroes in epic poems are always gods or goddesses, or extraordinary men or women of great national or cosmic significance. The heroes are able to undertake superhuman deeds involving some sort of conflict or battle. There should also be a main antagonist who is often supernatural as well as various mythical, human, or animal helpers.
The epic poem usually begins with the announcement of the subject or quest that is undertaken. This is followed by an invocation of the Muse by the hero seeking guidance or instruction. The action begins in media res, a literary device in which the narrative starts in the middle of the story instead of from the beginning. The characters, setting, and conflict are then introduced through a series of flashbacks. The hero then begins to make catalogs of warriors, ships, and armies. This is usually followed by formal speeches, a journey to the underworld, and a battle in which the hero usually uses a weapon of supernatural origin. All the while the hero is making use of the epic simile which differs from a regular simile in that is is more elaborate and more ornate.
Epic poems can be divided into 2 classes: oral epic poetry and literary epic poetry. Oral epic poems are the product of preliterate societies and their oral poetic traditions. They were orally designed with specific details and sounds to capture the audience’s attention. Oral epic poems were usually written down after centuries of oral transmission. The first recorded early epic poem is the Sumerian Gilgamesh. Other well known examples of oral epic poetry include Beowulf and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Literary epic poems are literary poems written in imitation of oral epic poems. Writing a literary epic poem requires considerable research and knowledge about the form and style of oral epic poetry. Some well known examples of literary epic poems include Virgil’s Aeneid and Milton’s Paradise Lost.
The haiku is a form of poetry that derives from a 16th century form of Japanese poetry. It is considered a minimalist form of poetry mainly due to its brevity. The structure consists of a 17 syllable verse structured in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables.
The lines in the poem are not rhymed. The purpose of the haiku is to serve as an expression of an epiphany or insight. The poem is designed to take an ordinary moment in time and render it extraordinary.
The haiku derives from a type of Japanese court poetry called a tanka. The tanka was popular during the 9th-12th centuries and was written to explore religious and courtly themes. The structure of the tanka consisted of five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. The first part of the poem was called the hokku or starting verse . The hokku set the tone for the rest of the poem. The father of the tanka is considered to be a 16th century Japanese monk named Basho. However, it was in 1892 that Masasoka Shiki shortened the tanka up to the hokku which is where the modern haiku primarily evolved from.
There are many different opinions as to what elements comprise a haiku. Traditionally, the haiku was to have a seasonal reference called a kigo. However, most modern day haikus do not contain it. Most poetry experts agree there are two critical components to the poem. One is the turn or shift which usually occurs between the second and third lines. The turn is a shift in perspective that juxtaposes the other images in the poem. Essentially, the poem must have a juxtaposition in which two elements or lines in the poem indirectly relate to the third line.
The second critical component is an epiphany or insight. The content or subject of the poem is something a person sees in everyday life that has suddenly taken on a more important meaning. The poem is supposed to capture a moment in time. Due to its emphasis on being in the moment the haiku is frequently associated with Zen Buddhism. Both place a high value on the present moment and human interactions with nature. However, haiku poetry does not aim to serve a religious or philosophical purpose. Instead, it is spiritual in nature and strives to see beauty and meaning in the ordinary.
A sonnet is a 14 line poem with a carefully written rhyme scheme. It is usually written in iambic pentameter, a meter of poetry with five patterns of stressed/unstressed syllables to a line. The sonnet can be divided into two sections. The first section usually presents the theme or raises an issue or doubt.
The second section operates to answer the question, resolve the problem, or drive home the poem’s point. The change that occurs between the two sections is called the turn and helps to move forward the poem’s action. Various forms exist, but there are two main sonnet types: The Italian or Petrarchan and the English or Shakespearean.
The Italian sonnet is named after the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374). During the early Renaissance, Petrarch developed the sonnet to its highest level. The Italian form was then introduced into English poetry in the early 16th century by Sir Thomas Wyatt. The two sections of the Italian sonnet are called the octave and the sestet. The octave consists of the first eight lines and contains a rhyme scheme of abbaabba. A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming lines in a poem. The sestet consists of the remaining six lines and has a rhyme scheme of cdecde, cdccdc, or cdedce.
The English sonnet was developed first by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547). However, it was William Shakespeare that made it famous in England. The Shakespearean form is structured into four divisions: three quatrains (four line stanzas) and a rhymed couplet. It follows a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. Famous poets of the English form are Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and Longfellow.
Both the Italian and the Shakespearean sonnet share some characteristics. Both form breaks or turns between lines eight or nine. Both also frequently end in a couplet. A Spenserian sonnet is a combination of the Italian and Shakespearean forms. It was invented by Edmund Spencer when he wrote the Faerie Queene in 1590. The Spenserian form uses three quatrains and a couplet. It also uses a linking rhyme scheme between the quatrains of abab bcbc cdcd ee.
The sonnet is considered to be one of the most artistic forms of poetry. The rules and restrictions that comprise its form make it both an artistic and technical challenge to poets. It is also pleasing to hear read aloud. The set rhyme patterns create a kind of musical effect on the ears. Writing a sonnet is a great way for a poet to challenge his or her creative, artistic, and technical skills.
Drama is a form of literature that is performed. It differs from other forms of literature such as the novel and short story in that it is designed to be performed by actors using theatrical devices. It is usually written in the form of a play which serves to tell a story that revolves around conflict and emotion.
The play utilizes certain elements such as dialogue, action, and characterization in order to create both an oral and visual performance. Drama is subject to interpretation by the reader and as a result each perfromance achieves a different effect on the audience.
Drama shares many of the same elements of fiction. It must contain a plot, characters, setting, dialogue, and a theme. However, drama places more emphasis on the devices of dialogue and character. The dialogue has three major functions. It serves to advance the plot, establish setting, and most importantly it is used to reveal a character’s thoughts, responses, and emotional states. This is important since the primary focus is human nature which is portrayed through characterization. Characterization is not only dependent on dialogue but also the manner in which the character speaks, the actions they perform, and what other characters report. Another essential element of drama is staging. Staging is the visual detail of the play. Staging includes the stage directions and movements of the characters, the scenic background, the props, costumes, lighting, and music.
Drama must also follow a certain structure divided into acts and scenes. The structural pattern of a play is very similar to the structural pattern of a short story. It has an introduction followed by rising action which introduces the conflict.
The rising action leads to the climax followed by the falling action which leads to the conclusion of the play. However, this structure is not set in stone. Many 20th century dramatists like Samuel Beckett have experimented with the structural elements of drama in his play Waiting for Godot .
There are many different genres of drama, but they all derive from two basic types: comedy and tragedy. Both developed from the Ancient Greeks. Comedy is a play that shows the humorous side of human nature as portrayed through the actions of the characters as they try to solve a conflict. It makes use of human error, mistaken identity, awkward meeting, and verbal humor. It can essentially be divided into two categories: high and low. High comedy focuses on intellectual humor relying on the use of sophisticated witty dialogue. A popular example is Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Low comedy focuses on achieving laughter through the devices of jokes, gags, slapstick humor, and clownish physical activity. A popular example is William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
Tragedy is the other basic type of drama. It is a play that evokes pity and terror from the audience and deals with important social, personal, or religious issues. The main character or protagonist usually suffers from a character flaw that impedes his or her struggle to overcome the obstacles in the play. The tragedies of the Ancient Greeks has evolved over the centuries into the traditional tragedy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and into modern day tragedy of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
Drama is a staged art that constantly undergoes experimentation. Film and television shows such as sitcoms and soap operas have all evolved from traditional forms of drama. Drama can be performed in any medium from city parks and theaters to restaurants and movie screens. It is a great from of literature that can be enjoyed by any audience.
Science fiction is a literary genre that utilizes science and technology to examine the human condition. The science and technology used are extrapolations of existing scientific fact and reasoning. Many of the events take place within a setting of future possibility involving robots, space travel, interplanetary travel and wars, aliens, and alien invasion.
Most science fiction functions as a form of social criticism and is characterized by being future oriented, rationalistic, and technological.
There are certain elements a story must contain in order to be considered science fiction. The story must contain elements of science and technology or construct an image of the future by projecting present trends of science and technology. As a result, it is important for writers to accurately extrapolate scientific information. Stories usually take place in scientific settings like space, other planets, or alternate dimensions. The genre is also generally dystopic in nature in that it centers around an imaginary future society that is flawed or imperfect due to the affect or misuse of science and technology. In this way the genre is designed to predict or define the future.
Currently, there is much disagreement between critics over what actually constitutes science fiction. This is because it is very close in nature to the literary genre of fantasy. However, it is generally accepted that in order to be considered science fiction a story must have elements of science whereas fantasy relies more on magic and mythology instead.
The first science fiction story was written in 175 AD by a Greek named Lucian of Somosata. His story was called True History and was about a trip to the moon in a ship carried by a great whirlwind. However, modern science fiction is generally considered to have grown from the roots of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein written in 1818. The genre was further developed into a more scientific romance style by writers Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne. Verne wrote the popular novels Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). The British author, H.G. Wells, further developed the genre with his novels War of the Worlds (1898) and The Time Machine (1895).
Science Fiction emerged as a distinct genre in 1926 with the publication of the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. Focus on good writing, plot development, and characterization within the genre was further encouraged by the standards set by John W. Campbell Jr.’s magazine, Astounding Science Fiction in 1937. The 1950’s brought the popularization of the paperback novel and with it the success of major science fiction talents Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury. These writers revolutionized the genre and brought it to its current level of development.
Today, many great works of science fiction literature have been adapted to film and television. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Isaac Asimov’s I Robot, and Phillip K. Dick’s Minority Report are some of the most popular. Other writers were able to bring their short stories and novels to television with such series as The Twilight Zone and Star Trek. As advances in both technology and science continue to be discovered there will always be new material for the genre of science fiction.
Thriller fiction is a literary genre that centers around continuous fast paced action in order to create an atmosphere of excitement and suspense. It tends to focus on the profession of the protagonist and how the protagonist must use his or her skills and knowledge to get out of a dangerous situation.
The genre covers a variety of professions and settings. Thrillers are very popular because readers are able to follow the action step by step allowing them to participate both emotionally and intellectually in the story’s complications.
There are many characteristics that make up a thriller. First, the story must be fast paced and compelling. The plot is propelled by continuous action in order to hold the interest of the reader. The action must place the protagonist in both physical and emotional danger. The story must also contain extensive details and technical language related to the profession or subject the plot is centered around. Character development is secondary to action and detail of the story. Protagonists are usually strong individualists who live by their own rules. Protagonists often work alone because they operate in a world filled with betrayal and deception. The protagonist must fight against a villain that is determined to wreak either personal, national, political, or international destruction.
Thriller fiction was invented by British crime writer and journalist, Edgar Wallace. Wallace wrote mainly crime thrillers in which the main protagonist was usually a special investigator that worked outside the police force. Some of his novels include The Four Just Men (1905) and The Green Archer (1923). Many writers copied Wallace’s style in stories published in dime novels and pulp magazines. The next writer to revolutionize the genre was Ian Fleming. Fleming invented the spy thriller and introduced his famous character, James Bond, in his novel Casino Royale (1953). The author Robert Ludlum continued to mold the genre to its present level with his novels including The Bourne Identity (1980) and The Bourne Supremacy (1986). His novels centered around conspiracy plots and the world of technology and espionage.
Due to the wide range of subjects and environments available to thriller fiction there are many sub genres. Thrillers involve the world and professions of law, espionage, medicine, science, international and domestic politics, technology, finance and adventure. Popular contemporary thriller writers include John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, Tom Clancy, and David Baldacci. Many of these authors’ works have been adapted to film which emphasize the use of action and suspense presented in the novels. Thriller fiction borrows certain elements from the genre of mystery, however, it doesn’t center around the solution of a crime or puzzle. Instead, it is a story of action that is filled with excitement, suspense, and danger.
Put simply, non-fiction is the opposite of fiction. It addresses the people, things, places, and events in the real world as opposed to the imaginary world of fiction. Non-fiction is based on fact and serves to provide information about a subject. However, it is not completely factual and should not be taken as absolute truth.
The interpretation and analysis of facts is determined by the author and as a result is not completely devoid of the author’s bias and opinions. Therefore, it is important to remember to keep a critical mind when reading non-fiction.
Non-fiction is varied and wide in scope. Sub genres include autobiography, biography, diaries, journals, essays, memoirs, articles, letters, interviews, books, encyclopedias, reference books, and documentaries. Because it is based on reality it must have facts, data, and research to prove its validity. There are generally two basic approaches to writing non-fiction. The first is to report facts with little or no personal opinions and the second is to mix personal opinion with fact. Although it is about reality, writers of the genre borrow literary techniques used in fiction in order to make their stories more interesting.
These literary techniques include tone, characterization, descriptive language, pace, and scene setting. This type of colorful sub genre is referred to as creative or literary non-fiction.
The non-fiction arena is growing due to the popularity of recent trends. Popular genres include political, disaster, and current events themed books and memoirs. Recent events such as the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the World Trade Center attacks have resulted in the popularity of factual books written by political experts and investigative journalists such as An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks, and Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission by Thomas H. Kean. Recent controversies over the degree of veracity and artistic license in memoirs such as James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces have only increased popularity of the genre.
Non-fiction will always be popular because people will always seek answers to questions. It exists to answers those questions or at least to provide information so people are able to formulate their own answers. The popularity of the Internet has made it possible for people to publish their own non-fiction in the form of blogs, online journals, and informational websites. In a world filled with so many portals and links to information, it is important to keep an open and critical mind before accepting any factual claims as truth.
Historical fiction is a literary genre in which history is brought to life. The story must portray characters, events, settings, customs, culture, society, and beliefs accurately according to its historical context. Considerable research is taken in order to portray characters and settings realistically. However, good storytelling should not be sacrificed for perfect historical accuracy.
Facts should be skillfully woven into the story in order to evoke the past and keep the story entertaining.
Historical fiction contains the same elements required in regular fiction. However, it places more emphasis on the time period in which the story is set. Writers of historical fiction may choose to either center their story on past historical events or around a famous historical person. The main objective is to recreate the historical period of the novel so it is both accurate and entertaining to the readers. The genre is mainly read by those who want to experience and learn about history in a more creative way then they would experience by reading a text book. Historical fiction can also serve to provide insight to current events by using historical events to draw parallels to current society and events.
Historical fiction emerged in the 19th Century during the Romantic period. Sir Walter Scott is generally considered to be the first writer of the genre. In his novels Rob Roy (1818) and Ivanhoe (1820), Scott brings Scottish history during the Middle Ages alive. Victor Hugo is also credited with popularizing the genre with his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831). Since then, historical fiction has merged with other genres to create several sub genres including novels set in the Middle Ages, American Western, Prehistoric period, Renaissance, Ancient Rome, and other historical periods. Some authors have experimented with the genre and created further sub genres including alternate histories, pseudo-histories, time slip novels, historical fantasies, and multiple time period novels. Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America (2005) is an example of alternate history in which Roth depicts a scenario in which Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt for the American presidency in 1940. Michael Cunningham’s novel, The Hours (1998), is an example of historical multiple-time fiction in which he writes a novel set within three different time periods involving the author Virginia Woolf.
Historical fiction has transcended into different medias including both film and television. Popular historical television series include Deadwood set within 19th Century American West and Rome set during the fall of the Roman Republic. Historical films based on historical individuals and events are also very popular. Charles Frazier’s novel, Cold Mountain (1998), which revolves around the Civil War, was recently adapted to film. Historical fiction is as popular as ever as people continue to be curious about the past.
Satire is a type of literary genre which uses ridicule to criticize people, institutions, and society with the intent to provoke change or reform. It uses the literary techniques of comparison, ridicule, wit, irony, and exaggeration to point out human vices or follies. The purpose is to point out the hypocrisy and the foolishness of the subject’s action or behavior by using laughter as a weapon. The goal is to have the audience or target of ridicule recognize their mistakes through laughter and be compelled to change their behavior.
Generally, there are two main types of satire. The first type is formal or direct satire which uses the satiric voice in the first person to speak directly to the reader or character in the story. Formal satire can be further divided into two subtypes. Horatian satire is named after the Roman poet, Horace, and is a gentle, softer form that aims to correct through sympathetic laughter. The second type is Juvenalian satire named after the Roman poet, Juvenal. This type is edgy, bitter, and contemptuous in nature. The second main type is called indirect satire which expresses satire through character or groups who ridicule themselves through their own actions and words.
Satire can be traced back to the early Greek poets and dramatists. One of the most famous satirists was the playwright Aristophanes who wrote the play Lysistrata (411 BC). However, the prototype of the literary form of the genre comes from the works of Roman poets, Horace and Juvenal. Their two different forms were continued through the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
The golden age of satire arrived in the early 18th Century. Notable works include Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and Alexander Voltaire’s Candide (1759). Voltaire’s novel targeted the philosophy of Gottfried Leibniz in which everything that happens is for the best. The genre took aim at manners and morals in the 19th Century in the works of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Twain used his novel to satirize the evils of slavery and racism as well as American Southern society. Other popular satirical targets of the period include policies in government, law, philosophy, and religion particular to the time period.
Major advances in technology, political discontent, abuses of power, and wars that marked the 20th Century became the targets for modern satirists. Famous works from this period include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949).
Today, satire has transcended many different mediums including film, television, plays, comic strips, and political cartoons. The genre is very widespread in shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Simpsons, South Park, and The Colbert Report. Present day artists and writers view satire as an effective way to reveal the follies and mistakes of a wide range of targets from political policy to members of the government to popular culture.
Mystery is a literary genre that centers around the solving of a puzzle. The puzzle is usually a question or riddle to be answered or a crime to be solved. The protagonist, along with the reader, is provided clues to the puzzle, but must also use the tools of deduction, logic, observation, and sheer luck in order to completely solve the puzzle.
Mystery fiction is very popular due to the excitement and sense of challenge aroused in the reader to solve the mystery.
A story must contain certain elements in order to be categorized as a mystery fiction. The story usually revolves around a crime. Most novels are about trying to solve a murder, but the crime isn’t always murder. The crime must function as a means to provide the question of whodunit . Detectives are also an essential element and are the main characters . The detective usually works alone, with a sidekick, or with a group of sidekicks. The detective must then conduct an investigation by searching for clues and interviewing suspects in order to solve the crime. The story usually ends when the culprit has been identified and the crime has been solved.
The origins of mystery fiction can be traced back to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murder in Rue Morge written in 1841. This story featured the first fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin. Poe was greatly influenced by Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (1853) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). Dickens’ work contained many elements of mystery, however, it was Poe who shifted the focus of mystery from atmosphere to a study of the criminal mind. Wilkie Collins continued Poe’s device of the detective, but added more emphasis on characterization. Collins wrote the first full length mystery novels such as The Woman in White (1868) and The Moonstone (1868). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the next major writer of the genre to emerge with his story A Study in Scarlet (1887). This story was the first to feature the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Through his character, Doyle turned the solving of crimes into a science. Sherlock Holmes solved crimes by careful study and interpretation of evidence as well as his own powers of perceptive recognition.
The 1920’s is referred to as the golden age of mystery fiction. This period ushered in the work of some of the most famous writers of the genre such as Agatha Christie and Dashiell Hammett. Agatha Christie created the “Cozy” with her novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). A Cozy is a mystery in which a crime is committed in an English country house involving a closed group of people. They all become suspects in a clean murder that is solved by a great detective. Dashiell Hammett further revolutionized the mystery genre by creating the “Hardboiled.” This type of mystery focused more on realism and life on the streets. Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon (1930), introduced the character of Sam Spade and popularized the tough private eye.
The popularity of mystery fiction has created many sub genres including thriller, suspense, and true crime. It has also transcended other media such as television and film. Television shows such as CSI, Monk, and Law and Order follow the framework of mystery fiction New writers of the genre include Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, J.D. Robb, Dan Brown, Mary Higgins Clark, Tom Clancy, and Patricia Cornwell. Their works are very diverse and wide in scope. As the popularity of the genre continues to grow it will continue to branch out and adapt to new innovations. The future of mystery fiction remains open and as exciting as ever.