View Full Version : Is there a 'theme' in the national literature of your country?


ficbot
04-03-2010, 06:42 PM
This is a spin-off from a discussion in the 'what are you reading' thread about Canadian literature :) I remember reading in university a book by Margaret Atwood (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival:_A_Thematic_Guide_to_Canadian_Literature) where she theorizes that every nation has a central theme or image that keeps recurring in its literature. For example, Britain has 'the island' and America has 'the frontier.' Canada's theme is 'survival.' At first, this was literal survival i.e. the snow and wilderness and wild animals etc. Now (as in, 1972 when the book was written) it manifests as a more metaphorical survival---and witnessing the always prolific literary sub-genre of 'man comes home from the war' books we seem to get every year, I think that her theory still holds up.

It seems many American books are still about the 'frontier' in some way. Many American books deal with 'man' going out into the world to seek his/her fortune. And many Canadian books deal with 'man' coming home. In other words, he is not going out and exploring but rather he is going out and trying to survive the exploring he has already done. There are lots of family secret books, lots of coming home from the war books, lots of 'group of friends dealing with some great tragedy' books. Atwood's theory really does hold up, even though the book is almost 40 years old.

So, what do you think? Is there a theme or image that keeps recurring in the literature of your country? What is it?

JWLaRue
04-03-2010, 07:11 PM
....comic books. Seems to about the level of most reading for the younger generation. :D

GA Russell
04-03-2010, 07:43 PM
I think the theme of most American books today is that everybody is getting laid. That's why I read mostly public domain lit.

SensualPoet
04-03-2010, 10:11 PM
Snow comes to mind. ;)

There are definite "themes" and they also vary over time. I'm reading some mystery / detective stuff from the mid-1910s through the late 1920s ... from US, Canada and Britain ... there's a strong change of direction in the 1930s and 1940s ... and good gravy ... ovels from the late 1960s and early 1970s from the US portray a radically different world view than their 1950s predecessors.

delphidb96
04-04-2010, 04:14 AM
This is a spin-off from a discussion in the 'what are you reading' thread about Canadian literature :) I remember reading in university a book by Margaret Atwood (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival:_A_Thematic_Guide_to_Canadian_Literature) where she theorizes that every nation has a central theme or image that keeps recurring in its literature. For example, Britain has 'the island' and America has 'the frontier.' Canada's theme is 'survival.' At first, this was literal survival i.e. the snow and wilderness and wild animals etc. Now (as in, 1972 when the book was written) it manifests as a more metaphorical survival---and witnessing the always prolific literary sub-genre of 'man comes home from the war' books we seem to get every year, I think that her theory still holds up.

It seems many American books are still about the 'frontier' in some way. Many American books deal with 'man' going out into the world to seek his/her fortune. And many Canadian books deal with 'man' coming home. In other words, he is not going out and exploring but rather he is going out and trying to survive the exploring he has already done. There are lots of family secret books, lots of coming home from the war books, lots of 'group of friends dealing with some great tragedy' books. Atwood's theory really does hold up, even though the book is almost 40 years old.

So, what do you think? Is there a theme or image that keeps recurring in the literature of your country? What is it?

Actually, every American book has the underlying national 'theme' of freedom. Freedom of the individual, to be precise. Why it is the most important idea in the world, how to get it, how it gets stolen away, what to do with it, why it needs to be shared around the world, etc. What's that you ask? How can a hot-and-heavy romance be about 'individual freedom'? Well, the right to choose whom to love, when to love and how to love is obviously a choice that can only be made by the individual. :D

And yes, sacrificing oneself for the good/safety of others is a most personal act of individual freedom.

The rest of y'all just don't get it yet. :)

Derek

Sweetpea
04-04-2010, 10:56 AM
Water often comes back, and sea journeys. But generally, I don't like Dutch books, as they often are either drama or horror and I don't like either...

CFarrell
04-04-2010, 01:57 PM
Ireland - depression, poverty, self pity and martyrdom. Except me, I'm full of sweetness and light ;)

Sparrow
04-04-2010, 02:43 PM
Atwood's theory really does hold up, even though the book is almost 40 years old.
So, what do you think? Is there a theme or image that keeps recurring in the literature of your country? What is it?

I don't believe in Atwood's theory; but if there was a theme for Britain I reckon it would probably be 'class' rather than 'island'.

delphidb96
04-04-2010, 05:35 PM
I don't believe in Atwood's theory; but if there was a theme for Britain I reckon it would probably be 'class' rather than 'island'.

Funny thing. I was *just* discussing this very topic with a friend and that's what *she* said about Britain. :)

Derek

Sparrow
04-04-2010, 05:49 PM
Funny thing. I was *just* discussing this very topic with a friend and that's what *she* said about Britain. :)

Derek

You have a very perceptive friend :thumbsup:.