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Entertainment Literature

AGATHA CHRISTIE: THE QUEEN OF CRIME AND MYSTERY

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Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in the year, 1890 in Torquay, England. The popularity of detective fiction reached its height during the First World War (the 1920s) and Christie’s crafted characters, crimes, and the detectives that solved them found a name for themselves. The period from the 1920s to 1930s came to be known as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

It is a rare known fact that Christie wrote her debut novel to win a bet against her sister, Marge, who believed she won’t be able to write a detective novel. Throughout her lifetime, she has written 66 novels and 14 short stories and continues to bear the tag of a bestseller.

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Her debut novel, The Mysterious Affairs at Styles birthed the legendary literary character, Hercule Poirot, a short Belgian man with a stiff moustache and a neat sense of dressing. Some of Poirot’s best cases are The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, ABC Murders, Death on The Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. Poirot’s last case, 'Curtain' was published posthumously.

Miss Marple, an elderly spinster is another renowned creation of Christie. We first meet her in a short story named, The Tuesday Night Club which went on to be published in one of the many stories in 'The Thirteen Problems'.

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Agatha Christie always studied people around her for inspiration which helped her build memorable characters and their behaviour. To avoid writer’s block she preferred working on more than one story at a time. She liked paying attention to detail and describes in dialogues the plotline to hold the intrigue of her readers and keep them hooked until the very end. She would then reveal the killer and how the murder was carried out. Christie would drop subtle hints and clues to make the reader wear the shoes of an investigator and slightly mislead them into suspecting innocent characters but refrained from giving away too many clues.

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She seamlessly wrote her hints to divert her readers to the various characters to establish an end that would surprise and excite them. Her autobiography is a reflection of her life and her journey as a writer.

Her thinking process and intricate plot details give us a view into her brilliant mind and why she is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Crime’.

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Greek Literature Literature

Delving into Greek Literature

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Greek literature extends from the 1st Millennium BC to the present day. After the conquest of Alexander the Great, Greek became the common language of the eastern Mediterranean lands and then of the Byzantine Empire. At present, it is chiefly confined to Greece and Cyprus. Greek Literature can be divided into three time periods – Ancient Greek Literature (800BC-350AD), Byzantine Literature (290AD-1453AD), and Modern Greek Literature (1453AD-Present).

Ancient Greek Literature – Ancient Greek Literature alludes to the literature written in ancient Greek dialect. The Greek language arose from the proto-Indo-European language; roughly only 2/3rd of its words are derived from various phonetic reconstructions. By the 5th century BC, Athens fully adopted the Phoenician derived alphabets that primarily arose from the Greek-Ionia or present-day Turkey.

  1. Pre-classical Period (800BC – 500BC) – The earliest of Greek Literature was completely oral while the ancient Greek Literature was oral to some degree. The poems that were composed in the pre-classical period were meant to be sung or recited. Writing them down for literary purposes began a little before the 7th century BC. Most of the poems focused on myths and legends that were partly folktale and partly religion. The significant figures of this period are Homer and Hesiod.
  2. Classical Period (500BC – 323BC) – Western literature became more prominent through its genres – lyrical poetry, Pastorals, Odes, Elegies, Epigrams, along with dramatic presentations of Comedy and Tragedy. Even Philosophical dialects, histories, and rhetorical treatises arose in this period. The two celebrated lyrical poets of this period are Sappho and Pindar. Throughout this period there were hundreds of tragedies that were written as well as performed, but only a limited number of plays survived. Especially the ones authored by SophoclesAeschylus, and Euripides. The writing of comedy also commenced in this period, as a ritual, in honor of Dionysus (the God of theater in ancient Greek religion). The earliest written plays were full of obscenity, abuse, and insult. Hence, the only surviving plays are of Aristophanes which are a treasure trove of comic presentation. The greatest achievement of the 4th century BC was in the field of philosophy. Greek philosophy flourished during the classical period. And the most prominent contributors to this field are SocratesPlato, and Aristotle.
  3. Hellenistic Period (323BC – 31BC) – By 338 BC, the important Greek cities were captured by Philip II of Macedon. Philip II’s son Alexander expanded his father’s territory of conquest greatly. This period is defined as the timeline between the death of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Domination. And after the 3rd century BC, the Greek colony of Alexandria in northern Egypt became the center of Greek culture. The most valuable contribution done in the Hellenistic period was the translation of the Old Testament into Greek, by Septuagint. On the other hand, Greek poetry flourished with works of Theocritus (creator of pastoral poetry), Callimachus, and Apollonius of Rhodes. And Menander came up with his New Comedy, which changed the course of drama representation.
  4. Roman Age (31BC – 284AD) – A large section of Greek literature from this period was histories. The Roman Period contributed largely to the subjects of poetry, comedy, history, and tragedy. The important historians of this period were Timaeus, Diodorus, Siculus, Plutarch, Appian of Alexandria, and Arrian. Significant contributions were also made in the field of astronomy and geography by Eratosthenes. The physician Galen pioneered developments in scientific disciplines including anatomy, neurology, pharmacology, pathology, and physiology. Other than this the New Testament, the Gospels, and the Epistles of Saint Paul are also a product of this period. This period marks the end of Ancient Greek Literature. 

Byzantine Literature – Written in Atticizing, Medieval, and Early Modern Greek. It is a combination of the Greek and the Christian civilizations based on the foundation of the Roman political system. It comprises of four main cultural elements: Greek, Christian, Roman, and Oriental. The literature of this period was mainly written in the Atticizing style (a particular region of Athens in Greece). Some were written in Latin and the ones from Latin Empire were written in French. Apart from all these Chronicles, Encyclopedias flourished in this period. 

Modern Greek Literature – The literature of this period is written in standard Modern Greek language. It witnessed the revival of Greek and Roman studies; and the development of Renaissance humanism and science. The Cretan Renaissance poem Erotokritos is a prominent work of this period. It is a romantic verse written by Vitsentzos Kornaros around the 1600s. Modern Greek Literature was mainly influenced by Diafotismos, a movement that translated and borrowed the ideas of the European Enlightenment into the Greek world. Adamantios Korais and Rigas Feraios are two important figures of this movement. At present, Modern Greek Literature is a part of the Global Literary Community. And Greek authors like George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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Literature

Chronicles of Pandemics: In Retrospect of Literature

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This worldwide pandemic is certainly not the first. Nor will it be the last. Amidst such a disheartening and isolated situation, one always turns to literature and art to come in terms with reality. When we put our current situation in context, it invites dark thoughts and scenes of the other pandemics that are recorded in literature.

The works that readily come to mind are of course Albert Camus’s The Plague. A bleak parable illustrating the human condition. But the plague is not just an allegory; it is also the tale of a devastating natural calamity. Dr. Bernard Rieux decides to stay back in Oran to tend to the sick, accepting a life of exile and imprisonment, which is the inherent fallout of every pandemic. Like the French army marching into Algeria, the plague descends on the Algerian town of Oran. The plague – rules out any future, cancels journey and silences the exchange of views. The novel tells us that “no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.” Camus writes at the beginning of the novel that – everybody knows…pestilences have a way of recurring in the world, yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our head from a blue sky. 

The response to any pandemic has always been denial, with the state playing down the number of fatalities to conceal the seriousness of the situation. Similar to what happened in the early days of the Great Plague in London in 1664. Daniel Defoe’s ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’ testifies to the common practice of the state spreading misinformation and bending the media to fit its interests. And we see this reflecting in the present situation of the COVID-19 crisis.

Some similar patterns that we can trace right now are – the U.S denouncing China for the spread of COVID, the KGB holding the US responsible for the spread of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, etc. Nearly two millennia ago, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius held the Christians culpable for the smallpox affliction in his empire. During successive plagues, Jews were accused of poisoning the wells of Europe. Defoe underscores the bigotry and xenophobia that lies beneath this tendency.

The pandemic affects the rich and the poor equally. “The vast cities of America, the fertile plains of Hindostan, the crowed abodes of the Chinese, are menaced with utter ruin,” writes Mary Shelley in her dystopian sci-fi novel, The Last Man, 1826. This is the story of plague in Constantinople in 2092, lasting a year and returning in the spring in a more malicious avatar. People start rushing to the churches, temples, and mosques to appease the Gods, while the government focuses on making suitable decisions and taking action. Human achievements in the fields of science and technology, arts and commerce keep declining. In the end, the narrator, wandering in the ruins of Rome, comes across a manuscript in Italian and decides to write a book dedicated to the dead, titled The History of the Last Man. Jack London then modeling his plot on Mary Shelley’s novel, wrote his post-apocalyptic novel, The Scarlet Plague in 1912.

All these above-mentioned novels prove that history repeats itself. And only literature can fight back with a dream of an equitable world, where healthcare is a right and not a privilege. Government transparency is a justified expectation and not a pipe dream. These novels also normalize a pandemic and its repercussions, reminding us how this will keep happening as long as humans live.

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Literature

Exploring Literature through its Genres

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Imagine a magical tree that takes you off to unknown magical worlds when you tug on its branches. Literature is like that enchanted tree. Just like that tree with different branches, literature also has various forms and genres. Before digging deep into the classification of literary genres, we must know what “genre” means. Genre is a specific style or category of art, music, or literature. Literature has five main genres – namely fiction, non-fiction, drama, folktale, and poetry. Let us understand these.

Fiction:

Fiction is the most popular genre of literature that transports the reader to a world of imagination. These stories are filled with imaginary characters and events. Fiction is further divided into 6 sub-genres – fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, horror, contemporary fiction, and science fiction.

  • Fantasy deals with characters or settings that cannot possibly exist in the real world because of the presence of magical elements in them. The most popular example of fantasy is The Harry Potter series, Twilight series, etc.
  • Historical fiction features made-up stories that accurately portray life during a particular period in history. An example is The Da Vinci Code.
  • Mystery consists of suspense-filled stories dealing with crime solving and uncovering a culprit. Some of the most well know mystery books are The Nancy Drew novels, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Famous Five and The Hercule Poirot Novels, etc.
  • Contemporary fiction has made-up stories that take place in the present day and have characters that face modern-day difficulties and issues. Some of the famous contemporary fiction books are Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, etc.
  • Through science-fiction, the readers explore new and exciting realities that are made possible by imagined technologies or social changes. The greatest science-fiction books ever written are The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, etc.
  • Horror belongs to speculative fiction and is intended to frighten, scare, or disgust through its imaginary ghastly figures or the presence of some kind of unearthly creature or spirits. Some of the spookiest horror novels of all time are Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn, Hell House by Richard Matheson, etc. 

Non-fiction:

Non-fiction portrays the real lives of people and events through autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs. Some worth reading non-fictional works are A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, Hiroshima by John Hersey, etc.

Drama:-

A drama or a play is a story created especially for stage performances. William Shakespeare has given us some of the most iconic dramas of all time such as Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, etc. 

Folktale:

Folktale also referred to as Mythology, tells stories of original oral literature and is meant to pass specific moral lessons. These tales have a timeless quality. It mainly falls under children’s literature. The most common books of folktale are The Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Goldilocks and the three bears, etc. 

Now, all these literary genres can be found in two forms. Those are poetry and prose.

Under poetry we have – 

  1. Sonnets – derived from the Italian word “sonetto” – a 14 line poem, divided into 3 parts. The First 8 lines are the ‘octave’, the last six lines are the ‘sestet’. The last two lines are called ‘couplet’. Giacomo Da Lentini is credited for the invention of Sonnets.
  2. Haiku – a traditional 3 line Japanese poem. It has 17 syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Its origin can be traced back to as far as the 9th century.
  3. Limerick – a humorous and frequently rude form of verse, where the first and the fifth line rhyme. The third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme.

Under prose we have –

  1. Novel – a long work of narrative fiction, normally written in a story form and published as a book. There are also graphic novels that use illustrations to tell a story.
  2. Novella – a work of narrative prose fiction, which is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.
  3. Short story – a piece of prose fiction that is typically read in one sitting. It focuses on self-contained incidents or series of linked incidents, with the intent of evoking a single effect or mood.

These are the genres and forms of literature one comes across as a reader or a student of literature. If you want to explore literature in more detail, check here. Comment below and let me know, what your favorite literary genre is.

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Education Literature

The Art of Literature: To do or not to do?

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Literature what? 

Right. So literature,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Or, or.. 

“I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities.” – Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 

Maybe even, 

“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.’” – The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 

Don’t mind me, just borrowing words from some of our favourite authors. 

Literature is essentially any collection of written work. Pretty straight-forward, right? It can be classified into various genres and is also identified as art (as it should be). 

Art of Literature

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Literature why? 

We often ask ourselves, why do we need to study literature? Come to think of it, we perpetually neglect this subject before our exams. We do not give much importance to it. But somehow, English classes seem to be one of our favourites, right? When you can’t help but read a little ahead of where the teacher is at. Because, in your defense, who wouldn’t be curious wondering if Oliver Twist got out of the wretched orphanage (come on! All he did is ask for more soup). 

Studying literature opens up a world of inspiration and creativity along with developing skills that are essential for communication in today’s global environment. It makes us discover how literature makes sense of the whole world through stories, poems, novels, and plays. It also sharpens one’s ability to read, write, analyze, and persuade. Studying literature refines our day-to-day skills by expanding our vocabulary and enhancing our ability to communicate with people from different walks of life.

For example, when we read a story or novel written by a specific author, who has such a diverse background in terms of their culture and values, we become familiar with that culture. As well as its people, traditions, and history. We learn their way of life through their literature, as literature is nothing but a product or a representation of a particular timeline and its environment. Our horizons are broadened. We learn to understand people who are different from us.

When reading something, we come across and discover a variety of characters that we identify and relate with. This is a very exciting and validating process, to know that our exact thoughts and feelings have also been experienced by someone else. In other words, we find a friend in literature. It encourages us to be sensitive to different human experiences and to consider this while making decisions in our daily lives. It has a civilizing effect on people. 

Art of Literature

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Why else Literature? (Really? Still not convinced?) 

While history tells us what people did; literature tells us what they were thinking. Poets and authors capture the universal human experience in their books. Did you know that literature is used as a therapy? Well, Bibliotherapy (also known as developmental Bibliotherapy) is the process of using books to help those suffering from mental disorders. It allows one to experience situations vicariously, and compassionately think of a solution by putting themselves in the character’s place. Sympathy is merely emotional but empathy is highly intellectual. And literature evokes such human emotions. 

Literature how? 

Think of any great novel: Pride and Prejudice, David Copperfield, The Namesake – in all of these excellent novels we need empathy to fully appreciate them. It is this perception and insight that makes studying literature worthwhile. It’s quite simple, really. Pick a good book whose plot line really connects with you. Borrow said book from any library, or maybe even a friend. Read, read and read. Wondering if your interpretations are right, or if you just want to discuss the details of it? Find forums where you can connect with other readers who want to know, too. Still need more inspiration finding the literature piece for you? We got you, click right here to see the ones on our must-read list.