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Theme

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Theme

In contemporary literary studies, a theme is the central topic, subject, or concept the author is trying to point out, not to be confused with whatever message, moral, or commentary it may send or be interpreted as sending regarding said concept (i.e., its inferred "thesis"). While the term "theme" was for a period used to reference "message" or "moral," literary critics now rarely employ it in this fashion, namely due to the confusion it causes regarding the common denotation of theme: "[t]he subject of discourse, discussion, conversation, meditation, or composition; a topic." One historic problem with the previous usage was that readers would frequently conflate "subject" and "theme" as similar concepts, a confusion that the new terminology helps prevent in both scholarship and the classroom. Thus, according to recent scholarship and pedagogy, identifying a story's theme—for example, "death"—does not inherently involve identifying the story's thesis or claims about "death's" definitions, properties, values, or significance. Like morals or messages, themes often explore historically common or cross-culturally recognizable ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.
In literature, a theme is a broad idea in a story, or a message or lesson conveyed by a work. This message is usually about life, society or human nature. Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. Themes are usually implied rather than explicitly stated. Deep thematic content is not required in literature; however, some readers would say that all stories inherently project some kind of outlook on life that can be taken as a theme, regardless of whether or not this is the intent of the author. Analysis of changes in dynamic characters can provide insight into a particular theme.
Theme is the underlying element which governs the writer's selection of dramatic events to show onstage. Can be a belief (e.g. Catch-22, war is insane, only lunatics fight in wars), a proposition to be proved, a moral dilemma, or an attribute of human character.
The theme of Left Hand of Darkness is sexuality; Dragon in the Sea, neurosis; and Lord of the Rings, the evil of power. Implanting the theme in every aspect of the story -- setting, characters, plot, texture -- often strengthens its power. In Left Hand, beings who are sexually indifferent live on a planet named Winter. Cold affects every aspect of the story just as neuter androgyny affects the personality of every character. Just as the point-of-view character -- a normal human who serves as the reader surrogate -- becomes physically cold, he becomes sexually neutral. (Original source: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/being-a-glossary-of-terms-useful-in-critiquing-science-fiction/ ) -- (Source: Theme at Wikipedia ) (e)

From kwheeler

THEME: A central idea or statement that unifies and controls an entire literary work. The theme can take the form of a brief and meaningful insight or a comprehensive vision of life; it may be a single idea such as "progress" (in many Victorian works), "order and duty" (in many early Roman works), "seize-the-day" (in many late Roman works), or "jealousy" (in Shakespeare's Othello). The theme may also be a more complicated doctrine, such as Milton's theme in Paradise Lost, "to justify the ways of God to men," or "Socialism is the only sane reaction to the labor abuses in Chicago meat-packing plants" (Upton Sinclair's The Jungle). A theme is the author's way of communicating and sharing ideas, perceptions, and feelings with readers, and it may be directly stated in the book, or it may only be implied. Compare with motif and leit-motif. (Source: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_T.html#theme_anchor )

Literary Technique (category) (e)

From Wikipedia

From Theme (literature) at Wikipedia

In literature, a theme is a broad idea in a story, or a message or lesson conveyed by a work. This message is usually about life, society or human nature. Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. Themes are usually implied rather than explicitly stated. Deep thematic content is not required in literature; however, some readers would say that all stories inherently project some kind of outlook on life that can be taken as a theme, regardless of whether or not this is the intent of the author. Analysis of changes in dynamic characters can provide insight into a particular theme.

A theme is not the same as the subject of a work. For example, the subject of Green Eggs and Ham is "green eggs and ham are well worth eating, no matter the location". The theme might be "have an open mind". Additionally, themes are not the same as topics. A topic discussed in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn might be 'racism and slavery', but a possible theme of the book might be that 'racism distorts the oppressors as much as it does those who are oppressed.'

Themes differ from motifs in that themes are ideas conveyed by a text, while motifs are repeated symbols that represent those ideas. Simply having repeated symbolism related to chess, does not make the story's theme the similarity of life to chess. Themes arise from the interplay of the plot, the characters, and the attitude the author takes to them, and the same story can be given very different themes in the hands of different authors. For instance, the source for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Matteo Bandello's The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet gave the story the theme of "marrying without parental consent is wickedness and folly",

And to this end, good Reader, is this tragical matter written, to describe unto thee a couple of unfortunate lovers, thralling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring their principal counsels with drunken gossips and superstitious friars (the naturally fit instruments of unchastity); attempting all adventures of peril for th' attaining of their wished lust; using auricular confession the key of whoredom and treason, for furtherance of their purpose; abusing the honourable name of lawful marriage to cloak the shame of stolen contracts; finally by all means of unhonest life hasting to most unhappy death.

but in Shakespeare's hands the same story acquires the theme of "feuds and parental heavy-handedness in preventing young love from marrying are wicked."

While thematic analysis is a primary concern of literary critics, a minority viewpoint holds that explicitly stating the theme of a work universalizes it in an inappropriate way. For example, many love stories end happily when the hero and heroine marry, thus the theme "Marriage equals happiness." Critics would point out that marriage rarely does simply equate to happiness and that marriage and happiness are individual and cultural intangibles that may or may not relate. The term theme may be used in the same way to refer to works of theatre and film.


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