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By medium: art - fiction

Key Jahsonic themes: eroticism - horror - aesthetics - underground - violence

Related: allegory - content - discourse - genre - idea - meaning - metaphor - motif - representation - sensibility - style - subject matter - topic - trope

Theme (fiction)

In literature, a theme is the main idea of the story, or the message the author is conveying. This message is usually about life, society or human nature. Not all stories have explicit themes (they are optional in escapist fiction). However, some readers would say that, because all stories choose certain areas of life to focus on and deal with, 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. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theme_%28literary%29 [Jul 2004]

Thematic literary criticism

In the course of 2004-2006 I have read a number of works which can be considered thematic literatery criticism:

Todo list: the thematic criticism of Jean-Pierre Richard (Littérature et Sensation, 1954) and the Geneva school as it applies to the works above. Also check the criticism by Todorov on Richard.

Maybe start here; a tribute to Horst Daemmrich's Themes and Motifs in Western Literature.


theme - early 14c., from O.Fr. tesme (with silent -s-), from L. thema "a subject, thesis," from Gk. thema "a proposition, subject, deposit," lit. "something set down," from root of tithenai "put down, place." Extension to music first recorded 1674. --http://www.etymonline.com/

Science fiction themes [...]

Science fiction has a number of common concepts and themes that have been reused by numerous authors. Some have become cliches, and only truly novel treatments of them gain attention, whilst others have become "part of the furniture" they can be included in a story without much explanation because readers are already familiar with the core concept.

Horror film themes [...]

Repeated horror themes are slasher themes, vampire themes, zombie themes, demonic possession, alien mind control, evil children, cannibalism, werewolves, animals attacking humans, haunted houses, etc. The horror film genre is often associated with low budgets and exploitation, but major studios and well-respected directors have made intermittent forays into the genre. Some horror films exhibit a substantial amount of cross-over with other genres, particularly science fiction.

Certain stories and themes have proven popular and have inspired many sequels, remakes, and copycats. See Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, werewolves, and zombies. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_film [Jul 2004]

Themed filmographies

Filmographies by Themes, Subjects or Settings

Here are books and websites containing films categorised by themes, subjects or settings. Many other themes are to be found on the following page: Filmographies by Genre / Type. --http://www.rosland.freeserve.co.uk/filmbooks7.htm [Sept 2004]

Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series - Richard B. Armstrong, Mary Willems Armstrong

Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series - Richard B. Armstrong, Mary Willems Armstrong [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Booklist
This is the third edition of the inconsistently titled subject film index by the Armstrongs. The first edition, published by McFarland, appeared in 1990 as The Movie List Book: A Reference Guide to Film Themes, Settings and Series and had 450 entries. The book was lauded as a much-needed resource offering subject access to primarily English-language, sound-era films. In 1994, a second edition offering approximately 100 new entries was published by Betterway Books as The Movie List Book: Hundreds of Fun and Fascinating Lists of Films by Their Settings and Major Themes. McFarland now offers the latest version, featuring more than 670 entries and covering films through August 2000. Both films made for television and for theatrical release are included, as are a few well-known foreign film series.

As in the previous two editions, arrangement is alphabetical by movie topics (mostly themes, settings, and series, as the title suggests). Each entry offers background information on the topic, ranging anywhere from two sentences to several paragraphs. The narrative is chatty, informative, and opinionated; in the absence of a bibliography, one assumes all of the commentary reflects authorial viewpoints. Following each narrative is a chronological list of representative films in each category, ranging anywhere from 3 to 80 titles. Aside from the many new film titles added since the last edition, more than 100 new topics have been added. Examples of new series include Aladdin series, Beverly Hills Cop series, and Watchers series; other new categories include Bond villains, Bowling, and Zorro. The authors admit in their introduction that they inevitably leave out some films; indeed, one can easily justify adding the 1985 Better Off Dead to the Suicide entry, for example, or the 1999 Girl, Interrupted to Asylums. In addition, one can lament that recent films have narrowly missed the cutoff publication date and must await the next edition to be added (for example, the 2000 film Nurse Betty would make a nice addition to Soap operas). Most categories from the previous editions appear to be preserved.

The Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series remains a unique resource among film indexes. At its inception in 1990, genre-specific guides with selected filmographies were already available, but none covered topics as specific as this or indexed series. This remains true today: the closest competition is in books like Films by Genre (McFarland, 1993), which only covers broader categories. The keyword index of the mammoth Internet Movie Database [http://www.imdb.com] will retrieve some themes and settings (e.g., Girl, Interrupted pops up under asylum).

The Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series is recommended for all libraries with patrons interested in film. Both the casual movie viewer and the film enthusiast will find this book fun and informative. Although the price is a tad on the heavy side, the book is handsomely bound and has enough new material to make it a worthwhile purchase. The authors obviously cannot cover all topics, and therefore might seem to select them arbitrarily, but their attempts at compiling an "exhaustive list of English-language film series" come close to being achieved. REVWR
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

-Big Reel
"One of those rare can't-put-it-down reference books"

Book Description
Library Journal called the earlier version of this work, then titled The Movie List Book, "the most valuable film reference in several years." Now, ten years later, it has been completely revamped to include over 670 entries on a variety of film themes, settings and series. Each entry contains a mini-essay that defines the topic, followed by a chronological list of representative films.

The entries range from themes (reincarnation, viral epidemics, twins) to settings (lighthouses, asylums, sewers), occupations (librarians, lumberjacks, veterinarians), supernatural and mythological creatures (vampires, mermaids, gorgons), sports (golf, football, pool), animals (alligators, dogs, whales)-and of course hundreds more! The book also contains an extensive list of film characters and series, including: B-movie detectives (Mr. Moto, Philo Vance); Western heroes (The Durango Kid, Red Ryder); made-for-television film series (Moment of Truth, In the Line of Duty); and foreign film good guys (El Santo) and bad guys (Fantômas). Many entries are cross-referenced to direct readers to related topics.

From the Abominable Snowman to Zorro, this encyclopedia provides film scholars and fans with an easy-to-use reference volume for researching film themes or tracking down obscure movies on subjects such as suspended animation, robots, submarines, ventriloquists, and the Olympics.

A History of Narrative Film - David A. Cook

A History of Narrative Film - David A. Cook [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Now in its third edition, A History of Narrative Film continues to be the most comprehensive and complete history of international cinema in print. This book conveys the vastness and heterogeneity of film history; it describes the extraordinary number of extraordinary films that have been made over the last hundred years. Even in 1,100 pages and more than 1,500 illustrations, Cook can but summarize the development of film narrative and film art in every major country. He has wisely complemented his survey with in-depth analyses of three hugely important movies, The Birth of a Nation, The Battleship Potemkin, and Citizen Kane. He also focuses on major films--The Rules of the Game, Tokyo Story, Vertigo, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors--when he assesses the careers of landmark directors. This edition, updated for the '90s, adds a section on "Hollywood 1965-present," as well as new chapters on "The Former Soviet Union" and "Third World Cinema."

A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms - Edward Quinn

A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms - Edward Quinn [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

This comprehensive guide elucidates literary facts, themes, theories, and terms with short essays. Clearly defining the traditional literary vocabulary, the volume also ventures into cultural territory with terms from film, television, psychology, history, and other fields that inform contemporary discussions of literature. Entries illuminate broad themes that frequently recur in literature, including alienation, class, desire, narcissism, power, time, and war. Major literary theories such as deconstruction, feminist criticism, and reader response criticism are profiled in succinct essays.

The Ultimate Movie Thesaurus: The Only Book You Need to Find the Movie You Want (Henry Holt Reference Book) (1996) - Christopher Case

    The Ultimate Movie Thesaurus: The Only Book You Need to Find the Movie You Want (Henry Holt Reference Book) (1996) - Christopher Case [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    From Publishers Weekly

    The Ultimate Movie Thesaurus begins with short descriptions of 8000 movies. What makes it unique, however, is what comes next. Rather than just a handful of categories or a list of directors or movie stars, it also includes such subcategories as "In-Laws? Troublesome: see also Relatives? Troublesome"; "Trapped in a Hole" and "Cattle Herded by Barbara Stanwyck." Obviously, there are other, more inclusive categories, but if you're in the mood for a movie on, say, Austria, it has nearly 20 suggestions. --Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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