Ethan Hawke: Why ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are fickle concepts in history

When you simplify history, you obliterate the truth, says Ethan Hawke.

  • In 2016, Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth published the graphic novel Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars. Who were the good guys and bad guys in that era of history? It's not a straightforward question.
  • The novel includes historical characters like Geronimo, Cochise and General O.O. Howard, all of whom were at times arguably heroes and villains.
  • "One of the things that I love about studying history," says Hawke, "is that you see that it's not like 'Oh, one thing was bad and one thing was good.' You know, the wrong people won certain battles. The wrong people won certain elections."
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Kurt Vonnegut on 8 'shapes' of stories

The American author said he attempted to bring scientific thinking to literary criticism, but received "very little gratitude for this."

  • Kurt Vonnegut wrote a master's thesis on the shapes of stories that he submitted to the anthropology department at the University of Chicago, which rejected it.
  • The late Indiana-born author said it was his "prettiest contribution" to the culture.
  • Vonnegut half-jokingly defended his "scientific" approach to literary criticism over his career, but noted that great stories can't be easily plotted on a diagram.
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Ghost Stories of Christmas: A chilling Victorian tradition

Here's why scary stories were once an integral part of Christmas Eve festivities.

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  • Gathering around a fire to share ghost stories was a beloved Christmas tradition in the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
  • Victorians also sent bizarre Christmas cards with morbidly humorous designs featuring murderous frogs and anthropomorphic insects.
  • Historically, December 25th has a close link to pre-Christian solstice festivals that viewed mid-winter as a time when light dies and the veil between the world of the living and dead is most thin.
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Who decides whether art is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

Hierarchies of taste exist in our society, but their roots often reflect more than just the quality of work.

  • "Taste" in art and entertainment can often represent societal hierarchies, prejudices, and inequalities.
  • Part of the job of a critic is to refuse categorization of art as "high" or "low."
  • By challenging and redefining these assumptions, critics can level the playing field to include work from all walks of life.
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