Category Archives: Teaching&Lecture

The Unbearable Ironies of Libraries in Wartime

Flavorwire

Yesterday we learned from Yahoo News! that ISIS has used improvised explosive devices to destroy several historic landmarks in the Iraqi city of Mosul, including the Mosul University Theater, the Church of Mary the Virgin, and the Mosul Public Library. In the case of the library, which is now offline, ISIS destroyed more than 8,000 items from a collection that includes “manuscripts from the eighteenth century, Syriac books printed in Iraq’s first printing house in the nineteenth century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early twentieth century and some old antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs.”

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Class and Violence in Henry Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones’

A R T L▼R K

51bbN2F9gxLOn the 28th of February 1749, Henry Fielding’s novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, was first published in London by Andrew Millar, who offered Fielding the sum of £700 for its exclusivity. It is generally seen as a Bildungsroman (coming-of-age or character-building novel) as well as a Picaresque novel (satirical or comic depictions of lower class characters). One of the first ever novels written in English prose, its story revolves around Tom Jones, a foundling discovered on the property of a very kind and wealthy landowner, Squire Allworthy, in Somerset, England. The illegitimate son of  a serving wench and a local barber, he is raised by master Allworthy alongside his heir, Blifil, the son of Allworthy’s widowed sister. Tom grows into an amiable and joyful rascal, with a penchant for the ladies. However, his feelings for their noble neighbour’s daughter, Sophia Western, are true and…

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Dr. Seuss: Politics in Children’s Literature

A R T L▼R K

On the 2nd of March 1904,the famous writer and illustratorTheodor Seuss Geisel, known as ‘Dr. Seuss’, was born in Footloose, Springfield, MA, USA. An Oxford University graduate, Geisel published 46 children’s books, characterized by imaginative characters and the use of anapestic meter – a breezy melodic rhythm for comic verse. His most celebrated books include Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Most of them were adapted extensively to theatre, television and cinema. Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been named National Read Across America Day by the U.S. National Education Association.

61yCZTz2T6LThe son of Lutheran German immigrants, Geisel was a liberal Democrat and a supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. In the early 1940s, before America became aware of the destructive power of…

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No One Writes Utopian Novels Anymore Because Utopian Novels Are Boring

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Utopia.ortelius

This morning over at Vulture, Adam Sternbergh wrote about the dystopian novel craze — and the fact that we have, in his words, “hit Peak Dystopia.” True enough — even Lois Lowry says so. He suggests that if we’re burned out on dystopian novels, “there might be an opening for a return to Utopian novels — if such a thing as ‘Utopian novels’ actually existed anymore.” Towards the end of the article, he writes, “increasingly my hunch is that the next Great American Novel, or earth-rattling film, will be a Utopian one. Wouldn’t you love to read a modern Utopian vision by Margaret Atwood? Or Zadie Smith? Or Cory Doctorow?”

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Words, Glorious Words

Eleventh Stack

Over the weekend, our friends at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Oxford Dictionaries Online added some new words to its listings

More than 400 of them, give or take a few.

I always think of Ammon Shea whenever these sorts of announcements happen.

Reading the OED He’s the author ofReading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,710 Pages, an account of the year he spent reading the Oxford English Dictionary.

“If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on,” writes Ammon Shea in this wonderfully quirky book. “I have read the OED so that you don’t have to.”

Ammon Shea loves words. He also loves dictionaries, and has amassed quite the collection. “By last count, I have about a thousand volumes of dictionaries, thesauri, and assorted glossaries,” he writes, adding, somewhat unbelievably, that he doesn’t view these thousands volumes of dictionaries…

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Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Of Books and Reading

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang Title: Boxers and Saints
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
ISBN: 9781596439245
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 512
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I had heard a lot about this graphic novel. Almost every book haul had it; almost everyone was talking about it online and offline (to some extent). I knew I had to pick this one up and I did and let me tell you that this one just did not disappoint at all. I had read, “American Born Chinese” as well, so I sort of knew what I was expecting from this one.

“Boxers & Saints” are two individual graphic novels, but can only be read as one, for them to make sense to the reader. The book is set in the late 1800s and at the beginning of 1900. The year is 1898. The place: China. The foreign missionaries are here to stay and not only…

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Five Fascinating Facts about George Orwell’s 1984

Interesting Literature

1. George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on this day, 8 June, in 1949. But this wasn’t the original title of the novel. According to the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, Orwell initially planned to set the novel in 1980; this then became 1982, and finally 1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the title is usually rendered).

Orwell12. Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room in BBC Broadcasting House. In this room, during the Second World War, he had to sit through tedious meetings when he worked for the Ministry of Information. Indeed, the Ministry also served as the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth, where the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works. ‘Room 101’ has, of course, entered wider linguistic use as a term for something containing one’s pet hates or worst fears. Although the novel also popularised the terms ‘thoughtcrime’ and ‘thought police’, these…

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William T. Vollmann’s Europe Central | A Short Riff on a Long Book

Biblioklept

Kilian Eng Kilian Eng

1. William T. Vollmann’s Europe Central,  811 pages in my Penguin trade paperback edition (including end notes), is a virtuoso attempt to describe or measure or assess or explain or analyze the Eastern front of WWII, a part of the war that in my American ignorance I know, or knew (no, know) so little about.

2. The book covers 1914-1975, most of the composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich’s life. If Europe Central has a hero, it is Shostakovich.

From the book’s last end note, “An Imaginary Love Triangle: Shostakovich, Karmen, Konstantinovaskya”:

When I think of Shostakovich, and when I listen to his music, I imagine a person consumed by fear and regret, a person who (like Kurt Gerstein) did what little he could to uphold the good—in this case, freedom of artistic creation, and the mitigation of other people’s emergencies. He became progressively more beaten down, and certainly experienced…

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