"We know that Conrad was an admirer of Stevenson’s work, and in fact that he thought more highly of Stevenson’s South Seas nonfiction writings than of his novels, at least according to Colvin, who knew both men. To my knowledge, however, no one has connected the next set of dots, not just from Stevenson’s writing to Conrad’s, but from Stevenson’s Samoan persona to Kurtz. Why not consider whether Stevenson’s grandiose island life influenced Conrad’s masterpiece?" Where Did Kurtz Come From? [single page], Matthew Pearl for Slate. Related: Conrad’s 'Heart of Darkness' gets operatic treatment (SF Examiner) | reviews (with stage photos).
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12 short poems is all that remains of the work of Nossis, one of the most beloved of the Ancient Greek poets. Exactly when she lived is uncertain, but it's certain that she was from Locri, which was on the "toe" of Italy. You can read about what archaeologists have found out about the ancient city on the website Locri Epizephyrii, Welcome To Magna Graecia. Scholars have tried to use Nossis' poetry to explain the particulars of life in Locri, looking for support for claims that noble status descended matrilineally. Marilyn B. Skinner looks at the status of women and explores the "unusual aspects of religious practice at Locri" in her essay Nossis and Women's Cult at Locri. You can read different translations of some of Nossis' poems, three by Skinner and two by Diane Rayor.
Living Poets is a Durham University website with short guides to various ancient Greek and Latin authors, such as Homer, Orpheus, Anacreon, Catullus, Ovid, and Virgil. The guides focus on the extant sources and how the authors were received in their lifetime and by later generations, avoiding the "perils of autobiography."
Deaths in the Iliad is an infographic by Laura Jenkinson presenting every death in Homer's Iliad. In her book of poetry Memorial Alice Oswald did something similar, writing about all 213 named men who die in the epic poem. You can read excerpts of the poem and listen to her read these excerpts at the Poetry Archive (1, 2). Or you can listen to her discuss Memorial on the Poetry Trust podcast (iTunes, mp3).
The Queenslander, April 4, 1898: "Mr. Clement K. Shorter, asked by 'The Bookman' to write out a list of 100 of the best novels in the English language, supplied the following list, naming only one book of each author, and giving the date of publication :--" [Via.] [more inside]
That Homer used the epithet "wine-dark" to describe the sea in the Iliad and Odyssey so puzzled 19th Century English Prime Minister William Gladstone that he thought the Ancient Greeks must have been colorblind. Since then many other solutions have been proposed. Scientists have argued that Ancient Greek wine was blue and some scholars have put forward the case that Homer was describing the sea at sunset. Radiolab devoted a segment to the exploration of this issue, saying that Gladstone was partly right. Another interpretation is that the Ancient Greeks focused on different aspects of color from us. Classicist William Harris' short essay about purple in Homer and Iliad translator Caroline Alexander's longer essay The Wine-like Sea make the case for this interpretation.
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Invisible Cities -- the sublime metaphysical travelogue by author-journalist Italo Calvino. In a series of pensive dialogues with jaded emperor Kublai Khan, the explorer Marco Polo describes a meandering litany of visionary and impossible places, dozens of surreal, fantastical cities, each poetically reifying ideas vital to language, philosophy, and the human spirit. This gracefully written love letter to urban life has inspired countless tributes, but it's just the most accessible of Calvino's fascinating literary catalogue. Look inside for a closer look at his most remarkable works, links to English translations of his magical prose, and collections of artistic interpretations from around the web -- including this treasure trove of essays, excerpts, articles, and recommended reading. [more inside]
"This is about a girl that goes mining. I don’t know why, but she looks like she would go mining, mining for gold. " Judging a Book by its Cover: A 6-Year-Old Guesses What Classic Novels are All About.
The goons at Something Awful have a field day photoshopping downgraded and cut-rate literary classics. Part 2.
How well do you really know old Arty? It all began with the Welsh: The The Annales Cabriae (inside) and parts of the Welsh oral tradition (later collected into the Mabinogion) give a very different picture of the popular King Arthur than contemporary readers are familiar with: no Lancelot, three or four different Guens, no love triangles or Holy Grails. A look at the vast scope of the Arthurian legend. [more inside]
Humanities and the Liberal Arts is the personal website of former Middlebury classics professor William Harris who passed away in 2009. In his retirement he crafted a wonderful site full of essays, music, sculpture, poetry and his thoughts on anything from education to technology. But the heart of the website for me is, unsurprisingly, his essays on ancient Latin and Greek literature some of whom are book-length works. Here are a few examples: Purple color in Homer, complete fragments of Heraclitus, how to read Homer and Vergil, a discussion of a recently unearthed poem by Sappho, Plato and mathematics, Propertius' war poems, and finally, especially close to my heart, his commentaries on the poetry of Catullus, for example on Ipsithilla, Odi et amo, Attis poem as dramatic dance performance and a couple of very dirty poems (even by Catullus' standard). That's just a taste of the riches found on Harris' site, which has been around nearly as long as the world wide web has existed.
Clifton Fadiman's Lifetime Reading Plan, 3rd Edition (not to be confused with Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major's Lifetime Reading Plan, 4th Edition) [more inside]
A discussion on BBC Radio 4 of Robert Burton's 17th-century compendium The Anatomy Of Melancholy. Examining the medical, literary, political, and religious influences of this enormous work, as well as how it contributed to those same fields over its many years of revisions and continuing popularity. Not exactly thorough (how could it be?) but an interesting listen.
4,500 additional pages omitted from Flaubert's 500-page Madame Bovary have been released online (in French). "The site – www.bovary.fr – contains not only the published text and images of the barely legible manuscripts but interactive controls which allow the reader to re-instate passages corrected or cut by Flaubert or his publishers." It took "between three and 10 hours to decipher a single page of Flaubert's writing," done mostly by volunteers from around the world.
The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari) is a medieval Japanese account of the rise and fall of the Taira clan and has inspired many other works of art. Click on the chapters and scroll down to see Heike illustrations (or start here), see more art or figures inspired by the Heike. Would you rather read? [more inside]
In Parentheses is a collection of many ancient, medieval and classic texts from all over the world, many of whom are hard to find anywhere, let alone on the internet. There are translations from Greek, Old Norse, Medieval Irish, Japanese, Incan, Old French, Medieval Latin and many more! As well as all that they have papers in medieval studies and vaguely decadent and orientalism series. Adding to that there's a linguistics section with wordlists and language flash cards in languages such as Icelandic, Quechua, Basque, Classical Armenian and a whole bunch more. [flashcard links go to pdf files]
Choose a (public domain) book and Daily Lit will e-mail it to you bit-by-bit every day. Finally, War and Peace delivered to your inbox in only 675 bite-sized pieces. [via LH]
"but I come back, I come back, as I say, I all throbbingly and yearningly and passionately, oh, mon bon, come back to this way"
The Ladder is a website devoted to the writer Henry James (1843-1916). It comprises electronic editions of a selection of James’s works and also * a textual note on the source and any amendments required during editing * annotations of the text explaining such things as references to real persons and places, references to other fiction by James, or in in his notebboks * a summary and a detailed (chapter by chapter) synopsis of the plot, so you can easily find passages you remember, by what happens * a bibliography including original publications, subsequent reprints Interestingly enough, lately more than a few writers seem to have a bit of James-mania: in June, Colm Tóibín published "The Master", a portrait of James recovering from his humiliating failure as a playwright. Now comes "Author, Author", by David Lodge, which is about James' humiliating failure as a playwright as well. These in turn arrive on the heels of Emma Tennant's "Felony", a novel about James' near-romance with Constance Fenimore Woolson, and Alan Hollinghurst's "The Line of Beauty", a BookerPrize-winning novel in which James plays an important off-the-stage role.
Custom paperback editions of classic novels starring YOU! Now also available in a "happy ending" edition! Didn't like that Romeo and Juliet die at the end? Choose the Happy Ending Version a new scene is added with a twist — the lovers live happily ever after! A short scene is added after Act V Scene III. It turns out the apothecary's poison didn't work and Romeo survives, and Juliet's stabbing of herself merely made her pass out. The problem with public domain is that the integrity of the original is lost once it's Disneyfied.
Did you know that George Eliot's Middlemarch is posted online in its entirety? As is Madam Bovary, Anna Karenina, and Don Quixote. ClassicReader.com contains 769 books and 1041 short stories by 211 authors. (via Bookfilter.)
The Journey to the West is one of China's most popular literary classics. This site illustrates one section of this important story, the birth of the Monkey King, with 100 beautiful images. You can also take the time to read selections from several other Chinese classics, notably The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Tale of the Water Margin and one of my all time favorites, The Romance of the Western Chamber. These works, and others on the site, are important in their own right, but are also significant because they are source material for Chinese film, TV and especially for Jingju, which Westerners call Beijing opera.
Catch up on your reading of the classics in just 5 minutes a day. Classic Novels serializes classic literature and sends it to you via e-mail in bite-sized little chunks. Of course many people are probably aware of sites like Project Gutenberg where you can get the full thing, but for those on a time crunch, this seems like a nice way to break it down into easy bite sized chunks.