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Literature

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“Alas, Poor YORICK!”: The Death and Life of Laurence Sterne Mar 7, 2018 Literature On the 250th anniversary of Laurence Sterne’s death, Ian Campbell Ross looks at the engagement with mortality so important to the novelist’s groundbreaking work. Master of Disaster, Ignatius Donnelly Sep 27, 2017 Books & Literature & Science & Religion The destruction of Atlantis, cataclysmic comets, and a Manhattan tower made entirely from concrete and corpse — Carl Abbott on the life and work of a Minnesotan writer, and failed politician, with a mind primed for catastrophe. American Freedom: Sinclair Lewis and the Open Road Mar 22, 2017 Literature Some three decades before Kerouac and friends hit the road, Sinclair Lewis published Free Air, one of the very first novels about an automobile-powered road trip across the United States. Steven Michels looks at the particular vision of freedom espoused in the tale, one echoed throughout Lewis’ oeuvre. Defoe and the Distance to Utopia Jan 25, 2017 Books & Literature In the wake of recent political shifts and the dystopian flavour they carry for many, J.H. Pearl looks to the works of Daniel Defoe and the lessons they can teach us about bringing utopia home. Astral Travels with Jack London Nov 22, 2016 Books & Literature On the centenary of Jack London’s death, Benjamin Breen looks at the writer’s last book to be published in his lifetime, The Star Rover — a strange tale about solitary confinement and interstellar reincarnation, which speaks to us of the dreams and struggles of the man himself. The Secret History of Holywell Street: Home to Victorian London’s Dirty Book Trade Jun 29, 2016 Photography & Literature & Art & History Victorian sexuality is often considered synonymous with prudishness, conjuring images of covered-up piano legs and dark ankle-length skirts. Historian Matthew Green uncovers a quite different scene in the sordid story of Holywell St, 19th-century London’s epicentre of erotica and smut. Frankenstein, the Baroness, and the Climate Refugees of 1816 Jun 15, 2016 Literature & History It is two hundred years since “The Year Without a Summer”, when a sun-obscuring ash cloud — ejected from one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in recorded history — caused temperatures to plummet the world over. Gillen D’Arcy Wood looks at the humanitarian crisis triggered by the unusual weather, and how it offers an alternative lens through which to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book begun in its midst. Picturing Don Quixote Apr 6, 2016 Books & Literature & Art This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of one of the best-loved and most frequently illustrated books in the history of literature — Don Quixote. Rachel Schmidt explores how the varying approaches to illustrating the tale have reflected and impacted its reading through the centuries. Robert Greene, the First Bohemian Jan 27, 2016 Books & Literature & Drama Known for his debauched lifestyle, his flirtations with criminality, and the sheer volume of his output, the Elizabethan writer Robert Greene was a fascinating figure. Ed Simon explores the literary merits and bohemian traits of the man who penned the earliest known (and far from flattering) reference to Shakespeare as a playwright. Bad Air: Pollution, Sin, and Science Fiction in William Delisle Hay’s The Doom of the Great City (1880) Sep 30, 2015 Books & Literature & Science Deadly fogs, moralistic diatribes, debunked medical theory — Brett Beasley explores a piece of Victorian science fiction considered to be the first modern tale of urban apocalypse. The Nightwalker and the Nocturnal Picaresque Jun 3, 2015 Books & Literature The introduction of street lighting to 17th-century London saw an explosion of nocturnal activity in the capital, most of revolving around the selling of sex. Matthew Beaumont explores how some writers, with the intention of condemning these nefarious goings-on, took to the city’s streets after dark, and in the process gave birth to a peculiar new literary genre. The Empathetic Camera: Frank Norris and the Invention of Film Editing May 20, 2015 Literature & Film At the heart of American author Frank Norris’ gritty turn-of-the-century fiction lies an essential engagement with the everyday shock and violence of modernity. Henry Giardina explores how this focus, combined with his unique approach to storytelling, helped to pave the way for a truly filmic style. The Poet, the Physician and the Birth of the Modern Vampire Oct 16, 2014 Books & Literature & Religion From that famed night of ghost-stories in a Lake Geneva villa in 1816, as well as Frankenstein’s monster, there arose that other great figure of 19th-century gothic fiction – the vampire – a creation of Lord Byron’s personal physician John Polidori. Andrew McConnell Stott explores how a fractious relationship between Polidori and his poet employer lies behind the tale, with Byron himself providing a model for the blood-sucking aristocratic figure of the legend we are familiar with today. Ghostwriter and Ghost: The Strange Case of Pearl Curran & Patience Worth Sep 17, 2014 Books & Poems & Literature & Religion In early 20th-century St. Louis, Pearl Curran claimed to have conjured a long-dead New England puritan named Patience Worth through a Ouija board. Although mostly unknown today, the resulting books, poems, and plays that Worth “dictated” to Curran earned great praise at the time. Ed Simon investigates the curious and nearly forgotten literary fruits of a “ghost” and her ghostwriter. Moonblight and Six Feet of Romance: Dan Carter Beard’s Foray into Fiction Jun 11, 2014 Books & Literature & Art An esoteric disease which reveals things in their true light; three pairs of disembodied feet galavanting about the countryside – Abigail Walthausen explores the brief but strange literary career of Daniel Carter Beard, illustrator for Mark Twain and a founding father of the Boy Scouts of America. Inside the Empty House: Sherlock Holmes, For King and Country Jan 8, 2014 Literature & History As a new series of BBC’s Sherlock revives the great detective after his apparent death, Andrew Glazzard investigates the domestic and imperial subterfuge beneath the surface of Sherlock Holmes’s 1903 return to Baker Street in Conan Doyle’s ‘The Empty House’. Encounter at the Crossroads of Europe — the Fellowship of Zweig and Verhaeren Dec 11, 2013 Books & Literature & History Stefan Zweig, whose works passed into the public domain this year in many countries around the world, was one of the most famous writers of the 1920s and 30s. Will Stone explores the importance of the Austrian’s early friendship with the oft overlooked Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren. Lost in Translation: Proust and Scott Moncrieff Nov 13, 2013 Books & Literature Scott Moncrieff’s English translation of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu is widely hailed as a masterpiece in its own right. His rendering of the title as Remembrance of Things Past is not, however, considered a high point. William C. Carter explores the two men’s correspondence on this somewhat sticky issue and how the Shakespearean title missed the mark regarding Proust’s theory of memory. Elizabeth Bisland’s Race Around the World Oct 16, 2013 Books & Literature & History & Events Matthew Goodman explores the life and writings of Elizabeth Bisland, an American journalist propelled into the limelight when she set out in 1889 – head-to-head with fellow journalist Nellie Bly – on a journey to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictitious 80-day circumnavigation of the globe. A Dangerous Man in the Pantheon Oct 2, 2013 Literature & Philosophy & History This October marks 300 years since the birth of French Enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot. Although perhaps best known for co-founding the Encylopédie, Philipp Blom argues for the importance of Diderot’s philosophical writings and how they offer a pertinent alternative to the Enlightenment cult of reason spearheaded by his better remembered contemporaries Voltaire and Rousseau. Lucian’s Trips to the Moon Jun 26, 2013 Books & Literature & Philosophy With his Vera Historia, the 2nd century satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote the first detailed account of a trip to the moon in the Western tradition and, some argue, also one of the earliest science fiction narratives. Aaron Parrett explores how Lucian used this lunar vantage point to take a satirical look back at the philosophers of Earth and their ideas of “truth”. Mother Goose’s French Birth (1697) and British Afterlife (1729) May 29, 2013 Books & Literature Christine Jones explores the early English translations of Charles Perrault’s 1697 collection of fairy tales and how a change in running order was key to them becoming the stories for children which we know today. Still Booking on De Quincey’s Mail-Coach Feb 20, 2013 Literature & History Robin Jarvis looks at Thomas de Quincey’s essay “The English Mail-Coach, or the Glory of Motion” and how its meditation on technology and society is just as relevant today as when first published in 1849. The Curious World of Isaac D’Israeli Feb 6, 2013 Books & Literature & History Marvin Spevack introduces the Curiosities of Literature, the epic cornucopia of essays on all things literary by Isaac D’Israeli: a scholar, man of letters and father of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Simple Songs: Virginia Woolf and Music Jan 9, 2013 Books & Music & Literature Last year saw the works of Virginia Woolf enter the public domain in many countries around the world. To celebrate Emma Sutton looks at Woolf’s short story “A Simple Melody” and the influence which music had upon the writer who once wrote that music was “nearest to truth”. The Forgotten Tales of the Brothers Grimm Dec 20, 2012 Books & Literature & History To mark the 200th year since the Brothers Grimm first published their Kinder-und Hausmärchen, Jack Zipes explores the importance of this neglected first edition and what it tells us about the motives and passions of the two folklorist brothers. The Strangely Troubled Life of Digby Mackworth Dolben Nov 14, 2012 Books & Poems & Literature In 1911 the soon-to-be poet laureate Robert Bridges published the poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben, a school friend who had drowned to death at the age of 19 almost half a century earlier. Carl Miller looks at Bridges’ lengthy introduction in which he tells of the short and tragic life of the boy with whom fellow poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was reportedly besotted. The Implacability of Things Oct 3, 2012 Books & Literature Jonathan Lamb explores the genre of ‘it-narratives’ – stories told from the point of view of an object, often as it travels in circulation through human hands. Conan Doyle’s Olympic Crusade Aug 9, 2012 Literature & History & Events When an exhausted Dorando Pietri was helped across the finishing line in the 1908 Olympics marathon, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was there to write about it for the Daily Mail. Peter Lovesey explores how the drama and excitement of this event led Conan Doyle to become intimately involved with the development of the modern Olympics as we know it. Seeing Joyce Jun 12, 2012 Books & Painting & Literature This year’s ‘Bloomsday’ – 108 years after Leopold Bloom took his legendary walk around Dublin on the 16th June 1904 – is the first since the works of James Joyce entered the public domain. Frank Delaney asks whether we should perhaps now stop trying to read Joyce and instead make visits to him as to a gallery. The Krakatoa Sunsets May 28, 2012 Poems & Literature & Science & Art & History When a volcano erupted on a small island in Indonesia in 1883, the evening skies of the world glowed for months with strange colours. Richard Hamblyn explores a little-known series of letters that the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins sent in to the journal Nature describing the phenomenon – letters that would constitute the majority of the small handful of writings published while he was alive. Lost Libraries Feb 20, 2012 Books & Literature & History In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of ‘remarkable books, antiquities, pictures and rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living’. Claire Preston explores Browne’s extraordinary catalogue amid the wider context of a Renaissance preoccupation with lost intellectual treasures. Phillis Wheatley: an Eighteenth-Century Genius in Bondage Feb 6, 2012 Poems & Literature & History Transported as a slave from West Africa to America when just a child, Phillis Wheatley published in 1773 at the age of twenty her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Vincent Carretta takes a look at the remarkable life of the first ever African-American woman to be published. An Unlikely Lunch: When Maupassant met Swinburne Jan 24, 2012 Poems & Literature & History Julian Barnes on when a young Guy de Maupassant was invited to lunch at the holiday cottage of Algernon Swinburne. A flayed human hand, pornography, the serving of monkey meat, and inordinate amounts of alcohol, all made for a truly strange Anglo-French encounter. Selma Lagerlöf: Surface and Depth Jan 11, 2012 Books & Literature In 2011 many countries around the world welcomed The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and the other works of the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf into the public domain. Jenny Watson looks at the importance of Lagerlöf’s oeuvre and the complex depths beneath her seemingly simple tales and public persona. Robert Southey’s Dreams Revisited Dec 5, 2011 Poems & Literature As well as being poet laureate for 30 years and a prolific writer of letters, Robert Southey was an avid recorder of his dreams. W.A. Speck, author of Robert Southey: Entire Man of Letters, explores the poet’s dream diary and the importance of dreams in his work. The Tragedy of Fate and the Tragedy of Culture: Heinrich von Kleist’s The Schroffenstein Family Nov 21, 2011 Literature On 21st November 1811, on a lake’s edge near Potsdam, a 34-year-old Kleist shot himself dead in a suicide pact with his terminally ill lover. He left behind him just under a decade of intense literary output which has established him as one of the most important writers of the German romantic period. On the bicentenary of his death, Kleist scholar Steven Howe explores the importance of his first dramatic work and how in it can be seen the themes of his later masterpieces. On Benjamin’s Public (Oeuvre) Oct 31, 2011 Literature & Philosophy & History On the run from the Nazis in 1940, the philosopher, literary critic and essayist Walter Benjamin committed suicide in the Spanish border town of Portbou. In 2011, over 70 years later, his writings enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Anca Pusca, author of Walter Benjamin: The Aesthetics of Change, reflects on the relevance of Benjamin’s oeuvre in a digital age, and the implications of his work becoming freely available online. Stories of a Hollow Earth Oct 10, 2011 Books & Literature In 1741 the Norwegian-Danish author Ludvig Holberg published Klimii Iter Subterraneum, a satirical science-fiction/fantasy novel detailing the adventures of its hero Niels Klim in a utopian society existing beneath the surface of the earth. Peter Fitting, author of Subterranean Worlds: A Critical Anthology, explores Holberg’s book in the wider context of the hollow earth theory. A Few Words about F. Scott Fitzgerald Sep 26, 2011 Books & Literature In most countries around the world, 2011 saw the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald enter the public domain. Scott Donaldson, author of the biography Fool For Love: F. Scott Fitzgerald, explores the obscuring nature of his legend and the role that women played in his life and work. Aspiring to a Higher Plane Sep 19, 2011 Books & Literature & Science & Philosophy In 1884 Edwin Abbott Abbott published Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, the first ever book that could be described as ‘mathematical fiction’. Ian Stewart, author of Flatterland and The Annotated Flatland, introduces the strange tale of the geometric adventures of A. Square. John Muir’s Literary Science Jun 9, 2011 Books & Literature & Science The writings of the Scottish-born American naturalist John Muir are known for their scientific acumen as well as for their rhapsodic flights. Terry Gifford, author of Reconnecting with John Muir, explores Muir’s multifaceted engagement with ‘God’s big show’. 100 Years of The Secret Garden Mar 8, 2011 Books & Literature This year marks the 100th anniversary of the children’s classic The Secret Garden. Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, author of Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Unexpected Life of the Author of The Secret Garden, takes a look at the life of Burnett and how personal tragedy underpinned the creation of her most famous work. Lewis Carroll and The Hunting of the Snark Feb 22, 2011 Books & Poems & Literature & Art In 1876 Lewis Carroll published by far his longest poem – a fantastical epic tale recounting the adventures of a bizarre troupe of nine tradesmen and a beaver. Carrollian scholar, Edward Wakeling, introduces The Hunting of the Snark. Tales from Tahiti Feb 8, 2011 Books & Literature & History In 1890, Henry Adams – the historian, academic, journalist, and descendent of two US presidents – set out on a tour of the South Pacific. After befriending the family of “the last Queen of Tahiti,” he became inspired to write what is considered to be the first history of the island. Through Adams’ letters, Ray Davis explores the story of the book’s creation. Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno Jan 31, 2011 Poems & Literature & Religion The poet Christopher Smart — also known as “Kit Smart”, “Kitty Smart”, “Jack Smart” and, on occasion, “Mrs Mary Midnight” — was a well known figure in 18th-century London. Nowadays he is perhaps best known for considering his cat Jeoffry. Writer and broadcaster Frank Key looks at Smart’s weird and wonderful Jubilate Agno. Emma Goldman’s “Anarchism Without Adjectives” Jan 12, 2011 Books & Literature & Philosophy In 2011, over 100 years after the publication of her seminal Anarchism and Other Essays, the writings of Emma Goldman entered the public domain. Kathy E. Ferguson, Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies at the University of Hawai’i, provides an introduction to Goldman’s life and her particular brand of anarchism. In Hollywood with Nathanael West Jan 1, 2011 Books & Literature Today the works of Nathanael West enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Marion Meade, author of Lonelyhearts, a new biography about West, takes a look at his life in Hollywood and the story behind his most famous work, The Day of the Locust.