‘What Ish My Nation?’: Towards a Negative Definition of Identity

A timeline of Shakespeare’s plays / Creative Commons Defining national culture and identity. By Dr. Eugene O’Brien Senior Lecturer in English Mary Immaculate College There is hardly a more quoted line from Shakespeare in the overall context of Irish Studies than the above question from Henry V. Given the agonies of identity that have plagued Irish[…]

Guide to the Classics: Virgil’s Aeneid

Virgil reads the Aeneid to Octavia and Augustus. Angelica Kauffmann/Hermitage/Wikimedia Commons Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid documents the founding of Rome by a Trojan hero. As with other ancient epics, our hero has to remain resolute in the face of significant divine hostility. By Dr. Chris Mackie / 10.23.2017 Professor of Classics La Trobe University The Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil is an epic poem in[…]

How Reading Fiction Can Help You Improve Yourself and Your Relationship to Others

Reading fiction can make you happier, nicer towards others and better focused in your activities. Pixabay/Pexels To counter the unbalanced effects of the digital age, reading literature is the key.    By Dr. Massimo Salgaro (left) and Dr. Adriaan van der Weel (right) / 12.18.2017 Salgaro: RFIEA Fellows 2017-2018, IEA Paris, Researcher in Literary Theory, University of Verona van der[…]

How King Arthur Became One of the Most Pervasive Legends of All Time

Vuk Kostic/www.shutterstock.com Historic heroes like King Arthur have helped audiences through the ages to cope with troubling times. By Dr. Raluca Radulescu / 02.02.2017 Professor of Medieval Literature and English Literature Bangor University King Arthur is one of, if not the, most legendary icons of medieval Britain. His popularity has lasted centuries, mostly thanks to the numerous incarnations of his story that pop[…]

From China with Love: Tang Xianzu was the Shakespeare of the Orient

Tang and Shakespeare’s dramas are being blended together in a series of adaptions. Performance Infinity, Author provided Shakespeare was not the only famous dramatist to die in 1616. On the other side of theworld, in China, another theatrical legend was laid to rest. By Dr. Mary Mazzilli / 07.21.2016 Lecture in Theatre and Performance Goldsmiths, University of London In his 400th anniversary year, Shakespeare is still rightly celebrated as[…]

On Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity

The painting depicts the end of the 1381 peasant’s revolt, mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The image shows London’s mayor, Walworth, killing Wat Tyler. There are two images of Richard II. One looks on the killing while the other is talking to the peasants. / Library Royal via Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Theodore L. Steinberg Distinguished Teaching[…]

Medea Is as Relevant Today as It Was in Ancient Greece

Helen McCrory as Medea. Richard Hubert Smith/National Theatre By Dr. Laura Swift / 07.23.2014 Lecturer in Classical Studies The Open University Often when ancient plays are updated to a modern setting it can feel unsatisfactory. Frequently there are elements that grate or become implausible, and you’re left feeling that the director is trying too hard to make the[…]

An Introductory Guide to the Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh explores what it means to be human, and questions the meaning of life and love. Wikimedia Commons The themes of the world’s most ancient epic are still remarkably relevant to modern readers. By Dr. Louise Pryke / 05.07.2017 Lecturer, Languages and Literature of Ancient Israel Macquarie University “Forget death and seek life!” With these encouraging words, Gilgamesh, the star of the eponymous 4000-year-old[…]

The Nightwalker and the Nocturnal Picaresque

Night (1736), the fourth painting from William Hogarth’s Four Times of the Day series — Wikimedia Commons 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[…]

Lucian’s Trips to the Moon

Depiction of Lucian for the title page of Works of Lucian (1781) – Internet Archive 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[…]

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble? The Surprising Truth about the Real Macbeth

Macbeth: I’m not all bad. Honest. Studio Canal publicity Shakespeare cast the Scottish king as the ultimate villain, but you shouldn’t believe everything you see on stage or screen. By Dr. Alex Woolf / 10.12.2015 Senior Lecturer in Mediaeval History University of St. Andrews It is among the bloodiest and cruellest of plays. For some, even uttering its name can[…]

‘Cycle and Epicycle, Orb in Orb’: The Science of Paradise Lost

The Archangel Raphael with Adam and Eve (an illustration to Milton’s Paradise Lost) by William Blake (1808). Courtesy MFA Boston By Dr. Ed Simon / 03.28.2018 Associate Editor Marginalia Review of Books Paradise Lost (1674) is a consummate example of scientific literature. In it, John Milton effectively mimics the debates that motivated the New Science of his era, and the[…]

Democritus Junior and the Musings of Melancholy

Frontispiece image showing man haunted by melancholy, from The Anatomy of Melancholy By Harkiran Dhindsa / 03.30.2016 The original work was first published in 1621, but its popularity among scholars ensured its continued reprints centuries later. The recently digitised copy of this book is from an 1806 edition held by the University of Bristol. Helpfully, the 1806 edition[…]

Shakespearean ‘Simples’: Herbal Medicines in the Bard’s Plays

By Dr. Richard Aspin / 08.08.2016 Head of Research Wellcome Library Locally harvested wild herbs were the foundation of medical practice in Shakespeare’s England. Some medicinal plants were cultivated in kitchen and herb gardens, but they differed little from their wild equivalents. Exotic herbs – that is plants from overseas – were beginning to play an increasing[…]

“Alas, Poor YORICK!”: The Death and Life of Laurence Sterne

Detail from Thomas Patch’s etching Laurence Sterne, alias Tristram Shandy: “And When Death Himself Knocked at My Door”(1769) — Metropolitan Museum of Art Looking at the engagement with mortality so important to the novelist’s groundbreaking work. By Dr. Ian Campbell Ross / 03.07.2018 Emeritus Professor of 18th-Century Studies Trinity College, Dublin This year brings two notable anniversaries in[…]

The ‘Oral’ Nature of African Unwritten Literature

The significance of performance in actualization, transmission, and composition. Audience and occasion. Implications for the study of oral literature. Oral art as literature. By Dr. Ruth Finnegan Emeritus Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology The Open University Introduction Africa possesses both written and unwritten traditions. The former are relatively well known—at any rate the recent[…]

The Curious World of Isaac D’Israeli

D’Israeli as he appears in the frontispiece to Vol.I of the 1880 Armstrong and Son edition of Curiosities of Literature – Internet Archive 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. By the Late Dr.[…]

Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, and Why Your Kids Need to Know Classical Culture

A family visiting the Getty Villa explores ancient art, history, and mythology through frescoes from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum. The influence of classical mythology lives on in our culture. Here are some tips for exploring this subject with kids. By Erin Branham / 10.07.2012 Education Specialist for Family Programs Getty Villa Teaching kids[…]

The Growth of Literacy in Western Europe from 1500 to 1800

Class portrait, unknown school, somewhere in England (1860s) / Scanned by pellethepoet, Flickr, Creative Commons By Dr. Robert A. Houston / 11.28.2011 Professor of Modern History University of St. Andrews Abstract Between ca. 1500 and ca. 1800 most Western European societies moved decisively from restricted to mass literacy. This article outlines the spectrum of skills[…]

The Dutch Republic as the Center of the European Book Trade in the 17th Century

By Dr. Paul Hoftijzer / 11.23.2015 Senior University Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Studies Universiteit Leiden Abstract In the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic witnessed its Golden Age. The reasons for this phenomenon are diverse, but it impacted all branches of Dutch society, including the production, distribution and consumption of printed media. The book[…]

Emma Goldman’s “Anarchism Without Adjectives”

Mugshot of Emma Goldman taken in Chicago, on 10 September, 1901 after she was arrested on suspicion of involvement with the assassination of US President William McKinley — Wikimedia Commons An introduction to Goldman’s life and her particular brand of anarchism. By Dr. Kathy E. Ferguson Professor in Political Science and Women’s Studies University of Hawai`i Emma[…]

Mark Twain’s Adventures in Love as an Aspiring Author Courting a Beautiful Heiress

The wife and daughters of Mark Twain. Albert Bigelow Paine By Dr. Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD / 02.12.2018 Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy Indiana University The year 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of one of the great courtships in American history, the wooing of an unenthusiastic 22-year-old Olivia Langdon by a completely smitten 32-year-old Samuel[…]

‘Iphigenia in Aulis’ on the Stage and in Art

Sandra Marquez as Clytemnestra and Stephanie Andrea Barron as Iphigenia in the Court Theater production of Euripides’s Iphigenia in Aulis at the Getty Villa, September 7–30, 2017. Photo: Joe Mazza The tragic story of sacrifice resonated across ancient Greece and Rome, where art provides evidence of the play’s enduring appeal. By Dr. Mary Louise Hart / 09.14.2017 Associate Curator[…]

The Dreams of an Inventor in 1420

Johannes de Fontana, Bellicorum instrumentorum liber (1420), BSB Cod.icon. 242, f. 59v Bennett Gilbert peruses the sketchbook of 15th-century engineer Johannes de Fontana, a catalogue of designs for a variety of fantastic and often impossible inventions, including fire-breathing automatons, pulley-powered angels, and the earliest surviving drawing of a magic lantern device. By Bennett Gilbert Instructor in Philosophy[…]

Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Art

Domenico di Michelino, Dante holding the Divine Comedy, 1465 (Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence) By Matthew Collins / 12.30.2015 PhD Candidate in the Italian Language Harvard University When you think of Hell, what images fill your imagination?  Your mind might first conjure up a monstrous satanic figure, and then you may further fill in the picture[…]