Delarivier Manley: Right-Wing Provocateur in 1709

Anonymous satire by a 1709 political writer worked like today’s partisan clickbait. She was the “Ann Coulter” of her time. Introduction Years ago I discovered a shocking early English political satirist when a professor urged me not study her. Dismissing what I assumed was his liberal bias, I claimed bipartisan curiosity and dove in anyway.[…]

Ghosts in ‘A Christmas Carol’: Comical, Grotesque, Allegorical

Reflecting on their essential role in developing the novel’s meaning and structure. Introduction There had been ghosts in literature before the Victorians, but the ghost story as a distinct and popular genre was the invention of the Victorians. Charles Dickens was hugely influential in establishing the genre’s popularity – not only as a writer but[…]

Classifying, Buying, and Owning Books in Antebellum America

Class became synonymous with the ownership and appreciation of books and the personal qualities books were expected to foster. Abstract This paper explores the role of books in American antebellum domestic fiction. Written primarily for middle-class readers, domestic fiction offers advice on how to create an ideal home and in these ideal homes the presence[…]

Monsters, Marvels, and Mythical Beasts from Ancient Lore to Today

Monstrous figures continue to captivate today and remain a popular source of wonder and curiosity. What makes a monster? A monster is seen to be any creature that deviates from the norm…We feel pity and compassion, but we are also greatly unsettled. John & Caitlin Matthews, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, 2008 Introduction Monsters are[…]

Classics Lost and Found: The Survival of Ancient Texts

The biggest factor for the survival or disappearance of classical texts is actually likely to be their use in medieval school education. Works written by ancient Greek and Roman authors have made a major impact on the world’s culture and society. They profoundly shaped medieval thought, as you can discover in Cillian O’Hogan’s article The Classical[…]

A Brief Overview of Ancient Literature

The first author of literature in the world, known by name, was the high-priestess of Ur, Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE). Introduction Literature (from the Latin Littera meaning ‘letters’ and referring to an acquaintance with the written word) is the written work of a specific culture, sub-culture, religion, philosophy or the study of such written work which may appear in poetry or in[…]

Till Eulenspiegel: Traveling Trickster of Medieval German Literature

There is a suggestion that the name is in fact a veiled pun on a Low German phrase translating to “wipe-arse”. Introduction Till Eulenspiegel is the protagonist of a German chapbook published in 1515 (a first edition of c. 1510/12 is preserved fragmentarily) with a possible background in earlier Middle Low German folklore. Eulenspiegel is[…]

Fungi, Folklore, and Fairyland: Supernatural in Victorian Art and Literature

How mushrooms became established as a stock motif of Victorian fairyland. This article, Fungi, Folklore, and Fairyland, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ From fairy-rings to Lewis Carroll’s Alice, mushrooms have long been entwined with the supernatural in art and[…]

Darkness Visible: Dante’s Clarification of Hell in the ‘Divine Comedy’

Dante primarily intended to explain biblical justice through his contrapasso. By Joseph KameenArtist and Educator Contrapasso is one of the few rules in Dante’s Inferno. It is the one “law of nature” that applies to hell, stating that for every sinner’s crime there must be an equal and fitting punishment. These punishments, however, are rarely[…]

The Life and Legacy of Medieval Italian Poet Dante Alighieri

Dante’s written works are a heady mix of philosophy, politics, and literature. Introduction Dante Alighieri (1265-1321 CE) was an Italian poet and politician who is most famous for his Divine Comedy (c. 1319 CE) where Dante himself descends through Hell, climbs Purgatory, and arrives at the illumination of Paradise, meeting all sorts of historical characters along the[…]

Ysengrimus, the Medieval Latin Epic of Trickster Reynard the Fox

Ysengrimus is usually held to be an allegory for the corrupt monks of the Roman Catholic Church. Introduction Ysengrimus is a Latin fabliau and mock epic, an anthropomorphic series of fables written in 1148 or 1149, possibly by the poet Nivardus. Its chief character is Isengrin the Wolf; the plot describes how the trickster figure[…]

8 Good Reasons Why We Ought To Read Classic Books

There are so many health benefits associated with reading books, and for your information, not just any books. You’ll want to ensure that the books you feed your mind with are enriching, relative, and expansive. Reading has been shown to help reduce stress, boost cognitive functions, and an overall improvement in your wellness. However, finding[…]

Religious Responses to Satire since Ancient Greece

Condemnation of satirists has often taken the form of censorship, public humiliation, imprisonment, and even death. Satire as Criticism Indeed, condemnation of satirists has more commonly taken the form of censorship, public humiliation and imprisonment. Aristophanes, who wrote satiric plays 2,400 years ago, was condemned during his lifetime for his depictions of citizens of Athens.[…]

Ancient Greek Classics on Grief and the Importance of Mourning the Dead

Memories of the past were an important guide to the future. This is in part why the funeral oration became so important in Athenian life. Introduction As a scholar of classical studies, I tend to look to the past to help understand the present. Ancient literature, especially ancient Greek epics, explore what it means to[…]

Humfrey Wanley, Library-Keeper of the Harleian Library in 1705

He continued to expand the Harleian Library with thousands of manuscripts. One of the many gems of the British Library is the Harleian collection, founded by Robert Harley, Lord High Treasurer and 1st Earl of Oxford, and his son, Edward (1689–1741), 2nd Earl of Oxford. It’s the largest intact 18th-century manuscript collection in the world,[…]

The Steampunk Doctor: Practicing Medicine in a Victorian Mechanical Age

Steampunk examines the consequences extraordinary medical discoveries can have on both individuals and societies. Abstract Influenced by both 19th-century literature and popular representations of science, the figure of the medical doctor in steampunk fiction is marked by ambiguity. At the same time a scientist, a wizard and a mechanic, the steampunk doctor exists halfway between[…]

The Real Macbeth: Mad King or a Clever Eye to Solid Power?

Macbeth appears to have cleverly positioned Scotland between her more powerful neighbors yet he did not isolate Scotland either. Introduction Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, (died August 15, 1057), was King of Scots (also known as the King of Alba) from 1040 until his death. He is best known as the subject of William Shakespeare’s tragedy[…]

Out of the Ashes: The Enduring Stories of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’

Odysseus’s natural leadership, smarts, and cool head are exceptional, and he is entertainingly deceptive and tricky. Introduction The Homeric epics, which tell stories of war, heroism, and coming home, have endured for perhaps 3,500 years. From their start as performances by oral poets to the books we read today, the tales have been told and[…]

The Medieval (and Not-So-Medieval) History Behind Netflix’s ‘Cursed’

Looking for history in the latest version of King Arthur. Introduction For those of you watching Cursed, there are spoilers ahead.  The elusive Lady of the Lake from the legends of King Arthur is the leading character, Nimue, in Netflix’s new action-and-magic-packed series Cursed. Based on the 2019 graphic novel of the same name, Cursed[…]

Myth and Epic in the Ancient World

Exploring believed what and the effect literal belief in myths had on given social orders. Introduction Anthropologists and literary critics tend to read even sacred ancient literature in the manner of Homer’s and Virgil’s epics, that is, as fiction with historical elements. They don’t, however, always follow up with the implications of that. Mesopotamian myths[…]

The American Renaissance in Context

Exploring the literary context in which American Renaissance writers wrote and published. Originally published by Newberry Digital Collections for the Classroom, 09.11.2017, Newberry Library, republished with permission for educational, non-commercial purposes. Introduction In 1941, when Harvard scholar F. O. Matthiessen published American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman, he defined[…]

The American Gothic

Gothic literature has a long, complex, and multi-layered history. Originally published by Newberry Digital Collections for the Classroom, 10.12.2018, Newberry Library, republished with permission for educational, non-commercial purposes. Introduction Ever read a strange book or watch a scary film, and feel the hairs on your arms stand on end? Ever get the “chills” encountering a[…]

Representations of Brazil and the Portuguese in 18th-Century Travel Literature

The travel literature, which did not have Brazil as final destination, could have disproportionate and unsuspected repercussions. By Dr. Ângela Maria Vieira DominguesProfessor of HistoryInstituto de Investigação Cientíca TropicalCentro de História de Além-Mar (FCSH/UNL) Abstract As part of a reflection on Atlantic history, I intend to reread the travel literature written by Europeans who stayed[…]

A Cursus Honorum Dropout: The Life and Works of Apollinaris Sidonius (c.430-483 CE)

Although a saint, a bishop, and an important figure in a turbulent age, Sidonius is remembered particularly because of his somewhat dubious literary talents. By Dr. Lynn Harry Nelson Emeritus Professor of Medieval History The University of Kansas Introduction Europe in 451 CE Although a saint, a bishop, and an important figure in a turbulent[…]

Jubilate Agno: An 18th-Century Poet and His Cat

From ‘Six studies of a cat’ by Thomas Gainsborough, 1763–70 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[…]

The Redemption of Saint Anthony in Gustave Flaubert

“Anthony: What Is the Point of All This? The Devil: There Is No Point!”, by Odilon Redon from his “The Temptation of Saint Anthony” series – Wikimedia Commons Gustave Flaubert, best known for his masterpiece Madame Bovary, spent nearly thirty years working on a surreal and largely ‘unreadable’ retelling of the temptation of Saint Anthony. Colin Dickey[…]

The German World and Its Inheritance: Some Thoughts on Reading Beowulf

From a medieval manuscript / British Library, Public Domain The heroic character of Beowulf, the nature of leadership and, hence, of the politics of the society, and the forces to which humans are subject. By Dr. Lynn Harry Nelson Emeritus Professor of Medieval History The University of Kansas Introduction I believe that one can easily discern[…]

An Overview of Pakistani Folklore

Baloch Raaj, The Death of Doda Pakistani folklore is shaped both by the languages and traditions of the various ethnic groups that make up the population, and by the religious convictions of the people in each region. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 11.23.2018 Public Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Introduction Sohni Swims to Meet Her Lover Mahinwal,[…]