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 in the 19th Century

Exploring the literary context in which American Renaissance writers wrote and published. 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 canon for the period that many regard as the most important in American literary history. Matthiessen argued that,[…]

American Gothic Literature in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Gothic literature has a long, complex, and multi-layered history. 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 creepy story, or have a hard-to-pin-down, icky feeling while standing in a cemetery or house that feels “haunted”? Have[…]

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,[…]

Culture and Intellectual Life in British Colonial South Asia

The contributions and influence of South Asian artists, poets, intellectuals and sportspeople within British arts, sciences, law, and sport during the colonial period in the 19th and 20th centuries.      By (left-to-right) Dr. Susheila Nasta, Dr. Florian Stadtler, and Dr. Rozina Visram Nasta: Chair in Modern Literature, The Open University Stadtler: Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures, University of Exeter Visram: Author and[…]

King Lear: Madness, the Fool, and Poor Tom

King Lear and Cordelia, by Benjamin West (1793) / Folger Shakespeare Library, Wikimedia Commons Considering how the Fool and Poor Tom, two characters in King Lear who stand outside the social order, enhance the play’s investigation of madness, civilisation and humanity. By Dr. Gillian Woods / 03.15.2016 Senior Lecturer in Renaissance Theatre and Drama Birkbeck University of London[…]

Shakespeare’s Cholerics Were the Real Drama Queens

Taming of the Shrew, 1809, by Washington Allston / Philadelphia Museum of Art, Public Domain In Shakespeare’s times, personalities were categorised according to four temperaments. The choleric temperament was hot-tempered and active, as Nelly Ekström describes. By Nelly Ekström / 12.11.2016 Visitor Experience Assistant Wellcome Trust William Shakespeare’s plays provide examples of all four temperaments, but it’s[…]

Shakespeare and the Four Humours

Profile of William Shakespeare, c.1793 / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons Blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile: the body’s four humours were believed to control your personality in Shakespeare’s day and influenced the way the Bard created some of his most famous characters. By Nelly Ekström / 12.11.2016 Visitor Experience Assistant Wellcome Trust Shakespeare’s writing is one[…]

Mistress of a New World: Early Science Fiction in Europe’s ‘Age of Discovery’

Portrait of Margaret Cavendish in the frontispiece to her Grounds of Natural Philosophy (1668). The image is also used as frontispiece to some editions of The Blazing World / Wikimedia Commons Considered by many one of the founding texts of the science fiction genre, The Blazing World — via a dizzy mix of animal-human hybrids, Immaterial Spirits, and burning foes —[…]

The Medieval World: An Introduction to Middle English Literature

Bronze statue of Geoffrey Chaucer The world about which Chaucer wrote was a very different world from that which produced Beowulf.  Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 10.27.2018 Public Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief The world about which Chaucer wrote was a very different world from that which produced Beowulf. Developments in language, new structures in society, and changes[…]