Sor Juana, Founding Mother of Mexican Literature

How a 17th-century nun wrote poetry, dramas, and comedies that took on the inequities and double standards women faced in society. By Matthew Wills From a convent in New Spain, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz became one of the leading lights of the Spanish Baroque’s golden age. A scholar, poet, playwright, philosopher, and composer, in[…]

Between “Bildung” and “Wissenschaft”: The 19th-Century German Ideal of Scientific Education

Without a doubt, the most influential concept in German university history is that of the “unity of teaching and research”. Abstract Prior to the 19th century, poetry, rhetoric, historiography and moral philosophy were considered particularly valuable to humane education, as they transmitted knowledge of beauty, goodness and truth. These so-called “fine sciences” (“schöne Wissenschaften”) were[…]

Sad Paradise: Jack Kerouac’s Nostalgic Buddhism

Jack Kerouac’s study of Buddhism started in earnest in 1953 and is traditionally believed to have ended in 1958. Abstract This paper considers the relationship between Kerouac’s Buddhist practice and his multi-layered nostalgia. Based on a close reading of his unpublished diaries from the mid-1950s through mid-1960s, I argue that Buddhism was a means of[…]

As Herman Melville Turns 200, His Works Have Never Been More Relevant

On the author’s bicentennial, American readers could use a dose of his unique ability to fuse realism with idealism. Outside of American literature courses, it doesn’t seem likely that many Americans are reading Herman Melville these days. But with Melville turning 200 on August 1, I propose that you pick up one of his novels,[…]

An Unlikely Lunch: When Maupassant Met Swinburne

Discussing 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. This article, An Unlikely Lunch: When Maupassant Met Swinburne, was originally published in The Public Domain[…]

Heinrich von Kleist: The Tragedy of Fate and the Tragedy of Culture

Exploring the importance of his first dramatic work and how in it can be seen the themes of his later masterpieces. This article, Heinrich von Kleist: The Tragedy of Fate and the Tragedy of Culture, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see:[…]

The Celebration of Nature in Victorian Poetry

The pervading strength and influence of Christianity becomes apparent in the abundance of religious poetry created during the Victorian period. Introduction Despite the publication of Darwin’s radical text On the Origin of Species  (1859),which promoted a theory of evolution that directly threatened the authority of Genesis, the pervading strength and influence of Christianity becomes apparent in[…]

Frank Capra’s Formula for Taming American Capitalism

It’s a Wonderful Life prescribed community and empathy as the remedy to a callous economic system. From the Gilded Age and until well into the Great Depression, Americans engaged in one of the most consequential debates in the country’s history: how best to address the economic inequities and societal problems stemming from industrialization, and relatedly,[…]

Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko”: Slavery and Race in the Atlantic World

Exploring how novel Oroonoko compares to other representations of race, slavery, and colonialism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Introduction Aphra Behn published Oroonoko in 1688, a time when the Atlantic slave trade and African slavery in the Americas were becoming consolidated as a transnational, economic system. The novel draws on popular forms of literature such as[…]

Frank Capra’s Not-So-Sunny Vision of American Life

Capra’s films are known for being upbeat and sometimes cheesy, but beneath the surface are rather dark stories of American corruption. Hollywood director Frank Capra was born in Sicily as Francesco Rosario Capra on May 18th, 1897. He settled in Los Angeles with his immigrant family at five years old, and reached his height of[…]

No-No Boy: Recovering a Lost Novel of Japanese American Resistance

The publishing history of No-No Boy shows how writers shifted the narrative about internment and draft resistance. Who owns an important novel after the author is dead? Copyright law ideally protects publishers, writers, and their heirs, but the law has limits —and loopholes. That issue was recently raised in a copyright dispute between Penguin Classics and the[…]

Virginia Woolf Was More Than Just a Women’s Writer

She was a great observer of everyday life. Virginia Woolf, that great lover of language, would surely be amused to know that, some seven decades after her death, she endures most vividly in popular culture as a pun—within the title of Edward Albee’s celebrated drama, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In Albee’s play, a troubled college professor[…]

Walt Whitman in Russia: Three Love Affairs

Walt Whitman’s influence on the creative output of 20th-century Russia — particularly in the years surrounding the 1917 Revolution — was enormous. For the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth, Nina Murray looks at the translators through which Russians experienced his work, not only in a literary sense — through the efforts of Konstantin Balmont and[…]

Vernon Lee’s ‘Satan the Waster’: Pacifism and the Avant-Garde

Part essay collection, part shadow-play, part macabre ballet, Satan the Waster: A Philosophic War Trilogy (1920) is one of Vernon Lee’s most political and experimental works. Amanda Gagel explores this modernist masterpiece which lays siege to the patriotism plaguing Europe and offers a vision for its possible pacifist future. This article, Vernon Lee’s ‘Satan the[…]

Chaucer Was More Than English, He Was a Great European Poet

The mantle of patriarchal Englishness would have seemed distinctly odd to Chaucer himself. By Dr. Marion TurnerAssociate Professor of EnglishUniversity of Oxford In 2013, a Prospect magazine profile of the UKIP leader Nigel Farage described the Brexiteer’s party in Chaucerian terms: UKIP is indeed a rag-tag bag … of cussed, contrary, wilful, protesting, obstreperous, bantering Englishmen and[…]

The Extremism of King Creon in the Greek Tragedy ‘Antigone’

Political and moral views are framed in terms of a fight between patriot and traitor, law and conscience, and chaos and order. In a Greek tragedy written in the middle of the fifth century B.C., three teenagers struggle with a question that could be asked now: What happens when a ruler declares that those who[…]

Aspiring to a Higher Plane: A Mathematical Fiction in 1884

In 1884 Edwin Abbott Abbott published Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, perhaps 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. This article, Aspiring to a Higher Plane: A Mathematical Fiction in 1884, was originally published[…]

American Poet Elizabeth Bishop in the Edgy Culture of Mid-20th Century Brazil

“The loneliest person who ever lived,” she once called herself. As Brazil attempts to train all eyes on the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics, observers continue to be distracted by the country’s travails: the recent Zika outbreak, economic difficulties, and the controversial impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Not a few people are wondering how[…]

Culture Shock: An Analysis of Early Modern Europe through Arts and Literature

Examining the cultural heritage of Early Modern Europe and its influence in contemporary thought. By Angel Solis, Mariah Radue, and Nora Katz Introduction The content included here is directly related to the strong influence of the cultural heritage of Early Modern Europe in the Western world and the importance of these documents and works as[…]

Socialism and the Vampire: Comrades, Capitalists, and Bloodsuckers

Vampire fiction as class allegory predates Dracula. In May 1897 Constable and Co published a limited print run of a new novel by a London-based Irish theatre manager and occasional author named Bram Stoker.  Stoker had enjoyed moderate critical recognition with a series of overly-sentimental pot-boilers and ghoulish short stories over the course of the[…]

Tru Life: How Truman Capote Became a Cautionary Tale of Celebrity Culture

The ups and downs of a big-time writer. In a life that spanned nearly six decades, Truman Capote wrote stories that remain reliably in print. The short story “A Christmas Memory” is a yuletide classic, and his popular novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a touchstone for young, restless souls trying to make it on their[…]

How Translation Obscured the Music and Wordplay of the Bible

Translators of the Bible have rarely understood the need or made the effort to convey the literary dimension of the Hebrew works. An essential fact about the Hebrew Bible is that most of its narrative prose as well as its poetry manifests a high order of sophisticated literary fashioning. This means that any translation that[…]

Between Gods and Animals: Becoming Human in the Gilgamesh Epic

In short, the new fragment reveals a vision of humanity as a process of maturation that unfolds between the animal and the divine. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Babylonian poem composed in ancient Iraq, millennia before Homer. It tells the story of Gilgamesh, king of the city of Uruk. To curb his restless and destructive[…]

Montaigne, Whitman, and Thoreau Make the Case for Wasting Time

There is a time to embrace the joy of doing less. In The Art of the Wasted Day, a new book that got a good bit of attention this summer from readers and critics alike, author Patricia Hampl argues that doing less is an ideal we should embrace throughout the year. Hampl laments that she’s often[…]

Over a Century of The Secret Garden

The year 2011 marked 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. This article, Over[…]

Stories of a Hollow Earth

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.[…]