The Court System in Ancient Homeric Greece

Examining the main flaws in the court system in the days of Homer. By Dr. Alexandr LoginovProfessor of LawKutafin Moscow State Law University, Moscow Abstract The research investigates the court system in Homeric Greece. This period was characterized by a declining culture and scarce works that described those times. Hence, the court procedures of those[…]

Truths Wrapped in Fiction: Ancient Mesopotamian Naru Literature

The myth, in time, became the reality. Introduction Originality in literary compositions in the ancient world did not carry the same weight and value as it does in the present day. In recent centuries, authors have been applauded for the creation of original works, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have been derided for plagiarism or[…]

A History of Chapbooks from the 17th to 19th Centuries

Exploring this literature looked like, its subject matter, and the ways in which it was produced. Introduction Chapbooks were small booklets, cheap to make and to buy. They provided simple reading matter and were commonplace across the country from the 17th to the 19th century. They were often charming little books but they were also[…]

Westcar Papyrus: The Art of the Story in Ancient Egypt

In the manuscript, each of Khufu’s sons speaks in turn, telling their own tale for their father’s entertainment. Introduction The ancient Egyptians enjoyed storytelling as one of their favorite pastimes. Inscriptions and images, as well as the number of stories produced, give evidence of a long history of the art of the story in Egypt[…]

Woodblocks in Wonderland: The Japanese Fairy Tale Series

From gift-bestowing sparrows and peach-born heroes to goblin spiders and dancing phantom cats — in a series of beautifully illustrated books, the majority printed on an unusual cloth-like crepe paper, the publisher Takejiro Hasegawa introduced Japanese folk tales to the West. Christopher DeCou on how a pioneering cross-cultural endeavour gave rise to a magnificent chapter[…]

Victorian Penny Dreadfuls

Examining what made these cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories so popular with the Victorian public. By Judith FlandersHistorian Introduction In the 1830s, increasing literacy and improving technology saw a boom in cheap fiction for the working classes. ‘Penny bloods’ was the original name for the booklets that, in the 1860s, were renamed penny dreadfuls and[…]

When Bram Met Walt

Before conjuring Dracula, Bram Stoker poured his soul out to America’s poet. Introduction Ever since Bram Stoker unleashed Dracula on readers in 1897, the undead have been stalking literary and pop culture with abandon. At first it was a slow trickle, as others imitated Stoker on the page, but once Hollywood sank its teeth into vampire mythology,[…]

How a French Ghost Story Influenced Dickens

A Christmas Carol isn’t the only spine-chilling Christmas ghost story from the pen of Charles Dickens. Introduction In 1850, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Tree, a nostalgic collection of anecdotes inspired by the sight of “a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree.” In the course of the short[…]

Try Hawthorne for Halloween . . . But Leave the Light On

Young Goodman Brown is one of the scariest stories in American literature. Halloween is a great time to read—or reread—Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” one of the scariest stories in American literature. Lots of readers first delved into Hawthorne’s work because they had to, not because they wanted to. The Scarlet Letter, his 1850 novel about[…]

Fantasmagoriana: The German Book of Ghost Stories in 1812 That Inspired Frankenstein

The Shelleys, Byron, Polidori, and the birth of a timeless tale. The story of how Frankenstein was born is well known, and largely relies on the account given by Mary Shelley in her preface to the 1831 edition to her novel. She and her (soon-to-be) husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were summering on the[…]

The Woman in Green: A Chinese Ghost Tale from Mao to Ming, 1981-1381

An appropriate end, or beginning, for a ghost that will live many, many more lives. 1981 The film begins on a darkened set, billowing with fog, echoing with a woman’s cry to the heavens. Her figure comes into view and she zigs and zags across the screen, her diaphanous white robe glittering with silver fringe.[…]

Victorian Print Culture

In the 19th century, more people were reading more publications than ever before. This explains how technological, social and educational change made this possible. Introduction The 19th century saw a massive expansion of the printed word. The sheer volume and diversity of printed matter was unprecedented: from moral and instructional works to crime novels and[…]

Victorian Readers

Exploring the way Victorians bought, borrowed and read their books, and the impact of the popular literature of the period. Introduction Victorians were great readers of the novel, and the number of novels available for them to read increased enormously during Victoria’s reign. The activity of reading benefited hugely from wider schooling and increased literacy[…]

How ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ Inspired the Cathedral’s 19th-Century Revival

Looking nostalgically to the past, a young architect sought to revive the building as a bulwark to the uncertainty of the Industrial Revolution. On April 15, people around the world watched in horror as a voracious fire consumed the medieval wooden roof of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral and felled its spire. The following day brought[…]

Helen of Troy, Counter-Ambush Expert

Helen knows both how to spot an ambush in the making and how to tell a great ambush story. Introduction In addition to her superlative beauty, Helen in the Iliad and Odyssey has exceptional talents. She recognizes Telemachos before anyone else in Sparta does (Odyssey 4.138–146). She can also recognize a goddess in disguise (Iliad[…]

The Messy Genius of W. H. Auden

A disheveled poet crafted verse of exquisite order. Thanks to the popular 1994 movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, thousands of people who had probably never read a word from poet W. H. Auden have been exposed to his work. In one scene, a character eulogizes his companion by reciting Auden’s “Funeral Blues” for the other mourners. The poem is[…]

Ellen N. La Motte: Hemingway before Hemingway

Ellen N. La Motte’s ‘The Backwash of War’ was praised for its clear-eyed portrayal of war, but was swiftly banned. Yet the similarities between her spare prose and Hemingway’s are unmistakable. Virtually everyone has heard of Ernest Hemingway. But you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who knows of Ellen N. La Motte. People should. She[…]

Beowulf: History, Legend, and Mythology

Analyzing how historical, legendary, and mythological elements are woven through the text of Beowulf? Introduction Although acknowledged as a foundational work of English literature, the complicated and allusive style of the longest epic poem in Old English often intimidates teachers and students alike. This digital collection will help educators to read and teach the work[…]

Euripides’ ‘Bacchae’ in Its Historical Context

The Peloponnesian war had been dragging on for 25 years, and the military situation was getting progressively worse for the Athenians. Euripides in Macedonia The Bacchae,[1] as we know it, was first produced in Athens under the direction of Euripides’ son, also called Euripides, in perhaps 405 BC,[2] a year or two after his father’s[…]

Street Literature in Victorian England

From public notes and broadsides to catchpennies and printed songs, examining the variety of street literature which informed and entertained the public before newspapers were readily available. Introduction In the 19th century, there was no radio, no TV and no internet. Newspapers were expensive, and for many years the government taxed them heavily. These taxes[…]

Immortality of Writers in Ancient Egypt

A scribe would be remembered, not only by family and friends, but by a much larger audience through the works they left behind. Introduction For the ancient Egyptians, life on earth was only one part of an eternal journey which continued after death. One’s purpose in life was to live in balance with one’s self, family,[…]

H.G. Wells and the Uncertainties of Progress

In addition to the numerous pioneering works of science fiction by which he made his name, H. G. Wells also published a steady stream of non-fiction meditations, mainly focused on themes salient to his stories: the effects of technology, human folly, and the idea of progress. As Peter J. Bowler explores, for Wells the notion[…]

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[…]