Ferdowsi and the ‘Epic of Kings’ in Medieval Persia

He was the author of the Shāhnāmeh (Epic of Kings), the national epic of the Persian-speaking world. Introduction Hakīm Abū l-Qāsim Firdawsī Tūsī, more commonly transliterated as Ferdowsi (also Firdowsi), (935–1020) was a highly revered Persian poet. He was the author of the Shāhnāmeh (Epic of Kings), the national epic of the Persian-speaking world. He[…]

‘The San Francisco Illustrated WASP’: Racism and Satire in the 19th Century

The Wasp meted out ridicule to a myriad of caricatured subjects, from senators and presidents to Chinese immigrants and Mormon polygamists. By Nicholas Sean Hall Introduction The West Coast was going down in flames. Or at least that was how The San Francisco Illustrated Wasp depicted the region to its readership of middle- and working-class[…]

Sentiment and Sensibility: Sheridan and ‘The School for Scandal’

Examining 18th-century satirist Richard Brinsley Sheridan and his most famous play, The School for Scandal. Introduction Perhaps Sheridan’s greatest play, The School for Scandal is one of the supreme triumphs of 18th-century theatre and is sometimes described as the greatest comedy of manners in the English language. A crackling satire on ostensibly polite society, it[…]

The Armored Body as Trophy in Shakespeare’s Roman Plays

The treatment of the military subject in Shakespeare’s Roman plays complicates early modern cultural understandings of the material aspects of militant nostalgia. Remembering Rome, performing Rome… Introduction At the end of Book 12 of Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas is described as “stetit acer in armis” or “ferocious in his armor,” a colossal and threatening force, a[…]

Ancient Roman Literature

A number of highly educated citizens could speak and read both Greek and Latin. Introduction The Roman Empire and its predecessor the Roman Republic produced an abundance of celebrated literature; poetry, comedies, dramas, histories, and philosophical tracts; the Romans avoided tragedies. Much of it survives to this day. However, Roman literature cannot stand alone. They[…]

Underground Comics and Britain’s Obscenity Trials in the 1970s

Like its American counterpart, the burgeoning British underground scene held comics in high esteem. By John Harris DunningComics Writer Oz was a seminal 1960s counterculture publication that originated in Sydney, Australia in 1963. It quickly raised a storm of controversy around its coverage of abortion and homosexuality, and its editorial team was promptly charged with[…]

Christine de Pizan and the Medieval ‘Book of the City of Ladies’

This is probably the best expression of of Pizan’s views of contemporary medieval women. The Woman Question In the late Middle Ages, one of the most popular books was the Romance of the Rose (Roman de la Rose), begun in 1237 by Guillaume de Lorris and expanded by Jean de Meun some decades later. The[…]

Witch-Hunts, Theocracies, and Hypocrisy: McCarthyism in ‘The Crucible’ and ‘Susannah’

For the source of his story, Arthur Miller looked back to the Salem witch trials of 1692. In the early 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, the United States was in the throes of the paranoid, hysterical, communist witch-hunt we have come to call McCarthyism, named for the particularly zealous senator, Joseph McCarthy,[…]

Selma Lagerlöf: Surface and Depth

Analyzing the importance of Lagerlöf’s oeuvre and the complex depths beneath her seemingly simple tales and public persona. This article, Selma Lagerlöf: Surface and Depth, 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/ In 1909, an ageing “spinster,” with a marked limp,[…]

Staging Kingship in Scotland and England, 1532-1560

In terms of its staging of sovereignty, passivity distinguished the Scottish king from the English tyrant. Introduction ‘Quhat is ane king?’ asks Divine Correctioun in David Lyndsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis before supplying the answer ‘Nocht bot ane officiar’ (1613),[1] thereby articulating a commonplace of medieval Scottish literature on kingship that the monarch’s[…]

Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ and the Will to Power

Shakespeare drew on earlier depictions of Richard III and other ruthless rulers in order to create his own power-hungry king, and it has influenced later depictions of megalomania. Introduction Richard III is early Shakespeare. Probably composed in the early 1590s, it’s the work of a playwright in his late twenties, author of two comedies (The[…]

The Importance of Being Wilde: ‘The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name’

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Early Life and Education “I am not young enough to know everything” Oscar Fingal O’Flahterie Wilde was born in Dublin on 16 October, 1854, the second of three children. His father, Sir William Wilde, was Ireland’s best oto-optamologic, knighted for[…]

The ‘Aeneid’ as a Commentary on Augustus

An analysis of the Aeneid and the extent to which it can be taken as a commentary on Augustus’ reign. By Maddy V-T The Aeneid is the major work attributed to the poet Virgil, and is widely considered as a valuable source to people wanting to study the Romans and their literature. Personally, I find[…]

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[…]