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[…]

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[…]