Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Passing by Nella Larsen

This was an interesting new read for me, for several reasons: I had never read (or even, alas, heard of) the author, and I've never seen race dealt with in quite the same way.

For those reasons, I was delighted that my American Modernism professor chose Passing as one of the readings for my class. ...Can I go on a mini-rant here? So many of my professors think it's very important to read the canonized literature, so they all assign the same exact stuff and an English major ends up reading the same texts over and over again. (And, I might add, we go over more or less the same interpretation every time.) And yes, I know you remember it better if you read it more times, but I think there's much more to be gained reading a text, say, ten years down the road than in reading it 4 months down the road. As great as these texts are, when we just read the same stuff, we only get one side of the story. I think it's better to see many different sides of the same story, so that even if we don't remember the individual texts themselves all that well, we remember the different perspectives (or, at the very least, we remember that there are many different perspectives). I think my American Modernism teacher is doing a great job of mixing up canonized literature ("dead white guys") with stuff that also shows another side of the story, the way Nella Larsen does in Passing

Friday, March 7, 2014

Literary periods, movements, and all sorts of other fun

I'm in the middle of a few reviews which I've had a tough time finishing, for some reason. So, I thought, why not do the meme over at the Classics Club (which I've been neglecting the past few months)?

What is your favorite "classic" literary period and why?
First, a little background on literary periods and movements in general. Some people have mentioned that they don't really know which authors belong to which periods, etc. I wouldn't call myself an expert on literary history, but I've been studying it for over 3 years, so I do know a thing or two about it.

One thing that seems to confuse people is the difference between literary periods and literary movements. So, in case you're wondering, here's my understanding of periods and movements: A period is simply a space in time, but it's often confined to a certain part of the world. So, anyone who wrote during that time period, in that particular place, was part of that period. A movement, on the other hand, is when a bunch of authors decided to write in a certain way at a certain time. So, not everyone in the country at the time is actually part of the movement.

Movements are kind of tricky, at least for me. Some people are very obviously part of a certain movement. For example, Dante Gabriel Rosetti was clearly a Pre-Raphaelite. No doubt about that. Emerson was obviously a Transcendentalist. But what about authors that didn't firmly identify with a particular movement? There are about a million and one authors that have been identified as "realists," it seems. "Modernism" is another sketchy one.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reading Lists

For some of you, this post will be the most boring thing you could possibly read. So if you read the title and thought, "Gross, I thought I was done with those," then please do yourself a favor and skip it! My feelings won't be hurt!

Others of you, however, have indicated interest in learning what I've been assigned to read in my various classes. So without further ado, here are my reading lists. (I've also included links to anything I've reviewed, so you can check those out if you want.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Candide by Voltaire

I originally put this book on my Classics Club list because I heard it was short and funny, and then it worked out perfectly because I was assigned to read it for my World Literature class this semester.*

I'll be honest; I didn't think Candide was all that funny. Well, it was sort of funny in a really sarcastic way, but it was also atrocious, which made it a lot less funny to me. The introduction in my book made it sound like Voltaire was such a master of humor that he could make the worst injustices seem rip-roaringly hilarious, but I was never quite on board with that. Not that it pulled at my heartstrings, really; Voltaire didn't seem to have much sympathy for his characters. I wasn't sad; I was repulsed. Yeah, I get that he was making fun of people who think "everything is for the best." That doesn't make it any more amusing to read about rape, prostitution, deliberate disfigurement, torture, and all the other lovely events related throughout Candide. Don't get me wrong, I can see how someone might think it's funny, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tartuffe by Moliere

I actually read Tartuffe as a homeschooled teenager. (Am I sensing a trend around here lately?) The only thing I really remembered about it, before reading it this time around, was the positively insufferable (yes, the uppity word "insufferable" is called for here) rhyming couplets that made up the entire play.

Well, thankfully, I read a different translation this time, and that made all the difference. The translation in the Norton Anthology of Western Literature, which I was assigned this time, was by Richard Wilbur, and although it kept the rhyming couplets, it managed to make them sound a little more elegant and a bit less contrived. Whatever translation I read as a teenager sounded like a seven-year-old had written it.

But anyway, once the rhyming couplets came out right, they did their job of keeping the entire play light on its feet. After spending several weeks immersed in King Lear, this play was exactly the right thing to read. It was fun and hilarious, short and sweet. I can imagine it would be even more fun to see it played onstage.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Obligatory Bloglovin Post

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

(So I finally decided to claim my blog on Bloglovin, heh, and apparently in order to do that, you have to write a post with this link at the top. Here you are. No pressure--but I do recommend Bloglovin; I've been using it for several months now. I also recommend my blog. Yep. Shameless self-advertising.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

King Lear by William Shakespeare

I have to say that reading Shakespeare as an adult is way more fun with the past experience of having read it as a homeschooled teenager. I first read King Lear when I was about 12. Probably needless to say, I hardly remembered it at all when I started it this time around. Here's a comprehensive list of all the details I remembered:
  • The first scene is very long and it involves King Lear misinterpreting something his daughter said. 
  • Goneril and Regan are jerks. 
  • Something gross and violent happens (who knows what). 
  • People die at the end. 
Yeah, okay, Shakespeare may not have been my primary focus as a 12-year-old. (What's King Lear in comparison with cute boys?) But I do remember liking the play, believe it or not. It was my first real introduction to Shakespeare, and although I barely understood a word, I loved it. 

So it was sort of nostalgic to read King Lear again, for the first time since those fateful few weeks as a 12-year-old.